DevPress, WPCandy, and Why I’m Now 80% Blonde: Part the First

Every morning I wake up at 5:42am so that I can make lunch for my niece (11th grade! I remember her emergency birth — weighing 2 lbs 13 oz — back when I was in Okinawa to take care of her as a newborn. They grow up so fast!) and send her off with a wish for a good day before she goes to school. After that, I start work. By the time most people are getting to their coffee I’ve already put in a few hours (per trend), so it wouldn’t be accurate to say that I woke up on September 9th to find out I’d been accused publicly of starting a war; I was already awake. That said, it was a sucky way to continue the morning, the day, the week. Especially because I was not accused directly, nor did the person who printed the accusation bother to contact me about it; I found out because I get the pingback notifications from WordCamp.org, and Ryan’s article linked to the fundraising page on the planning site.

I don’t even know where to start. Here’s the list of the things that I feel obligated to do now, in written form, in public:

  1. Set the record straight regarding my communication with Justin, which in no way resembles starting a war.
  2. Explain why giving away memberships is not the same as underwriting an event.
  3. Explain why the guideline exists in the first place, the long-term reasons why they’re important, and the plans for their evolution.
  4. Ask why someone (I’m looking at you, Ryan Imel) would publish something so inflammatory without even checking with the person being accused of something first to see if it’s a) true, b) something that could be worked out without animosity somewhere other than in the comments of WPCandy.
  5. Defend myself against the slur of needing an English degree.

Well! I guess I won’t be spending the morning working on the uploader UI. Because — let’s face it — there’s no way I, the wordiest of the wordy, can address all of these things in one succinct post, I’m going do a series of three. A trilogy, as some English majors might say. And the posts probably won’t be succinct, because this brouhaha has brought up a lot of issues, and though people are claiming their questions are simple, generally there is a simple answer, but then a long drawn-out answer is required if someone doesn’t feel the simple answer was adequate, so might as well just put it all out there.

In this post, Part the First, I’ll largely be providing an account of what went down from my point of view, reacting to the way this thing blew up, and talking about how it affected me personally. In Part the Second, I will address the sponsors vs. giveaways issue. In Part the Third, I will give an overview of why the guidelines exist, how they are decided and evolve, and possibly give some examples of things that have happened but not been publicized that have contributed to certain guidelines (if I can figure out how to do so without violating anyone’s privacy — when you start talking about stalking, financial malfeasance, or lawsuits, it gets very tricky). So if you don’t care that I feel unfairly attacked and you just want to know about guidelines, come back in a few days, because Part the First is apparently 4,325 words.

Guess I’ll just jump right in.

Here’s how it went down, from my point of view.

  • I saw Justin tweet re giving free memberships to WC Philly attendees.
  • I touched base with Andrea (who does all the WC approvals and works with organizers to keep things cool re guidelines). She was already contacting WC Philly organizers, but didn’t know Justin, so I offered to contact him since we’d exchanged a few emails in the past and it would be more casual.
  • Opened a new email, but due to new laptop and no autocomplete for Justin’s address (as it had been awhile since I’d been in touch about anything — the last time was when he declined to lead a .org theme developers’ handbook because he’d landed a gig with a publisher) and Thunderbird search sucking, figured I’d just ping him on Twitter.
  • 9/2 – DM to Justin. Normally I would never post DMs, but since a chunk of this controversy stems from me “starting a war” per Justin’s published statement, the actual exchange is relevant. I will note that a 140-character limit is terrible for this kind of exchange, and I wish I’d looked up his email instead.

Sept 2, 9:34 AM DM
Sept 2, 10:33 AM DM

Side note on how I work:
I usually work about 15-18 hours per day, mostly including weekends, though fewer hours if I have any obligations in my #fakemom role. I’m working on getting this number lower, but for now it means continually flipping through Skype (usually 6-12 ongoing, active chats plus an average of about 20 specific pings/chats per day, IRC (usually 6 channels), Thunderbird (too many emails), Chrome (usually 4-6 windows with about 20 tabs each), Preview (viewing attachments from said Skype pings, emails, etc), and TextEdit (usually about 8 active documents). Some days you can also add in Coda and Terminal, and/or Inkscape and Gimp. And if I really want to be inclusive, System Preferences a few times a day to deal with my wifi being capricious. When someone pings me in Skype or IRC, I bring that window into focus and they have my attention until more than a minute passes without them saying anything. Then I go back to my other stuff and wait for them to ping again.

With Twitter, I don’t have notifications on, because they were too disruptive. I use the Twitter website, not a desktop client, and use it as a casual dip-in-between-other-things form of interaction. One major drawback to the Twitter website design (hey, ex-boyfriend Doug!) is that there is no visual indicator when you have new @replies or DMs if you are on your main stream view, so I often miss these until I remember to check for them. If I send someone a DM, I wait around and leave the screen open for a few minutes, but then go back to the main screen or the @replies screen before leaving so I can see the number of new updates in the tab. It was an hour later when Justin replied, and I no longer had the DM view open, so I didn’t see his reply until the next time I clicked on Messages, which was a couple of days later because of the timing.

Back to the recounting of how events unfolded.

  • 9/3 – My brother’s wedding 3 hours away. I left the laptop behind and hung out with the family, getting back home around 4am on 9/4.
  • 9/4 – 9/6 – Labor Day weekend. Slept a day to make up for previous night, later made a bunch of plans with my mother for her big move.*
  • 9/7 morning to afternoon – Holiday weekend over. Giant email scrub and general catchup that takes forever (the reason I don’t normally take weekends off is that coming back means so much backlog).
  • 9/7 around 3:45 pm – Take doctor call telling me I need to come to office first thing next morning to discuss bad test results. Tell #fakekid I might not be there when she gets home from school next day because of appointment. She asks if she should be worried about appt. I say I’m not sure yet, but that I promise to stop working for the night at 7 for a change and take her dinner and we can talk about it then.
  • 9/7 4:20 pm – Return to DM with Justin.

Sept 7, 4:20 PM
Sept 7, 5:29 PM
Sept 7, 6:23 PM
Sept 7, 6:24 PM
Sept 7, 6:30 PM
Sept 7, 6:30 PM #2
Sept 7, 6:32 PM

  • 9/7 6:48 pm – Seeing that we’ve gotten to a point where we are needing to do multiple tweets per minute to finish a thought, I suggest moving to email or Skype for easier communication.

Sept 7, 6:48 pm

  • 9/7 7:00 pm – I close the laptop and take my #fakekid to dinner as promised.
  • 9/7 7:01 pm – Justin replies but does not take me up on the offer to switch to a non-140-character-limit mode of communication.
    Sept 7, 7:01 PM
    I don’t see this reply because I’ve closed the laptop. If you look at my profile, I was not on Twitter again until the following morning (though I will admit I forgot to check the DM view then, as referenced earlier re UI) when I was headed to the doctor’s office.
  • 9/8 – Spend morning at doctor’s office, being told I may have cervical cancer and getting a biopsy scheduled. Before I even get home, tweet to all women following me to please get a pap smear because I don’t want any of them dying from undiagnosed cervical cancer.
  • 9/8 – Once home, start throwing up from fear/stress thinking about what will happen to my niece and my mother — both of whom will be relying on me for support as of next month — if something happens to me, and go to bed with a big metal bowl at my side in the afternoon. Fall asleep and stay there until following morning.
  • 9/9 – Wake up, make the kid’s lunch, get her off to school, get back to work, start email scrub that will take hours as result of being offline after getting sick the day before. See email with ping notice from WPCandy on the plan.wordcamp.org site’s fundraising page, with a headline that sounds dramatic and confrontational: DevPress Deal Is Against WordCamp Guidelines. This seems to require immediate attention and I do not finish normal catch-up scrub, so do not get to Twitter or see Justin’s last DM yet.
  • Read article. See that Justin has vilified me and accused me of starting a war, among other things. Am astounded that Ryan Imel would print such an inflammatory email without even contacting me for a response or to warn me.
  • Ping Andrea. Turns out Ryan did exchange a couple of emails with her the afternoon before to make sure he understood the WC guidelines, but did not mention Justin’s email. Andrea had requested he hold off on publishing until she could check with me to make sure she hadn’t said anything incorrect. He did not.
  • WPCandy comments turning into another freakin’ dramarama. Some people get the point of the guidelines. Some people get the point but disagree with the policy. Some people don’t get the point.
  • Succumb to feelings about being attacked after being out of conversation for one day, open Twitter for first time that morning, and send a tweet I immediately regret because suddenly everyone I know is pinging to ask me about the state of my junk, which is a) uncomfortable, and b) not helping me get it off my mind.
    Sept 9, 5:59 am
    More nausea ensues.
  • Realize I am getting really tense. Go for a walk on the beach. Luckily, it is 3 blocks away. 15 minutes of wading in surf calms me down.
  • WPCandy comments turn to finger pointing against me, the Foundation, Automattic. Unsurprisingly, most of the nastiest ones are from the same people that make these kinds of accusatory comments every time there’s some kind of drama.
  • I get really upset. I think it is not cool that I was trying to be casual and friendly and get things ironed out privately so that everyone could be on the same page without creating a bunch of drama, and now suddenly I’m the villain in a very public crapfest that was completely unnecessary. If we had told WC Philly they needed to back out of the DevPress thing and had publicly blamed DevPress of not being aboveboard or something, I could see it, but that’s not what happened. We said fine, it’s done, let’s just make sure people know the score moving forward, which is how we’ve handled every guideline slip by an organizing team and/or a business that wants to get involved with a WordCamp. We assume the best: that people didn’t know, misunderstood, or forgot, and that we all want things to be cool. In this case, Justin and his very vocal backers assumed the worst of me, and decamped from direct communication in favor of publicly attacking me.
  • I get back to work on getting 3.3 ready for feature freeze. I’ve let this kind of stuff distract from the job of making WordPress too many times, and I decide to wait to write a response post until a) I’m less upset, and b) I get caught up on some 3.3 ticket review, as freeze is looming and I got really behind during WCSF organizing time.
  • Despite theoretical therapeutic value of immersing myself in work, I’m still upset. I decide that the only way to burn off my feelings and keep myself from writing comments or posts while in this mood is to make an appointment to bleach the crap out of my hair, which will take hours. I figure the burning scalp will distract me, and being limited to typing on my phone will restrain me. I call and they agree I can come in at noon. I write an intro paragraph and an outline so I’ll remember the things that stood out for me during the morning (because all this happened before the west coast even woke up), then head to Savannah to obtain the new ‘do.
  • 9/9 5:30 pm – Leave salon with a modern-day cruella de ville two-toned head.

That’s the end of my version of how this all unfolded. Taking a long weekend for a family wedding and holiday weekend and then taking a day off because of the doctor stuff did mean there were two times that I didn’t continue the DMs immediately. However, I was not under the impression that it was an issue of urgency. I hadn’t said it was, and if Justin thought it was, I’d think he would have pinged again. I’m the first to admit that I’m not always timely in following up on things — hell, it’s the entire reason Andrea got hired, so WordCamp organizers wouldn’t have me as a bottleneck — but in this case I don’t think I was guilty of inordinate delay.

Things that pissed me off (why sugarcoat it now):

  • People saying they were taking “the side of the community.” Dudes, if you are taking sides at all, you are not acting in the best interests of the community, regardless of which “side” you’re on. We shouldn’t be dividing ourselves into sides at all. Everyone should be working together to create common understanding and acknowledge the multiple goals and desires at play in this multi-stakeholder community. If you just want to complain about “the man” (or in this case, the woman) without making any effort to resolve the issues in a professional, collaborative manner, then I’m sorry, but you do NOT have the best interests of the community in mind. The phrase “haters gotta hate” comes to mind.
  • Justin accusing me of starting a war. If I wanted to start a “war,” I’d have posted publicly that they were not adhering to the guidelines and said nasty things about them. Oh, but I didn’t. Granted, at 140 characters, my Twitter DMs were to the point, but they weren’t rude, and I did ask if we could switch to email or Skype.
  • Justin accusing me of going to Ryan to blow up a story instead of talking directly with Justin. I was talking directly to Justin, and I would never choose a public scandal over a quiet conversation and resolution. If the quiet conversation had failed, I still would not have gone to WPCandy and asked them to post about it. When have I *ever* done that? If anything, I sometimes ask for things not to be posted right away so people can have more time to work things out privately. In this case, I didn’t ask for anything, because I was not contacted.
  • Justin saying that if I’d been willing to sit down and talk a week ago, things wouldn’t be out of hand now. They didn’t contact me beforehand, and the week-ago response to my DM did not ask for a conversation, just stated they thought they were within the guidelines. See timeline above to judge for yourself if I was refusing to sit down and talk to him a week earlier.
  • Justin’s snotty remark about my needing an English degree. The definition of guideline is a rule or policy by which one is guided, so saying over and over that we have guidelines-not-rules is not logical. The choice of the synonym for the plan site was very intentional: the word “rules” implies there will be a smackdown if you “break” them; the word “guidelines” implies that we’ll guide you back on track if a rule is broken. We don’t want to slam doors, we want to help guide people through the ones that are outlined on the planners’ site. Except in one or two notable extreme cases, anyone stepping on the wrong side of a guideline just gets pinged for a chat, and it’s resolved easily.
  • Ryan Imel posting that nasty email. It was, very simply, a personal attack and downright nasty. When even Carl Hancock, one of my most vocal detractors, agrees that it’s over the top, you know it’s crossed a line.
    Sept 10, 8:42 am
    His reply above did make me wonder how many people actually read the email that Ryan published.
  • Who prints that kind of stuff? Just the other day I told my 11th grade #fakekid to remove a snotty post (on which there were dozens of comments) from Facebook about a girl in her class who hadn’t done what Morgan wanted with their English project. Here’s what I told her: “Honey, you need to take that down. You don’t post mean things about people on the internet. It makes them feel bad and stirs up trouble that there’s no need for. It makes you a mean, nasty troll. If you have a problem with what she did, you tell her privately in person at school, in a Facebook chat or private message, or you call her. You’re almost 18, and you can’t solve problems anymore like you’re still in junior high. If you can’t work it out with her and you think your Facebook friends need to know, then fine, it’s your call, but even then keep your tone appropriate, watch your language, and focus on facts, not your emotions about her. Be fair.” Huh.
  • Ryan Imel saying in one breath, “It’s news! I have to report it!” (paraphrase) and then in another claiming that he’s just a fan/blogger and should not be held to journalistic standards like fact-checking and providing balanced coverage. Maybe WPCandy should change, “Keep up with WordPress news!” to, “Keep up with WordPress blog posts!” Without all this pot-stirring, maybe Justin and I could have talked and come to an understanding without creating a divisive community uproar. Maybe he’d have convinced us that the guidelines should be changed. We’ll never know now, will we?
  • Jeffr0 jumping in and stirring things even more. The “news site or fan blogging?” issue used to come up with Jeffr0 back before WPCandy totally eclipsed WPTavern. What’s funny is that when this WPCandy story came up, I totally starting thinking about how Jeff had really tried to take that balancing act seriously back in the day once it was pointed out to him that people were treating WPTavern like a news source. Then, the revived WP Weekly podcast of 9/9 did the same thing Ryan had done and stirred the pot without bothering to ask for a counterpoint to Justin’s version of events/the situation, and pretty much threw me under the bus. In that podcast, Jeff also got mixed up and referred to Andrea’s comment as Amanda’s. Since Andrea is from WordCamp Central and is the policy communicator/enforcer with WC organizers, and Amanda is a former WC organizer but not affiliated with WC Central, this was a notable error. When I talked to Jeff on Skype on 9/12 and pointed this out, he acknowledged not being clear on who was who, yet he’d sounded pretty confident when he was talking about [her] in the podcast. That’s just plain irreponsible.
  • People who have traditionally acted like my friends running with the accusations in this story and adding fuel to the fire. These people all have me on Skype, have my phone number, etc., and could have picked this bone with me directly, and possibly helped make the situation better instead of more dramatically in conflict. I am pretty sad to realize that these people are probably not really my friends, but have just acted that way because it was useful or expedient. In the past, when negative gossip about me reached my ears and was labeled as having originated with them, I had chalked it up to miscommunications, lack of context, and all the other things that go into assuming the best about people rather than the worst. In this case, that tendency has apparently led me to think that some people are nicer and/or more professional than they really are. That bums me out like crazy.

So thanks, Justin, Ryan, Jeff, and the rest of the people who publicly hung me out to dry without talking to me directly first. Your efforts in creating a kinder, gentler, more friendly WordPress community… er, not so much this time.

Things that didn’t piss me off:

  • People thinking the guideline about giveaways was not a good one. We won’t all have the same ideas about what makes a good guideline. Most people are basing their opinions on their own WordCamp experiences and those of their friends. We (Matt, me, Andrea) base it on experience with all the WordCamps, interacting with all the organizers, and getting feedback from attendees all over the world. When we disagree with people, it’s usually because we have different starting points. If we have a conversation and you at least listen to where we’re coming from and you still disagree, fine. But if you’re just posting about what biased control-freak idiots we are without even asking why we made certain rules and what kind of situations engendered them, that’s just lame. As a former boss of mine would have said, “You’re a mixer.” (Because you like to stir things up.) If you want to be a community leader, act like one, and get all the facts before rallying people to a conflict/cause. It’s like we have our own WordPress Tea Party or something. The guidelines will continually evolve to make the WordCamp name ever more trustworthy, and making constructive suggestions on ways to improve them is very welcome. Making accusations about how we/I just want to ruin everyone else’s fun/business/life … not so much.
  • People using “Jane” and “the Foundation” interchangeably. Though the people who said it wasn’t accurate had a point, I can see why it made sense to others. I have been pretty much the only person doing stuff under the Foundation name, and whether the direction is coming from Matt or me is generally not stated. If anyone would bother to ask before making a federal case out of things, I’d be more than happy to explain the genesis of each decision and action. Now that Andrea is in the mix, and when we get a little further with some of the Foundation-based initiatives I have planned, there will be more people involved in things, but if all you have to go on is the (rarely-updated) WPF blog, yeah, why wouldn’t someone think it’s all me? I should update that blog more often, it just hasn’t been a priority compared to other stuff. At any time, any of the people who are now clamoring about lack of Foundation transparency could have pinged me to ask a question or suggest I post an update. As it happens I had 3 half-written WPF blog post drafts with news and updates I’d just never gotten around to finishing, and a prompt would have reminded me to get them up there.

So, yeah. This whole thing has made me feel personally attacked, has made me feel deceived by people I thought were friends (or least something akin to friendly colleagues), made me bleach half my head and now I look like a crazy person (though that one is on me), and caused serious distraction from what should have been my top priority, which is getting the new features and UI ready for 3.3 freeze.**

Next post will focus on why the guidelines for sponsorships are what they are and where they come from, and will reply to some of the comments, accusations, and suggestions raised in the WPCandy thread comments. It may be a couple of days, though, because I’m at WordCamp Portland and I’ve got the kid with me and Daryl and I have to finish 3 new features and then test them with WCPDX attendees and I have to stay on top of this weekend’s pre-freeze trac marathon and I need be helpful and friendly to all the people I meet at WCPDX and I still need to stay on top of email and WP help requests and everything else that doesn’t stop happening when a handful of people decide it’s been too long since they made a festival of declaring me the root of all evil. Have a nice weekend!

* I’ll be paying the mortgage on the townhouse she just bought so that she can afford to move closer to the family (esp. the grandkids) now that she’s retiring in early October.

** I notice that the people having such a good time proclaiming their concern for the community on WPCandy are not helping get WordPress 3.3 ready, despite the fact that surely the community’s greatest concern is the improvement of the software they all have in common?

15 thoughts on “DevPress, WPCandy, and Why I’m Now 80% Blonde: Part the First

  1. Pingback: Vegan Muffin Outrage and the State of WordCamps

  2. Jane, I didn’t bother to read all the tweets/arguments…just the core of your post. Health and family come first. Period. Don’t know the back story of your #fakekids, but I LOVE your humor! The talk you gave to your niece is spot on about the internet. #superaunt/#realmom

    Your family is damned lucky to have you. Automattic is damned lucky to have you. The community is damned lucky to have you.

    Thanks for calling out the bad manners, too. ;-)

    Keep up the good work. Enjoy your weekend. Best of luck with your further tests!

    –mom, survivor, WordPress designer

  3. Wow, that sounds so stressful. If you post a picture of the hair, you can get all the women on your side (not as bad as the time a guy cheated on me, and I thought a self-shorn mohawk would make me feel better. Well, actually, maybe it really did ;)
    Hope getting it all down on the blog will help clear things up and put everyone back on a positive track!

  4. In the 4-5 years I’ve been using/involved with WordPress, it seems that the “community” is very good at turning things that would have been better handled privately into big controversy.

    Best wishes with the medical stuff; I hope it turns out negative.

  5. It’s refreshing to hear all sides of the story, and I can honestly say that a lot of us overreacted. Some more than others, but none of us should have taken it out on you. Kudos to you for pulling through the entire situation anyway, and thanks for taking the high road and not slinging the mud back.

    I look forward to seeing you presentation this weekend at WCPDX, to seeing the work you’ve put in on the uploader UI, and to seeing us all move past this as a community.

  6. As someone who sees the merit on both sides of the original point (donations/sponsorships/guidelines), I was a little saddened about the witch-hunt approach to some of the responses on WPCandy. While I don’t actually think Ryan Imel was at too much fault, I do think Justin Tadlock probably should have taken a more tempered approach in having a reasonable dialogue with you. One thing that stuck out was their assessment that they couldn’t afford a sponsorship. At a minimal level of $250, and four founding members in DevPress, I have a hard time thinking they couldn’t each scratch together $62.50.

    Enough drama, let’s all get back to work :)

  7. When I read about your diagnosis on twitter it was a bit of a gut punch: I’m really sorry to hear about it. Normally I see light-heart joking in my stream, it was a bit unexpected. I re-read it a few times hoping for the punchline, but then you weren’t joking. I didn’t know about any of this other stuff. My sympathies; I hope everything works out.

  8. I’m sorry if the post seemed like a personal attack on your Jane, because that wasn’t my intention. I wasn’t looking to be inflammatory or ruin anyone’s day. I put together a post with the Foundation’s stance, followed by Justin’s (or DevPress’) response. I don’t enjoy publishing disagreements or negative news of any kind, believe me.

    I wanted to briefly explain what happened before publishing the post. I asked Andrea for permission to quote what the guideline explanation she sent me, and she said she would need to double check with you beforehand. I said okay, but the next morning decided to summarize what I was told and publish the post. I explained this to Andrea, but ultimately I didn’t see the quote I was requesting as vital to the publishing of the post since I could explain what I had been told myself.

    In the future I’ll do a better job of conveying deadlines when soliciting quotes. It’s not something I do at the site often, so I’m still improving my technique.

    I thought for a while before publishing the post itself. I pinged Justin for comment, and he responded. I found his response a bit harsh (or over the top), so I asked which parts of his email were quotable. He responded that all of it was. I struggled with the way to proceed, because though I disagreed with Justin I didn’t want to edit what he said.

    Again, I apologize, Jane, for causing any undue stress. That wasn’t my goal. I just wanted to report what happened and allow for discussion on it. I’m not perfect, and the site certainly isn’t, but I’ll try my best to improve both in the future.

    • Andrea is perfectly able to communicate on behalf of the Foundation re WordCamp guidelines. What I have a problem with is that you published an email from Justin that made specific allegations about me (not the Foundation, not Andrea) and you did not ask for my side of it or give me a heads up so I wouldn’t be blindsided by it.

  9. Wow, that was a whirlwind… I’m sorry that you’ve got the whole world up in your *ish. Rather than say something hopeful, or snarky, or whatever, Imma go check the Trac. It’s a better use of all of our time.

    But seriously though, take care of your health, and keep keepin’ it real!

  10. Wow. I’m glad I slept through this drama. (Too… many… commitments… urf…)

    I hope you have a good time at Portland. And that you don’t have cervical cancer. I’ve had that scare before. Not fun.

  11. I’m sorry about your health related issues going on Jane, and then having this ton of bricks(that I just found out about) hit as well. Definitely an overload going on for you, and much of it looks like it’s very unfairly pointed at you.

    Hopefully all the personal live stuff goes well for you, and all the WP stuff gets fleshed out properly and without long term “scars”

  12. Pingback: You Can’t Win Against The Internet | The Quiet Storm

  13. *** BOOMFT! ***
    (that’s the sound of you being hit with a virtual hug)

    People need to cut out the personal attacks. Matt seems to get a lot of it sometimes too. I don’t see any solution to it other than for those of us who see it happening to try to qualm peoples aggression. Apologies on my behalf for not attempting that at the time. I saw it happening on WP Candy, but I didn’t do anything about it. I’ll take a different tact next time I see something like this happening online.

    Thanks for outlining this here, not so much because of this particular issue, but outlining how these attacks affect you personally.

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