The other day I posted that the direction WordPress has taken has saddened me and made me occasionally angry.
In a subsequent exchange on Twitter, I somehow attracted the attention of someone who was definitely angry. Very angry.
As I reflected on this further, I realized that what many in the WordPress space have been going through can be described by the classic Kubler-Ross model of grief. Also known as as the five stages of grief.
(One note about the so-called stages, before I go further. Since Kubler-Ross first published the theory, it’s been widely recognized that transition to one stage to the next isn’t always linear. More often than not, grieving persons move from one to any of the others, in different order, sometimes repeating certain stages.)
For a long while, most of 2016, this was where I was. The Gutenberg project had been announced. Work had begun. But it was not really on my radar, and when it was, it was far enough in the future that I could choose to ignore it.
I revisited this stage several times through 2017 and ’18 as well. I saw people in this stage right up to the very last moment, as recently as last week: “It’s not too late to convince those in charge (whoever they are) to change their minds about it.”
This is where I occasionally find myself, and where I’m encountering quite a few folks. Something we loved is lost. Anger is natural. Some people handle it better than others. In anger, some (like the fellow I encountered on Twitter) are lashing out at anyone and everyone they can find to blame. Some feel hurt and want to hurt back. That’s unfortunate.
As much as I disagree with and am occasionally angry about the way things have happened, I want to go on record that I’m not holding any personal grudges. I’ve said before, there are a lot of people who believe in the new direction of the WP project. A lot of people have put in a lot of hard work and effort to make what they believe is a good thing. People do what they think is right. I happen to disagree. I wish them well in their endeavors.
But I also stand by what I’ve publicly said before: WordPress, with this most recent release can no longer claim to be enterprise level software, and I will be much more cautious in my own use of it, and in my recommending it for others to use.
Anger need not always be destructive. As Kubler-Ross pointed out, it’s an essential thing to work through, a part of separation and self-definition, that when done well helps one to be stronger and more resilient in the long view.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been here myself, and I’ve seen plenty of this back and forth over the interwebs. Given the realization that the loss is impending, or has already happened, we make deals to try to avoid what is inevitable. All the calls for “It’s not ready.” All the complaints about, “The timing is terrible.” All the offers of “If you will just add this feature (or remove that feature), I will accept it.” All bargaining.
The addition of the Classic Editor plugin and the Core team’s commitment to maintain it for 3 years was a grand bargain. Sometimes bargaining is useful. It bought some of us 3 years before the loss we are feeling becomes permanent. It is best ro remember, however, it only forestalls the inevitable. The day will come when the Classic Editor will be abandoned, and those who have remained in this stage will have to move… again.
I confess, I’ve spent quite a bit of time here as well. And still do. On the road for 4 hours one day recently, I found myself singing along with the Dixie Chicks: Hello, Mr. Heartache, I’ve been expecting you!
I’ve invested a lot in WordPress – not as a contributor, but as a promotor, as someone who learned the software through and through, wrote themes and plugins for it, and enthusiastically recommended it to clients I hoped it would serve long and well. For about 10 years, I was all-in. And, though no software is perfect, and no community of enthusiasts is perfect, I felt a part of something worthwhile and was invested in it.
Losing that is bound to make one feel blue. Even nostalgic. In these moments I can recognize that I learned a tremendous amount from WordPress. I benefitted from it educationally, emotionally, and financially. I made a lot of good friends, and I hope that those who are staying with WordPress even when I’m no longer as engaged in that community will remain friends. Acknowledging that is a good thing. Going on record as being grateful for the opportunities it gave me is appropriate here.
It’s also helpful to recognize here that nothing lasts forever. Sadness. Which leads to…
Acceptance can take 2 forms. One is a resolve that one might as well prepare for it. These are the ones that are signing up for the “How to make Gutenberg blocks” courses that are now popping up everywhere.
There’s another kind of acceptance, the kind I find myself moving into. This has happened. It is what it is. What can I take from this experience and move on?
“Beware the silos” might be another. Even if the silo you happen to be in is a very large (approaching 35% of the web) one. Keeping your head buried in one hole too long blinds you to important things that are happening in the rest of the world.
Another reality that acceptance makes me aware of is that as big as it is, WordPress is still only 32% of the web (as it claims). Once you get beyond that silo you find that this number may not be as accurate as you once thought, and that even if it is, that still leaves 68% of the web that is doing something else, and most of it is getting along just fine, thank-you very much.
Part of acceptance is realizing that there are twice as many opportunities outside of WordPress as there are inside it. And, to make things even more interesting, one can note that WordPress is low-end on the pay scale for people who know what they’re doing. Part of its appeal, and part of the reason it has grown so rapidly is that it serves the long tail market of sites that are being built on a shoestring.
There are plenty of notable exceptions, yes. I’ve long pointed to them as proof that WordPress was viable in the enterprise web space. But I’ve always said, and still say, that if your bank is running its web operations on WordPress it’s time to find another bank. Now, even more-so.
Sure, we lost something. But we are not cut off from the future. For anyone looking to transition from the typical $2000 – $10000, one-off site build range toward larger projects, now is the perfect opportunity to make the change for those who have the skills. And for those who don’t, now is the perfect opportunity to get them. Start with Free Code Camp.
As I noted before, these stages don’t necessarily progress in order. I find myself moving between them, sometimes several times in the same day.
This post is my self-reflection and observations, shared with the intention that they might be helpful to anyone else who stumbles across it.
And to all my WordPress friends, be well and keep in touch.