Bigger than WordPress

About 8 tweets into a (loving) Twitter rant this afternoon, I thought, “I wish I had a platform where I could write as many characters as I want and share that with the world!” So here we are. Here’s my rant:

  • [Insert any generic development topic] with WordPress is somehow a valid category of articles these days…
  • It’s not like animation, grids layouts, CSS prefixes, or font choice are somehow different in WP than any other platform.
  • There are a few cases where WP has a quirk or specific implementation requirement, but not THAT often.
  • Are WP devs/users just afraid to click on any dev tutorial that doesn’t include “with WordPress” in the title?
  • If so, I think we as a community need to grow and start thinking through the right ways to implement normal dev techniques in WP sites.
  • This should cause a distinction in the WP “dev” community between actually developers and theme tweakers. I would welcome that distinction.
  • All that to say: WP Devs, let’s look around and participate in the broader development community, not just our comfortable WP circles.
  • Got a great dev technique? Just write about it, no “with WordPress” needed.
  • The more we contribute to the larger dev community, the less we’ll be treated like the weird kid eating glue in the corner.
  • Using WordPress is great in many situations, but let’s be bigger than our tools.
  • // end rant // clicks “new post”

[Title] + “in WordPress”

I write occasionally about WordPress development and I read a lot about it too. I’ve been noticing a trend lately that I find frustrating: articles that take take a normal development technique and add “in WordPress” to the end. Sometimes that’s necessary. I’ve written about using Sass for WP Development: there are a couple of WP-specific considerations that need to be pointed out.

Sometimes, however, the topic is so generic that appending “in WordPress” isn’t helpful. “CSS Animations”in WordPress! Nope. There’s no WP-specific way to write CSS keyframes. Why would an article like that be written? (I have a suspicion and it includes reasons like “SEO keyword targeting” and “borderline clickbait” but I don’t want to cast this as an accusation – just some cynicism.) At any rate, unless there’s a uniquely WP way that a technique should be implemented, there’s not need for a uniquely WP article about it.

I wonder if we (as a WordPress community) have trained ourselves and our newcomers to always want a “WordPress version” of every development technique. Regardless of the reasons for unnecessarily adding “in WordPress” to development posts, I think it’s successful because so many people are trained to add “in WordPress” to their search queries. Always wanting tutorials for “[Do X] in WordPress” means that you miss an awful lot of fantastic articles and tutorials about X that don’t happen to mention WordPress.

Looking Outside of the WP Community

We need to change this bias. Developers who use WordPress should start looking outside of WordPress to learn development techniques. Subscribe to some general development blogs and newsletters. Go to some conferences that aren’t WordCamps. Drop “in WordPress” from your internet search queries. Take the time to learn from the broader development community, then discerningly implement what you’ve learned in your WP projects.

I realize that with this emphasis on participating in the broader development community is going to force a wedge between actual developers who use WordPress and WordPress users who tweak theme and call that development. I am 100% in favor of amplifying such a distinction. I’m not advocating a mean-spirited “us (real devs) vs. them (theme tweakers)” prejudice or bullying. I do want to see those of us who are actual developers to start leading in actual development circles: then let the distinction take care of itself.

Contributing Outside of the WP Community

So let’s drop the “in WordPress” when appropriate and start writing “normal” development posts. Let’s get serious about attending (and speaking at) normal meetups and conferences. Let’s find languages, tools, and causes to champion – outside of the WordPress bubble.

There’s a stigma that WP developers sometimes bear in the development world. We’re treated as “almost developers” or “not quite real developers.” If PHP takes flack for being [whatever people like griping about at the moment], WP more so. The way to change that perception is not sulking, hiding, or reverse snarkism. The way to change negative perception of WordPress developers is to participate and contribute like “real developers.” It’s easy to stay in a comfortable corner; it’s hard putting your work (and yourself!) out for criticism.

I’m not denigrating WordPress here – please don’t hear that in this rant. WP is a great tool – I use it all the time for several substantial reasons. I’m also not recommending that we hide “WordPress” from LinkedIn endorsements or remove it from our blog categories. It’s really useful and we should use it without shame. We need to make sure we’re not defining ourselves by that tool, however. Let’s define ourselves as good developers and use whatever tools work best.

Let’s be bigger than our tools.