When I started using FireFox, I discovered something truly amazing (to me at least) in the development world: the idea of separating basic functionality from advanced usage; the idea that a program could be continually improved upon in terms of security and stability without having to add on new features and gadgets, and new gadgets could be added as desired without danger to the core application’s stability. This was something foreign to someone accustomed to downloading the latest Microsoft updates, which always blend fixes with new features in a confusing and often problematic way.
And since working with WordPress, I’ve come to expect roughly the same thing of that platform. Plugins can be added at will with minimal risk to the core, and the core updates periodically with new bug fixes and improvements to stability, security and performance. That is, until 2.3 came out, then 2.5. And perhaps more importantly, until the new development schedule came out.
WordPress 2.5 is a great new interface that improves the back end and allows us plugin developers to hack what is probably the most important bit of WordPress: the author/administrator interface. WordPress 2.3 expanded the role of what they now refer to as “terms” and introduced tagging, which I have to admit I love. But these are radical changes to the core with far-reaching consequences – and they piggy-backed each other in the space of maybe six months. Its one thing to say that we developers need to keep up, but these changes drastically affect the end user experience in complex ways that are sure to leave them in the dust.
What’s more, they want the development process to be this fast. Indeed, they skipped right over 2.4 because the changes they wanted were so radical that there wasn’t time in the release schedule to come up with a stable 2.4. That should be some indication of just how completely crazy their schedule is. But I haven’t seen a whole lot of talk about it. Rather, the impetus coming from the top seems to be that WordPress needs to remain competitive and therefore has to have a fast-forward development schedule. Their release schedule is even planned on a time-based scenario, rather than the more logical needs- or at least design-based schedule.
But now we’re stuck with a Microsoft-esque problem, in that in order to maintain the security and performance enhancements of WordPress, we must of needs also accept new feature enhancements which we may not want or need. This is not what I’d expected of WordPress at all.
I realize that some changes need to affect the core directly. I accept that software needs to advance itself in order to remain relevant. But I am hoping that the folks who push the levers at Automattic rethink their insane release schedule.