World War WordPress: Communicating in a community that doesn’t like to communicate.

Why don't people in the community know how to speak out respectfully? And on the flip side of that, why is everything an attack when people respond calmly to criticism?

There is no WordPress disagreement in Ba Sing Se

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Hi, it’s me your friendly neighborhood extrovert. Being able to talk and communicate with people from all walks of life has made it easier for me to enter new spaces, cultivate beautiful relationships, and even foster empathy in places that lacked them.  I would say I owe a lot to being open to communication and talking. I don’t think many people would disagree with finding success this way, but what do you do when you are dropped into a community that doesn’t like to communicate or communicate properly?  One like tech or even the WordPress community itself?

What do you mean? There is no WordPress disagreement in Ba Sing Se.

Since the popularity of Twitter, many people have taken it to air out their grievances with people, places, and things. You can connect there to see restaurants get canceled, celebrities with unsavory dealings, and even historical figures if you’re following the right (wrong?) accounts. The WordPress community has not been the exception to that. Many people on my timeline come together at least once a day to express their dislike of things such as Full Site Editing, lack of sponsorships for underrepresented groups in the community, and from time to time even my very own beloved MasterWP. 

A blue flag similar to the one used on Mark safe from events on Facebook.  Marked Safe From MasterWP hate today

This does not bother me because I am a child of a culture of call-out.  Living in rural South Carolina was not a walk in the park. There were plenty of things to call out from racism, sexism, and classism, to downright cult conformity. And when you challenge someone out loud for the masses to hear, the response is usually for people to ask you why you feel so strongly about it. Especially if you risk upsetting the status quo.  I don’t say this because this seems to be the way of millennials and Gen Z now, I say this because people like me have been challenging the status quo for a long time now. That’s why when I see an issue, I call it out and that’s also why when someone has a problem with something I stand for, I seek to communicate so we can both get to the bottom of things. It’s how I would want someone to listen and respond to me. 

When people make you the bad person for wanting to communicate.

Well, that may be all nice and dandy Nyasha. You may be thinking, but what do you do when people don’t want to communicate? They just want you to know that they don’t like or agree with you?

It is a photo of Grandpa Abe from the Simpsons.  He is in a newspaper article with his fist raised to the sky.  the title reads Old Man Yells at cloud

It seems like we have a lot of them in the community, don’t we? 

What I have discovered in my half a year at MasterWP is that there is a thing that people do that goes something like this.

“I don’t like pineapple on pizza. It’s really disgusting and I don’t know why Nyasha would eat it like that.”

Nyasha responding, “Oh! Well, I grew up eating it, it was a favorite of me and my mom growing up so I have nostalgia for it.  Have you ever tried it or is it a sweet and savory issue for you?”

“…Are you attacking me? This is giving real debate me energy, how can you respond to me?”

A picture of a guy dressed as the iceberg that the Titanic hit in 1912.  He is being interviewed and asks the host, "Why are you attacking me?"
(Note, while I enjoy pineapple on pizza, my mother does not and that was made up, please do not tell her I told people she likes it.)

Although I am a youngish millennial, I know this type of internet speak isn’t new. It is new for me to see it in a professional sense. I was under the impression that if you have an issue and call it out, you want to be engaged about it.  Oh, my poor sweet naïve self. I only recently realized that Communication in the WordPress community has become yelling at the clouds or yelling that disagreement solves nothing.  And it’s the reason why WordPress remains stagnant.

What do you say to those who don’t want a response? Well, that’s a double-edged sword if you ask me.  There are people who want to yell at you, hurl insults at times, or even dismiss your background simply because they don’t agree with you.  And any response is a sign of aggression. Or as my grandmother would say throwing rocks and hiding their hands. There are also people who want their concerns to be heard but they don’t know how to respond. There is thirdly my favorite, people who wish to engage in meaningful dialogue, but don’t know how to in this space because the first two people have taken it over. What are the solutions to this?

We have to be open to communication.  That includes you my beloved introverts

I would get so scared to be in public I would cry sometimes. My mom, the social butterfly she was, understood but hoped one day I would break out of my shell.  Fast forward to today, I’ve embraced that people love to come up to you and talk when you are an interesting 6’1 baby giraffe that laughs loudly. You also learn that some people love that about you, and some people hate it.

Just like what you say, write, or do in the WordPress community there always seem to be detractors no matter what your intent. Some people have taken it upon themselves to insult you because of that.  Some people have taken their criticism to echo chambers where everyone only loves the right things and hates the right ones.

And some have taken it upon themselves to try and teach you that communication is not wrong, no matter if you can or cannot respond. 

How to communicate in a community that doesn’t like to communicate.

Sometimes people may see me as someone who overly communicates because I address everything. Even the passive aggressive. It is not because I enjoy arguing, I am a firecracker, or whatever other labels people may put on me, it’s because I want you to know where I stand. None of us can read minds. If I am doing something that someone doesn’t understand, I want them to speak with me about it. If I am saying something that someone has opposing thoughts about, (unless it is hate speech or threats) I want to hear about it! I like people to know that there is a method to my madness and if possible, I want to know theirs. How can we build and grow if we don’t know anything about each other and we don’t WANT to?

Speak up. For yourself and others.

Here at MasterWP, we offer to pay people to write rebuttals to things we have published. You don’t like the fact that I’m telling the WordPress community to open their purses every other week, write about it! You don’t like that something was criticized so you want to talk about the good in it? Write about it!  You hate that something was praised so you want to talk about the opposite, write about it! For those who are not writers, speak about it!  With wonderful podcast platforms like Underrepresented in Tech, WP-Tonic, and our beloved Press the Issue, there are different avenues to speak on what you think should happen in the community.  

I am an introvert/Not ready for public communication.

Again, I very much understand. Speaking up is hard in any case, especially in a community that doesn’t really like opposing views. One might fear for their connections or job for going against whomever you want to disagree with.  I am here to tell you again that I completely understand, and, in that case, I think that’s where people like us should step in. The extroverts.  The firecrackers.  The communicators. We should open spaces for those who cannot speak for themselves. It is one of the visions I personally have for MasterWP and for myself. If someone in your community does not have a voice and you do, it is your job to make sure they are heard. Give more people in the community a way to disagree, respectfully, even if it’s not what you have been accustomed to the last 50 years you have been in WordPress.  

(I know it’s only 19 but stay with me)

This way we can drown out the people who do nothing but yell at the clouds. Or who insult people randomly and do not want to be responded to. Because here at MasterWP, we back up everything we say and want to back you up as well.  

Or again we can remain stagnant. We can continue to argue on Twitter.  I have a whole list of “your mom creates sites in FSE” jokes ready to roll.  


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Nyasha is the Editorial Director at MasterWP and a software developer at Howard Development & Consulting, the company behind WP Wallet.

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