@Jane: I'm 100% with Demetris on this. This whole things' governance is dismal. It has been ever since I've first used WP, and it has only *mildly* improved since. I congratulate you for your efforts in trying to counsel it all, but until I see things moving, allow me to remain very skeptical.
So, where do we currently stand?
Community input is ignored outright or treated as intellectual property by Automattic. I vaguely remember a poll I answered, towards Christmas, about what should make it into 2.8. Its results were supposed to be released early January. Best I'm aware (and I'll be happy to learn I was wrong), they never showed up in my Dashboard.
Ideas is cluttered with junk to the point where it's no longer useful except as a place to look for plugin ideas. Nobody's maintaining it. Or then whoever is, either isn't doing a good job, or lacks the clout to get things done on the dev side.
wp-hackers is in a sorry state. It's mostly noise, geek-speak, and ranting. I haven't been subscribed to it for 2 years, but I still scan the archives every now and then. There is even less signal now than then.
Codex is cluttered with obsolete stuff to the point of uselessness. One cannot blame the community for it, either. Leaving aside that contributing docs is boring, docs quickly go out of date when the release cycle is too fast (see below).
Then, there is trac. A couple of weeks ago, it was cluttered with well over a thousand tickets. That's just insane. I didn't show up on it a few weeks back because I was suddenly craving to contribute patches and get 500 tickets closed. Rather, I did because I end up maintaining plugins (yes, plugins!) to work around WP bugs with every new release, and I felt I'd be better off, given the sheer number of bugs this time, with things patched in WP instead. (I read all tickets since, btw, and a lot of what's in 2.9/Future is either trivial to patch, or ticket clutter.)
The most stunning aspect, however, is how contributors are treated. By contributors, I'm not meaning end-users who whine their wish list in Ideas, wp-hackers, or the forum. I'm meaning people who, like myself, can actually code these ideas and get the job done.
In case you're thinking I just feel like trolling and ranting, here are three trac threads to chew on:
They're typical of what has put me and others off in the first place.
In the first one, you've a valid patch, tested and ready to go, that gets dumped, for no reason other than "we're trying to meet an artificial deadline". The fact that a similar patch was nearly committable 3 months earlier but never received any feedback makes absolutely no difference.
In the second one, you've an interesting idea, one that was discussed in wp-hackers, whose patch arguably has a few weaknesses. It awaits some kind of core dev feedback or 2nd opinion. The patch gets refreshed, again and again, to a point where the person who is maintaining it loses interest and decides to do something else. Unless it gets some kind of attention quickly, this ticket will rot for years in trac.
In the third one, you've someone who has nothing to do with WP, who shows up in trac, highlights an issue, highlights how to fix it, contributes a patch, refreshes it FOUR times based on feedback, asks what else might be needed to get this fixed and working... only to see his patch get ignored -- because we were then in feature freeze. He left in disgust, presumably never to be seen again.
And then there are several tickets in the current commit list who will get punted to Future, for the same reason as the first ticket -- in spite of the fact that they break nothing and that their contributor will stand behind his patch and fix it because he needs it for a plugin.
And that is not to mention the genuine -- but yet to be patched -- bugs that got punted to Future in spite of the fact that they affected users who reported them in a very real manner. You can be certain that their reporters won't necessarily report them in the future.
Now, let's look at the cold facts. You're wondering how you can improve communication and the feedback loop. My answer to that is: put people in front.
This is supposed to be a community, for heaven's sake. It's not about a company. Especially not about Automattic. It has everything to do with WordPress. This is an Open Source Software. It seems this has been forgotten at some point.
Nevermind that Automattic is paying Ryan, Andrew, Jane, and quite a few others. There are other people out there (I certainly count myself among them) who make a living on WordPress, who have been doing so for years, and who would be quite willing to spend more time contributing if they thought it was worth their time.
Currently, it is not. You can try as hard as you want to fit a square into a circle. It just won't. The development cycle is too short, and WP is severely understaffed. The two combined results in potential contributors getting put off outright.
3 months is too fast. You end up relying on who gets a hold of a committer to get things into trunk. Change that to 6 months (say, Feb 1st and Aug 1st as release dates, so that people such as myself don't end up working on Christmas or New Years Eve) and there suddenly is plenty of time to go through the weirder patches. WP could then have time for a real QA process as a bonus.
As for staffing, consider how we got to over a thousand trac tickets by contrasting WP with an OSS project that gets *everything* right: PostgreSQL. PG has a bugs mailing list, and no ticketing system. And no bugs, I'd add. *Every* ticket that is reported gets an immediate response by a core dev. Bugs are fixed on the spot instead of rotting for years into a ticketing system. 48h bug-to-fix is common.
With a half dozen extra committers (try the trac regulars if you need names) you could achieve the same thing in WP, render Ideas obsolete on the spot, and put WP back on track. It doesn't matter if a bug gets committed into WP every now and then. If things *do* get committed in the first place, and fast, those who have bothered to contribute their piece of code into WP will be happy to contribute a fix to what broke on the spot. And with a dozen committers as opposed to two and two eights, you'd get several people who are actively reviewing what gets committed anyway.
My $.02. See you on IRC later today.