The Purpose of the Dev Chat

Every now and then it seems like people forget the purpose of the dev chat, or new community members aren’t clear on it, so I thought this, the beginning of a new development cycle, would be a good time to reiterate the purpose of the dev chat. The dev chat is a weekly product team meeting (see About the Dev Chat), not a weekly social gathering/town hall/q&a. For anyone who’s ever worked at a software company, an agency, etc., this should be a familiar concept: The team working on a software project meets, everyone gives an update on their part of the project, any roadblocks/red flags are identified and solutions are discussed, and updated assignments are given/confirmed.

Each release cycle we remind people that this is the intended use of the dev chat, but somehow along the way we wind up losing track of that, and it turns into a combination of dev chat + ideas forum + wp-hackers live. Because the 3.1 cycle is so short (feature freeze is little more than a month away!), we need to stay focused this time around. We will be much stricter about staying on agenda, and while anyone is welcome to attend, we will ask people who have questions/suggestions that are not on the agenda to either wait until the dev chat is over or to bring it up in another venue, such as wp-hackers, on a Trac ticket, or in the forums.

It’s understandable that many people want a direct line to the lead developers, and knowing they will be in a specific place at a specific time makes it easy to corner them to pitch pet requests, but please respect that these busy individuals are continually prioritizing the pet requests of hundreds of people and millions of users. Hijacking their product team meeting doesn’t help anyone’s cause.

“Are you kicking me out?” some people may be thinking to themselves. No. The #wordpress-dev channel is open 24/7, and given the time zone distribution, there’s usually one or more lead developers in there, as well as numerous contributors. Discussion about core topics is welcome in the #wordpress-dev channel any time, and questions are usually answered gladly (and let’s face it, @nacin never sleeps). The weekly team meeting just needs to stay on target, on schedule, and focused on the actual contributing team. Though most people are volunteers working on WordPress core part-time, contributors are part of a product team, and their time should be treated with the same respect that any corporate product team would receive, if not more.

If you are not working on patches for this cycle, please let the core product team get through its agenda. Hang on to your other questions to ask during one of the 167 hours per week in the channel that don’t have a specific agenda/schedule, or ask in another venue (Trac tickets are best, since it’s asynchronous and acts as the permanent discussion record for each feature). A good guideline here would be to think of another piece of software that you use. Let’s say Firefox or Microsoft Word. If you wanted a new feature, or wished they would code something a certain way so you could do something you specifically want to do for your clients, would you interrupt their product team meetings to ask for it? If not, then please grant the same courtesy to the WordPress developers. If you would interrupt them because you found something so major that it really needed to be addressed asap (like a security problem), then please don’t wait for the weekly dev chat! Get in touch with the developers in the channel right away, so that someone can assess the issue.

If you’re following along in the dev chat and while the team is discussing a specific feature you think of something about the way they’re approaching it that you feel certain the lead devs/core contributors haven’t thought of yet, you are welcome to speak up (having read the Trac ticket first is a good idea, to make sure you’re not raising something that has already been discussed and dismissed). Maybe your idea is brilliant and everyone will thank you for the suggestion/fresh approach — go you! However, if you make your suggestion and the product team is not inclined to take it, please respect their decision. At that point, the best way to try and convince someone that your suggestion is a better approach is to code the patch yourself and upload it to Trac. Patches speak much louder than words in this case.

Remember, the WordPress motto is “Code is poetry,” and for this particular hour each week, the poets are the main event. Thanks!