Brick walls in the WordPress community

After many years of volunteer work I finally stepped down from the last big task I was doing: I am not longer answering questions in the German support forums. I want to spend more time with my nearly 3 year old girl and the frustrating moments in my work summed up a little bit too much in the past. I wrote about it 2017. Some people asked me to tell more about it, so I tried to list them. It is a long list and I don’t have the time to write much more about why it was frustrating. If you need more details, please ask me on Twitter or in the comments.

I made a plugin called „Child Theme Check„. Although many people liked it, the idea got no traction at all. The Theme Review Team doesn’t even want to discuss the idea of version numbers for template files. I got told that the team is not recommending plugins that are not coming from the TRT itself. My Pull Request for the Theme Check plugin got rejected. After the testflight in Twenty Seventeen the idea was forgotten for Twenty Nineteen.
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As a former GTE I am shocked that the plugin directory is not really localized. The search is not using the translation coming from at all. You only can search in English. It is a high priority ticket, but unfixed since months (years?) now. I tried to get this started, but the team lead first ignored my messages on Slack. After finally got an answer, the attempt to fix it, was producing an error. It seems to be a problem with elastic search and this part is not open source so nobody can help.

And one more example for the problem that just a few people with more permissions can really help to fix things and there is a bottle neck. There is no way to programmatically get the meetups from the API for Rosetta sites. There is a shortcode, but we can’t use it.

One of the biggest disappointments in my volunteer life: Being a GTE. I wanted to help translating, so I got validator rights. Some strings weren’t on there installation and I needed validator rights for So I got validator for (years ago). Then some guy named Matt said that we now are responsible for 50k plugins and some thousands of themes too. This wasn’t a team decision. I had no choice. But I cannot translate 50k plugins. Not with a team of five people. But we were responsible to add PTEs now. So we developed a way to prove that people are knowing what they do (not using Google translate, respecting informal/formal differences, etc.) but we were told to get rid of our restriction. Matt needed faster growth, so we have to just obey the request and if people report bad translations, we had to react on it. After the next task from Matt in a State of the word (translating the Top100 plugins – not coming from the team too) and the big shitstorm coming with the Stringintelligenz feature project I stepped down as a GTE. But even after being inactive for years now, people ping me on Slack or Twitter and aske me to translate their plugins/themes or approve their translations.

Sometimes I have neat little ideas and then people are happy about it. But in the community things are complicated. Things have to be reviewed and although everyone in this thread loved the idea this is failing because of the bottle neck of trusted people. Again. Wapuus instead if the „grey person“, what a great idea for WordCamp sites, but not with Gravatar or politics:

As a GTE I waited for many years, that I got the tools, so I can help. Even now GlotPress is missing essential features (version 3 should have been already released, but got delayed).

It was a huge success (sic!) that the Polyglots (from the locale that is used in the current installation) are mentioned in the release credits. But hey, this is more than I got as a support moderator …

Waiting for the right tools is a big problem here too. 2013, the year I got moderator for, I had to use bbpress 1. It took years to get this updated with some advantages and some disadvantages. And if I am correct there is still no feed for the support forums of single plugins.

I reported a problem on core trac about the issues coming from NFD text which is not normalized to NFC. Broken browser search, broken proofreading, broken internal search, broken transliteration, …

There are endless discussions in all the related trac tickets about the correct approach, why PHP is not sufficient, why we need action on paste with JS, why we need RegEx as fallback with fallbacks for non-supported RegEx features and so on – with Gutenberg it just got fixed, but just on paste via JS and just for supported browser and just for the content area. Ah. Okay. I think I do not have to understand why this is okay here and there not. (no polyfill) (title/permalink not normalized)

On more problem with Gutenberg is, that easy to fix bugs are not taken care of. One example for this is the „Custom Logo“ bug which is still not fixed, although it produces an error on many pages and there is a patch available. All committer should only focus on Gutenberg, so these bug fixes are not recognized any more. Even worse, sometimes they get bulk closed (!), because no one touched them for 2 years. Fortunately this got reverted.

Another patched enhancement which has got no review after one year now:
Even after „discussion“ in the Slack Channel „Design“, because it got an UX Feedback label.

What do people think? – That’s how you give feedback to volunteers trying to fix things. Not.

Often I get some sort of „helpful“ comment, like „I just would like to also work out the UI“, which is completely irrelevant in this case as this is just about adding more items to a dropdown. What kind of UI to work out is needed here? Open for 2 years now.

And another confirmed bug, with no fix and no design help. Although it was discussed two times in Design slack channel. Open for three years now.

After my first WordCamp Europe 2013 in Leiden I was very enthusiastic about WordPress and the community. To get more insights of a big Camp I wanted to be part of the organizing team (because I was the lead organizer of WordCamp Hamburg 2014). They told me this is great and needed to get more experienced as an organizer. But it was just a very frustrating experience. I got no insights and was just used to welcome the people at the front desk for half of the first day. No „thank you“, no group photo, no stage for all of the volunteers, no insights for organizers. I know that they have learned after that year (maybe from my feedback) but I was never part of any WordCamp Europe as a volunteer again.

The idea of getting paid as freelance volunteer was discussed for ages and now again. But as always this seems far too complex to be ever realized:

And as an member of the EU, I have some more issues with GDPR and especially with Jetpack. This problem is unfixed for months now:

Maybe it get more traction after adding a meta trac ticket for it, because it affects many pages on too:

And one real big issue and one of the reasons, why I do not want to organize a WordCamp again: I think every WordCamp in German has to pay sales taxes. Because if you get something back (the event) it couldn’t be a donation in German tax laws. I am not a lawyer and international taxes are very complicated, but my understanding is, that we are all breaking the law here and I am very afraid about the unclear situation since years. I talked 2015 with Andrea Middleton about it and she contacted some lawyer and we talked about this subject. He agrees about this being a problem and wanted to get back to me. Unfortunately he never does that. (Fun fact: That’s the same person who is pinged in the Github ticket about the GDPR problem in Jetpack).

I still love the WordPress community, but I am frustrated after those many years and many unfixed bugs and issues. The focus on Gutenberg and the paradigm shift in handling bug reports is depressing. I am not saying that Gutenberg is a bad idea but all the project management was a disaster for the community. People are complaining to me, because I am part of „the (German) community“. And at least in my opinion, there are less people on Contributor Days.

I am not an anonymous random guy who is ranting about something he does not understand. I have tried to fix many things and helped out in various places all over the community:

Fort short this is what I have done in the last years:

I know that many things have changed in the last years. Things got better, in a slow pace, but there are getting better. And I know that many companies/people learned from past mistakes. But it is hard if you are in the first group so often, that gets no compensation, no thank you, no appreciation and after you are leaving, things change to something better.

And one final thought about Gutenberg: I don’t believe Matt. I don’t think Gutenberg is an altruistic present for the community. It is a trojan horse. With this „present“ he got so many people who are testing, translating, optimizing, extending, … It would be much more expensive to build this just for And it got rushed in to core without hearing the voices of the community warning him. Yes, there was no big crash, but he lost many people who are volunteers for years, like me, because of this behavior. I know this concept of leading a change from my time in the support forums at – ship fast and ship often, even with a broken, uncomplete version and iterate with the user feedback. All the complains will get to volunteers, happiness engineers and after some time they will accept, that this can’t be changed and this is the same for Gutenberg now. And like in the old days I deeply disagree with this leadership. And therefore I will not support this behavior anymore with my free work. So I stepped down as a volunteer in the WordPress community.

Sorry for my bad English, but I wrote this in a hurry and late at night, so please try to read between the lines and with empathy. Thanks!

5 Antworten auf Brick walls in the WordPress community

  1. Hi Thorsten,
    thanks for all the work you have done in the community and for me especially in the Pluginkollektiv

    Despite all the negative experiences which lead to your decision, your article sparks a bit of joy as well, when it comes to the future. I think its a great choice you are making; Have a great time seeing your kid growing up. This is truly rewarding and amazing.

    One remark to the content:
    > And if I am correct there is still no feed for the support forums of single plugins.

    I think, this information is luckily outdated:

    All the best and see you around,

    • Thanks for the info! As always posts like this doesn’t mention the great parts of this work. I learned very much and the rare spare time will get used for family and more exciting things which spark more joy for me 😉

  2. my dear friend,

    I’m really sad to see you leaving, though it’s pretty much understandable.

    There is one achievement you barely forgot to mention in your modesty: your impact of community growth! It was you that draw me into the WordPress ecosystem, It was your talk about WordPress security in WP-Camp Berlin 2012 that opened me a complete new business opportunity. I felt obliged to give back and applied for giving a talk at WP-Camp Berlin 2013, starting off my contributor story. It was you calling for help on moderating videos after WordCamp Hamburg 2014. I’ld gladly stepped in and am glad to say we made some efforts in WordPress A/V production. It was you as GTE/Locale Manager that inspired me to be part of the first GWTD 2016 organizing a local event. I’ve done it ever since.

    And I’m sure I’m not the only one who was inspired by that skilled, calm but enthusiastic guy, with a huge overview on all things WordPress. Being a true example of contributing to WordPress it was easy to follow your role model. Don’t want to sound pathetic, but this move to resign might (and hopefully will) have an even bigger impact on the WordPress communtiy than your accomplishments achieved.

    Keep your dedication – what ever it might be driven to.

    • Thank you very much for this comment! I heard similar stories after my first post from 2017 and it is really great to hear that I had some impact in the community. Thank you for you contributions.

  3. Thank you, Torsten!

    We only met a few short times, but I always did learn something from you. I am still impressed by your presentation back at WordCamp Berlin in 2015 and the deep expert knowledge in many special fields regarding WordPress. No one can take this away. You did good things.
    Sometimes life is different and we have to go other ways.

    At the very least, I can feel a tiny bit of what you must have been experienced over the years, all the excitement, and the fun, but also the deep frustration, and all the „non-fun“ things. When I had my own time of „WordPress burnout“ I hated everything and wanted it to throw away. But life is different some times. In the last year and a half I did found new joy due to various events and persons in and outside of the WP Community.

    What I want to say, I can fully understand your decisions, no matter how hard it must have been. I love your decision to have more time with your daughter. This is perfect. Have a great time together, enjoy life!

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