If you ask anyone what the #1 threat to WordPress is, many will say “Ghost,” “Drupal,” “technical debt”, “poor user experience,” “lack of security,” or “lack of direction” for why it will eventually lose its position as the most popular CMS in the world.
But the biggest threat to WordPress right now is not a CMS. Heck, it’s not even a technology challenge or an issue with legacy code. The biggest threat to WordPress is people in the community who voice opinions in a rude and disrespectful way. These folks show a deep lack of appreciation for the contributors and project leaders simply trying to make WordPress better inside the existing framework of owning (and ideally increasing) its 25% market share. There is both a good way to voice a critical opinion and an unacceptable way.
As open source communities develop, you begin to attract a dedicated group of cheerleaders, advocates, and enthusiasts–people who are so grateful to be involved that they will bend over backwards to help advance the cause. But on the flip side, as you become more mainstream, you also begin to see the other crowds that gather–the cynical, the skeptical, the trolls, the people with literally zero respect for anyone. People who would rather see you fail than succeed. People who think their opinions and perspectives are so much righter than yours, they don’t care how bad it makes them look to take a proverbial dump on the people who actually *built* the thing in the first place.
These people are the ones who threaten any community or cause. They tear people down. They hurl insults. They passive-aggressively make comments just to reinforce their rightness.
Every community needs critics but they also must have civil discourse and respect. The people who are trying to simply improve things and make them better, easier to use, they can only take so much of a beating from these people before they leave. When an open-source project loses a valuable contributor who drives value and advances the effort… well, everyone suffers, even the cynics and skeptics who drove them away.
Within the WordPress community, I must issue a call to civility and respect in all conversations surrounding its development. This issue is paramount to keeping talented people inside the WordPress ecosystem and working towards a better future for the platform. Without that respect, we will begin to see many contributors abandon the project and others fail to see value in contributing at all and simply watch from the sidelines.
One of the biggest places I have seen this type of behavior is on Twitter, in WordPress Core Trac or in the WordPress Slack group, people write passive-aggressive comments or insult people or say things just to derail the conversation. The true cost of these comments cannot be calculated, but it is important to treat these official forums as a business setting. If you wouldn’t speak a certain way to your boss, a co-worker, or a stakeholder in your company, then why is it ok to speak that way to people on the Internet? Just because there’s a server in between you and the other person?
Let’s all take a few minutes to be grateful for the opportunity to make a living off the hard work of thousands of other people who donated their time and code to build something that has made a huge impact on the Internet and in people’s actual lives.