Recently it leaked on a blog (there are few secrets in Open Source) that elements from a design known as “Kubrick” by Michael Heilemann would be incorporated into the default template for the next version of WordPress. Kubrick is many things: a design, a set of templates, some plugins, and a removal of a lot of cruft currently in the default template. It makes things much friendlier for readers. Best of all Michael released everything under the GPL and submitted it to WordPress for inclusion. After it had had several iterations I checked it out and saw a lot of great ideas that would make WordPress a better product, especially for new users. Even though no decisions had been made and no code had been committed, a number of questions were raised in people’s minds. A thread was started in the forums that I’m not even going to link to because it’s not worth reading past the first page, if that. Many people seemed to misunderstand what was going to be incorporated and what wasn’t, even though that was stated pretty clearly in the original blog post.
Michael is primarily a designer, not a coder, and coding things in a way that works on the variety of platforms and setups that WordPress itself does is hard, so there are issues with that in the templates Michael has released. WordPress devs have a lot of experience with those issues, however, and anything added to the core will work just as well (if not better) than WordPress does now. Several others questioned the inclusion of graphics in a template. If graphics were included, how would people be able to edit it? We can’t expect people to have graphics editors, so if graphics are included in the final template (that hasn’t been determined yet) I’ve committed to providing an online interface on wordpress.org for people to customize the graphics to match their color choices without needing any software beyond a web browser. There were some questions about the CSS being used in Kubrick, but the CSS used for it in WordPress won’t be the same and will be treated like any change to the WordPress code, that is it will go through the normal QA process and be tested across platforms by the developers and the few dozen or so people who keep up with the nightly builds, and then extensively tested by the hundreds that use the beta releases once we enter that phase for 1.3. Any problems will be treated as bugs and fixed as such. Watching trends on the forums and continuing a high level of support is very important to everyone.
The problem was after all this was explained the thread continued long after all these questions had been answered with everyone talking past each other. If it shows anything it’s that people can be very passionate about the smallest of things. It’s interesting to note that while this all was occuring what has actually happened in WordPress development in the last week: Dougal wrote a plugin to slow down spambots, literally; Alex made a new style for the styles page; Kitten sent in another comment moderation plugin that’s going to be included in the core; Craig Hartel and Kevin Francis (amoung many others) did some great work on the new wiki; Michel is refactoring the XML-RPC code; we started the process of moving to a better source control system; Ryan is coding too much cool stuff to mention, but the next version of WP be the easiest to customize and template ever. That’s just off the top of my head, there’s lots of other exciting developments happening.
In other words, life moved on. It showed up on a few blogs, but that’s a price of popularity: bad news gets more buzz than good. Numerous examples are in the checkout line of every supermarket. (Not to mention the blogosphere.)
So what’s the state of the WordPress community today? I’d say it’s better. The number of people who actually got out-of-hand was only a handful, and personally I’m ready to apologize and move on. I’ve never been good at holding grudges. The things that make the WordPress community great haven’t changed, and several lessons have been learned. Hundreds of new WordPress blogs have been started, testimonials and donations keep coming in, I’ve noticed more people helping out on the forums, and best of all there’s a healthy amount of disagreement keeping the project young.