The Other Side Of WordPress

Something that’s always bothered me about HeroPress is that it’s just so happy and upbeat all the time. Sure, people talk about some hard things sometimes, but it always ends with everything being better and awesome and happy.

I’d like to clarify that it’s not always like that. Sometimes it ends in tears, frustration, and broken relationships. Ever since the beginning of this project I’ve been concerned that someone will read this site and think our community is perfect and the software will save them. I’d like to talk about that.

It’s Not About WordPress

WordPress is a piece of software, a tool. It doesn’t DO anything, any more than a rock does something. Downloading it won’t change your life. It won’t introduce you to people. It won’t increase your chances of a job. It won’t make your life better in any way.

“But wait!” you say. “What are all these HeroPress stories about then?”

I’m glad you asked. These stories are about people. They’re about hard work, late nights, reaching out, asking for help, and giving help. They’re about pain, struggle, growth, patience, and love. All of those things summed up are life.

If you want to have a WordPress success story, and unleash the Hero that is in you, in every one of us, then you must do so much more than download a piece of software.

The Real Difference

When people say WordPress changed their life, they usually mean one of two things.

1. They found WordPress to be a particularly useful tool which allowed them to better leverage their own hard work as well as opportunities that present themselves.

There are many people who work alone, building web sites for people in their community, and making a good living at it. WordPress doesn’t click with everyone, it’s not a universally loved piece of software. For others it does click, and they slip right into it and start doing great things with it. These people usually say “WordPress is the thing that made me successful”. In actuality, their own hard work made them successful. WordPress was merely a good tool for them personally, and made the entire process easier.

2. They found the WordPress community to be filled with positive, helpful people, and formed long term relationships with those people.

My own family are excellent examples of this. None of them are developers, they don’t make a living with WordPress, but they LOVE going to WordCamps to see people that have become as close as family. They love interacting with them on Slack and Twitter almost every day.

I know people whose lives have literally been saved because a friend in the WordPress community said “Hey, I’m here, you’re not alone, you have options, please stay”.

I know lots of people who make their living with WordPress who would not be doing that if not for an uplifting community of people who say “You can do this. We did it. Keep trying.”

3. I’m cheating and adding a third. The truth is, most people in WordPress have experienced both of the above.

So, summing the above, WordPress itself will do nothing for you. Hard work, persistence, patience, and quality relationships are what will change your life.

Where It All Goes Sideways

I’ve often said the WordPress community is like a family, in almost every way. You’ll have people closer to you than your own siblings or parents. But you’ll also have people you care about get into knock down, drag out, public screaming fights with each other. People who ask you “How can you stand that person, don’t you see what they did to me?”

People who are good friends with each other will say snarky things to each other in public.

Just like in any family, there are people who are jerks. People who hurt in their own soul, and so lash out at other people in public.

There will be times when someone you don’t know is mean to you. There will be times when someone you respect is mean to you.

Sometimes people are simply ignorant, and don’t know they’re being hurtful.

Does any of this look like anything you’ve ever seen in the WordPress community?

There will be times when you don’t get the job or the referral because of your skin color, or your gender, or your political opinion, or your accent. There will be times when the WordPress community utterly lets you down.

There will be times when half the community says you’re doing great, and the other half says you’re a complete loser.

There’ve been two excellent blog posts in recent weeks on this topic:

What to do?

I really believe that the vast majority of the people in the WordPress community are generally positive, supportive people. I think negative people are more vocal. As people we don’t think to say positive uplifting things as often as negative people. So what can YOU do?

1. Don’t Feed The Trolls

People throw garbage out into the community all the time. For the most part I think we should just let it go. Pay it no attention and it withers and dies. There is of course a time and place to stand up to abusers, but I’m just talking about the yappers. They’re not worth your time.

2. Try not to be a Troll, even by accident

Everyone has bad days. Everyone snaps at their friends once in a while. Try to avoid it. I know it’s hard, and no-one will ever be perfect at this, but when you find yourself about to unload on someone online, take a breath and just don’t. Walk away and come back later.

3. Forgive early, forgive often

You know those people who are generally nice, but snap at you? You know them, right?  You know it’s out of character for them. Don’t snap back. If it’s out of character, don’t take it personally. What they probably need is space, compassion, and friendship. “A soft answer turns away anger” as they say.

4. Talk to people privately

Do you see someone doing something that looks hypocritical? Do you care about this person? No? Ignore it. Hypocrites are everywhere. If you want to spend your time being bothered by that, fine, but you’ll be a sadder, more bitter person, I promise.

What if you do care? Then talk to them about it privately. Say something like “Hey, I’ve noticed tweets from you saying you really hate hosting company X, but you’re also an affiliate, and you sell blog posts to them. What’s up with that?”

Maybe you’ll learn something new.  Maybe you’ll find out they’re two-faced, and not someone you want to hang out with. For sure you won’t be dropping angst in front of the rest of the world, and you might make a more solid friendship.

The same holds true for just about everything. Calling someone out publicly, especially in a sub-tweet, should be a last resort. Not just because public negativity brings everyone down, but because it’ll make YOU happier, and help you have better relationships with people.

In Summary

The WordPress community is NOT all rainbows and butterflies. It has its own share of ugly, and if you hang around here very long, you’ll see it, and some may even get thrown your way.

WordPress will NOT change your life. YOU will, and the people with whom you form relationships will guide and and impact you.

WordPress is an excellent tool, and comes with a generally positive community, but never forget that you’re responsible for your own awesome.

I really believe that anyone can be a hero to someone, that’s why this site is named the way it it. At least be a hero to yourself. You can do this.


  1. Hey Topher, I am so glad you wrote this. It really says a lot of what I have thought about the WordPress community for sometime. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel there is some really unique qualities to this community that I don’t see in others, but you are right, we are far from perfect. It does get this perception that we are all standing around in a huge circle and singing Kum ba yah ;)

    In reality, it’s part of the big picture. In each community we will all have different experiences. And when it boils down to it, like you said, it’s not the software but the people. And the good stories you hear about are people who have worked hard and well, in my eyes, also been a decent person to themselves and others. But unfortunately, as with the world around us, we will find really, really good people, really sucky people and everything between in our community as well.

    I could go on in this comment probably as long as you did in the post as I didn’t touch on so many things I agree with, but will leave it at this. Great job, great post, and my hat is off to you my friend.

    1. Thanks for saying so Bob, I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking about this. I wanted to be honest with the community about what the WordPress community is like.

  2. When there’s love, there’s always going to be some amount of resentment. When you genuinely care for the people around you, you worry about the damage (perceived) swindlers can do to your loved ones, especially if the swindlers are somehow your loved ones, too.

    And I think a lot of negativity in this ecosystem exists because there’s so much love and positivity. We frequently feel cheated and slighted even if there isn’t much reason for it and we tend to have exaggerated reactions.

    In our (Indian) spiritual traditions, love and hate are the same thing, so are pain and pleasure. While pleasure makes us seek the source of pleasure and causes pain when we can’t get the source, pain makes us avoid the source of pain and causes further pain if we can’t. One solution prescribed is detachment. The other solution prescribed is unconditional love.

    When I see all the drama, I actually feel a little warm in some corner of my heart. The best families aren’t picture perfect. The best families have their own problems, even severe ones but they are the best because they keep fighting, keep loving and there are always wise and extraordinary people (like you) to make sure everyone preserves their sanity.

    This looks like an extraordinary family to me. And looking at the human race today, it is no surprise that this family has its own problems of anger and hate. No amount of rationalising is going to get rid of that.

    Some people are genuinely bad and keep trying to manipulate things for their personal benefit. Some people are genuinely good and keep trying to make sure that everyone around them benefits, even if it means they have to pay a small personal price. But someone said the world goes on because of the second kind and irrespective of the first.

    Equanimity can be hard to maintain and unconditional love is hard to practise, but I think the way forward for those who understand what you say in this post on an experiential level is to just make sure that they are able to overcome their anger and frustration, even if they do it just one out of ten times maybe.

    Slap on your cheek, slap back; but at least sometimes we should be able to turn the other cheek. We can fight insecurity, selfishness and hate with extraordinary amounts of inclusiveness, help, and love. We can fight hypocrisy with exemplary honesty. That’s what the political milieu of the world seems to be proving everyday.

    What brings out the worst in people is also a test for the best in people. It is a purge of negativity and I think we don’t need to be worried about it much.

    As a philosophical and moral leader in open source thoughts and community, WordPress has a special place in the world. There’s an edict on a pillar that forms the national emblem of India. It says, सत्यमेव जयते, or Only Truth Triumphs which is not idealistic mumbo jumbo detached from reality and we don’t need to have faith or belief in it, there’s enough evidence to establish it as a fact.

    1. Thanks for that Saurabh, I know I can always count on you for wisdom. I’ve often told newlyweds that no-one will ever hurt you more than the ones you love most. Love makes you vulnerable, but it’s worth it.

    2. Can’t disagree more Saurabh!

      Equanimity is certainly hard to maintain throughout while being a part of an ecosystem and I always believe it’s part and parcel of the game. As a leader, making things clear and transparent improves scalability and growth and vice versa. Small success is a maze and we have to make sure we don’t fall for that and maintain soul of community.


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