Integrity — The Honeymoon is Over

Magento Imagine was a great time. I won’t go over it, so many have, but as always wonderful to reconnect with the Magento community, and in fact the larger tech/eCommerce community. Imagine now is more than just about Magento in my mind, its a meeting of technologists interested in the world of Commerce.

Times are a changing though, and some of us are spreading our wings beyond Magento. Decisions are being made by Magento which are in fact forcing us to spread our wings in some cases, in others we are just making that decision to spread our risk, to not keep all eggs in one basket (which tbh was always a major fear of mine I remember having a pretty heated discussion back in 2010 with Yoav on the business strategy of Magento and realising even then that I had to go cross-platform).

We are forging our own futures, each of us. And we make decisions around the best interests of our company, our staff, and our business.

So why is this heading titled ‘Integrity’ you may ask? I just want to talk about what I see happening, and my fears around this.

There are people in this community that have more influence than others. Probably myself included. We in a way are the caretakers. People like Ben & Sherrie are in this, but also people like Rebecca Troth who is relatively new on the scene, people like Raphael, Deryck from MageTraining, Craig the Magento recruiter. We represent our companies, ourselves, but also we represent this space we work in.

And I think as part of that integrity and professionalism has to be up there. Yes we all have tiffs, we can agree to disagree, for instance some people I know are fed up with me because I’ve gone on other platforms (hey its a SAAS product!), I get it . But let me tell you, you don’t know everything, and really in your role as a caretaker, whether that’s a Magento Master, a tweeter, just a person at a conference, well you have a responsibility to not use your influence to affect situations adversely without all the facts.

We aren’t perfect, I’m not perfect, I used to be told by my old boss to count to 10 before sending every email, probably now I should be told to count to 1000 before posting a blog. But I’d hope I’m straight down the line, if I have a problem I’ll tell people, I’m not one thing then another. It disturbed me at Imagine hearing some of the backchat & stories around stuff, people think it goes unnoticed but it doesn’t.

And we see it increasing, there are clear moves from SIs to diversify and from recent events we can see that some mud-slinging is in progress between Magento and Shopify. In my mind this needs to stop. This is business, strictly business, and as such we need to be professional towards each other. If we were one company there would be a pretty strict code of conduct, just because we are many companies doesn’t mean that should be different, you need to respect your peers at all levels, and be aware that what you say and what you do has an impact. Sometimes on a big financial level. This isn’t a playground, its not a game. Its real world and people’s livelihoods rely on this.

For my part its one of the reasons I’ve decided to step back from the normal Magento crowd. Its not because I don’t love these people, I just feel like power is going to the heads of some. I admire people like Ben and Sherrie, they really are masters of this community game, and I think they have a tough job on their hands balancing all the parts.

Integrity is not just about chat, it applies in business too. Magento have grown this, now you could argue actually the community have grown it (and I’d tend to agree with you), but Magento still have their name at the top of the door. And with that comes responsibility in my mind. Yes its a business, I get that, Magento inc has commercials to worry about. But in standard businesses you can just worry about you, your company. With Magento you really would struggle if you did just this, because there are so many businesses that rely on Magento. So when Magento screws up those businesses really really suffer. I believe we saw this in 2016, it was a hard year for a lot of people, and it made many companies re-consider their reliance. Some companies did great, I think personally some were assisted along the way to that greatness, I wonder if they would have faired so well without the heightened publicity and before they jump on the bandwagon and go write an opposite blog to me I’d urge them to just consider that question.

We can all care about just us. But I think we have an obligation to care about our customers, the employees, their business, and to be transparent. We are very transparant around WebShopApps and ShipperHQ, we made a business decision, we fed it out and we aren’t sitting on the fence. We realise it will lose us some customers by walking away from the standalone extension business, we know it is gaining us others. But we did it in my mind with integrity and transparancy. Whilst providing & maintaining a service.

Magento conferences since 2011 told me to go climb a mountain, to expand, to take risk, to jump over crevasses, to think outside the box. I did that, and luckily I came out and built a successful business. I wonder though if I was a year behind in my work whether I would have survived. I wonder how other firms in the ecosystem survive that maybe don’t have the strength we did. And I wonder whether the injection of some partners that merely bring spin and VC and money making rackets is a good thing for Magento in the long run, or whether it will be it’s downfall. Magento was spun once in 2011 when it was sold to eBay. That was good for no-one. In my opinion I do think Mark Lavelle has some good hands on the ship at present, he has built a good team there and you know what not every decision as a business you make is a good one, I’m pleased to see them learning from their mistakes.

Magento and the community, please ensure you keep your integrity. For us, well we continue (as Jessica Herrin advised) to use our customers as our best feedback and our best strategy drivers for our business. And we give a damn, which I think matters.