Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress and CEO of Automattic, just posted a call for contributors to form a WordPress Growth Council. As a long-time WordPress user and marketing executive, the project interests me for a few reasons.
The first is the challenge itself. To paraphrase Matt’s blog post, WordPress and the open web are under threat. The likes of Medium, Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to promote what are essentially proprietary, walled-off gardens. These systems diminish the freedom of the user and put the notion of an open web under jeopardy. I’ve already resigned to the fact that my Internet life is mostly dictated by closed systems like Facebook, Twitter, and Apple, and while many enterprises are beginning to invest more in open source projects, there’s an imbalance in the force. The fact that an open source platform like WordPress powers 27% of the web makes it the greatest agent in defending Internet freedom.
As a marketer, the WordPress Growth Council is an incredible experiment in pushing marketers to think more like developers and adopt open source principles. Since I started working at Stack Overflow, I’ve become immersed in the working world of developers and often found myself jealous because of how they operate. Marketers believe in control and polish where as most developers are public by default and make iterative changes to their work. It’s so much easier for developers to collaborate on projects in distributed ways where as brand managers are too often constrained by proprietary business information or rigid hierarchy and specialist roles within an organization. It comes as no surprise to me that after 10+ years of architecting Automattic and WordPress to be distributed and open that Matt would by a catalyst in what I’d deem “open source marketing”. I think about how marketers can be more collaborative and generous with their knowledge so I welcome the opportunity to experiment and test my theories in this arena.
Lastly, I’m motivated as an end-user to help improve the overall consumer experience. I’ve been tinkering with self-hosted WordPress sites since 2007 and I’ve helped probably 100+ individuals and organizations explore the merits of the .com and .org experience. Let’s get real – the relationship is confusing, the admin panel is intimidating, and the learning curve is steep. The product marketer in me is itching to help streamline the value proposition across these funnels to help make it easier to educate and on-board new users.
My day job keeps me pretty busy so it’s somewhat scary to sign up for something like this, but the initial time commitment of 3-4 hours/month seems reasonable. If you’re as intrigued by the challenge and learning opportunity as I am, I hope you’ll join me in the cause.