Checking in on Twitter this morning, I saw twitter thread by Jb Audras hightlighting WordPress Core contribution data over 2022. I wanted to respond on Twitter with my thoughts, but that quickly become a Twitter thread as well, so I figured I’d hack my brain back to my blog and write up my thoughts here.
Because I have an opinion about what’s being shared. Now, first off, I enjoy reading these things as it gives some indication of what happened in WordPress Core over a year. And since the way this is measured is done consistenly in the same way over the years, you can draw conclusions from year to year.
I do find that these types of posts skewe the perception, though. Because what is “a contribution” and how much did that contribution actually weigh in the grand scheme of things?
Let me try and break it down into what I see as the two main points. There are more, but these stand out to me.
What is a Core contribution?
What do I mean with the grand scheme of things? Well, things like: What is a Core contribution? If we’re going to use the concept of a contribution to base our statistics on, we need to have a clear definition of what a contribution is. Right?
I’ve looked, but I couldn’t find one. But based on the information in the post I feel like we’re missing a couple of things:
- Does every single contribution stand for an equal amount of time?
- Does every single contribution weigh in equally?
Because if we’re sharing these stats as a way to measure “who did more”, than we’re missing a lot of key metrics to give a proper indication. I’ve got props for two Core contributions myself. The time I spent on those combined is no more than an hour. I also know some Core contributions that amount to dozens of hours, if not more!
- Is Leadership taking decisions where to go with WordPress (core + project) taken into account?
Leadership can be anything ranging from Matt Mullenweg pointing in a direction, to Josepha Haden Chomphosy assisting in that. Equally, it can be any and all activity done by the actual Release Team, the core contributors discussing things in Slack, mentoring by any of the aforementioned parties… I mean, the list goes on. Are we not to take that into account?
I think we should. I also know those things are extremely hard to measure, to quantify, if not just straight up impossible. But, at the very least, these types of contributions need to be part of the narritive whenever we talk about “Core contributions”.
Let me demonstrate with an example. Juliette’s, one of the people contribution back to WordPress Core in a massive way, raised this question on Twitter as a response to Jb Audras’ initial tweet:
To which Jb Audras replied with this:
If his conclusion is the case, it would indeed not be a bad thing. But I don’t agree with the conclusion itself. I think WordPress is maintained by big stakeholders, but the data being used here does not demonstrate that. Also, staking a claim like this where one equates contributing to WordPress to being the same as contributing to (the) WordPress (Project) is false.
As this brings me to my second point.
What is a contribution to WordPress?
Conflating WordPress with WordPress Core happens a lot. And I get it. It is literally at the core. At the core of the WordPress Project. Because that’s what it is. It’s a huge project with an incredibly vast amount of components. And all those components need to be maintained and updated as well.
So, if we’re doing contribution roundups, we should start organizing and presenting these types of contribution as well:
- Documentation on developer.wordpress.org
- Translations (and there are MANY!)
- Design of any WordPress.org site (component)
- Maintaining WP CLI
- Support forums contributions (providing answers, moderating, etc)
- Organizing WordCamps and meetups
- Anything happening in WordPress Meta
There are many more ways in which one can contribute to WordPress. In fact, just check out any of the teams listed on the Make WordPress site. There are a lot!
I’m fully aware that not all types of contribution can be measured. I truly am. If the contribution lives in data in some way, we can do calculations. It would not an accurate metric either, but it’d be something.
As someone who mostly contributes to the WordPress Project as a WordCamp organizer and Global Translation Editor for Frisian and Dutch, I’d love to see some stats reflecting this, for example.
To end on a note
I’d like to end on this note: I know sharing data and drawing conclusions off of that data are hard. Very difficult to get right. I mean, there’s a book called “How To Lie With Statistics” that demonstrates perfectly how data can be used to push any desired agenda. Not suggesting that’s happening here, btw!
For the record, this is not in any way shape or form intended to be a negative commentary to either the data or the bringer of data, but more a moment of let’s figure out how to do this more inclusively, more accurately.
But… I do think we need to become more inclusive in our thinking here. This discussion about “what is a contribution” pops up regularly in various locations connected to the WordPress Project. And I think it’s time we devote some time to finding ways to better answer that question. Both in definition, completeness, as well as in data respresentation.
I don’t have the answers. But, I’d love to discuss this with any and all at the next WordCamp you see me 🙂