Community Fatigue

The enterprise vs. freelance/consultancy split.

From my point of view, in researching how to set up our WordPress infrastructure, the WordPress community can be neatly divided into two camps:  the freelancers and consultants who make their living on WordPress and for whom it’s professionally beneficial to blog about technical concerns, to answer questions on help sites, and to speak at WordCamps – and the folks with jobs in the “enterprise” who are using WordPress as a tool rather than as a career.

The latter set doesn’t say much out in public about their work. They don’t need to promote themselves, and they may be hamstrung by corporate policies that frown upon speaking about one’s work in the public sphere.

The net effect is that if you’re a one person or small shop, there are recipes out there for you to follow to give your clients a solid infrastructure for the scale of their project. If you’re building a corporate intranet for a 16,000 person company with offices worldwide? There’s no recipe.

(Of course, there’s a nagging doubt in my mind, despite ample time spent researching… could that recipe be out there? Did I miss it? The WordPress world is a vast and sprawling place. I don’t fully have The Knowledge.)

But it’s not like the two groups have nothing to learn from each other. *

Of course, the freelancers are the ones who have completely saved my bacon. There was a good bit of doubt within my organization, from folks who were running basic mutlisite installs, that we could get WordPress to work with automated build and deployment tools.

Enter Mark Jaquith’s talk at WordCamp San Francisco 2013, Confident Commits, Delightful Deploys.  It’s not a complete recipe, but it’s the basis of one. Jaquith, as far as I can tell, has always been a freelancer.

Due to family obligations, I was unable to attend the Composer talk given at WordCamp Raleigh 2014. That talk never made it to WordCamp.tv, and actually there’s precious little about Composer on WordCamp.tv. It took me a long time to see that Composer should play a role in our infrastructure, and it was a talk by Andrey Savchenko, Better Site Stacks with Composer, that finally helped me realize that I didn’t need such a complex Git structure when Composer could be used to fetch nearly anything. Later, in a conversation on Twitter, in two tweets he saved me hours of research and set me straight on a basic concept that I wasn’t getting.

After that compact Twitter conversation I told my co-worker Sarah, I got something for nothing…

How deep do you have to go to give back?

And then I said something to her about yet another online community with tiredness in my voice. I think she knew what I meant, as her trajectory has been similar to mine.

I joined my first online community around 1990, it was a mailing list discussing film, and it had an international subscriber list. As one did back in those days, I found two pen-pals from that list. I wasn’t that invested in the community but I did find a couple of friends from it.

Then there were newsgroups, my favorite was alt.music.chapel-hill. I am still friends with some of the folks from those days, and because it was tied to a locale, the conversation flowed from online to parties and rock shows and all over.

Then there was the big one, the Volkswagen community. Whoa. I dove in completely. The New Beetle list, the Roswell2k car show, the diesel vanagon list, local clubs, etc. I have lifelong VW friends. It was all-consuming. My husband, who is not even remotely a VW person, even became a part of it.

It’s obvious that the WordPress world is a community along the lines of the VW community. Broad and deep, its presence felt all over the internet and the world, spawning relationships and gatherings and businesses endlessly. In the parlance of our times, I can’t even. And yes, I do remember those times when I could even.

But I also know that I need these folks and I can’t just take something for nothing. Yet – see above about missing the Composer talk because of family obligations. My life has changed since the VW days, the AMC-H days, the FILM-L days. I am struggling to write this as my son resists napping, because it’s the only time I have. I cannot pour myself into a community like I used to. I have to find the line that works.

*

I’ll admit, I am not sure yet what the freelancers can learn from the enterprise folks. I think the freelancers have got it all over the corporate people. So my header was a little bogus.