Published: Tuesday January 13, 2015.

What about the butter?

For nearly a decade I’ve been using Textpattern CMS as my go-to tool for making websites. Since 2005, I’ve variously been involved in supporting it, building many websites with it, writing about it for money and largely shunning other CMSes in favour of Textpattern so I can become even more familiar with it.

In the more recent years, I snagged a couple of Textpattern-related domains and had visions of starting a Textpattern-centric consultancy service. It’s had a slow start, largely because I’ve done zero promotion and there’s no website (go figure), but it already has paying customers.

In December 2014 I got some wires crossed and made an embarrassing mistake on the Textpattern support forums. The upshot was that I realised I’d misjudged or incorrectly focussed my efforts with the project. Full of faux self-importance and drama, I decided the best thing to was to take some time away to resolve some of the perceived burnout that had been a factor in my error.

Textpattern is an open source software project that had a relatively small number of contributors and maintainers. There’s also a far smaller user base than the big CMS players (Wordpress, Drupal, Django etc), which makes the whole project more of a labour of love for me. I’m not involved in the writing of the code that makes the gears work, but I’ve corrected a few trivial errors, suggested a handful of very minor improvements and raised a small number of edge-case bugs.

All this was done with good intentions, of course, but I think it’s backfired on me. Focussing on the small things that only a tiny fraction of people will even notice or benefit from may have been my downfall. It’s a learning experience, of course, and it’s taken me until now to spot where I was going wrong.

There’s a saying in this house — what about the butter — used as a retort to something said being ungrateful. It came about when someone (not my housemate, I hasten to add) had a full breakfast made for them and the first thing they said was what about the butter?.

Time and effort had gone into the breakfast prep, and it was shot down by a single, snarky comment. That the person making the breakfast had forgotten to take the butter out of the fridge for the freshly-made toast was largely academic, the meal was soured by an ungrateful and unexpected comment. It instantly became an occasionally-repeated phrase to draw attention to other ungratefulness.

I can look back on it now and understand that what was said was down to this person’s lack of social graces and manners. I don’t think she was being intentionally rude. Nitpicking with a red pen is only partly constructive. Even with my best intentions, it could be misconstrued as someone picking holes for pompous self-aggrandisement. I’ll be heading back into the Textpattern fold later in the spring, and making a point to not be That Guy that asks about the damn butter.