Outline for WordPress Book!

Below is the outline of the WordPress biography that I’m working on! I’m hijacking the docs blog for this sits it’s sort of documentation. This is something I’ve been researching over the past few months, and am quite far along with the very early sections. We thought it would be a good idea to share it with the community to see if there are any glaring omissions, so if you’re interested in providing some feedback, read on!

Some things to note:

  • this is a rough outline of the shape of the book.
  • the people listed under “Key People” are not the only people who are relevant. They are those who have been or will be interviewed for that section of the book. There are people who are relevant to many of the sections (Mark Jaquith, Jen, Westi, to name just a few). See my other post on my interview list. Here is a full list of people on my radar to be interviewed so far.

Things to provide feedback on:

  • are there any significant areas of WordPress that you feel are missing. Remember that we’re interested in things that had an impact on WordPress and the community, not when you set up your personal site.
  • are there any people that I might not have thought of who are relevant to a specific section? Do you have something to say? Do you want to be included? Let me know.

Okay, here it is!


Where WordPress is today.

Featuring WordPress users all over the world to create a snapshot of WordPress use 10 years after it was first launched.

Key people: WordPress users

Part 1: The Blogging Software Dilemma

This section deals with the very early days of WordPress, the state of blogging, b2 development, and the forking of b2.

Chapter 1
On the state of blogging in 2002, the founders of WordPress, and why they decided to get online.

This chapter will contain biographical information about the founders of WordPress – Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little. It will look at why they decided to set up their own blogs, and how they got into web development. The chapter will also contextualise blogging in 2002-2003. It will look at how blogging came about and evolved, and where it was in 2002.

Key people: Matt Mullenweg, Mike Little
Key Resources: ma.tt, zed1.com/journalized

Rebecca Blood: http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html
Steve Rosenburg: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Say-Everything-Blogging-Becoming-Matters/

Chapter 2
On the development of b2.

This chapter opens with Michel Valdrighi in Corsica in 2000. It looks at his experience of software development, why he wanted to develop his own blogging tool, and why he chose PHPPHP PHP (recursive acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is a widely-used open source general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development and can be embedded into HTML. http://php.net/manual/en/intro-whatis.php./MySQLMySQL MySQL is a relational database management system. A database is a structured collection of data where content, configuration and other options are stored. https://www.mysql.com/.. It will cover the vision he had for it, the early functionality that went into the software, and the growth of the b2 community. It will look at why Michel ceased development on the software and the effect that this had on the community.

Key people: Michel Valdrighi
Key Resources: b2 forums on tikadada.com (possibly lost), zengun.org

Chapter 3
On forking WordPress, forks in general, early WordPress and the community

This chapter opens with Matt’s original post on “The Blogging Software” dilemma, and Mike’s comment about forking it. It looks at what it means to fork an open sourceOpen Source Open Source denotes software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. Open Source **must be** delivered via a licensing model, see GPL. project and the history of forks. It looks at why Matt decided to fork b2 and turn it into WordPress. This is followed by the early development of WordPress and the functionality that went into it. It will cover the development process and how decisions are made. It will also look at the growth of the WordPress community, and the significant changes made to WordPress during the first year (including the pluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party system).

Key people: Matt Mullenweg, Mike Little, Alex King, Dougal Campbell, Ryan Boren, Christine Selleck, Craig Hartel + any other very early community members

Key resources: WP.org blog, ma.tt, WP.org support forums, early IRC logs (pending), early mailing lists (possibly lost)

Part 2: Freedom 0

This section covers WordPress’s license, the GPLGPL GPL is an acronym for GNU Public License. It is the standard license WordPress uses for Open Source licensing https://wordpress.org/about/license/. The GPL is a ‘copyleft’ license https://www.gnu.org/licenses/copyleft.en.html. This means that derivative work can only be distributed under the same license terms. This is in distinction to permissive free software licenses, of which the BSD license and the MIT License are widely used examples., how it has affected WordPress and impacted its growth.

Chapter 4
On the GPL

This chapter will cover the history and background of the GPL. It will look at why Richard Stallman created the license, what it means, and why its is important to many software developers. It will look at how the GPL became the license used by WordPress and what that means for developers and users.

Key resources: Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman: Free Software, Free Society, the GPL license, cafelog.com

Chapter 5
On the Movable Type Licensing Change

In May 2004, Movable Type changed their license. This precipitated a huge influx of people moving to WordPress. The writer, Mark Pilgrim, wrote an influential post that spurred people to move. This chapter will look at the effects of that licensing change, notable people who made the move to WordPress, the increase in WordPress users, and the effect that this had on the WordPress community.

Key People: Anil Dash, Mena Trott, Mark Pilgrim, Om Malik, Carthik Sharma, Panjak Kumar + other community members who helped people to move their sites.

Chapter 6
On Habari

In 2006 there was a split in the WordPress community as a number of key developers and community members decided to set up Habari. This chapter will look at the reasons for this split in the community, and why some members felt that they would be better moving their development efforts elsewhere. It will also look at the reasons that the Habari developers decided to write their codebase from scratch and use an ApacheApache Apache is the most widely used web server software. Developed and maintained by Apache Software Foundation. Apache is an Open Source software available for free. License.

Key People: Owen Winkler, Scott Merrill, Chris Davis, Rich Bowen

Chapter 7
On the ways that the GPL continues to shape and effect the WordPress community

The GPL continues to affect the WordPress community. This will look at instances when discussions around the GPL have caused shifts in the community. It will look at how the discussion around GPL themes influenced the growing theme marketplace. It will look at the distinction between WordPress’s official stance on the GPL and the GPL followed to the letter of the law.

Key people: Matt Mullenweg, Chris Pearson, Brian Gardner + others (?)

Part 3: WordPress, Inc

This section will look at the difficulties around supporting open source software and commercialising it.

Chapter 8
On initial attempts to make money to support the growing project

The focus of this chapter will be early attempts to make money to support the WordPress project. It will explore the difficulties of supporting an independent open source project that isn’t intended as a commercial project. It will look at the circumstances around the search engine spam that appeared on WordPress.orgWordPress.org The community site where WordPress code is created and shared by the users. This is where you can download the source code for WordPress core, plugins and themes as well as the central location for community conversations and organization. https://wordpress.org/. It will look at the announcement about WordPress Inc that was made at the 100K party.

Key people: Matt Mullenweg, Jonas Luster, Toni Schneider

Chapter 9
On Automattic

This chapter will look at the setting up of Automattic, early employees and investments that were made in the company. It will look at the ethos behind Automattic and how that works alongside the WordPress project. It will ask how a company can be commercially viable within an open source context. It will look at how WordPress.comWordPress.com An online implementation of WordPress code that lets you immediately access a new WordPress environment to publish your content. WordPress.com is a private company owned by Automattic that hosts the largest multisite in the world. This is arguably the best place to start blogging if you have never touched WordPress before. https://wordpress.com/ and Automattic’s other services have effected WordPress’s growth.

Key people: Matt Mullenweg, Toni Schneider, Om Malik, Phil Black, Mike Hirschland

Chapter 10
On commercial themes

This chapter will look at the introduction of the theming system into WordPress and how this changes the user’s experience. It will look at the emergence of the commercial theme market. It will look at the founding of the major theme shops and the issues that they faced. It will look at the relationship, tensions, and synergies between the open source project and commercial businesses.

Key people: Brian Gardner, Adii Pienaar, Justin Tadlock, Ian Stewart, Cory Miller, Collis Ta’eed, other ppl running WP Theme Shops

Chapter 11
On the wider commercialisation of WordPress and the effects on the community

This chapter will look at the growth of the commercial economy around WordPress. It will look at how businesses can make money by building their businesses on top of free software. As the commercial theme market has become saturated, it will look at how other businesses emerged, how they evolved, and the effect that this had on the community.

Key people: Cory Miller, Lisa Sabin-Wilson, Ben Metcalfe, Alex King (other WP business folks)

Part 4: Ten Years of Code

(better title needed – want to find a suitable blog post title)

Chapter 12

On backwards compatibility and maintaining all that code

This chapter will look at the challenges of maintaining ten years of code. It will look at how WordPress’ commitment to backwards compatibility has influenced its development, and how WordPress developers today deal with that legacy. It will look at how the developers ensure that WordPress users’ site don’t break, while refactoring code and introducing new features.

Key people: Andrew Nacin, Mark Jaquith, Peter Westwood


End stuff

  • Appendices
  • Glossary
  • Biographies