Last month, WordPress 4.9 was released to the public after roughly three to four months of constant hard work in making sure that all of the planned features and outstanding bug reports were closed and ready to be shipped, in a stable product for the world to use. It was made possible by the four hundred plus contributors worldwide giving some of their free time to help the project move forward. Out of that large selection of people, nearly two hundred of them contributed for the first time ever. I was one of those first time contributors.
As daunting as it may seem, contributing to WordPress isn’t very difficult at all, the only issue — like most things — is knowing where to start. The WordPress project is made possible by volunteers across the world, all of whom are divided into over fifteen different teams. Whilst members of each team have the final say in what goes ahead and what doesn’t, anyone is welcome to join in and help where they can.
For example, did you know that there is a team dedicated to how accessible WordPress is for people with disabilities? There is also a team that is dedicated solely to developing the WordPress mobile apps and a team that is responsible for community engagement and events. Whilst the majority of contributors get involved with code, it’s not just about that side of things at all because there are a lot of cogs turning to move the project forward.
Once you get into the swing of things, it’s very easy to get stuck in and just start doing anything you can to help out. I don’t really remember the very first thing I did, but I know I fixed a couple of bugs and improved one or two bits of the interface. You don’t need to be a seasoned developer or designer to help out either, which is why there are lots of new people getting involved with each release that is made available, rather than the same faces doing everything to get things moving. The biggest temptation for myself to contribute was that I could help shape WordPress to how I think it should work, to a degree simply as a user of the product.
How do I get involved?
The best place to go is to Make.WordPress.org which will show you a big list of the different teams available to work with. The only thing you need to do is sign up for a WordPress.org account so you can take part in the community. Once you’re logged into your account, you can start helping by being a part of any team that you fancy. Each team has regular meetings on a weekly basis via the team messaging service Slack, which you don’t ever need to attend if you really don’t want to.
Once you’ve been contributing to a selected team for a while, you’ll then be able to earn a badge for your profile. Each team has different badges that you can earn which shows how you’ve contributed to the overall project. Whilst this is mainly for vanity purposes, it is great to be able to show off to colleagues and friends what you’ve done. Here’s my profile.
Why should I get involved?
Whilst the statistic that WordPress powers over 25% of the Internet is somewhat disputed, it is still the system of choice for a huge number of websites out there on the web. With that in mind, it’s incredible that anyone can help shape the future of websites so easily. Open source projects help move the internet forward and is a huge part of why innovation in this sector is moving so quickly.
Open source projects not only benefit individuals, but they also benefit companies in many different ways. Being able to give back means that not only do you help other people have a better experience on the web, but you also improve your own experience too, for free. Above all else, you get to work with very talented people across the world and maybe learn a thing or two.
Have you ever gotten involved with an open source project before? If you have done, which project was it and how did you help the community? If you’re thinking about getting involved with WordPress or another project, tell your friends and colleagues too! Working in a small sub team can allow you to work on things much more quickly and solve bigger issues