I am a huge fan of John Nash. Do you know him? The movie A Beautiful Mind was about his life. John Nash won a Nobel prize for his work on economics. His work focuses on game theory and explains why focusing purely on individual gain does not necessarily lead to the best outcome for everyone. And that’s interesting for the WordPress community, which faces problems like free-rider behavior.
In the old days of WordPress – 15 years ago – many people were volunteering and making WordPress bigger. At that time, hardly any people were making money out of it. Nowadays, it is sometimes hard to find enough people working on WordPress Core, but the number of companies making money out of WordPress has grown substantially. We need to find a balance, an equilibrium, between making money for individual businesses and investing in the WordPress ecosystem. And that’s why I love John Nash so much because he came up with such an equilibrium.
Adam Smith, one of the great minds in economics, stated that if everyone does what is best for them, the situation will be optimal for everyone. That’s what a lot of people still believe. That’s also how a lot of people act.
John Nash mathematically proved that Adam Smith was wrong. The most optimal result will come when individuals do what is best for themselves and their group. According to John Nash, the most optimal result for WordPress and all of us in the WordPress community would emerge when people do what’s best for their individual businesses and for WordPress as a whole. For instance, one should invest in WordPress core and the WordPress community. At the same time, they should benefit from selling plugins (or other products or services) to that community.
John Nash calculated an equilibrium. He called it the Nash Equilibrium. In WordPress, we have to find that Nash equilibrium together. And, of course, an equilibrium is always vulnerable. Putting too much effort into developing free, open-source software could eventually result in a company’s bankruptcy. But what’s also true: putting too much effort into maximizing one’s profits and too little into contributing will damage the WordPress core ecosystem. But we all have beautiful minds, right? We should be able to figure this one out together!