When Rob Howard first approached me about working for Howard Development and Consulting (now HDC), I didn’t know anything about him or the company. He mentioned WP Wallet and MasterWP in hopes it would ring a bell. I’d heard of MasterWP, but never read it. I remember that my friend Allie had recently started working there though, and I admire her, so I simply assumed it must be pretty great.
I had some long talks with Rob about company philosophies, work ethics, diversity, and many other things. He kept saying things that I used to say when I started with “Someday when I run a company….”
In my efforts to do due diligence however, I decided to ask around before agreeing to the first offer that came through the door, and what I found surprised me quite a lot.
It was universally along the lines of “The people seem really nice, but MasterWP, wow did THAT go off the rails!”. Another was “They seem to have lost the journalistic integrity it had before it was purchased.” In the months since then, I’ve heard some things like “I really like their boldness, and willingness to say things that need to be said.”
As a peacemaker, I really struggle with controversy, especially when it’s between people I like and admire. In the end I took the job (and am very happy here) but I continued to hear things occasionally, so I went to Rob about it. Because of the kind of culture we have here at HDC, he said “Let’s discuss it in a Slack channel, so everyone can contribute.” I like that about HDC, it’s very egalitarian here.
As a team we had a good conversation about our growing reputation, where we think that reputation is warranted, and where we don’t. For example, every author stands by what they’ve said, but take issue with the idea that it means they don’t like WordPress, or Automattic, Matt, or anyone or anything. If they really didn’t like those things they’d simply walk away.
But something we struggled with was the comparison to what MasterWP was before we acquired it. It’s unarguably different. Is that good or bad? It really depends on your taste I suppose, but something we realized is that the difference is far beyond content style.
The MasterWP newsletter now has far more authors than it did previously, and those authors have a wide variety of viewpoints on most topics. The newsletter has become much more of an Editorial and Op-Ed publication than a News outlet. I like this for a number of reasons.
- As a team we have a wide variety of opinions. We disagree with each other. Sometimes we come to an agreement before publish, sometimes we agree to disagree. Either way, lots of thinking is done.
- As a team we have a wide diversity of experience. Age, gender, and color are really quite well represented across the writing team. This provides a rich quality of perspective.
- We freely accept op-ed pieces, and pay well for them, even (especially?) when they disagree with us.
- While individual authors will have a consistent stance on a given topic, readers can count on the publication as a whole to have a variety of viewpoints.
After spending nearly two months shoulder to shoulder with the folks at MasterWP I feel I can confidently say that we do indeed love WordPress and its community. Strong feelings come from caring deeply, and strong words come from the courage to say them. Together we’ll all make WordPress better than it was yesterday.