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Positive, helpful, suggestions over finger-pointing

I’m hatching plans to submit something for WordCamp this year. I want to try have a more positive tone, and to make fewer assumptions about what people do and don’t do.

Last year at WordCamp I paired up with Dani and did a workshop on Front-end performance. This year I’m thinking about: Page Builders like Visual Composer and their hidden costs (What You Don’t See In What They Get); accessibility (of Themes and Plugins).


I’ve been watching a bunch of conference talks and looking back at old talks and workshop of my own. Quite a few talks I watched, particularly ones about performance or accessibility, started with the speaker saying something like “You don’t do this.” Even if that’s true, I don’t think it’s a good approach.

Putting things in a negative way like this is bad because our brains tend to make us take negative comments personally. “You wrote bad code” is heard as “You are a bad coder.” For lots more on this, and a look at feedback, check out How to make a sandwich (video, 32 minutes) from Dan North.

A negative framing is also bad for learning. Whether I’m giving a talk or a workshop, I want to try and help people learn new stuff. A negative delivery puts people’s brains into defensive mode, which completely closes them down to learning. For lots more on this, and other really helpful things on training-like activities, check out The Accelerated Learning Handbook.


I think that a slightly negative framing can sometimes work, if it’s turned toward the facilitator. Not so much as a self-deprecating technique, but as a way to show vulnerability and connect with the audience. I want to try to talk in a more open way about what I find difficult, what I’ve learned, and how I’ve changed things.


It’s better (and more happy-making) to celebrate where people are doing good / great things, than to bash where they’re doing bad things. That doesn’t mean congratulating people when things go wrong or there’s an error. It does mean finding and focusing on the fix, prevention for next time, and what can be learned.

Focusing on things that we don’t do enough can start to sound like a blame game. Focusing on things we want to do more, and the benefits of doing so, can be more effective.


The tone of this post might sound a bit negative. My main focus writing this is focusing on myself and on improvement, though. I want to deliver more useful, interesting, talks and workshops. I hope that thinking about these things will help me do that.