Understanding contributor leadership roles in the WordPress open source project

Across the WordPress ecosystem, contributors can take on various leadership roles, such as release leads or lead organizers for Flagship WordCamps. However, it is not well understood how individuals are selected. This discuss will help build stronger undrestanding of how various leadership roles are created and individuals selected, with a focus on how to better share that information.

Facilitator: Aaron Campbell (@aaroncampbell)
Notetaker 1: Emma Sophie Young (@emmaht)
Notetaker 2: Bigul Malayi (@mbigul)

TLDR: We need more documentation

Raw Notes:


  • How are CoreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress. committers for core projects chosen?
  • Confirmation of how committers from the core team are identified and how they are added to or removed from that role. Also include:
  • How they get into those positions
  • Core releases and roles (historically) how they can shadow to be active in the future ones
  • Get answers about how they are nominated in the future
  • How team reps are chosen
  • How other teams chose team reps, and team leads
  • Get as much information – to take it back to teach students (mentoring high school and college) – make a curriculum around WordPress and opportunities
  • Team RepTeam Rep A Team Rep is a person who represents the Make WordPress team to the rest of the project, make sure issues are raised and addressed as needed, and coordinates cross-team efforts. responsibilities – a lot of team reps go more into a team lead role, rather than driving what the team is doing, project managing the team
  • Should there be an additional team role – other than the team rep role (applied to all teams)
  • In a lead role – the person wasn’t aligned or didn’t have the correct expectations of what their role intended
  • What are the objectives of each role
  • Locale meet-up organizer – would like to talk about this in a more traditional sense
  • In addition to getting people to stick around and contribute
  • Figure out how to find out if someone is “worthy”
  • How to trust and give access – gut vs science

CORE COMMITTERS ROLE (and what that means)
Commit many years ago: the way it decided at the moment:

  • Committers 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/. channel
  • Committers use that to discuss the act of committing
  • If someone is asking how to do this using ___ (tool)
  • Contributors are proposed to commit
  • Decided by Matt – he has the final say on who gets to commit to core
  • It is a leadership role at the moment
  • Back when the only way to contribute was to code – it was a natural way to become a “lead”. But now it’s different, and there are more ways to contribute.

The committers need to make the decision if it’s something that is ready to go to core. They are happy with the code, and then it goes into wordpress core.

  • When you commit the code – you take responsibility for it
  • Review other’s code, not just use your own; whatever you sign off, you take responsibility for it. So, if there is a problem, you need to help fix it.
  • In terms of the process – it used to be more in the background, but now it’s more transparent. The existing committers see a committer doing good work, they will propose this person, and then Matt decides (there is influence from other committers)

Is there diversity in how the next leaders are being chosen? Because the current leaders are the ones that are choosing the next leaders – is this a problem?

  • There is no rule that a non-committer can not suggest someone. But it’s just not really happening. It would be interesting to see what it would look like, or how it would go.

In order to be nominated – you need to prove yourself – this can take a lot of time, effort, ability to collaborate, etc. So, there is almost a natural selection for this.

  • The time aspects
  • Seems like the majority of committers are sponsored
  • It can be hard to have the time
  • You don’t get commit because you are sponsored, but you have more time to spend on commit (because you are sponsored – having more time each week)
  • Example: Non-committers were nominated by someone else

A gateway can be a co-lead or specific part of a release (almost like a first step) – people can prove themselves during these stressful weeks and hopefully get a nomination from that.

About the Handbook page – that lists who all of the core commits are. It lacks insights on the role of lead developers vs core commiters and what they are tasked to do.

  • Historically, they are “decision-makers,” a true DRIDRI Directly Responsible Individual - the people who are taking ownership or responsibility for a particular project or feature.
  • A DRI is not necessarily the POWER to do something but has the correct context
  • Do you have that “big picture”?
  • Do you have the trust of the community, not because you have all the things but because they know that you can not know all of the things, but that they trust that you will be honest and say, I don’t know, but I will find the answer for you

A lead – needs to handle feedback well (receive the feedback, commit to disagreeing, and move forward)

  • TLDR: We have context, trust, and authority
  • ^^ this was when there was a release leadRelease Lead The community member ultimately responsible for the Release., and now there are teams
  • We have built other parts of the project up and organized a better – this role could have easily been phased out
  • Lead – was like “water” across projects. – however, the nature of it has changed.
  • The lead role has become irrelevant these days – others may feel a vacuum, and people do not feel like they are
  • If it is a relic, it should know how decision were made, and how it happens within the project, can be helpful, so we are aware of everyone is working and what they need. Not all power to one person, have help

Team reps discussion – team rep role – to facilitate roles – is that really what they do?

  • Idea of what team leads can do?
  • Do not mix up the team
  • A revision on leads
  • Re-grouping of what we NEED
  • The talk of non-code leadership looks like

Team rep vs team lead

  • Someone who is responsible and accountable for the work being done
  • They don’t need to do it (delegate)
  • But they are accountable able (thus responsible)

Community Team

  • We look at the contribution, consistency, frequency, and how long they have been there, and then we open up nominations.
  • A person needs to be qualified to nominate another person
  • When a new contributor joins the team – where do they fall on the ladder
  • How long will it take to climb the ladder or level up
  • I want to be 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 team rep (ex) 0 what do I need to do to do that
  • Showing people the path on how to start is very important
  • In the past – we dont say we expected you to only do this with this type of code – it’s more self-directed rather than a predefined path
  • Didn’t want to constrain people

Rep for Make teams

  • Leading as well
  • Facilitating
  • Guiding, rather than making decisions
  • Leads for WordPress releases
  • Responsible for making decisions

Polyglots TeamPolyglots Team Polyglots Team is a group of multilingual translators who work on translating plugins, themes, documentation, and front-facing marketing copy. https://make.wordpress.org/polyglots/teams/.

  • Nominations in the past – 1 time year there is a reminder to nominate
  • Put up a post with a poll (2 or 3 at a time)

Team rep vs team lead – historically – we had 7 team reps who were mentors (which is like a lead/leadership role)

They were conflated – there was an opportunity to get more people in (in the broader leadership role) and get a fresh set of eyes

There is no documentation on how to become a lead or leadership role and what value it can bring – bring clarity – bring in new people

It’s hard to help if you don’t know how to help or where you can

QUESTION: community and major events – how are organizers chosen are there any gaps there?


WCUS – Angela is head of local events – works with it now on who will work on it next year. Then they will help talk to and build the team

  • There is not an open call for leads
  • We attempted to hand pick who showed the varied abilities that we needed
  • It worked pretty good – there were struggles
  • It was hard to be open – making sure you are really covering all the necessary things that you need – and that the people really understand what they are getting into.

The general path:

  • People volunteer
  • Part of organizing team through the open call
  • Then what they see they are in to – move into leadership in the future release
  • Volunteer – organizer – lead organizer (anglea is the one to work with the person to pick the first and build from here)

LOCALE SITES – Another leadership
The first step – was translating WP into another language (German) – ex – there was a merge for core to translation – there was a lot of responsibilities but not guide or rule book, so she had to chat back and forth how to do this. Now how things have evolved over the last decade. DO we have a process on how to do this for locale sites – if you have access or get it, you are almost in a leadership role, how do we deal with that, since you are basically in a leadership role.

In Spain – its been the same locale managers since the beginner (15 years maybe idk). Maybe they think that they control the local community.

  • They have the sense that they have the power inside the locale site.
  • There is a lack of meetings and a lack of talking inside the locale community
  • Example: recently, they tagged someone said they were tagged out of a project, without telling the person. They took away access because they weren’t awre that someone was working on something.
  • We need to work on this on different levels.
  • We have a lot of things in movement.

For The team reps – the last definition is from 2012 – but there were only like 8 teams back then, and now we have 22, so we need to re-design because the commnuity has grown a lot, and the way it works now is not the same way that it worked 10-12 years ago.

  • We need to re-think how we want to – before it gets worse in the future because it will get worse


  • Handing out knowledge, when someone is stepping down from a leadership role

how to transfer knowledge, what are the responsibilities, and what they need to do (core is documented well) other teams don’t have offboarding from a project or a team. We need to implement a blueprint or skeleton form teach team on how to handle this as well.

  • There are a lot of long term contributors, some day we wont be contributing (or leave the project for whatever reason) – so in order to let new contributors grow, but also get new generations into the project. There should be a wp project that the younger generations are engaged and wnat to contribute.
  • Gen Z are not interested in 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. or WP. How do we approach this generation’s shift into projects, leadership, representation roles, etc.
  • How do we get them involved (already been talked about in other sessions)
  • Related parts – even if they are here – how do we make sure that we are passing the information from one person to the next. And that these insights don’t just age our of our projects and aren’t lost.

Core committers have mentors and that person guides you through the process – it can be overwhelming.

  • Mentorship is good for onboarding
  • There is another part to that
  • They dont leave by surprise but they are working their way out
  • How do we retain all the important stuff or as much as possible

You can pass down some knowledge – but what gets done depends on the people involved – so there should be an understanding that if you hand off the reigns to someone else, you need to be ok that they might take it in another direction.

  • Portland example: meet ups – were some combination of passion and business to run the meet up – this was the energy that drove it forwards, then foundation come forward and was like here are the rules you need to follow – and a leader stepped down because they took the fun out of it
  • The outcome is from the energy of people involved

What is the stance on the wordpress foundation

  • there are other projects (local teams) is responsibility on locale teams or are the guidelines on how the locale teams SHOULD run themselves – not sure if there is documentation on all of the process ( historically there has been less documentation then there is today) – in the past there wasnt as much need as there is today – there were less people and everyone just knew all of the information that they need. Documentation is WAY more essential.

Knowledge transfer and documentation

  • We should be documenting – in the same spirit of open – sources the ethos
  • It should not be “im just talking to you”
  • If im saying it, i should be able to write it down
  • If someone wants to fork this projects – they should have all of the knowledge
  • As we build these structures – we are adding more speedbumps
  • How do we keep up with the quality and balance it?

QUESTION: When we talk about leadership roles and titles – who are you thinking about that for? Is the leadership who is the motivation for? Is this yearning for leadership roles and tiles about retention, and attraction? Personal satisfaction – knowing who to talk to.. Each requires something slightly different. This is important to think about when we looking for what to come out of this.

QUESTION: do you think of titles as trailing or leading? Do you think of a title as something that comes when you are already doing a job? Or something that you want to achieve? For yourself?

Passing leadership knowledge to the next person

  • Practice makes person
  • So we should do it more regularly
  • Not waiting until someone is dying off (bad example)
  • Every 1, 2, 5, 10, whatever years, where they hand off the information to the next generation
  • Capping somehow you can be a lead – might one way we can do that
  • LOCAL – this might not be ^^ a good way – tis is run from passion – but project wise

DRIsDRI Directly Responsible Individual - the people who are taking ownership or responsibility for a particular project or feature.:

  • This is a form of communication.
  • You step up into something, you dont really lead it.
  • Its times into the energy of things. If you want to do something in the project, then you become the DRI. BUT you actual work, depends on your energy and your motivation – depends on you.
  • As DRI you need to make a plan for it. No one will nominate you but you. You look at leaders, they have the energy and the passion.
  • Onboarding – we have a proper offboarding process – if you are a supporter and you dont want do it anymore. They remove accesses – etc

LOCAL teams are meant to be a translation of the main site, it should just be a translation – shouldn’t be an open leadership (basically). It should be managed by polyglots team.

LOCALE MEET-UPS – this is the leadership, organizer role, that is held by WP central, core organizers (wp central steps in looks for replacement) – look for new people to take over the new meet ups.

  • Who is running the newsletter? On the local blog bc its not translation – like the locale make blog – put it into the handbook – since its not a translation – it should be responsibility for the locale test teams.
  • Someone who has a leadership role, they should share their knowledge (give access, appoint people etc)
  • The locale manager, should be the highest role for the locale community. But there is a separate side – there needs to be a POC – guide – content generation, locale handbooks, and rulebook for locale communities because its not very clear for each commmnuity.


  • How to wind down a project – there are no guidelines, no documentation
  • What should outreach look like, unofficial cross team, idk if they are leadership roles – but it feels like it. And the pros and cons
  • There are a number of people who do just take on a role, and someone starts to make decision, without a “role”, there is a point where you step over a line, and you haven’t be given a “role” – there is a bit of risk in assuming a role (people feeling the vacuum)
  • Keep in mind that we started in a locale community (at least a good amount of us started) – meet up, locale word count, you learn themes, etc.

you know there is global team vs local team.

  • We need to think in the locale community – are not only the translation of the wp site – at least right now – need to push a lot of information in other languages outside of english.
  • People want to contirnbute in code but they need help and mentor – but we need to start thinking how the english part, because right now the community is getting old, and we need to go fishing for new people in locale communities,.


  • We will continue to talk about this in our teams
  • We are making progress – there are struggles and issues in each project
  • Working through it together and going back to our teams and pushing to improve, formalize, and come up with a process for these things anywhere that we see these gaps.

Things to think about moving forward:

  • Is there diversity in how the next leaders are being chosen? Because the current leaders are the ones that are choosing the next leaders – is this a problem?
  • Team rep vs Team lead role. Clear guidelines to what they do and don’t do, who is responsible and accountable for what work?
  • For community and major events – How are organizers chosen are there any gaps there?
  • For locale sites: Do we have a process to evolve the leaders in each locale? or are they the same for the past 15 years? We need to re-think how we want to change it before it gets worse in the future.
  • How to hand over knowledge and transfer knowledge when someone is stepping down. We don’t have an offboarding system.
  • Gen Z are not interested in open source or WP. How do we approach this generation’s shift into projects, leadership, representation roles, etc.
  • How do we attract the next generations into the WP project?
  • What is the stance on the WP foundation? with the local teams? what are their responsibilities? are there guidelines on how the local teams should run themselves? – Is there documentation on all the processes? (also for local handbooks or rulebooks)
  • We need documentation on how to wind down from a project.
  • How can we document knowledge transfer
  • When we talk about leadership roles and titles – who are you thinking about that for? Is the leadership who is the motivation for? Is this yearning for leadership roles and tiles about retention, and attraction? Personal satisfaction – knowing who to talk to.. Each requires something slightly different. This is important to think about when we looking for what to come out of this.
  • Do you think of titles as trailing or leading? Do you think of a title as something that comes when you are already doing a job? Or something that you want to achieve? For yourself?
  • For locale meet-ups – who is running the newsletter?