Updates from the Incident Response Team

In recent months, the Incident Response Team (IRT) has received excellent questions about its role and responsibilities and its approach to confidentiality. To that end, this post aims to share some current thinking with an invitation to ask further questions and provide your feedback. 

About the team

In WordPress spaces, including Make Team blogs, the Making WordPress SlackSlack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform https://slack.com/. The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at https://make.wordpress.org/chat/., and official social media accounts, all participants are expected to adhere to the Code of Conduct. This is upheld by all WordPressers in their interactions and efforts to de-escalate situations. 

The Incident Response Team can assist in determining if the Code of Conduct has been breached and addressing situations that are in question of doing so. Our approach favors mediation, de-escalation, and correction over punishment, promoting positive conduct.

The Incident Response Team is not for policing tone or intervening in every disagreement. Disagreements, when productive, can be beneficial, reflecting our shared commitment to developing great software and a strong community. This page captures the team’s current practices. 

Recent challenges

The Incident Response Team was formed in late 2022 and handled a wide range of reports in 2023. In doing so, there were a number of challenges: 

  • Reports received were increasingly more nuanced and difficult to take clear action on. 
  • There was a higher volume of reports, especially toward the latter half of the year.
  • Scheduling meetings for reporters, reported people, witnesses, and IRT members was challenging and often slowed down the process. 

In light of this, the IRT members came together in January to explore how to improve our current practices. Identified areas for improvement include: 

  • A handbook to publicly document existing processes
  • Improved training for new members and ongoing training opportunities for current team members
  • Improved communication, such as sharing how long inquiries might take with all parties. 
  • Onboarding more members to the Incident Response Team

How you can help the IRT and WordPress Community

The Incident Response Team strives to keep identifying details of incident reports confidential to support those hesitant about reporting and desiring a swift resolution process. However, we have seen more reports and their outcomes being made public beyond the IRT’s annual reporting. The IRT asks that before you do this, please consider the possible unintended consequences.

Publicly shared reports attract a wide range of feedback, from well-informed to uninformed perspectives. This can cloud the original issue, complicating the IRT’s understanding and response. Moreover, the influx of opinions can hinder maintaining an objective approach.

Sharing outcomes without appropriate context can also be problematic. It can lead to misuse of information, exacerbating division and mistrust within the community. 

In all cases, the IRT encourages careful consideration before making such details public to avoid these issues. While some conflicts should be public, not all conflicts need such visibility. 

The Incident Response Team will update its processes and create a more thorough handbook (V1 published here). Further work on this handbook will be done in the #incident-response channel and posts published on https://make.wordpress.org/project/ to invite your feedback and questions. 

Lastly, a gentle thought. Our Code of Conduct outlines the behaviors we aim for and explains the steps to be taken if these are not met. Remember, we’re all human and should treat each other with kindness and respect. If a situation becomes challenging, taking a brief pause is helpful. This allows us to approach these moments with a clear and respectful mindset, seeking solutions together.

Thank you to the Incident Response Team members for helping to write and edit this post!