[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the Jukebox podcast from WP Tavern. My name is Nathan Wrigley.
Jukebox is a podcast which is dedicated to all things WordPress. The people, the events, the plugins, the blocks, the themes, and in this case, a discussion of WordPress and LGBTQ.
If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, you can do that by searching for WP Tavern in your podcast player of choice, or by going to WPTavern.com forward slash feed forward slash podcast. And you can copy and paste that URL into most podcast players.
If you have a topic that you’d like us to feature on the podcast, I’m keen to hear from you, and hopefully get you, or your idea, featured on the show. Do that by heading to WPTavern.com forward slash contact forward slash jukebox, and use the form there.
So on the podcast today we have Mike Demo, Tracy Apps and David Wolfpaw. Usually, it’s less of an interview and more of a round table discussion about their experiences in the WordPress community.
A few weeks ago, I put out a call for anyone who might be interested in coming on the podcast. Mike Demo reached out to me and said that it would be good to discuss how the WordPress community deals with LGBTQ matters. We agreed on a date and two other people were invited to join us on the call, Tracy Apps and David Wolfpaw.
We start things off with each of the guests introducing themselves and telling us how they ended up working in tech and, more specifically, WordPress. This leads into a discussion of how the job market can be different for people with different identities.
We then move on to WordPress, and talk through some of the ways that the community has responded to underrepresented groups. There are certainly areas where the guests think that there’s been positive change, but we also spend time thinking about the ways that some things could still be improved. In-person events like WordCamps get plenty of attention here.
We also get into the open source nature of the WordPress project, and whether this makes it more or less difficult for change to take place, given that authority is structured differently from most for-profit entities.
Towards the end of the podcast, each of the guests shares a story about some specific thing that they wish could happen. Something that’s within reach, but as yet, not achieved.
And we round it all off with the sharing of resources and websites, which listeners may find useful.
If you’re interested in finding out more, you can find all of the links in the show notes by heading to WPTavern.com forward slash podcast, where you’ll find all the other episodes as well.
And so without further delay, I bring you Mike Demo, Tracey Apps and David Wolfpaw.
I am joined on the podcast today by three guests. We’ve got Mike Demo. We have Tracy Apps and David Wolfpaw. Thank you very much for joining us on the podcast today because there’s three of us. I’m going to ask us in a round robin fashion to introduce ourselves, and then we’ll get into the nature of the topic itself. So first off, let’s start with Mike.
[00:03:59] Mike Demo: I am Mike Demo. I go by Demo. Pronouns, he, him, they, them. And I am the head of partners at Codeable.
[00:04:09] Nathan Wrigley: Thank you very much, Mike and Tracy.
[00:04:12] Tracy Apps: Yes, I’m Tracy Apps. Apps is really my last name. My pronouns are she, her. I do a lot of things. I am a UX designer, front end developer. So basically I call myself a creative problem solver and educator. Both work for myself, and different contracts.
[00:04:32] Nathan Wrigley: Okay, thank you very much. And finally, David.
[00:04:36] David Wolfpaw: Hello. My name is David Wolfpaw. My pronouns are they, them. I also do a variety of different things. I call myself a website mechanic for my WordPress maintenance company, FixUpFox. I also do some education as well, and am trying to describe myself more as a web creator these days.
[00:04:56] Nathan Wrigley: Thank you very much indeed. Now, the podcast came about because I put out a message on social media, several months ago now, asking for people to volunteer their time to have a podcast chat with me. And I believe of the three of you, it was Mike that reached out to me and he said that he would like to talk about the subject of WP Pride and then in brackets LGBT, or out in tech.
And it transpires that the three of us well, the four of us, the three guests plus myself, have managed to get on the call today. So unlike most interviews where it’s Q and A, I ask a question, the guest responds. This is going to be more of a round table discussion. I’m not entirely sure what the direction of travel will be, but we’re just going to talk around this subject, probably about 45 minutes or so.
So I’m going to kick off, and you, the three of you, feel free to interrupt each other. Feel free to crosstalk or make me be quiet if I am rambling on. But I’d like to get into this subject first of all. And the first thing is, under the brackets in the show notes, we had this idea of life experience, was one of the topics we were going to talk about.
And professional experience, how you got here. So to introduce the subject, why this matters in tech, why this is important. It may be that there’s a whole bunch of people listening to this who can identify with what we’re going to talk about. We may be introducing this topic for the very first time. So let’s go back to basics and introduce how this topic has come around and whichever of you wants to take that on, how it’s been affected in your life, and so on.
[00:06:26] Tracy Apps: I can start with this one. So because my, just my professional experience is very tied into my queer identity, especially as I have been professionally running my own company. And one of those interesting things is, you know, with most people in the tech industry has taken a winding turn.
I officially have an art degree. But then I also was in engineering, and I started teaching myself, or I found the internet basically and these homepages back in 1996 and started teaching myself html. But because of all that, and then the WordPress community especially having that kind of, that open source, not only the open source software, but the open source knowledge, everyone is collaborative, has allowed me to create my own company.
Because in many States in the United States, it is still legal to be fired for being gay. So that job security is not necessarily there for some people, but having the skills and the community in WordPress and in the tech world, being able to kind of create and forge my own path, that has become my job security.
So it ties into my professional, how did I get here, in a really interesting way and gotten, just some hilarious stories through this journey. But I wouldn’t have that if it wasn’t for having that, being able to make my own company and make my own work and forge my own path.
[00:08:16] Nathan Wrigley: Do you feel, Tracy, that the fact that you have done all of that and you’ve done it yourself for yourself by yourself without the need to have an employer. Has that made your life easier to manage, shall we say? Do you imagine that if you had have gone for the employed employee route through life. Do you think you would’ve had a different experience?
[00:08:38] Tracy Apps: I definitely would’ve had a different experience. But the one thing that I have learned, and it’s one of those, what’s the cause, what’s the effect? Is it because I have been running my own company and, just even since I was a kid, when someone was like, oh, drums, that’s something that boys do.
And I was like, I want to play drums. And so I started taking drum lessons in grade school. So I was kind of always that rebel. Be like you say I can’t do something. Well, that’s going to make me do it now. And so that doesn’t always, unless you have the right employer, that doesn’t always jive well when it’s like, especially in corporate where it’s, oh, you have to do all of these things and not rock the boat. And I’ve always been one to rock the boat.
So that has kind of both ruined me from being an employee. Except for in places where that is actually really needed. Things like startups and where you need to disrupt an industry. But again, I don’t know if I would’ve just, the recession hadn’t happened, I hadn’t had to start my own company back in 2009. Would I be in a different place? Probably, but would I have a different personality? So it’s always a interesting self-evaluation of, that.
[00:10:04] Nathan Wrigley: So a nice anecdote there from Tracy about an aspect of the last few years that’s led to the job that she’s now working in. I wonder if Mike or David want to interrupt at this point and give us an anecdote about their own lives that they think is important.
[00:10:19] David Wolfpaw: This is David. I just want to jump in and say I can agree with some of the things that Tracy said, and expand upon that. I’ve had some professional web development jobs in the past where I felt that my work there was in part hindered by my identity. As Tracy said, there’s a lot of places, including Florida where I live, where, well, okay, it’s a little bit complicated now, I’ll say. But basically, yes, you could still fire anyone for any reason, including, you know, their sexual orientation or gender identity.
I’ve had places where I’ve felt unsafe being out. Or having to hide parts of my identity that I might otherwise not, because I’ve been in work environments where you could certainly tell that it was frowned upon, or that there was a certain type of, I’ll say company culture that existed that made it not feel like the best environment to be out and be fully myself.
[00:11:11] Nathan Wrigley: Do you mind if I just butt in there and ask you a question about that? So the first thing I want to ask is A, did you in those scenarios, feel that the quickest solution was to step away from that job and therefore have to go on a job hunt yet again? Or did you feel that you wanted to tackle these things head on? I’m just getting some sort of orientation for what the easiest thing to do is in those scenarios, not necessarily the best thing to do. But typically have you stood down and said, look, this is not for me. It’s going to be easier for me on a personal level if I just make this problem go away by quitting? Or have you taken on the challenge of changing company culture and so on?
[00:11:50] David Wolfpaw: Well, thankfully I’ve had other reasons to leave jobs that, you know, I didn’t feel that was the main reason for it. I am as well self-employed now, just for context. Unfortunately, a lot of times it feels easier to be quiet, quite honestly. Like sure, looking for another job, but that’s not always, I would not say that’s the quickest way to go. But you know, I would say in certain places, feeling excluded from your job or feeling othered is a lot more likely to happen, a lot quicker.
[00:12:19] Nathan Wrigley: Thank you. Mike, any anecdotes to throw in our direction?
[00:12:23] Mike Demo: Yeah, so there’s a big, kind of standard thing that a lot of employers say, right? Which is, we don’t care, right? We don’t care if you are purple, gay, whatever. But that is not really enough. Because if you look at the numbers or like, we don’t care if you’re, you know, man or a woman. We just want the best developers. But if you look at the data, it does matter.
So, it is easier to be quiet in a lot of cases, because I would say most companies are probably not actively trying to force out LGBT people. But I would say that a lot of companies are actively trying to keep the status quo and not have that be brought to work. Which means you can’t really bring your whole self to work.
So I have a habit, a pretty strong habit, and it’s gotten me in trouble in the past, of pushing against that multiple times, and being like, no, we should do something for pride month. We should do something here, do something there. And I’ve gotten answers through some larger organizations be like, well we don’t want to do anything public that might upset people. And I’m like, yeah, okay, thanks.
[00:13:32] Tracy Apps: But instead, you’re going to upset that community. But that’s a smaller, right. That’s in fact what’s really happening.
[00:13:39] Mike Demo: So like it’s funny, like we look at every pride month, right? In every June, at least in the US I think, I’m not sure about international. And we always make fun of those companies that be like, oh look, just changing your logo, blah, blah blah, rainbow washing. But I kind of appreciate that because at least they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is.
GoDaddy’s a great example. GoDaddy, it was like five years ago, they did something for Pride month. And they responded with every hateful comment in Twitter and Facebook, sorry to say that, support person will email you to help you transfer your account out of us. And they owned it. And that’s kind of cool.
Yeah, so I’ve pushed a lot and tried to get more representation, and it’s worked out eventually. At Codeable, for example we brought back, at WordCamp Europe this year, . And that was very successful. And we did that again at WordCamp US, and now we’re co-hosting it at WordCamp Asia next month.
Well it’s going to be in February, so, with Yoast. And so those came back and those kind of took a hiatus. And so getting budget for things like that also helps.
[00:14:45] David Wolfpaw: I also want to just jump in before the next question, to comment on something that Demo said. Which was when companies say something like, we don’t care if you’re gay, straight, purple, whatever, we want to find the best people. That is sending another message. Let alone the fact that, I take issue with people saying, oh, I’m colorblind, I don’t see purple people, for instance. As far as I know, there are no purple people. But there’s also the issue of when you say, we don’t care, that’s not saying we’re not racist, we’re not prejudiced. That’s saying that, as Demo said, we’re going to protect the status quo, because we’re not going to consider that you have potentially different needs, different life experiences to look at.
[00:15:26] Nathan Wrigley: So do you regard that then as merely just ignoring the issue? Basically just saying what we are going to do here is bury our heads in the sand and not take any affirmative action or any action at all. But just pretend like there’s nothing to be done, no conversation here. Let’s move along and wait for a couple of weeks to pass and then we can all get back to normal.
[00:15:44] David Wolfpaw: Um, not necessarily. I mean, I could say certainly in some cases that would be the case. But honestly, if someone answers like that, certainly it’s better than someone answering negatively. But I always see that kind of answer as somebody who is right for education of some sort. And I don’t try to force that onto other people. Certainly there’s not always the best time and place for it. But I found that that is more likely to be the person who is willing to listen to you. You know, when you say, that’s not okay, that’s not enough. They’re not doing it to avoid any sort of responsibility.
In general I found that’s the person who’s doing it because it sounds right, and it sounds, like a smart thing, until you point out what it really means, what the differences are. You know, that’s like I could say, I’m trying to think of another example that maybe fits my identity better. But the most probably well known one here in the United States would be saying black lives matter, versus all lives matter. And it’s really easy to take something like that, that sounds positive, but turn it toxic. Make it politicized in a way that honestly shows more about the person saying it.
[00:16:51] Mike Demo: Bringing it back to WordPress just for a second. WordCamp US had the diversity scholarship to help with the travel fund. And I love the idea of it, but it also was interesting because the speaker applications didn’t ask for, besides pronouns, didn’t ask for any identifying information.
Are they people of color, non-binary, LGBT. I love the fact that WordCamp US is focusing and working with outside companies to help sponsor underrepresented groups to be able to travel. However, I felt like this year, WordCamp US, that the way that they did it was weird because, they were using the Underrepresented in Tech requirements, which are good, but how do you know, how can you support underrepresented speakers if you don’t know what minorities the speaker falls into?
Unless there’s somebody like the three of us who are public. And so I’m curious on Tracy and David’s thoughts on, how events and conferences can be more accepting. But also, on the other hand, asking for people to have to identify that data when they apply to speak also might be a negative to some people. But on the other hand, it’s really hard to be more diverse in your speaker selection if you don’t know someone’s non-binary, for example.
[00:18:14] Nathan Wrigley: So the form that you mentioned, it simply had no input. There was no fields to supply that information? There was just a black hole there. The assumptions had to be made apart from, I think you said pronouns were one of the fields available. But you’re also making the point that maybe some people would see that as something that they don’t wish to supply. But then again, I guess if you put the fields in, but don’t make them necessary. Yeah. It’s hard, isn’t it? It’s difficult to know where the boundaries there lie.
[00:18:40] Mike Demo: The Community Leadership Summit, they on their speaker applications, they have a whole bunch of minority questions, from disabilities, to gender, to lots of different things. And it’s all optional data. They anonymize it for the speaker selection, but they at least report what their numbers are.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot because we have been seeing more diverse speaker selection in WordCamps, but then again, I feel like we have the token gay people in the WordPress community that keep getting selected, and we feel like that’s good enough, and I don’t think it is.
[00:19:16] Nathan Wrigley: Is that a product of people raising their head above the parapet, if you like? Just that some people are comfortable speaking about those things in public and talking about it on social media so people get to know who they are? Whereas other people keep more quiet and keep their cards close to their chest, if you like.
[00:19:33] David Wolfpaw: I certainly think I could be part of it. I want to give space for Tracy first before I respond to the question of what Demo said though.
[00:19:40] Nathan Wrigley: Okay.
[00:19:40] Tracy Apps: Oh yeah. So I’ve been to some really great conferences that, the speaker list does more accurately represent a diverse swath instead of just like, here’s the token person of color. Here is this. And those things, from hearing those organizers, it takes a lot of intentionality. Physically going and inviting people. Because one of the things, so I am one of the hosts of the Women in WP Podcast. We focus on stories of women and non-binary, people in the WordPress community.
And if you look at most of the podcasts, and it was started because Amy, one of our hosts said she was loading up podcasts and she was noticing it was all mostly straight men, which is fine. They were great. And some of our good friends of ours, and do great work and are basically self, self-described feminists. And, it’s not like a bad thing, it’s just that some people, especially women, and those in kind of marginalized communities, are kind of always told, women especially, anyone who has been raised as a woman.
So even trans men that I know and non-binary folks, that upbringing of, women have to be softer and quieter. And don’t brag about things and all of those kinds of things. Just that culture, even if it’s subtle, it permeates just your whole attitude about yourself. Mostly subconscious. So when it’s like, hey, we’re looking for speakers that are experts at blank. And a lot of women, non-binary, trans men and just minorities. Anyone that’s on the margins doesn’t think of themselves as this expert.
Because we see the experts are, we have that vision of who those, those experts are. And, oh, we don’t fit that. And we’ve been kind of told our whole life subconsciously, indirectly that we don’t fit that. And so unless you physically go and say, hey, you are valuable, and your, your knowledge is something. We need that at the table.
We need that as a speaker. People are like, really. And most of the, most of the guests that we’ve had, it’s almost humorous where we have women and non-binary guests that say, oh yeah, you know, I just did this. Oh, you just created the most robust and largest and most successful plugin in the WordPress community.
Just because you couldn’t find something that, you needed to do something, and you just created this company that now has 10 employees. You know, I was like, that’s amazing. It’s amazing but that culture of suppressing one’s self is what shows up, and why people don’t apply to speak, or to go to something, or to apply for a job. All of that is all connected to that.
[00:23:09] Nathan Wrigley: Do you have a sense Tracy then, that there is a reservoir, for want of a better word, a reservoir of people who are essentially there? They’re out there, but they’re just not being tapped. They’re being put off. There are impediments in the way. Intentional or non-intentional?
[00:23:25] Tracy Apps: Yeah, absolutely. And one of the things, we’re almost to a hundred episodes of Women in WordPress, which is amazing. We did not expect to be going that long and having that much. But we’ve interviewed people from all over the world, and I’m like, if these people weren’t in the WordPress community and working and doing whatever they’re doing, the whole WordPress ecosystem would crumble.
But they don’t realize that because they’re not out in front. Or they’re like, oh, I’d prefer being in the background. Those are some of the most crucial roles, and the reasons why the WordPress community and project is where it is, is because of so many people behind the scenes that don’t step forward and say, oh yeah, no, I’m a part of this, but they really are.
[00:24:17] Nathan Wrigley: Thank you. And David, you mentioned that you had something in response.
[00:24:22] David Wolfpaw: Well one anecdotally, so for context, I organized the WordPress Orlando Meetup and WordCamp Orlando for close to a decade, before the pandemic. And I would reach out to people specifically. I would reach out to minorities, but I would reach out to women and say, I know that you know about this. We’ve discussed it. Would you be interested in giving a presentation on it? Or would you like to help with something?
And, I am much more likely to get a response, oh no, I, you know, I couldn’t do that. Or, I don’t know enough about that, or I don’t feel confident enough about that. And, you know, I don’t try to push people too much, but there are, thankfully, since there are resources now to help people improve their speaking abilities and, you know, start training for it, uh, that I can direct them to those.
But I would always hear that from women when I didn’t hear from men, if I asked, you know, men to be involved. Yet when we put on our events, the people who are much more likely to ask to volunteer for the event are women. People who are going to be doing those behind the scenes roles, and the things that are equally as important.
But, it’s not the same of, I’m going to help with registration, versus I’m going to give a presentation on something that I fully know well about, but don’t feel confident enough. I do think it is part of how people are acculturated.
And I also want to circle back, we were talking about the WordPress Community Summit. Years ago, I applied for one of the community summits and I attended. Somebody who worked for the WordPress project did ask me when I indicated at the time that, I fit some intersectional minority status. And, this is somebody who I’d met in person several times and they asked me in what ways that I fit in there. And I told them, but I realized so that this person who I’d met multiple times and talked with both in person and online, didn’t really know me very well and couldn’t really, you know, there’s a lot of things that you can’t just see by looking at someone.
[00:26:09] Mike Demo: I will say that to give credit to WordCamp US specifically, I know that they reached out to multiple speakers and they did their best. And there was the fund that multiple companies donated to, to help people with fiscal issues. So all that’s great. It’s all going into good direction, but we can always get a little better every year.
But even like David, when I was a sponsor, I asked, hey, before I sponsor WordCamp Orlando, will it be an all gender bathroom? And they were like, huh, I don’t know, maybe. And then there was that year. And I know of a few attendees who were very thankful for that, that opportunity, and that option.
So, sometimes you just take what you have and you can ask the question. And sometimes if you’re in the position to, like for me as a sponsor, I was a global sponsor for WordPress, the company I was at, we were a sponsor, I should say. I’m proud to say a few WordCamps started offering some accommodations and thinking about things they never thought about. So, sometimes it just takes one person and it can make a difference.
[00:27:11] David Wolfpaw: I just want to add to that, I would, well, first of all, I want to thank Demo again now. But I would like to call that a success story for so much more than just that one event. So Demo did reach out to me years ago concerning gender inclusive restrooms at our event, which was a college campus.
And, you know, myself as a queer person, I had not given that any thought. It was admittedly a blind spot for me. I just didn’t think about it and I should have. But thankfully someone else brought it to my attention. We approached the college and, they did set it up for our event. We’d had gender inclusive restrooms at events after. But the part that I find more successful, again, I’m going to credit Demo for raising this as an issue, is that we were able to go to the college and say, a sponsor for our event requested this. They host a lot of events at this college.
And the person who works for the events department have really helped us. Basically she spearheaded an initiative to get gender inclusive restrooms just as part of the campus full-time. So that was something that did not exist before. Somebody in the WordPress community, again give Demo the credit for that, brought it up as something and we were able to go look, somebody specifically asked for it, and it’s somebody who’s giving us money.
[00:28:20] Nathan Wrigley: Given that that could be labeled as a success and it’s a real world event, and maybe WordCamps and WordPress events are, are the easiest target for this next question. What other, things do you wish to achieve? What are the things that in your minds would qualify under the umbrella of success?
You know, in other words if, we were to change just one, maybe you’ve got a whole laundry list written down somewhere, but if there were one or two things that you would like to see changed in the short, medium term, and it could be about WordCamps, but if you want to talk about WordPress as a software project, feel free to delve into that. What are the things that you would like to see changed? Things that you think are not right yet.
[00:29:03] Tracy Apps: Well, some of the things, especially as a user experience designer. Some things can be fairly easy. You know, how many job applications, registration forms et cetera, say your gender, and they only give you two options? There’s dozens if not hundreds. So that’s very limiting, and especially now if you’re saying, all right, hi, I’m a company and I’m trying to hire diversely. And I now just presented a form for you to fill out that you aren’t included in that automatically says, well no, you really don’t want me. You’re looking for something else.
And people just stop filling it out. And that’s just a really easy change, so different plugins. Now Yoast updates with the inclusive language. I actually also I was using Teams for one of my contracts and they have a speaker, they monitor your speech and they tell you if your language is inclusive, they give you like a report afterwards.
So there’s lots of these tools we can lean on to see, especially because you don’t know what you don’t know. Yes, there’s queer people all over the world and probably everyone has them in their family. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re out and they know that they have queer members of their family or neighbors, et cetera.
Because some places we do not always have the privilege of safety, of being out and being completely who we are. But there’s all these tools that we can now look at to help us with that education. And start to learning, start opening our eyes. There’s tons of organizations out there too that have just video stories. So you can find a wealth of information and personal testimonies and learn and just develop more of that empathy of something that you don’t know just by using the internet, which we’re, most of us are on all the time anyway.
[00:31:18] Nathan Wrigley: Tracy, can I just interrupt you there, before I carry on and ask Mike and David about what success for them looks like? You said the phrase there, you don’t know what you don’t know. Do you think that is increasingly less and less watertight, as a thing to be able to say?
So as an example, if in five years, let’s say five or 10 years from now. If somebody was to turn around and say that back to you? Well, I don’t know. Yes, we didn’t accommodate any of these things. But you know what? I don’t know. Forgive me. Do you think that’s going to carry water in the future, or do you think we’re getting to a point where those kind of utterances are just, well, no longer acceptable?
[00:31:54] Tracy Apps: Well, I think that’ll always have some, because the paradox of choice. Kind of the same thing with the paradox of having so much information, and then literally almost just being overwhelmed and to not know where you start. I think that’ll always be an issue.
So I do think that some people will, that is a genuine ex excuse. Now with that said, you’re right, there is much more, kind of spotlights put on these issues. Now, it’s almost, especially in certain areas in the US, like you kind of have to, really try to not see it.
Because it’s on the news, it’s everywhere. So I think it, it will be kind of both. But I also think that even as someone in the LGBTQ community, I still am learning things and having to change things. So being in the Midwest, we have our Midwestern y’all, which is, you guys.
So I have been in the past, you know, whatever, five years or so, very intentional of changing that language and actually using y’all, because that is a gender inclusive, that is a gender neutral phrase to be able to include all. And if I go up to a mic and say, ladies and gentlemen, now what happens? I’ve excluded many people. So all of those things. I am even continuing learning and it’s a journey, I think it’ll be a lifelong journey, but it’s just a, a matter of wanting to keep learning and improving. And that’s the difference. If it’s, oh, I just don’t know what I don’t know, is a excuse to not learn and want to be learning.
[00:33:41] Nathan Wrigley: Okay, yeah. Thank you. I understand the structure of your thoughts there. That’s great. Okay, so let’s go to Mike and ask the question. You obviously have an example already with the bathrooms that you mentioned at the WordCamp.
[00:33:52] Mike Demo: I didn’t know that, by the way.
[00:33:53] Nathan Wrigley: Did you have any other examples of things that you would like to see? In other words, what does success for you look like in the near term?
[00:34:00] Mike Demo: Yeah. Quick question for Tracy. Tracy, are you saying in the Midwest, we live in the same state by the way, that you’re trying to say y’all all instead of you guys? Or y’all is our Midwest saying? Because I wasn’t clear.
[00:34:11] Tracy Apps: Yeah, no. So you guys is kind of the Midwest version of y’all.
[00:34:17] Mike Demo: I was like, I don’t know anyone that says y’all up here. So I agree with your statement.
[00:34:22] Tracy Apps: Yep. I do now. And so y’all. Some other ones, you’uns, youse, that’s another good one. Yeah, yinz or whatever it is. I don’t know how Pittsburgh pronounce it. Those are all very great gender neutral, inclusive terms for a group of people. For a multiple you.
[00:34:40] Nathan Wrigley: It really is interesting how the language is littered with tripwires, isn’t it? They’re all over the place and obviously if you’ve been having to modify your own speech and consciously apply thought to that, I imagine there’s countless examples in my own life where I’m doing that and there’s no intention there. It’s just a legacy of what I learned and what have you. It needs examining.
[00:35:00] David Wolfpaw: Of course.
[00:35:01] Mike Demo: Yeah, I mean, in school we’re taught that you can’t use they as a singular, as a singular word. So I still, when I read they talking about a single person, it confuses me to this day.
[00:35:13] David Wolfpaw: And then you have some people who will counteract with, oh, but you know, Shakespeare used a singular they, or singular they was the common until, you know, the 1800’s or things like that. And this is not to discredit what, Demo’s saying because I was also taught the same. But I think I want to make a point of saying here for the audience listening that, you know, as Tracy said, all of us have things that we need to unlearn and change.
Um and I’ll end, as you said Nathan, there are so many different trip wires there. Things that, you know, we don’t know, that we don’t know. No one is ever going to be able to perfectly address everybody and be inclusive of everybody when they speak and when they act. But there’s a big difference between someone refusing to use they, them pronouns because, you know, quote, it’s not grammatically correct.
Sorry, it’s a bit of a tangent for me. It’s a bit of a stretch that I don’t like the argument that, oh, well technically people used to say it like this, so yeah, you should use it. Really, it’s as a sign of respect. As a sign that you want to participate and engage with conversation with this person on terms that you know, and put you on equal footing. Not that lets you have some power imbalance there.
[00:36:26] Nathan Wrigley: I have this feeling that language in our own tiny span of life, 80, 60, 70, whatever years we get it. It feels like it’s a concrete thing, which was set in stone when I was born and will be immutable until the day I die. But of course, if you look back into history and you were probably to just plonk yourself down in the era of Shakespeare, I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t understand a single thing that anybody was saying. It’d just be a soup of nonsense. And so the idea that language cannot be changed does seem to be just bound to the small little lifetime that we have.
Whereas if you look at it over many years. A great example is my children. My children say things to me and I have no idea what it means, but to them it’s complete common sense. This is just the meaning behind slang and things like that. But the broader point I’m trying to make is that give it time, language can change. And just because it was like that when we were children doesn’t mean it will be like that or ought to be like that when we’re older. Sorry, a complete aside.
[00:37:29] David Wolfpaw: No, no, that’s, I completely understand and agree with that. Language changes very rapidly, but I also find that, I guess I want to say like, history it rhymes. You know, you say that language feels set from when you were born, you know, look at like the, the word of the year that the different dictionaries put out every year.
And a good portion of those are words that did not exist, just a few years prior. But at the same time, some of those words, and I’m blanking on any specific examples right now, but some words that you’ve only started hearing like in the past year or so, it turns out we’re common slang a hundred years ago and then went out of fashion and suddenly you’re getting used again now. And we think like, oh, this word is of course new. It only got, started getting used on Twitter or something. And it’s like, no, this has actually been around for quite a long time.
Well, so many things are a product of whatever culture we’re trying to have. So, you have that stereotypical old timey radio reporter voice, which no one ever spoke like that, but it’s the voice you hear when you think of old time radio reports. Because it worked better for the technology at the time. Or say the mid-atlantic accent that was used in early film, early US film, which is not an accent that anyone uses in the real world, but it let the actors sound a bit smarter, a bit more British, without fully being unintelligible to the US audience.
[00:38:53] Tracy Apps: Wasn’t there like a presidential candidate, some woman that had that accent and everyone was just like, what is she saying?
[00:39:02] Nathan Wrigley: So Mike, sorry, we’ve digressed a little bit there, but getting back to that question of what you would like to see in terms of what you feel success would look like in the near future.
[00:39:10] Mike Demo: So I am on a crusade to try to get this done, and I don’t have the ability to do it all myself, but I’ve sketched it out a little bit. So I’m on a crusade. Everyone uses Slack. However, did you know there’s no way in Slack to report a message to an admin besides sending a DM to the admin of forwarding the message? There’s not an a anonymization, code of conduct, reporting tool. It doesn’t exist. And that just seems crazy to me because, you know, we have code of conduct, but it still relies on someone reporting it. But imagine let’s take the WordPress Learn Slack.
If there was a single button people could, like an emoji that would click, that would be anonymized and looked at by the code of conduct team, I think we would, especially in DMs find a, a lot of educational opportunities. Now, there is a GitHub repo of somebody who’s kind of built it, but it’s broken, and it’s also not a SaaS, one click Slack app.
There’s apps like Donut, which we use at Codeable, which we pay 1500 a month for to help people get matched up on calls and do onboarding. But yet there’s no reporting tool for the most common business communication platform on the internet. And I just find it mind boggling. I think it’s a business waiting to happen.
I think it’d be great for open source projects, and I really want code of conducts to be expanded beyond just physical events. We’re really good with code of conduct face-to-face. We’re not really good with code of conduct online. Good example of that is the Joomla project. Open Source Matters just unpublished a magazine article that was written by an author who shared some very, very disgusting public views about LGBT people. And that’s good, but we’re so focused on face-to-face code of conduct and online workshop code of conduct that I think we need to find a way to, in our online communities, have an easy button to be able to say, hey, I want this to be looked at by somebody. We can do it in forums, but not in Slack. I don’t get it.
[00:41:15] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that’s interesting. Did you feel that, do you feel that the in-person side, the code of conduct on the in-person side, specifically on the WordPress events, do you feel that that’s broadly where it should be at the moment? Do you feel that we have enough codified there?
[00:41:30] Mike Demo: I feel the written code of conduct is decent. I still hear stories and there’s amazing deputies doing work and organizers, and I’m sure organizers can share multiple stories, but they wouldn’t for privacy reasons. But I’ve heard of multiple people being sexually harassed and either first or second person accounts.
And that’s just the ones that get reported. And so I still think that’s an issue. I don’t experience that as someone who presents male. But I think the written code of conduct is good. And I think we’re doing a lot more than we did a decade ago. But there’s always room for improvements.
I’ve heard some very horrific stories from open source conferences. I’m including all open source, not just WordPress in this, of a speaker that was in college, what was said to them or offered, you know, and things. And that’s just sad. But I think the written code of conduct’s pretty good.
It can always get better. I know the WordPress one was forked from the opensource.org code of conduct, if I remember correctly. But I think we can always do better to make safe spaces physically. I think something we need to figure out in WordCamps is alcohol, because there’s many WordCamps where after parties are in bars and that’s just not great.
I’m under the opinion that the project shouldn’t pay for alcohol. That’s my point. I don’t think the project should pay for alcohol. If a sponsor wants to do it independently, fine. But I think it just opens up issues, and it adds a lot of money that could be better spent. You know, helping get in voices, and working on sponsoring contributors. But that’s just my opinion. And I know it’s not a popular one.
But I know multiple Camps that have not had speakers be able to attend a speaker dinner because it was at a bar. I even think in Orlando you had to get special permission, if I remember David, for that one kid speaker when he was like in middle school, because you guys did it at Ice. Although Ice might be family friendly, I could be wrong on that. But, I definitely have heard of people that were 20 that couldn’t attend the speaker dinner because it happened to be at a nightclub, for example.
[00:43:40] Nathan Wrigley: Interesting. So the broadly speaking, apart from the few little paper cuts there I might describe them as, you think the in-person code of conduct is more or less hitting the target? But the online things, particularly the Slack and the way of reporting problems, there’s definitely room for improvement there? So that’s your success story for the next few years. What about you, David? Have you got anything that you wish could happen?
[00:44:04] David Wolfpaw: Yeah. again, I keep wanting to build off of what other people are saying as well. So first I’ll mention, you know, Mike mentioned that on forums we can report. But funny enough, bring it back to WordPress, I don’t believe that feature is built into BuddyPress still. About a decade ago I built a plugin, one off for a client who was using BuddyPress for their forums.
And, they wanted a way for their forum members to be able to report a post that they saw. And it didn’t exist, and I wrote something. It was very, it was very hacky in a way that, you know, I didn’t feel comfortable releasing it, but I did share with a BuddyPress dev. But as far as I’m aware, you still need to use third party tools. That’s not something built core into the product. I’m not trying to pick on them. I’m just trying to point out, since it’s a WordPress forum tool that doesn’t have report features built in.
Additionally, while the in-person code of conduct I would agree is strong. Having a code of conduct and having a reporting feature is unfortunately not enough, because that’s the first step of a multi-step process. Somebody reports something, like somebody would go into, let’s say they go into Slack and report that message. There has to be someone on the other end who can adequately respond to that report. So I’m going to do a, a tiny self plug since we’re talking about LGBT folks and tech.
I run a Mastodon community that I’ve run for six years now. Well before Twitter got purchased. That is at the domain tech.lgbt. Anyone’s welcome to join. You do not have to be LGBTQ to join. And we get reports there daily. We have thousands of members and there’re, you know, millions of members across Mastodon. So we get reports daily that we have to act on, and it requires a lot of work, It’s not something that’s just a simple, honestly, I like the times that it’s simple enough that I can see someone just posting a hateful slur, and I can go, okay, great, block or suspend, whatever we need to do. But a lot of times there’s a lot of nuance there, when it comes to reporting.
And so having those reporting features would be great, but we also need to pair that with support for the people, for the communities that manage it. That also goes with what I would say for in-person events, which is while the in-person code of conduct is strong, we have had issues in the past that have required some intervention.
And myself, as an organizer, I’m actually not always the best person to do that intervention. You can send people to the WordCamp group. Or you can, you know, send them to other people in the project that can reach out to them.
But again, it’s more work. Like I can’t go, okay, this person here is breaking our code of conduct. One of us needs to go over there and either reprimand them or tell them to leave. But, you know, I’m a volunteer. I’m an individual. I’m not always safe doing that.
[00:46:39] Tracy Apps: One of the things that I would also say is, I mean, there’s a lot of intersectionality here. There’s lots of different anti-racism trainings, which I think are just required for anyone that’s going to be doing some sort of moderating. And because again that, you don’t know what you don’t know, but you also don’t know what you don’t set out to learn.
And so I don’t know of if there’s any sort of, like the anti-racism training, but inclusivity training, I’m sure there’s gotta be something out there. But those kinds of preparedness is really required for that monitoring. Because we’ve got, if we’ve got the reporting, we actually need the follow up.
And I know that when you report something on some of these other large social networks. TikTok is getting a lot of heat because of some of their moderation. And it still requires a human to go in there, even if there is automated systems. And if that person is, oh, nope, this isn’t appropriate, but this is. It’s taking their own bias and using that in the moderation process.
[00:47:55] Nathan Wrigley: Do we have a problem of the fact that WordPress is open source? And what I mean by that is, let’s say I work for a, a large corporation, and there’s a pyramid structure to who’s got the authority and so on. And there’s policies written by people above my pay grade. And if I breach those policies, if I say, say something which is indefensible, then I can be brought to task. There are things that can be done to me let’s say, to make my life different if I choose to go down that path.
Whereas in the open source, it’s all voluntary, isn’t it? Everybody’s doing what they can, when they can. And I guess it’s, well, I don’t really want to use the word police, but I’m going to have to use that word because I can’t think of anything else. It’s hard to police these things given the fact that, on the whole, everything is done by volunteers who by definition don’t really have the authority to say, no, that’s disallowed. I’m sorry.
[00:48:47] David Wolfpaw: Yes, I can in part see that. Although that would be, hopefully a good code of conduct can help ameliorate that issue. But I think in a volunteer space, people have the ability and certainly I think it’s easier than in a job where you, you leaving that job affects so many other things. You have the ability to vote with your feet and vote with your wallet.
We see in WordPress hateful organizations use the WordPress software to run their websites. And we can’t stop people from doing that. But we also see hosting companies who, while pressured by WordPress users and developers and the Core team, you know, whoever in the WordPress space will drop those people as clients. Or we will see people who don’t make a stance or don’t make a stance that we agree with, and we’ll just move to a new provider. I do think that there still is room for repercussions both through activism and through changing of our behaviors.
[00:49:41] Mike Demo: I will give one quick success story. So when I was in the Joomla project, somebody that was on the board, I think he was on the board at the time, said some pretty negative things about gay people. And he lived in a country where they had a very different, culture. And this was almost 15 years ago.
And he was saying that, oh, well we don’t have those problems here, things like that. It wasn’t hateful, but it was ignorant. And instead of people going against him, people that, like myself and other people in the community that did identify, just talked to him. And then he did some research and then six months later when Obama did the gay rights amendment, I’m sure I’m messing up the verbiage on that.
You know, he posted a rainbow on his thing and now he lives in Brazil, a very diverse country. And he just didn’t know what he didn’t know as Tracy said. There’s somebody else in the WordPress community that I’ve seen have said very negative things against gay people in the past, but that person came out as LGBT on pride this year, which I’m pretty shocked about.
So, we also have to, as David also mentioned, look for opportunities to educate if there’s nuance there. If someone’s just being hateful and bigoted, we don’t need that in our space. But if someone just doesn’t know what they don’t know, there’s some opportunities there that we can make the world a better place one person at a time. And it does happen over time.
[00:51:06] Nathan Wrigley: The phrase of this podcast seems to be, you don’t know what you don’t know. And in order to redress the balance of that, let’s try and inject the opposite. You don’t know, but you can find out. Let’s go for that. I’m interested to plumb your expertise about places where you can go online if this podcast has piqued your interest, or you want to explore a bit more. And you would like to, I don’t know, modify your event or update your company policy or whatever it may be. Let’s go through, we’ll begin with Tracy, if that’s okay. We’ll just go through one at a time. Are there any places that you would direct people toward and you can, as many as you like, one or a dozen? I don’t mind.
[00:51:44] Tracy Apps: Okay. Well, how much time do you got? No, just kidding.
[00:51:48] Nathan Wrigley: Okay, let’s go for, maximum of three.
[00:51:51] Tracy Apps: Okay, no. Actually, one project that I am doing some work for, so is the it gets better project, itgetsbetter.org. It’s geared towards, the audience is mostly queer youth, but the stuff that they produce is really, they just released a queer sex ed. Which, you know, is one of those things where you don’t necessarily get that information. Or if you’re trying to search that information, probably getting it from not great sources, or not very reliable or not very healthy sources. And they did, they also released a thing about industry, so about LGBTQ people in the STEM industry. Because again, it’s about visibility. So those kinds of things. And they have great, great content in that way.
So there’s a bunch of different organizations like that. They do also live streams and a lot of that. So they produce a lot of content that you can learn and gain some of that empathy, just by seeing someone’s story. Just that in itself. Hearing someone’s story and seeing what they’ve gone through is one way to really challenge your, what you don’t know and to grow your knowledge and your acceptance and view of the world.
[00:53:11] Nathan Wrigley: Thank you, Tracy. Is that the only one you wish to mention?
[00:53:13] Tracy Apps: There’s probably many other ones out there, but that one I, I’ve really have been excited about lately, so.
[00:53:21] Nathan Wrigley: Let’s go to David, any fine resources that you can let the audience know about.
[00:53:27] David Wolfpaw: I don’t want to say a specific resource, I want to say like more of a mindset. The reason is I feel there is a lot that you can learn by, you know, researching online and educating yourself, and certainly that should be a baseline. But since, you know, as you said the through line has been, we don’t know what we don’t know. Speaking to people in person. Getting to meet people who are unlike you can be very beneficial.
And then you can also tie that in with doing things to give back to your community. The example that I want to give is there is a local queer youth group in the Orlando area called The Zebra Coalition. They’re at zebrayouth.org. They do have a program for homeless queer youth, but they also, that’s their main program, they also have programs for like drop-in work. And among the many things that they, services that they offer, is they offer education and job training services. And prior to the pandemic, my husband and I had volunteered there, along with his sister, who’s a lawyer. We were able to put on presentations for some of the youth there about things like preparing for job interviews, building your resumes, legal concerns that you would have in this state around jobs.
And since, you know, I was in web development, one thing that they were very interested in was talking about remote jobs. Uh, now remote jobs are a lot more common in tech now than they were three years ago, which is great, because something that they pointed out that, again, I hadn’t thought of at the time was that remote work can be successful for people who are in different parts of transition.
You know, especially physical parts where being in in-person environments might not be a level playing field quite as much as being online. I enjoy working from home for a variety of reasons, but one that honestly didn’t really cross my mind until that was brought up was I don’t have quite as much stress of performing in public.
So my resource, I guess, is to suggest, if possible find somewhere that’s near you, you know, where you live, where you can offer to volunteer, give back, donate some of your time and, energy. You are going to meet a lot of people who, who you never would have, well, one you’ve never met before but, you know, I never would’ve thought of some of these things before meeting people.
[00:55:35] Nathan Wrigley: Thank you. That was a really interesting insight. And, yeah Demo, last one.
[00:55:39] Mike Demo: Sure, so I have three resources. So the first one I want to mention is outintech.com. They do lots of events. They have 32 chapters. Automattic and many WordPress companies are sponsors of Out In Tech. They build websites for LGBT non-profits. You know, on a quarterly basis with their tech core. So there’s a lot of great resources of outintech.com.
In addition, there’s Out and Equal in the Workplace, so that’s outandequal.org. That talks about very HR and very specific programs like training and resources and toolkits for HR and things like that. So there’s some good resources there.
And then the last one, this is mostly for game developers, but I really like the community and the project, which is why I wanted to share it. Gay Gaming Professionals. So that website is gaygamingpros.org, which is the leading organization for LGBT game industry professionals and enthusiasts. So, even if you just play games, you can join around the world and, uh, there’s some cool stuff happening there.
[00:56:43] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Fascinating.
[00:56:44] Tracy Apps: Okay, so I have more.
[00:56:46] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. Go. Lovely.
[00:56:49] Tracy Apps: So actually what, one of the things is most cities and communities will have an LGBTQ community center. So for someone to just look up whatever their local community center is, they always are needing volunteers and support. So that is one way to really get connected.
And one of the most inclusive conferences that I have been to other than WordCamps, is been the Lesbians Who Tech, lesbianswhotech.org. They have summits online, virtual, and in person and really intentional about diversity in all ways. So not just in sexual orientation, gender, but color, background. And it does focus a lot on tech, but there is really, really great professional resources that they have, and have partners with. So that’s another one to check out as well.
[00:57:52] Nathan Wrigley: Okay, thank you. Now, we’ve talked about resources that presumably you’re not connected with yourself necessarily, so let’s just make sure that people who’ve listened to this podcast can find you. Let’s start with David. If you’ve got a Twitter handle or a, I don’t know, an email address or a webpage that you would like to, to promote to connect the audience directly to you. If you’re comfortable doing that.
[00:58:14] David Wolfpaw: Absolutely. I would say for business inquiries, go to fixupfox.com. But for myself personally, I don’t really use, uh, Twitter anymore. As I said, I’ve been pretty much all in on Mastodon for years now. My Mastodon instance is tech.lgbt, so it should be easy considering the, uh, content of this episode. My handle there is just at David. I’m really happy that I’m seeing a lot more WordPress people move into that space.
[00:58:39] Nathan Wrigley: Thank you very much and Demo.
[00:58:42] Mike Demo: Yeah, Twitter is probably the best place to reach me. Yeah, I know it’s imploding, but I’m going to hold on as long as I can. It’s been my bat phone for a very long time, and I have a blue check mark. I bought it, but I’m proud of it, so I don’t care. Twitter’s probably the best place to reach me. mpmike, so like Mouse Planet Mike is what it stood for originally.
[00:59:06] Nathan Wrigley: Thank you very much. And Tracy.
[00:59:08] Tracy Apps: Yeah, so, I capitalize on the fact that my last name is Apps, so I’m tapps most places. I do use Twitter, mostly to yell at people to get off my lawn basically. But, I’m tapps most places on the internet except for when that is taken. Like in TikTok, I am therealtaps. You can find my website, tapps.design and, just connect with me anywhere. I am happy to chat and answer questions as well.
[00:59:38] Nathan Wrigley: Well, it’s been a really interesting chat. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope that the audience, if they’ve got questions or things that they want to reach out to you about, I hope that they do that. But just for me to say thank you very much to Mike Demo, Tracy Apps and David Wolfpaw, thanks for chatting to me today. I really appreciate it.
[00:59:57] David Wolfpaw: Thank you so much for having us.
[00:59:58] Tracy Apps: Thank you so much.
[00:59:59] Mike Demo: Thank you.
Unusually, it’s less of an interview and more of a roundtable discussion about their experiences in the WordPress community.
A few weeks ago, I put out a call for anyone who might be interested in coming on the podcast. Mike Demo reached out to me and said that it would be good to discuss how the WordPress community deals with LGBTQ matters.
We agreed on a date, and two other people were invited to join us on the call, Tracy Apps and David Wolfpaw.
We start things off with each of the guests introducing themselves and telling us how they ended up working in tech and, more specifically, WordPress. This leads to a discussion of how the job market can be different for people with different identities.
We then move onto WordPress and talk through some of the ways that the community has responded to underrepresented groups. There are certainly areas where the guests think that there’s been positive change, but we also spend time thinking about how some things could still be improved. In-person events like WordCamps get plenty of attention here.
We also get into the open source nature of the WordPress project and whether this makes it more or less difficult for change to take place, given that authority is structured differently from most for-profit entities.
Towards the end of the podcast, each of the guests shares a story about some specific thing that they wish could happen; something that’s within reach, but as yet, not achieved.
And we round it all off with the sharing of resources and websites which listeners may find useful, which you can see below.