WordPress isn’t a community


A weekly editorial, from Ryan Imel the editor of WPCandy

I’m proud to be a member of the WordPress community. I’d like to think I’ve been a part of it since I started using WordPress a few years ago.

That said, there’s an idea I’d like to explore. WordPress isn’t a community.

Communities are funny things

For a little while I attended a small religious school in my hometown, at the time pursuing a degree in philosophy. Now as you can probably imagine, aspiring philosophers at a conservative religious school become pretty cynical. Of course, the ironic part is that most of what we were cynical about was how we were regularly encouraged to be “a part of the community.”

Since we sat in the back and wrote critical editorials in the college paper (hard to believe I did that, right?) we weren’t considered a part of the campus community. We were looked down on for not “fitting” into the community.

But they were wrong. We were a part of the campus community. It was just that the community was so large, it wasn’t a single community.

The WordPress communities

WordPress, as a community, is much larger than my college was. It’s much larger than anyone’s college will ever be. And oftentimes we fall into the same trap, of thinking we are a single community.

WordPress isn’t a community. It’s too large for that. WordPress is many communities. It’s possible, rather it’s likely, that I’m a part of a WordPress community that isn’t the particular community that you’re in.

What communities? The beginner crowd. The freelancing community. The core development community. Theme and Plugin communities. The GPL community. The non-GPL community (yes, that’s one too). I would say WPCandy is a community as well, though there are plenty of WordPress folks who aren’t a part of it.

Phrases like “in the community” or “part of the community” or “for the community” are sometimes used to ostracize people who don’t fit into a certain community. But in this large WordPress universe, we have to be more careful throwing around restrictive statements about who can be a part of the WordPress community. What flows for one of the WordPress communities might not flow for another.

Counteractive measures

There’s already a great thing in place to counteract the fragmenting of communities: WordCamps. WordCamps pull together all sorts of WordPress folks that wouldn’t otherwise meet one another. This is a good thing, and helps to promote general unity amongst the different communities (most of the time).

What else can be done to help unify the communities? What WordPress communities are you a part of (besides the WPCandy community, of course!)?

8 thoughts on “WordPress isn’t a community

  1. Great editorial Ryan! It gave me one of those, “yea-this-totally-makes-sense” moments! I especially liked your diagram which clearly showed your point as well.

  2. I used to have this idea that there’s a single community, with multiple concentric layers, but after reading your post, I think your interpretation is more realistic.

    For example, I belong to the following communities:

    core developers
    plugin developers
    romanian users

  3. Interesting. Thank you for a good column focusing on the topic that is often overlooked. I think we use the word “community” too easily, without considering that its definitions or meanings may vary from people to people.

    As someone from WordPress communities in Japan, I think I can say that we have only reached “large community” stage just in this year or so. Perhaps we are not aware or understanding this enough, resulting in “invisible barrier” in between each communities, in this macro community.

    I would like to add my thought that, although on the diagram on right hand side, all “in”s overlap each other to some degree, I think there are “in”s that doesn’t overlap at all to any, or so little that its insignificant – perhaps the Japanese WordPress community is just that, in a sense to that we are one of many WordPress communities in the world.

    I have also involved in organizing WordCamps, and yes, I do hope it will be a place to pull everyone together. But I also thinks thats where “culture” kicks in, when looked globally, and it will be challenging.

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  6. Great insight Ryan, I definitely agree with your analysis. On the other hand, I’m not sure that having a goal of uniting the many communities is even a good idea. One of the reasons there are different communities is that people in the respective communities have different values and different interests, and they are often conflicting values and interests. Just as it was counter-productive to try to get you and your cohorts at the newspaper to “fit” into the campus “as a whole” so to I think it would be counter productive to try and unify the WordPress community as a whole. Better to just let it evolve naturally because, realistically, it really won’t evolve any other way.

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