I’m going to make an analogy and it isn’t a perfect one. That’s the thing with the vast majority of analogies.
This is an overly long and perhaps unnecessary post to dissuade us from writing or caring about “top” lists of folks in the WordPress community.
WordPress is an army. Our army is made of many, many people and those people have different reasons for being in the army. We’re lead by some incredibly talented folks that work very hard to improve WordPress, but the body is large, diverse, and important.
We remember great generals and leaders of armies. But those that lead create structure and regularity so their armies run. Folks fall into that structure, labor in it, work their way up it, etc.
WordPress is a big army, with a small structure. There aren’t all that many at the helm of WordPress’ code direction; there are six project leads, a couple dozen contributing developers, and a couple hundred with code credits in each release. But commit-credited contributors aren’t the only part of the WordPress army, and project leads and committers aren’t its only structure.
WordPress has a slew of other ways to be involved. There are currently twelve Make WordPress blogs: Core, UI, Accessibility, Mobile, Support, Polyglots, Themes, Documentation, Community, Plugins, Training, and Meta. Each of these represent sub-trees of important contributors to the platform. Some of these sub-structures are small (like the WordPress.org Meta team); others are quite large — like Community (think WordCamp and meetup organizers) or Plugins (Think of the 20,000+ plugins in the repo).
These are just official WordPress channels for promoting and improving WordPress. This doesn’t even begin to describe the surrounding ecosystem of consultants, product makers, and website owners — many of whom are also part of the core structure.
It’s fairly easy to identify the official leads of the WordPress project, as well as release leads that rotate. There are definitely some quieter but heavy-lifting contributors that don’t get much attention, but there are thousands of people that are important to the WordPress platform, and even more thousands that evangelize for WordPress, and millions that use it. I don’t know a single person that could truly create a list of “top people” in such a vast community without a ton of research.
So, making a list to identify prominent folks in the WordPress community doesn’t really thrill me. Recently, one got a lot of attention because a lead developer pointed out some of the problems with it, and it spiraled from there. But the list isn’t unique; there are hundreds of these, and the goal of each is to get clicks and shares from those listed to encourage pageviews.
I’ve never liked these lists because you can’t list everyone that truly matters and it can also ruffle some feathers. Imagine if you just spent 20 hours a week for months building one of WordPress’ best new features and see a list of 100 people important to WordPress and you’re nowhere near? Yeah, maybe that’s thin skin; but I’d just as soon not promote or encourage such lists.
One more note on my admittedly weak army analogy: what good is an army of generals with no foot soldiers to execute the plans? The entire body of an organization makes it move. It’s great to cite outstanding achievements and highlight excellence, but such things should be done genuinely, with care and not for clickbait.