I wrote this almost 20 years ago and stand by it, 100%. Recovered from the Wayback Machine.
I was not going to write again about Matt and WordPress, because I didn’t see that there was any point: I wrote my two posts, I said my piece, people either agree, disagree, or say to themselves, “Matt who?”
That was before I saw the following in my aggregator this morning, from Scoble:
Shelley gives us the silent treatment for not being harder on Matt
Shelley Powers channels Jon Stewart and gives those of us who didn’t take Matt Mullenweg to the mat for his response a lot of heck with her “silent treatment.”
That’s the meme of the week: that bloggers aren’t tough enough on each other. Well, sorry, everytime I’m tough on some group or some person I get heck. “Be nicer” is what I’m told. I figured that linking to Matt is enough. I start my morning by assuming that my readers are smart and can make up their own minds as long as they have access to all the information.
I also looked at it and saw that Matt was being treated pretty harshly already, and didn’t see that responding with an even harsher comment would help anything out.
In his post, I wrote the following comment:
You completely misrepresented absolutely everything about that post and what I said.
You did so by such a margin that I have to assume that this was a deliberate attempt to smear me and weaken the message of what I was saying.
You didn’t link to the first message, where I said we should not treat Matt harshly, and then picked and tweaked what I said in the second until you found the message satisfactory to you — that Shelley is picking on that poor _boy_ Matt, and let’s put the bitch in her place.
And you most likely did so because I was critical of you in the past, and you never forget and you never forgive.
All you’ve done, is proved out everything I said in that post.
Every damn thing.
What I said in both posts is that people make mistakes, sometimes big ones, and we shouldn’t make them grovel or beg for forgiveness or go through hell as ‘punishment’ because the community feels ‘betrayed’. Why? Because it’s about damn time for the ‘community’ to grow the hell up and stop putting such faith and complete trust in each other.
Here’s a clue for the clueless: none of us can live up to all of your expectations. You’re going to be disappointed at one time or another in any one of us. There are no saints here, and the so-called heros pick their noses and step in dog shit, just like everyone else.
On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with questioning an event, or to be concerned, or yes, even angry at an event. Being critical of an action taken, or post written, or opinion given, is not the same as condemning the person, and shouldn’t be treated as such because to do so shuts down the conversation! It is the tool of the manipulator, the weapon of the outclassed.
In regards to Matt and the link farm, too many first reactions took the action and used it as wholesale condemnation of Matt, the person, and WordPress the product and community. Doing so discounted the good work that Matt and the same community had accomplished with this product, and the balance swung, wildly, to the negative.
On the other hand, legitimate questions were raised, and concerns expressed. People didn’t know whether they should keep the WordPress links at their site if the pagerank was going to be used in this way; Matt’s credibility as a leader in the fight against spam did take a hit, and the impact on this on the effort at large is a good point to discuss.
More, the perception of open source and free software, as it is popularly known within the weblogging community, was also impacted by this action–the question is raised that if open source efforts must resort to actions such as these to raise funds to keep the project going, what is the hope for this as a viable project type?
What happened with Matt and the WordPress organization’s web site has reprecussions beyond just this person and this site, and discussing this is a legitimate thing to do.
But rather than address these, we were given an odd message about buses and experiments and Wikipedia (oh yes, bring that word in, with all of its positive karma) not to mention vague slams at those who brought these issues up: references to never asking for money from your readers (i.e. Kottke), or let’s bring Six Apart into it, subtly remind people of that old controversy.
Did Matt say he was sorry? Yes he did, but in such a way as to generate more questions, than answers. But you can’t bring this up in the “Wordpress community” — to do so is to a) be a freeloader who doesn’t pay for the work of others; or b) an asshole who doesn’t understand that what’s important is forgiveness and after all Matt is a nice guy.
There is no balance in any of our communications. We’re either on one side or another, either with the ‘good guys’ or we’re bad. If we’re critical, some flock to our sides, and others villify us; but then if our opinions go another way on another action, we ‘antagonize’ those of our supporters, and the flow around us shifts again, as allegiances are broken and sworn.
Every time I express an opinion, the movement of bodies coming and going from around me damn near knocks me off my feet.
Each person must define their own expectations about those who read them but for me it’s this: if you read my weblog regularly, you should be doing so for the quality of my writing or the pretty pictures or the helpful code or the issues raised or even that you like me and see me as a person who you want to share a beer with–any number of reasons other than being completely aligned with my views and having absolute faith and unquestioning trust in what I write. Because if you read me for the latter, I’m going to break your heart someday, and laugh while you cry.
I do regret that I wrote And you most likely did so because I was critical of you in the past, and you never forget and you never forgive in the comments–didn’t add to the conversation, and added an unnecessary emotional context. Regretted as soon as written — which is why I provide the post-comment editing facility.