Those of us who work with WordPress depend on it. We need the software to be stable and secure. But we also need to know about its roadmap for the future.

What happens next and the process behind it are vital. This information helps us prepare. Freelancers can judge how new features will benefit their clients. Product makers can determine where their goods fit into the landscape.

Communication is key. However, this is an area where WordPress and its community struggle.

As in any relationship, a lack of effective communication causes problems. It’s harder to build trust. The result is a negative for everyone involved.

Today, we’ll look at the need for better communication between the community and the open-source project. We’ll examine the underlying causes and impacts. Finally, we’ll look at some possible solutions.

A Scattered Approach to Project Information

WordPress is open-source software. It receives contributions from people all over the globe. It’s also the most popular content management system (CMS) on earth. That creates some unique challenges.

Getting information out to this diverse group isn’t easy. There are language barriers, for one. English is far from the only language spoken by users.

There’s also the far-flung way the project publishes information.

WordPress contributor teams publish on their respective “Make” blogs. Project leadership will sometimes publish on the main blog. Sometimes, project Slack channels house information of interest.

Could the project do a better job? Sure. However, it’s worth noting that they are working within some limitations.

They don’t have access to a corporate marketing machine. That impacts their ability to reach their audience. It also magnifies the importance of third-party reporting.

Publications like The WP Minute cover some details. But we don’t have the resources to report everything. That leaves community members to search in multiple places. Even then, it’s hard to find what you’re looking for.

Therefore, it’s easy to miss an item that impacts you. It might mean a missed opportunity to provide feedback. Not to mention a surprise when a change shows up in WordPress.

The Price Paid for Poor Communication

Want an example of poor communication in action? Take a look at the recent change to how WordPress handles plugin activation. It came about in WordPress 6.5 and caused quite a stir.

The way WordPress behaves after plugin activation changed. Plugin developers were caught flat-footed. Their products no longer redirected users to a settings page or setup wizard. Users were confused.

The situation is a microcosm of the challenge WordPress faces. The change impacted a lot of people. The details needed to be loud and clear. But where should they be published? And by who?

There aren’t many (if any) high-visibility spots for this type of information. That doesn’t stop stakeholders from becoming frustrated, though.

It can also cause a level of distrust. Some people may assume bad intent by contributors – even if that’s not the case. That can turn a productive discussion on its head.

The more this happens, the more fractured the community becomes. People begin to see the project through a skeptical lens. It’s not exactly great for morale.

The Effort to Improve

The WordPress project has made an effort to improve communication. The fruits of their labor are starting to grow.

The Developer Blog is a great example. It aims to keep developers in the know about new features. There are plenty of in-depth posts that demonstrate how things work.

It’s a giant leap forward from where the project was a few years ago. Figuring out how to integrate something new into your work was once a wild goose chase. The Developer Blog has become a reliable learning resource.

The recently announced Media Corps is also a step in the right direction. Project leadership wants to arm the media with accurate information. It’s a recognition of the role unofficial sources play in the community.

There are still bumps in the road, though. Our Matt Medeiros took issue with the Media Corps’ lack of transparency. That example is representative of the typical cycle we see.

Again, this is an area where clear communication can help. That includes the details of the who, what, and why.

The side benefit is in setting reasonable expectations for the community. It may lead to fewer disappointments and misunderstandings.

Looking to the Future

Beyond the current efforts, there’s more to do. Creating a more centralized channel of communication could help. We still have to look here, there, and everywhere for relevant information.

The WordPress dashboard also seems underutilized. It’s the first thing we see when logging into our websites. Why not make it as informative as possible?

The key is to meet people where they are. The WordPress admin is an obvious choice. Hopefully, this can be part of the proposed redesign.

A focus on transparency would be welcome. It’s also tricky. We can assume that most of the details people are looking for exist. Locating them is the biggest problem. Any efforts to streamline this would go a long way.

Nothing here is foolproof, though. Interested community members must continue to seek out information. They also have to assume the good intent of those working on the project.

Creating a Better Line of Communication

WordPress leadership deserves credit for recognizing the communication gap. Project contributors are trying to improve how things work.

We must also acknowledge reality. WordPress can’t please everyone. And the people involved will make mistakes.

It’s worth remembering that WordPress doesn’t communicate through a unified voice. Its contributors do a lot of the talking. They may not have any public relations training or experience. We should keep this in mind when things don’t go smoothly.

So, what should we expect? Information should be easier to find. Policies should be put into place that increase transparency. These are attainable goals.

Will things improve by leaps and bounds? Probably not – unless the project gets hold of more human resources.

The point is that there is room for improvement. However, this isn’t your typical corporate communications department. We shouldn’t expect it to act like one. Therefore, an honest effort is all we can ask for.

The result will be a more informed and involved community. That will keep the software and its ecosystem moving forward.

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