I have been a huge fan of WordPress for more than ten years now. My mal-titled first blog, Reawaken Culture/Decipher Technology used an earlier version of WordPress but I have been following its development throughout, and if not obvious it is what Montreal Tech Writer is built with.
WordPress started off as a blogging software but became a full-throated CMS with the advent of pages (not just posts) and other more robust features and plugins. WordPress can also be likened to a community, as it is open source, its development is shared between core paid contributors of Automattic (the for profit company backing up WordPress) and a bunch of randos worldwide. Part of the community are also WordCamps—cheap conferences organized throughout the world covering all things WordPress—to WordPress Meetup groups and other sorts of formal and informal other conferences and groups, again—worldwide.
I won’t recount the early days of how WordPress came to be as the story is well-trodden and available on Wikipedia, but I will mention that 34-year old Matt Mullenweg is currently the CEO of Automattic, which helps stear WordPress development and produces several important plugins such as Askinet: which is a spam protector. Mullenweg is in fact one of the two founders of the software, and he is an idol of mine.
Matt is an idealist. He speechifies the merits of open source software and has created his Automattic company in a distributed manner consisting of remote workers worldwide memorialized in the book The Year Without Pants. But I like him best when he talks about WordPress’ impetus to facilitate the world of publishing, where any shnook could put up a blog with the same software that the New York Times uses.
This brings us to the time last month when I got the chance to speak to Matt face-to-face at a WordPress Meetup in Montreal where he led a Q&A session.
You see the Meetup was serving free beer and I had already downed a couple of pints at the local artisanal brew pub Brutopia around the corner. So my inhibitions were down and when I saw Matt knoshing on a few hors d’oeuvres I introduced myself more-or-less as Montreal Tech Writer in the flesh. After some niceties were exchanged I opened my mouth to disparage the state of publishing, more with face gestures than anything I really said. All this to the guy who invented the software that a third of the web is published on!!
I meant to say so much more, after simply giving the same face gestures when I mouthed the words “advertising”. I meant to talk about the centralizing of web tech and content in fewer and fewer hands—at least the content and tech most people see and use. I meant to contrast the current state of the web with the original open source version espoused by John Perry Barlow in A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace where everyone was truly on a level playing field and the link was the thing, not the now heavily commoditized search and social media on closed platforms which the web has become.
Matt said “but there has never been so much publishing available as there is now”. And I totally agree. But I think the quality content is being deemphasized so that everyone and their grandmother is using a loudspeaker to narrowcast their thoughts where nothing coherent and lasting can now be construed on microblogging platforms such as Twitter and Facebook whereas the reasoned longformish publishing on WordPress is no longer the main attraction. This is a complex argument for me to make with two words “publishing” and “advertising” to the guy who has masterminded at least a bit of this system.
Thing is, I love the part of this system Matt has masterminded compared to the bottom feeders of Facebook and even Google of late. I don’t know if I quite got this across to him when I tried to turn the conversation around and said it was an honour to meet him and I deeply respected his work. I was not able to make the distinction in the few minutes I had his attention until he was called up onstage to start the Q&A.
Oh well, you can’t win them all and it is no wonder he rejected my LinkedIn Connection request a week later. He must of been thinking, “what a kook”, but I hope this blog post clarifies somewhat what I was trying to say.
Death to the web. Long live, the web!