2013 was, for me, an exceptional year. Many positive personal goals were met. Home ownership, moving to a desired location, and I made some great food and lego things, yadda yadda. Who cares.
That’s not what I’d like to write about now.
I’d like to write about the WordPress community.
If you’re a WordPress person I’ve interacted with in 2013, guess what? I love you.
Slow down, Rami! We just met.
I know! Shit, it’s weird for me, too. It’s a platonic love – please don’t freak out.
Strong displays of emotion are things I typically find unpalatable; there are few scenes more vomit-inducing than the insulin-overload of a couple fawning over one-another in public. Please approach these words as objective observation; not a vapid, wine-fueled declaration of fondness.
I am experiencing this emotion because nearly every person I’ve met in the community so far has been positive, generous, and, bizarrely, a seemingly excellent person.
In any group, those odds have to be pretty low, wouldn’t you think? Say you’re in Starbucks. What are the chances that every person in there is ethical, approachable, and loves helping others?
I’ve had the fortune of working with WordPress for just under 6 years now, but it was only in the last two years or so that I started engaging with other WordPress-focused professionals. This led to some great friendships, and a job that I love. I was consistently impressed by the quality of everyone I’ve met. Over and over.
Ok, great. So what?
I’ll TELL YOU so what, h3 tag:
There is a special significance and value to the quality of the WordPress community. It’s not just making great sites and apps. It’s something deeper, that some don’t see. Togetherness? Fixing the Internet? Those are great, but no.
We are fighting a fucking war, people.
Humanity is about to dive into an abyss of algorithms that permeate every minutiae of our existence. Open-source communities are the front lines against a force few will ever comprehend. WordPress is one of the most influential and powerful of open-source communities on the Internet.
Who is our enemy?
Closed-source content management systems, sketchy data-mining practices, terrible privacy policies, and the un-ending, Draconian greed of so many large businesses.
Let me ask you this: How long would it take to get a working*, WordPress-powered, private-access, social media site up and running?
1. Install WordPress.
2. Install BuddyPress.
3. Install P2.
4. Install a handful of plugins. Maybe.
12 minutes? 4 minutes?
*Working, not pretty.
That’s powerful ammo. Boom, you just got your entire group of friends off of Facebook.com when Facebook started requiring the retinal implant security measure in 2019. Combine that with the ethics of the GPL, and we have a substantial answer to the nightmare of proprietary terror that’s been infecting the Internet for years, robbing noble or ignorant ventures blind, and polluting the infinite canvas of the digital world with sub-standard code and absolutely horrifying business practices.
But let’s get a little deeper into this.
Have you ever seen the user data a developer has access to with, say, the Facebook API? Today, it serves targeted ads to people depending on their interests, and you can discern some personality traits of users. You know their location, appearance, likes, who they sleep with, etc.
Tomorrow, things get darker.
Much darker. Predicting buying times and patterns for all purchases? Yeah. That’s coming.
Think game theory isn’t built deeply into that shit? Think again. In 50 years, large social media sites will be able to predict when and with whom you’ll interact with, weeks in advance.
Any developer will know this not as paranoia, but as my merely (colorfully, I admit) pointing out the road ahead for consumers.
Machine learning is the crux of these services, and as this century continues, as we spiral ever closer to a classic Orwellian dystopia, open source code will be the only defense against entire swaths of human culture being reduced to drooling, pliable yes-men. This is not a rant by Bill Hicks. It’s not a Philip K Dick novel. It’s fucking happening. Right now.
Imagine with me, for a moment, a world without any open-source projects. None.
WHAT IS LEFT?
The end of free will. The end of privacy. That’s what’s left. Control.
This is the future of our species. The fucking robots are here, and most of our peers will never know it. They’re here, and they don’t have lasers or machine guns. They have shiny MIT PhD’s with a focus in AI – hordes of them – producing a horrifying array of digital watchmen. Collecting data, playing out theories. Quietly, deep within the endless racks of screaming server farms.
I won’t touch on the government use of data because I have a deadline for a Genesis site tomorrow and don’t feel like losing my shit right now.
Today, I play a tiny, tiny role in this timeline. It’s still early, but I know I’m on the right side.
Thank you all for an amazing 2013, and I look forward to working with many of you more this year.
UPDATE: A day. A FUCKING DAY after writing this post, the W3C welcomes the MPAA as members. Link to article is below; I may add further reading as well.