Over the past few years, I have significantly increased my online engagement. I could trace this all the way back to my decision to refocus my attention to online work in general (which was already quite a long time ago), but I think it would be more correct to say it was nore a result of my recognition of the work other people have achieved. The first of these achievers who impacted my work was Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay. Though his network (Omidyar Network), which I joined because I was under the impression that there might be opportunities to co-develop (specifically in the “health” field), I met many very brilliant people working in a very wide variety of fields — and I learned a lot. It was through this engagement that I became more aware of the significance of “open source” software generally, and WordPress in particular. Up to that point in time (shortly before the release of version 3), what little web development I did on my own was either encoding straight HTML by hand, or occasionally developing very specific programs to create a large number of static HTML pages.
The big change came quite gradually, because at first I was very careful about dipping my toe into WordPress waters. Since most of my career so far has revolved around interdisciplinary work, I was not put too off by crossing boundaries between e.g. developing versus using software. I would contact plugin developers and ask whether it would also be possible to get the “plain vanilla” version with some “chocolate sprinkles” … and thereby we together would actually co-develop the software.
As WordPress has grown, the software has become more complex. I am probably the last person anyone should ask about the intricacies involved, but my impression is that it is slowly becoming more difficult to make individual changes without impacting some other functionality somewhere else. When reflecting on this, I find it amazing that something so complex is even possible at all as an open source project.
Yet I started out this post with the more typical WordPress “user” in mind — and I am also that person: Press a few buttons, start a new blog. Type in a few words, add some bells and whistles publish a new post. For most bloggers, these are quick and easy procedures and that is the simple “End of Story” scenario. Except it isn’t, not actually.
Engagement involves both rights and responsibilities. Yes, this is intended to harken back to my question to Matt and Josepha @ WordCamp Europe (WCEU) in Porto just about a month ago (see Chapter 21, “Social Business Regulation: Introduction & Socio BIZ Rule #1“.
Yet this post here is more focused on individuals and the individual human behaviors of WordPress users (than it is about e.g. large corporate organizations such as the global corporations I was alluding to as I presented the question). When I interact with other WordPress users, I feel I can distinguish between the few who I consider literate enough that they recognize that communication is not simply a matter of publishing, but also following up with the responsibilites of online engagement.
This includes, for example, not merely moderating  comments but also actually responding in some way. This is where I feel the novice user quite often lacks the literacy skills required to respond appropriately. Let me say this loud and clear: it is no valid excuse to say that you overlooked something you could not find due to the software you are using. If you use software to enable you to do something, then if it enables you to remain ignorant of something, that is not the software’s fault — no, it remains your own ignorance which was merely facilitated by using the software.
The software user remains responsible for using the software. There are no excuses.
Likewise for other aspects of the software being used. Some people refer to a particular kind of literacy (e.g. “software literacy”). I feel this focus on a “specialized” kind of literacy is counterproductive, insofar as today, we no longer need specialists to function as intermediaries online any more than we need telephone operators to connect cables or flip switches to make a telephone call.