Updates to the theme review and directory debate

Matt Mullenweg dropped in on the conversation surrounding the theme review debate last night, and dropped hammer.

To try and summarize, he basically opened the door for all sorts of potential changes for both the theme review process and the WordPress.org theme directory / website.

Some of the specifics, slightly adjusted for clarity and grammar:

Regardless of the intent of the policies, the perception you’re creating is really not positive. If you could avoid anything which elicits headlines of “cracking down” I would really appreciate it. It also doesn’t help to get in fights with theme authors in comments, especially in the absence of any metrics which indicate whether the theme directory is positively or negatively impacted in its utility for users pre- and post- these policy changes.

The headline [of the controversial WP Tavern post] just feeds off the tone and stature of how you’re approaching the problem in general, with tomes of rules and a disciplinary / patronizing approach from the moment a theme is submitted for “review”.

Matt participated in a quite long discussion about ideas and ways to change things, basically saying anything was up for debate. He also made it clear he thinks decisions should be informed by testing and surveys.

You can read the entire conversation (but I’m warning you it takes a while) starting here.

This was a perfect example of what I think Scott Berkun defined in A Year Without Pants as a “Matt Bomb,” but credit goes to Jeff Chandler for noting this instance as one.

In the end, Matt’s remarks lead to a more open debate and furthered the discussion, but doesn’t exactly give license for change outright. Things still have to get ironed out and decided upon, well before they even attempt to get implemented.

Tammie Lister — who should be commended for encouraging calmness and civility throughout this debate — started an ideas thread for folks to brainstorm changes. It’s long but worth reading and giving your two cents if you have a stake.

In addition to the ideas thread, a couple of other proposals were written. Tammie wrote a separate post recommending a test of removing the update review process, which would only require original submissions to get reviewed by the theme review team. Justin Tadlock proposed a curated theme directory in a separate post as well.

In the #themereview Slack, Otto Wood gave further information about how he is working to improve preview and bring them into the customizer. He and I and others debated about allowing authors to include their own demo links as well as what should be included in updated default previews.

In the end, to make change on .org, it’s probably going to require actual tickets and patches to the existing code. You can get involved on the Meta Trac under the theme directory component and you can get started by setting up a Meta dev environment. It is not a low barrier to entry, but it’s the best there is right now.

Only time will tell what comes of these discussions. But I think it’s a potential important time for the future of the WordPress theme directory. Strike while the iron is hot, the saying goes. So get involved now if you want change.

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