In this episode, co-hosts Mendel Kurland and Zach Stepek debut their first show together. And you can be rest assured that our guest will be in for a lively discussion.
Josepha Haden Chomphosy is the Executive Director at Automattic. She has brought something special to that position with her energy, expertise and personality. She also leads the team of the Open Source Division for WordPress. In other words, she has her hands full.
A conversation with Josepha Haden Chomphosy, Executive Director at Automattic
- Where did you start and what sent you on that WordPress trajectory? (03:52)
- The translation between musical skills and the skills you have to have to be the executive director of WordPress. (07:20)
- The culture inside Automattic and dealing with external conflict (15:08)
- Trust building in distributed organizations is incredibly hard (23:54)
- How Josepha’s team members deal with, think about, and navigate conflict within an open source community. (28:10)
- A feature is deployed to the project that a lot of people are uncomfortable with and they post a flame thrower in a comment (33:05)
- Trademark defense is complicated (38:12)
- What is the role of diversity within the WordPress project? (41:10)
- What amazing board, card or tabletop games has Josepha been playing lately (47:30)
Connect with Josepha
Links from the show
And check out this post on Building a Culture of Safety on Josepha’s blog.
Thanks to Our Pod Friends
Mendel: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Episode 147 of Do the Woo. It's going to be an exciting one today. This is the first time that Zach and I have been co-hosting without the famous BobWP. So we can take the show off the rails. Before we get into who our guest is, and it's a super awesome guest, Zach how's life?
Zach: You know, it's really good, man. It's been really interesting. I'm doing a lot of fun work and enjoying life, and now have a six-year-old that keeps me on my toes every day.
Mendel: You must have strong toes. That sounds like a wildlife. Well, Zach, I guess this is the podcast debut of this information, but I just had a kid, and he's about four weeks old. So less keeping me on my toes and more just like making me sleep deprived, which makes me even crazier than I normally am. So yeah, it's getting wild. But we're not here to talk about our kids, which is a phrase I didn't think I would say.
We're here to talk with the famous Josepha. Zach, I'll let you introduce Josepha. But Before we get into that, I just wanted to thank Bob for letting us take his show from him as co-host, because I think it's going to be super fun. And I'm super excited to co-host with you, Zach. So let's get into it. Zach, why don't you introduce the famous Josepha Haden Chomphosy.
Zach: Sure. I'll introduce Josepha Haden Chomphosy. Josepha is somebody I've known in the WordPress space since about the time that I got into it. And is now the executive director of WordPress?
Zach: That's insane.
Josepha: It's wild to think about, right?
Zach: It really is, and has just been, in my opinion, the best steward that we've ever had in this project.
Josepha: Oh, thank you. That's really nice because I stand on the shoulders of some giants, so yeah.
Zach: You do, but you're a giant yourself so it's relatively easy, right?
Josepha: Well, thank you very much.
Mendel: So I guess in the history of this show, the famous questions that are asked to the famous people that are on it, Josepha, how do you do the Woo?
Josepha: I mean, I don't necessarily work directly with WooCommerce, and so, maybe that can be a modified question for me. Can we talk about how I do WordPress?
Zach: How do you do the Word?
Mendel: Yeah, totally. Do the word, nerd.
Josepha: What's the word, nerd?
Josepha: Yes. I apologize to all your listeners that I literally just said "Do the word, nerd." So there you go.
Mendel: It's amazing.
Josepha: Well yeah, I mean, what do you want to hear? You want to hear my origin story? You want to hear what I do day to day in WordPress? There's so many things I could tell you about WordPress.
Mendel: Okay. Yeah, let's start back. Let's take a back.
Josepha: Way back.
Where did you start and what sent you on that WordPress trajectory? (03:52)
Mendel: Not to a diapers origin story, but maybe where you started in your career and kind of how that propelled you to what you're doing now. Because I don't think anybody ever thinks that they're going to end up working for an open source project or building crazy things with this wild community of fascinatingly diverse people. Nobody thinks that that's going to happen. So where did you start and what sent you on that trajectory?
Josepha: Yeah. I'm going to take us way back post diapers, pre WordPress. Number 1, I trained as a musician in college. It's the only thing that anyone would give me a scholarship for because I was not necessarily a wonderful student. I sort of fought with all of my teachers all the way through school. And so yeah, I went to school to learn how to think better and learn how to sing better, and by some miracle ended up here in WordPress. What actually happened though, is that right after I graduated, I was trying to be a musician in Kansas City, which it turns out is really hard. Kansas City has a lot of really excellent musicians, a lot of really excellent vocal coaches, which was also an area that I was trying to get into. And so I was really struggling to make that work.
I was talking to my mom about it at one point and she was saying, "Well, I think that probably what you're going to need is a website." And I was like, "Okay, well, I don't know how so I'm going to need you to help me." So she built me my first website, which was actually not on WordPress. And then sometime about a year later, I was, as a starving artist, calling my mom to say, "I'm coming down to visit you this weekend." And she said, "Sure, but I'm going to this conference. I have an extra ticket if you want to go." And I was like, "Well, a conference sounds like a party. I'll go."
So I went, and it was WordCamp Fayetteville in 2009 I want to say or something like that. It was her first time hearing about WordPress. It was my first time hearing about WordPress. And we kind of decided that we needed to figure it out. And so we learned about WordPress together. She learned more about the SEO and content side. I learned more about like the building and data analysis side. If you fast forward over all of the minor milestones, Jen Milo found me working in the digital divide and bringing more diverse voices into technology in Kansas City and asked if I wanted to come do that with WordPress, and here we are today. So yeah, my mom introduced me to WordPress. That's a thing that people don't always know.
Mendel: And there was an agency somewhere in there, right?
Josepha: Yeah, that's exactly right. I worked for a marketing agency. They focused on travel and tourism. And that's where I met you.
Mendel: I think that's the point where I met... Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's where I met you because I was at WordCamp, Kansas City, I think.
Josepha: That's right.
The translation between musical skills and the skills you have to have to be the executive director of WordPress. (07:20)
Mendel: And you appeared. You appeared before me. And then you rose. You rose far above me. So in that origin story, you talked about some of the struggles being a musician in Kansas City and finding your way as a musical being in Kansas City, which I imagine is similarly hard to finding your way through that profession in Nashville or Austin or something like that, right? There's just extreme talent there and you have to break through, which even if you have extreme talent is still hard to do. So talk about, I guess, the translation between those skills because I always think it's interesting, this intersection, right? The translation between those skills and the skills you have to have to be the executive director of WordPress. So how does that translate?
Josepha: I asked myself that question sometimes. I think that there are quite a few transferable skills around being a performer and also being somebody who has to lead a bunch of people. I think that there are a lot of skills that count. So, having some level of poise, being able to think quickly on my feet in public, things like that, the public persona part, all are obviously transferable skills. I think the primary skills that benefit me in my leadership role here with WordPress actually are not that I learned while learning how to become a performer. Those I really, really committed to learning.
My path to leadership and the study of leadership is actually kind of an interesting story that I rarely tell anybody, and I probably should at some point. But yeah, it was my senior year of college, I was doing some final studies. There were a couple of different papers that I had to write, and yeah, it really tapped into my interest around group dynamics and how groups exist and co-exist and how they function and what makes them resilient and what makes them fall apart. And that was all in the context of soccer.
And so I wanted to learn more about soccer fan sections because they seemed a little bit wild, yet also incredibly cohesive. And that actually is what led me to learning more about leadership, which has been an ongoing learning process. I learned most of my leadership through trial and error as I went through my own career. And so I wouldn't say that my leadership skills I learned in school, but certainly the parts of being in front of people I did learn while in school.
Zach: You know, there's an interesting thing about the music industry that I actually wrote an article on this years ago in 2014 called Lessons from the Tour Bus.
Zach: Where I talked about some of the parallels between music, business, and business in general, entrepreneurship especially. It's amazing. Every musician starts their day with a plan, right? If you're on the road, if you're touring, you start your day with a day sheet that tells you what you're going to do that day. And normally, it's divided into a couple of sections. Those sections are generally press interactions and production, right? And then when they get onstage, they have a set list in place that tells them what the game plan for the show is. And they follow those plans to make sure that everything runs without a hitch. So I absolutely believe that music prepared you for leadership because that is something that's absolutely necessary to be in a performance of any sort on a nightly or even weekly basis.
Josepha: I mean, if we're super candid, maybe that's why I was not succeeding as a musician. Not because I can't lead, but I was not a very organized person when I was younger. I know that's really hard for folks to believe now because I'm like the queen of organization. Give me a spreadsheet or death, you know? And so, that maybe is part of why I was not the most successful one out there.
But yeah, that's a great call-out. And I think that anyone who is a musician, and I know we have many, many in the WordPress community of all varieties, we have the trained classical kind and the trained jazz kind, and then the picked it up as a hobby kind, we've got them all over, I bet all of that would resonate with them as well. The artistic side of what you do is frequently a result of incredible organization and longterm commitment to knowing the basics and learning the basics and practicing the basics so well that you can do them in your sleep so that you have a lot of space to think on your toes when you have to.
Zach: Yep. The other part that makes a band or a musician successful is the team they surround themselves with.
Josepha: Yeah, ain't that true? Absolutely.
Zach: Yeah. And I think that is such a huge thing that people don't see, is that behind every Justin Timberlake, behind every Metallica, there is a-
Mendel: I'm super happy that Justin is the first one you pulled out by the way.
Zach: Oh, of course, of course.
Josepha: And then Metallica.
Zach: Well, I have to be as diverse as possible here.
Josepha: That's good.
Zach: But behind every great artist, there is a giant team of people that keep that ship moving forward.
Josepha: Yeah. I mean, no success is a solo endeavor. Anyone who claims that their success is a solo endeavor or anyone who reads into success that someone did it on their own is... Like, you just don't know what you can't see in there. And yeah, I, for instance, yes, I'm the executive director of the WordPress Project, but there's no part of me that thinks that I could do this by myself. I got so many people who are working on all of the initiatives that we have obviously with the CMS, but also in other spaces as well. Working with the community itself, working with the contributor experience, all of that. There are people who are doing spectacular work up and down the field. I may be the one with the title, but that doesn't mean that I'm solo in the success that we have here.
Zach: Well, the contributor experience is how you and I met.
Josepha: Yeah, that was right.
Zach: Because we were on the training team.
Zach: And that's the phenomenal thing about the WordPress Project, is that it can bring people together in ways that you wouldn't think possible. Our diversity is our strength as a project. It really is our strength. It's pretty awesome, and something I'm very glad and very humbled to be a part of every day.
The culture inside Automattic and dealing with external conflict (15:08)
Mendel: We often talk about community, right? We often talk about contribution. And those things are paramount, right? They're the most important parts of the WordPress project. Even more important than the code, in my opinion, is the community around the project, right? But I want to focus on something that maybe people don't know a whole lot about and maybe there are misconceptions about. And so I think it would be cool if you could tell us a little bit about the culture within Automattic and the culture that you've experienced. Matt posts some things on his blog about valuation and things like that. And so, some people think it's all money. Then some people think it's trademark hungry corporation masquerading as an open source steward, right?
Josepha: Whoo! You came out with two really rough examples. Okay.
Mendel: Well, the reason I come out with the rough examples is because... And I don't want you to focus on those, right?
Mendel: What I want you to focus on is the culture inside the organization, because I know from people that have worked there and still do work there that it's a nice place. It's a nice place with nice people that do nice things. So talk a little bit about that. The WP thing, that'll come later, but I'm not even going to ask you about the specifics of that because I think enough has been written about trademark crap, right? But there is a little bit of foreshadowing of some thoughts that you have around just the project in general, okay? No specifics. Just generalities.
Josepha: Okay. For anyone who doesn't know, I actually do lead our open source division at Automattic as well. So I'm leading the WordPress Project as the executive director. I'm leading about 85 people, something like that here inside the division at Automattic. And because I spend so much time working with the division and focusing on our culture, I can specifically tell you about the culture that I do my best to foster inside the division, but not necessarily the overall culture inside Automattic. I have some insight in that I work there, but the specific implementations of culture across various divisions and teams, I won't necessarily know about because I'm just not in it.
Mendel: No, I think your lived experiences is great within the organization because people know you and respect you. And I think understanding what that experience is, is great.
Josepha: Yeah. So in my division, because we're working specifically with the WordPress Project and other open source projects as well from time to time. There are some basics to what we are always trying to do. One is that we're always trying to move fast enough to be relevant, but slow enough to be ethical. I encourage everyone to adhere to the basics of ethical communication. And I always try to make sure that we make decisions user first. And so with those big concepts, the way that everything else kind of shakes out is really specific to each team, but the heart of it is always the same. And of course, we tried to stick with the four basic freedoms of open source stuff.
But as far as our day-to-day culture, we look very similar to the culture of our biggest teams inside the WordPress Project. We all greet each other when we come in. There's some free and open conversation, communication. The discussions that we have are in channels where anyone else can see them, like big, substantial notes, big project kickoffs. Those all have posts that go along with them. So the processes internally for us are really similar to the processes externally.
That wasn't always true. I started out on a single team as a team member. There were like seven people on the team when I started. And so, we have grown substantially since that time. But even when I was a single team member on a team of seven in a company of like 100 people, this was prior to Woo joining Automattic, yeah, it's an environment that is really filled with some of the best and brightest that you have in WordPress or whatever the area of expertise is that we need from them. And there's something really electric about that. I mean, sometimes it's not perfect. You get into fights because you got the smartest people around having conversations at a level that is just sometimes impossibly high.
And for me, of course my subject matter expertise at this point is a lot leadership, a lot culture, a lot community building. When you have that sort of group of borderline visionary people who are focused on their specific areas, for instance, me and Mathias, where I'm like, "All the people in the community," and he's like, "I'm here for technology." He and I have had our disagreements over the years, but I have yet to run into situations where on the other side of a disagreement, we felt like the solution was worse or the people were worse because of what was said. I feel like it's a really-
Mendel: Disagreements drive innovation, right?
Mendel: I mean, as long as everybody's civil and respectful, I think that kind of drives some really good conversations and really good changes.
Josepha: Well, I think that people really lose sight of the value of tension in product teams. Like, if you have a bunch of people who all think the same, you are not going to come up with the best solutions, partially because you're not thinking outside of your own personal boxes, but also because if you have made an early missed step, there's sometimes not anyone in there who can say, "I'm not sure that's the right way forward." And so, I love not being a subject matter expert in how to write code because that means that the questions that I have bring different elements into the conversation that people otherwise wouldn't have thought to bring up.
Zach: Well, I think it's super important that you mentioned the basics of ethical communication as a foundation of how you lead. I'm a student of business. Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the bottom of that pyramid is the absence of trust, right?
Zach: And ethical communication fosters that trust. And that's how you get difficult problem solved, is by having that foundation of trust and having an environment where there isn't fear of conflict because everybody's just contributing to the common good at that point. You don't have any lack of commitment because the people who are here, are here because they want to move things forward. Accountability is built into open source. So we don't have an avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results is pretty much impossible when everything is code reviewed, right?
Josepha: As long as you're working in the code. Yeah.
Trust building in distributed organizations is incredibly hard (23:54)
Zach: Right. And in general, the open source nature of the project means that everything has a check and balance. That's just the nature of the community. So those basics of ethical communication, listening to the best in communication and speaking non-judgmentally and listening when other people are talking, and all of those foundational characteristics of great communicators that engage in ethical communication really support creating an environment that has a lack of dysfunction. And that's the only way that these high functioning minds can collaborate in a way that things move forward generally.
Josepha: As you mentioned, trust is the foundation of excellently functional teams. And I think it's worth mentioning that trust building in distributed organizations is incredibly hard and has to be reinvested in constantly. And like it or not, WordPress as an open source project is absolutely a distributed company. Well, we're not a company obviously. A distributed organization. And so, the work to reinvest in the trust that people have in you and that you have in other people is a constant piece of maintenance, just like any other relationship out there, and is always harder when it's only text-based or only Zoom-based or whatever it is that you have out there.
And as the WordPress contributor base grows, I have frequently run into a case where I have two groups of people that I trust explicitly because we have been working together for a while, but those two groups run into one another and they don't work together. And so they have no trust. It never occurred to me that they wouldn't already have a foundation of trust. And so maybe I sent them to each other and then they're like, "Who is this random person that I've never seen in my life? How dare they?" When really, I'm just sending people that I know are always holding the basic values of WordPress when coming up with solutions to come together on a single solution. And neither of them necessarily know that. And I have been guilty of accidentally assuming more trust in groups on more than one occasion, and always coming and try to help smooth it out.
BobWP: Hey, BobWP here. I'd like to take a moment to thank two of our pod friends for their support of Do the Woo. When you build a client site, after the fact, you are doing one or two things; continuing to help them maintain their site, or simply handing it over. Now, whatever the case may be, you need to give your clients even more confidence in running their Woo shop. OSTraining has a great collection of WooCommerce tutorials that will help your clients get the most out of their site. And as a bonus for you, the builder, you can also find training to enhance your knowledge as they continue to grow their WordPress and WooCommerce developer training. So whether it's for yourself or to help your clients understand and take control of their Woo shop, OSTraining has you covered at ostraining.com.
BobWP: Need to help your clients create optimized sales funnels using their WooCommerce shop? WooFunnels gives you and your clients all the tools needed to create high converting funnels using WooCommerce. And to add to that, their CRM lets you create broadcasts and automated workflows with unlimited contacts. Because in the end, it's not just building the shop, but building sales and a solid customer base. Visit buildwoofunnels.com to learn more. And now, let's head back to the show.
How people on Josepha’s team deal with, think about, and navigate conflict within an open source community. (28:10)
Mendel: So this is all helpful context. I wanted to ask about kind of like the internal experience before I asked the second question. We're not going to fly all the way to the sun and see solar flares with the trademark stuff. But mainly, the reason why I bring all that up is because the community has its share of conversations, sometimes heated. Developers, as we all know, because I am one, I can speak from that perspective, is we don't always share things with as much softness as we could when we're providing feedback. Sometimes fingers are pointed. More times than not, people disagree, right? Because we're dealing with a large, large base, which is incredible, right? That's what brings such life to the project. So what I would love to know is not how people on your team deal with this, but how, Josepha, thinks about conflict within open source communities and kind of how you try and navigate that. Because I can't imagine it's super easy.
Josepha: Yeah. I will start with this. I have never seen a single organization that had zero conflict and was also healthy. I feel like when you have an organization that is afraid to raise a flag of concern, it's rarely that everybody was just super perfectly aligned and everybody super agrees and everyone totally has the same thoughts on everything all the time. It's mostly that someone is afraid, or that the whole organization is being shushed. And so, I see the discussions and the disagreements and the conversations, and potentially even the fights that we have in the project as a sign of the fact that people care enough to say something and also assign that they have enough psychological safety in the project to question what is happening.
So yes, conflict resolution is hard, and yes, it takes up a lot of my time, but I would rather that people have an opportunity to say, "Hey, I don't understand why we're doing this, and I would like your help understanding it" over going to... I don't know. "What's an important media place? Going to New York Times and being like, 'WordPress hates trademarks or something'." I always would rather that people feel comfortable gaining the understanding that they need, rather than just blameless flame throwing everywhere over a bit of miscommunication. So that's an important part of this understanding. You're asking how I approach conflict resolution work? Or did that just answer the question entirely?
Mendel: Well, it mostly answered the question, right? But when you're out there, sometimes it's gut wrenching, right? When I read some of the comments that especially people will post on the Tavern, I even get them on my blog occasionally, where somebody just says something and my first reaction is like, 'Well, what the heck, man? Don't say that. That's messed up." But then you kind of read into it, and you're like, "Well, there's somebody that feels like their business is threatened by this change. Or they thought they knew everything, and this kind of throws into question what they know about the project, right? Because change is happening. Like you said, you kind of balance change with doing the right thing, right? That you have to be on the cutting edge. And at the same time, you have to bring everybody along with you too. And sometimes those things are out of sync occasionally, right?
A feature is deployed to the project that a lot of people are uncomfortable with and they post a flame thrower in a comment (33:05)
Mendel: A feature is deployed to the project that a lot of people are uncomfortable with, and they don't know how to use it and they don't know how they're going to train their clients. All of a sudden, these things show up in just somebody posting a flame thrower in a comment, right? And that's difficult. So I guess, how do you look at those comments and how do you think about it? How do you unpack that?
Josepha: Well, there's a lot to unpack in your question so I'm just going to do some wandering around in it, and then we'll figure out where we're going together. So on the one hand, I think that you always have to look for the element of truth in any complaint that someone has. If there's one thing that everyone is always an expert in, it's how something made them feel. And they may not understand the decisions that had to be made to get to something, but that doesn't mean that they didn't feel as though they were personally not heard. Because you know, WordPress serves a majority collection of minority voices. There's always going to be somebody that we didn't hear enough, right?
And so, I always care about what the base concern is. I try never to dismiss someone's complaint as just being a loud angry person, which is very easy to do, right? Because one of the primary ways to look like a knowledgeable person on a subject is to have a hot take, is to have an angry feeling about, it is to have a criticism. If you're just like, "Yeah, that's a good call. I don't agree with it, but it's fine," no one thinks that you're smart enough to have an angry thought about it, right? And so, it's very easy to want to dismiss angry comments because it could very well be that it's somebody who wants to look knowledgeable and wants to gain some notoriety in your online community, which for us fortunately is WordPress.
And so, I always do try to look for the element of truth in it and try to assume that they're right about what something made them feel. I understand that getting those messages hundreds of times a day has got to be taxing. Matt's very large target, I would never want that in my life. That's got to be super hard. And so yeah, it's hard, and you hate to see it, and you hate to see people being hurt that way. But also, at the end of the day, I, at the end of the day, have to really look out for the contributors who are doing that work with us, right?
Like, there is a problem with unsubstantiated claims against the WordPress project going completely unrefuted because we just don't have, one, the people to manage that one-on-one. And two, for the people who are actively doing that work with me, with the project, that's a hell of an ask. It's really hard to ask them to take that sort of emotional turmoil every single day for things that sometimes they didn't do, and in rare cases, also potentially didn't agree with. And so I always try to default with taking care of the community members who are working on this, which is 1% of the people who are using WordPress. It is a really privileged position being able to contribute back to a project, and I understand that saying it's a privileged position, I have people show up and emotionally abuse you because they didn't understand what was happening in WordPress today. That's a rough proposition.
Mendel: And it's hard, right? Because you're not the project.
Mendel: But I've seen you kind of stand in the line of fire. Matt, other people within the organization, standing in the line of fire. Even contributors who don't don't deserve the intensity of a lot of these comments and feelings. But it is interesting what you say about kind of peeling back the onion and seeing why people are that upset. If everybody could just not be so mean, that'd be super cool.
Josepha: Be more constructive with your feedback, please.
Zach: Well, there are two really important points related to this specific instance, right?
Zach: This specific instance started from an article that was badly researched.
Mendel: Wait, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on. Wait, wait, wait. Zach, no specifics. I promised Josepha no specifics.
Zach: Oh, okay.
Mendel: So we cannot do it. We cannot do it.
Trademark defense is complicated (38:12)
Zach: The things that that occurred, they... First of all, if an organization holds a trademark, they have a responsibility to defend that trademark or they're going to lose it, right?
Zach: So that's part of being a steward of a trademark. When you apply for the trademark, you sign up for having to defend it.
Josepha: Yeah. Trademark defense is complicated. Yeah, yeah.
Zach: Very. And I do not envy the legal team that's responsible for that at all.
Mendel: Speaking in generalities, yeah, in any organization I imagine.
Zach: Yeah. So it's a very difficult thing. And if you don't defend it, you lose it. So that's a really important piece. But on the flip side of it, I understand why people would be upset, especially if they don't have the whole picture. And what we saw throughout the conversations is people developing the whole picture. So what happened, because there isn't a fear of conflict in our space, is we saw an open communication where people express their opinions, right? They spoke from their own experience and perspective. They express their thoughts, their needs, their feelings. And people came back and tried to speak non judgmentally in most cases, right?
Zach: And there was a lot of seeking, understanding, right? So this was ethical communication in most cases.
Josepha: Yeah. For what it's worth, this project's been rolling for 18 years. 10 years ago, we passed the point where one person would have all the context all the time. It has been so long since one person, solo, could track this whole project and all of the history of it and all of the context of the current iterations of it and where everybody is. Every conversation that I approach with a community member, chances are, they didn't have all the information. And I'm always happy to provide as much information as I can get and that I can reasonably share. I am as transparent with everything as I possibly can be. There are always decisions and discussions that you have to have in private, because that is the nature of having people with you. But yeah, I think you're right. There was not the full picture. And as people were discussing and getting the full picture, it became less and less alarming a situation. But it did kind of take... Let me see how many people collaborated with me on that. There were eight people that helped pull that together.
What is the role of diversity within the WordPress project? (41:10)
Mendel: I would love to throw this train on a different set of tracks for a second. I know I'm the one that set it on the other set of tracks, but I would love to learn about one other thing. Then, I'm sure Zach might have a question. If not, that's cool too. But I wanted to go back to something you said about diversity. That you were kind of tapped for this higher role. You mentioned the fact that diversity was a part of the decision making process, not all of the decision-making process obviously. And so, I guess it's kind of a broad question because you have such great thoughts. I don't want to put it into a small box. But what role does diversity play within the project? How does it help? How does it create conflict? How does it alleviate conflict? What is the role of diversity within the WordPress Project?
Josepha: I mean, I think it's true that the role of diversity in any organization is to get your best foot forward as often as possible, because you had as many people with as many different thoughts about it as available. But specifically for WordPress, there's an extent to which WordPress is essentially a microcosm of a civilization, right? Of a society. And so when we have people who look like the people who are using it in as many places as we have them using it, the more likely we are to end up with a product that actually helps more users than hurts users. And that at the end of the day is super important to me, making sure that what we are offering to users is easy to access. So WordPress doesn't get too big. You don't have to have a massive computer to make it work. It's you have training available, et cetera, et cetera. But then also making sure that it is usable based on what it is that people need to do with a CMS, right?
There are features all over the place in Track and in GitHub that people have suggested because it's individually very useful for them, that don't necessarily gain traction because they're not a lot of people who need to use it that way. And so I think that the role of diversity in WordPress is absolutely to shine spotlights into the corners of software that we, otherwise, would not have an opportunity to see. It does create a lot of, not conflict necessarily, a lot of discord, right? Because when you have different cultures coming together, and it doesn't matter how define culture in that moment, like working in an office versus working distributed is a difference in cultures. But when you have a bunch of cultural differences coming together to work on a single project, you always, always, are going to have a difference of opinion on what most people need, what is considered beautiful, what is considered functional, because that's just the way it is.
There are different cultures with different norms and different values every day that we're working with people. Most of the time, if you have run into a weird miscommunication, it's probably that there is some cultural assumption on one side or the other of the conversation that has not yet been clearly defined. And so, the part that most people miss and that actually people find the hardest as they're trying to work together in really diverse groups is the negotiation of meaning part of it, right? Like when I say... Or rather, if I use the acronym POC, that means something different depending on what it is that you're doing. If you're a designer, it might mean proof of concept. If you're working with diversity, equity, and inclusion, it might mean person of color. There are so many different things that any one-word may mean differently, depending on where you're coming from.
And so that's the part that people miss most of the time. They assume everybody's talking about apples, and actually one person's talking about brownies, and the other one's talking about apples. And they just have to stop and be like, "Wait. Are you also talking about apples?" And they say, "Oh, no. This is not apples. I was talking brownies." And then everyone's like, "Well, obviously brownies." That's a joke. I know that there are people in the world who don't like chocolate, but I don't know where you are because you would hate spending time with me. I love talking chocolate.
Mendel: That ain't right.
Zach: Yeah, that I don't know.
Josepha: I love you, but I don't agree with you.
Zach: Exactly. Now, on this particular subject, you did recently record a really good podcast episode on your podcast talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Zach: And we'll make sure that Bob gets that in the show notes so that people can go and listen to that and just get a little more of your perspective on why DEI is so important and crucial to the WordPress project.
Zach: Which I thought was a great episode, by the way.
Josepha: Oh, thank you.
Zach: So yes, you do have at least have one listener, at least.
Zach: And we'll share things about ethical communication as well, just so that people have the ability to look at that and understand kind of where that credo for ethical communication came from. That's the National Communication Association, right?
What amazing board, card or tabletop games has Josepha been playing lately (47:30)
Zach: We'll share some information on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and where all of that came from just so that we can make sure that people can button up everything we've talked about throughout this episode. But I want to completely derail the train and put it on a completely different path for our last question here.
Josepha: We got some wild trains in this yard.
Zach: We do. We do. So we are going to jump the track and we're going to move over to a subject that you know-
Mendel: Zach, you're crazy. You're crazy.
Zach: ... a subject that you know is near and dear to my heart. And that is, what amazing board card or tabletop games have you been playing lately?
Josepha: I'm so excited that you asked. So number 1, I have been playing this adorable game called Carto, C-A-R-T-O. It's impossibly adorable. I love it. You're this little navigator, and you're trying to find your way through various puzzles to help your character find their grandmother. I love it. So I've been playing a lot of that.
Zach: It's a Humble Bundle game, right?
Josepha: It was. That's where I got it. Yeah. And then for board games, I have been playing Robinson Crusoe, which I'm terribly bad at. I have only not died one time, but it's a great game. Yeah. Also, I think that you actually already know this, Zach, because I mentioned it previously, but my long standing love of the game Wingspan is still there. I'm still playing it a year later.
Zach: Wingspan is so great. It really is.
Josepha: So good.
Zach: It's just like walking into a Zen garden of birds.
Josepha: Bird conservation.
Zach: Yes, and just enjoying the calm and collected, yet competitive game play. It's so much fun.
Josepha: Yeah, beautiful game. So wonderful.
Zach: And it's still hard to find, which is amazing.
Mendel: Have the two of you played around with The Game Crafter?
Mendel: So this will just mess you up for a good week. But The Game Crafter is all these indie board games, card games, all this stuff made by independent builders who can then essentially have them manufactured directly by The Game Crafter. And then, there's actually a marketplace where you can browse top rated games and then play people's games that they've made.
Josepha: How neat!
Mendel: It's a wild... It's almost like the WordPress of games.
Josepha: You heard it here first.
Mendel: It's super crazy. So yeah. Good luck getting any work done. You can also create your own, which is super cool, so yeah.
Where to connect with Josepha (50:45)
Zach: Well, we have come to that time. I think, Josepha, we need to know where people can connect with you.
Josepha: Yeah. You can catch me on Twitter, @JosephaHaden. And also, if you're wandering around in WordPress and wanting to know what to do, I'm over there a lot. I'm hanging out in the make.wordpress.org network of sites. I'm wandering around in there a lot. And then I wander around in the WordPress community slack, which is making WordPress. I think that to get in there, you have to go to chat.wordpress.org and signup in little form. But yeah, those are all the places. Oh, wait, no, there's another place. If you want to hear about leadership, because that's mostly all I ever talk about there, you can also follow my blog at josepha.blog. I can't believe I forgot that one. That's my favorite one.
Zach: Well, and of course the WP Briefing Podcast.
Josepha: Yeah, WP Briefing Podcast.
Zach: That's a big one. 15 episodes in.
Josepha: Yeah, we did a bonus because I'm actually taking a bit of an August break from recording. But we did a bonus episode that came out on Monday, which is just me being mad at myself for not saying things right while standing alone in my closet, recording with this microphone.
Zach: That is amazing. It has been really great. I want to thank our two pod friends, ostraining.com and woofunnels.com, for helping us make all of this possible. We really appreciate your support. And Josepha, it has been great to have you here and to be able to pick your brain a little bit about all of these amazing topics. As always, we appreciate every guest that we have here and we appreciate the community here at Do the Woo. And I look forward to the next time that we're all together.
Josepha: Thanks for having me.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.