Proposal: a WordPress Advisory Board

Update, Aug 13: There seems to be general consensus that this should move forward. There were a lot of questions raised and identified risks to be aware of, so I’ll draft a post with next steps and get the foundational work done. Thank you to everyone who participated! Comments are now closed. ~Josepha


At the end of 2016, Matt created two growth councils to amplify efforts to bring open source to a wider audience, and fulfill the WordPress mission to democratize publishing. Last December, they held their final meeting — I was fortunate to work with both of these groups, and am so grateful for the way the people involved generously donated their time to the project.

My Takeaways

During the 10 months that I met with them, I saw many things that worked and learned about many things that didn’t.

  • Working: There were a variety of markets represented, and people at the top of their field across the board. Every member came with a feeling of selfless coopetition that drew them together. There was a lot of insight at each table and a lot of opportunity to see a bigger picture than usual.
  • Not Working: Gathering everyone monthly was difficult and keeping work moving between meetings was a struggle. Decisions became prone to analysis paralysis. It was unclear how to step up or step back as time and circumstances required.

I think that holding on to what worked could be a major win for the WordPress project overall, if we can find a way to clear away the things that didn’t work.

Proposal: a WordPress Advisory Board

Who: A nomination-based group made up of members of the WordPress ecosystem, with set term limits.
What: A traditional advisory board providing information on industry trends and risks as well as non-binding strategic advice to the Project Lead and Executive Director.
When: Meeting quarterly.
Where: Video calls with high level notes published afterward.
Bonus: The Executive Director (me!) will be a permanent observer and facilitator of the advisory board meetings, and Matt will attend some, but not all meetings.

Additional Clarifications

On nominations: I think that a traditional board process of nomination and self-nomination will serve this group well. Good ideas can come from anywhere, and open nomination process can help get voices that might otherwise not be heard. I would like to reserve the right to invite nominees (for diversity and representation purposes) which will be key for keeping a well-rounded group on hand. Existing members select candidates from nominees.

On non-binding strategic advice: I am not proposing that this group would function as a final-say, decision-making body for the WordPress project. It should serve as a collection of bright, insightful people who have contact with clients and end-users of WordPress. This removes the “analysis paralysis” challenge that the growth councils faced.

On set term limits: Since, in my mind, the group won’t be a direct decision-making body and won’t have any fiduciary duties, I would suggest some flexibility in setting term limits as we get started. My ideal is a 2 year limit, though there is wisdom in a shorter limit, too.

Next Steps

I’d like to open the comments to discuss this idea. If feedback is broadly supportive, let’s start with the following steps:

  1. As a proof of concept, assemble the existing growth council members into the first iteration of the Advisory Board.
  2. Start this initial group with a 12 month term (taking us to the middle of 2020).
  3. Publish an announcement that includes 1) who is on the advisory board, 2) companies/verticals represented on the advisory board, and 3) information on how to nominate yourself or others for future participation.

If you have feedback on or questions about this proposal, please share that in a comment on this post!