People of WordPress: Kim Parsell

You’ve probably heard that WordPress is open-source software, and may know that it’s created and run by volunteers. WordPress enthusiasts share many examples of how WordPress changed people’s lives for the better. This monthly series shares some of those lesser-known, amazing stories.

Meet Kim Parsell

We’d like to introduce you to Kim Parsell. Kim was an active and well-loved member of the WordPress community. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2015. Lovingly referred to as #wpmom, she leaves behind a legacy of service. 

Kim Parsell

How Kim became #wpmom

In order to understand how highly valued the WordPress community was to Kim Parsell, you have to know a bit about her environment.

Kim was a middle-aged woman who lived off a dirt road, on top of a hill, in Southern rural Ohio. She was often by herself, taking care of the property with only a few neighbors up and down the road.

She received internet access from towers that broadcast wireless signals, similar to cell phones but at lower speeds.

Connecting through attending live podcast recordings

By listening to the regular podcast, WordPress Weekly, Kim met members of the WordPress community and was able to talk to them on a weekly basis. The show and its after-hours sessions provided Kim a chance to mingle with the who’s who of WordPress at the time. It helped establish long-lasting relationships that would open up future opportunities for her.

Since she lived in a location where few around her used or had even heard of WordPress, the community was an opportunity for her to be with like-minded people. Kim enjoyed interacting with the community, both online and at WordCamp events, and many community members became her second family, a responsibility she took very seriously.

“Many members of the WordPress community became her second family, a responsibility she took very seriously.”

Jeff Chandler

One of the first women of WordPress

Kim is regarded as one of the first “women of WordPress,” investing a lot of her time in women who wanted to break into tech. She worked hard to create a safe environment sharing herself and her knowledge and was affectionately called #wpmom.

She contributed countless hours of volunteer time, receiving “props” for 5 major releases of WordPress, and was active on the documentation team. 

“Affectionately called #wpmom, Kim was an investor. She invested countless hours into the WordPress project and in women who wanted to break into tech.”

Carrie Dils
Kim at WordCamp San Francisco

Kim Parsell Memorial Scholarship

In 2014, she received a travel stipend offered by the WordPress Foundation that enabled her to attend the WordPress community summit, held in conjunction with WordCamp San Francisco. She shared with anyone who would listen, that this was a life-changing event for her. 

The WordPress Foundation now offers that scholarship in her memory. The Kim Parsell Memorial Scholarship provides funding annually for a woman who contributes to WordPress to attend WordCamp US, a flagship event for the WordPress community.

This scholarship truly is a fitting memorial. Her contributions have been vital to the project. Moreover, the way she treated and encouraged the people around her has been an inspiration to many.  

Her spirit lives on in the people she knew and inspired. Here’s hoping that the Kim Parsell Memorial Scholarship will serve to further inspire those who follow in her footsteps.

Drew Jaynes

Kim is missed, but her spirit continues to live on

Sadly Kim died just a few short months later. But her spirit lives on in the people she knew and inspired within her communities. The Kim Parsell Memorial Scholarship will serve to further inspire those who follow in her footsteps.

Contributors

@wpfiddlybits, @yvettesonneveld, @josephahaden, Topher Derosia, Jeff Chandler, Carrie Dils, Jayvee Arrellano, Jan Dembowski, Drew Jaynes

Empowering Generations of Digital Natives

Technology is changing faster each year. Digital literacy can vary between ages but there are lots of ways different generations can work together and empower each as digital citizens.

No matter whether you’re a parent or caregiver, teacher or mentor, it’s hard to know the best way to teach younger generations the skills needed to be an excellent digital citizen. If you’re not confident about your own tech skills, you may wonder how you can help younger generations become savvy digital citizens. But using technology responsibly is about more than just technical skills. By collaborating across generations, you can also strengthen all your family members’ skills, and offer a shared understanding of what the internet can provide and how to use it to help your neighborhoods and wider society. 

Taking Gen Z Beyond Digital Savvy

Open up the dialogue

Even if you’re not fully confident in your own tech skills, you can help develop digital citizenship skills in others. If you feel comfortable during everyday conversation, you could describe a tech situation you have come across and ask family members if they have ever experienced something similar. You can give them a chance to share how they handled it or how it made them feel. This can help encourage them to think critically and to react with empathy. And being asked for advice can make them feel appreciated and empowered. But opening up the conversation can also be as simple as asking if they’ve seen anything online lately that they found interesting or wanted to talk about.

Share access to free and affordable training

Open source content management systems have made online publishing accessible to a more diverse group of people. Dozens of content platforms offer hands-on training at no or low cost. WordPress.tv, LinkedIn Learning, and others have low-cost video libraries with thousands of recorded talks and workshops and the WordPress Training team have excellent downloadable lesson plans and materials. These platforms not only feature content that helps develop tech and content creation skills but also content around ethics, diversity and community building.  

Find a sense of community and belonging

One of the disadvantages of increased digitalization is that younger generations and us all may spend less time hanging out in-person. Digital time spent with others is no replacement for in-person interactions. The awareness and mutual understanding which comes from back and forth interaction is needed for positive interpersonal skills. This is hard to replace in digital communities and those skills can only be learned with lots of hands-on practice. 

Learn the many benefits of volunteering 

There are WordPress events across the world that provide a great place to learn new skills to share with your families and friends. Some work with schools and colleges to offer special events which are open to all ages. There are also plenty of small ways to volunteer with the WordPress project that can be done at home to practice new skills.

In addition to attending events where you can learn skills and hang out with others with similar interests, the WordPress ecosystem offers countless opportunities to be actively involved. Professionals, hobbyists, and learners all make a difference by contributing to the ongoing creation of the WordPress platform. Together these people, who are known as contributors, form the WordPress open source community. 

WordPress is created by volunteer contributors

Not only are these contributors creating an amazingly flexible platform for all to use, it is an environment where you can continue to improve your skills, both technical and interpersonal. Open-source software projects can introduce you to people you would otherwise not get the chance to meet, locally and internationally. If you have a zest for learning, and for finding others to connect with, WordPress has many ways to meet contributors in person!

WordPress events are organized by volunteers

WordPress community events are volunteer-run. This can be a great way to give back to the project and practice all sorts of skills. Talk to your local event about how you could get involved and if you would like to bring older teenagers and young adults with you. You will not need any pre-existing tech skills to attend these events but they are a great way to discover areas you might want to learn more about. 

Contributor days offer a great opportunity to get involved

These events are specially designed to help you get involved in building the open-source WordPress platform. You can collaborate with other members of its community and find areas that are right for you to use and grow your skills. All of the tasks you will discover at an event can be continued at home and some are easy to get other family members involved in learning and adding in ideas. 

Contributors come from all sorts of backgrounds and locations, some may live near you and others thousands of miles away. Working alongside lots of different cultures and countries can open up new ideas for young people letting them learn new ways of doing things and discover different perspectives. All those different perspectives can cause misunderstandings. But being involved in a global learning community is a great way to practice communicating across cultural boundaries. 

Getting involved can be rewarding in many (unexpected) ways

The most rewarding part of actively taking part in WordPress events is making budding friendships. New connections often turn into long-lasting friendships that are likely to continue for years to come, both online and offline. With a global community, these friendships can potentially lead to lots of international adventures too!

Make our digital world safer and more inclusive

Befriending people from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds can be an enriching experience in itself. It can also help you make us make more informed decisions. The more we interact with a diverse range of people, the more empathic we become. Some of the most valuable learning that can be offered to Gen Z (and probably to all of us at times) is that what we come across in fast-moving digital communities isn’t always the entire view. 

All things considered….

Anyone who is a digital native may not need encouragement to obtain tech skills. But they may not be aware that digital communities are still communities and we need to use the same sorts of people skills for both offline and online locations. Opening up conversations about situations they may experience online that may require them to (re)act responsibly, can encourage them to think critically and act with empathy. Compared to previous generations, digital natives spend substantially more time by themselves while using devices, so encouraging them to join real-life communities, such as WordPress, could be the first step to learning what it means to be a good digital citizen! 

Responsible Participation In Online Communities

In our first article in this series, we highlighted the WordPress mission to democratize publishing. WordPress introduced a tool to independent and small publishers who did not have the resources of the larger publishing platforms. Access to a free content management system to create websites has empowered thousands of people to find their voice online. People have been able to share their enthusiasm for hobbies, causes, products and much more. Through these different voices, we can encourage understanding, spark creativity, and create environments where collaboration can happen. But as we build more digital communities, it’s easy to forget that online safety is a group effort.

Digital literacy is also part of being a good digital citizen, but it’s more than just being able to do basic actions with your mobile device. Digital literacy refers to the range of skills needed to do online research, set up web accounts, and find solutions for fixing devices among other things. But to be able to enjoy more of the digital world safely and responsibly – to be a good digital citizen – we need to be able to: 

  • navigate vast amounts of information without getting overwhelmed;
  • evaluate a variety of perspectives;
  • connect with people with respect and empathy;
  • create, curate and share information.

We will need our offline analytical and social skills to make that happen. 

Here’s some best practices our community members have shared!

Online or offline, let empathy be your compass

The hardest part about all of this is the anonymity of online interactions. Without that face-to-face feedback of saying something mean to another person’s face, it’s easy to upset the people you’re trying to communicate with.

In our daily lives in the offline world, comments may be more tempered and slow to anger  in disagreements. Visual cues will help us determine how a remark is perceived. That, in turn, helps us adjust our behaviour Action, reaction, it’s how we learn best.

Online, however, the experience is different. A keyboard does not protest if we type angry, hate-filled messages. A screen does not show any signs of being hurt. The lack of physical human presence combined with the anonymity of online alter-egos can be a formula for disrespectful and unfriendly behavior. It is good to remind ourselves that behind the avatars, nicknames and handles are real people. The same empathy we display in our in-person interactions should apply online as well.

Critically evaluate your sources 

We all have times when we consume information with limited research and fact-checking. For some of us, it feels like there’s no time to research and compare sources when faced by a sea of online information. For others, there may be uncertainty about where to start and what to consider. But, without a bit of skepticism and analytical thinking, we run the risk of creating narrow or incorrect understanding of the world. With a little effort we can curb the sharing of fake news and biased information, particularly on topics that are new to us or that we’re not familiar with.

Misinformation can spread like wildfire. Ask these simple questions to evaluate information online: 

  • who is the source of the information?
  • is it plausible?
  • is the information fact or just an opinion?

Own our content

In this day and age, it’s never been easier to just copy, paste and publish somebody else’s content. That doesn’t mean that we should! Publishing content that is not truly ‘yours’ in wording and tone of voice is unlikely to build a connection with the right audience. But, just as important, using someone else’s content may breach copyright and potentially intellectual property rights. 

For more information about intellectual property, visit the World Intellectual Property Organization website.

Don’t breeze past terms and conditions

Have you ever signed up for an online service (to help you distribute published content or accept payments) that was offered at no cost? In our fast-paced digital lives, we tend to want to breeze past terms and conditions or warning information and often miss important information about what will happen with our data. 

When we are given a contract on paper, we tend to read and re-read it, giving it a greater priority of our time. We may send it to other people for a second opinion or seek further review before signing. Remarkably, we rarely do that with online agreements. As a result, we may be putting our online privacy and security at risk. (WordPress uses a GPL license, and only collects usage data that we never share ever.).

Keep your website safe and healthy

If you would like to own your voice online, you also need to protect your reputation by securing your publishing platform. Websites can face security attacks. Hackers may seek to obtain access through insecure settings, outdated plugins and old software versions, and in extreme cases can try to scam your visitors. And leaking customer data, may even lead to legal consequences.

On top of that, websites ‘flagged’ for security issues, can lead to high bounce rates and eventual loss of search rankings. This can all affect how search engines rate or even block your site. 

Good practices to keep your website safe include changing your safe password regularly, installing security software, an SSL certificate and keeping the core software, plugins and themes up to date. This will not guarantee that you will keep hackers out, so always keep several backups of your site, ideally both offline and online.

That is just website security in a tiny nutshell. If you would like to learn more about keeping websites safe, you may want to check out some of these resources and many more videos at WordPress.tv.

Join in and help make the web a better place!

As part of Digital Citizenship Week, we would like to encourage you to learn and share skills with your colleagues, friends and family members. That way, we all become more informed of potential issues and how to reduce the risks. Together we can make it easier to navigate the web more effectively and securely!

Additional resources

Site health check

WordPress 5.2 introduced pages in the admin interface to help users run health checks on their sites. They can be found under the Tools menu.

Security and SSL 

Contributors

@chanthaboune, @yvettesonneveld, @webcommsat, @muzhdekad @alexdenning@natashadrewnicki, @oglekler, and Daria Gogoleva.


Becoming Better Digital Citizens Through Open Source

The WordPress Project is on a mission to democratize publishing. As WordPress empowers more people to participate in the digital space, we have the opportunity to make sure that everyone can participate safely and responsibly. Today marks the start of Digital Citizenship Week. We are going to share how open source can be used as a tool for learners (regardless of age) to practice and model the essential parts of being a good digital citizen.

What is digital citizenship?

The digital landscape constantly changes and this affects the way we use the internet. New platforms emerge, people find different ways to spread information, communities form, grow and fade away every day. The concepts and practice of promoting civil discourse, critical thinking and safe use of the internet still remain central. And that is exactly what digital citizenship is about.

“Put simply, digital citizenship is a lot like citizenship in any other community — the knowledge of how to engage with digital communities you’re part of in a way that is thoughtful, safe, and makes appropriate use of the technology.”

Josepha Haden, Executive Director WordPress Project

Who is a digital citizen?

Digital Citizenship is for all age groups. Anyone who uses the internet on a computer, mobile device or a TV is a digital citizen. You don’t have to be tech-savvy already, maybe you are taking your first steps with technology. Digital Citizenship Week is a chance to reflect together on our impact on the digital world. It can help us to make our consumption more considered and our interaction friendlier. It enables us to make a positive difference to those around us.

All of us can strive (or learn) to become better digital citizens. It can be affected by the access those teaching have had to digital skills and good practice. Adult education classes and community tech hubs play a part in basic tech skill development. Unfortunately, these are not always accessible to those in less populated geographic locations. 

Open source communities like WordPress already make a difference in encouraging the principles of digital citizenship, from sharing tech skills to improving security knowledge. They give people an opportunity to learn alongside their peers and many of the resources are available regardless of location, resources, or skills.

  • WordPress Meetups — locally-based, informal learning sessions — typically take place monthly on weekday evenings.
  • WordCamps are city-based conferences that take place in cities worldwide. These events usually last 1-3 days and are organized and run by volunteers.
  • The talks are also recorded and made available on the free, online library WordPress.tv. These can be watched from the comfort of your own home, office or during informal get-togethers.

What can we do as part of the WordPress community?

Digital citizenship skills, like many other skills needed in this tech-focused world, should be kept up-to-date. Open source communities offer unparalleled opportunities to do this and are available in countries across the world. As part of our role as members of WordPress and other communities, we can pass on such skills to others. For instance by working alongside people who have had limited experience of digital skills. Or by finding new ways of making this knowledge sharing fun and accessible. 

Here are just a few of the ways we do and can make an even greater difference:

  • as bloggers and writers, we can be more aware of how to write content responsibly.
  • as designers, we can think more about how different people will view, understand and respond to the designs and visuals we create or use.
  • as developers, we can build systems that make it easier for all users to find information and accomplish their goals, to be secure while visiting our sites, and to model good security and practice.
  • as community members, through organizing events like WordPress Meetups and WordCamps, we are helping equip those who may not have had access to digital literacy or who lack the confidence to put it into place or share with their family and colleagues. Through these events, the online videos and other resources on WordPress.tv and through the Make WordPress teams, we are already making a difference every day.
  • as individuals, the way we communicate in the community and listen to each other is equally important. This is a vital part of how we grow and model positive digital citizens. Through growing our positive digital skills and a better understanding of online etiquette and challenges, we can make our immediate and wider digital world a more positive and useful environment.
  • making it easier to document and share knowledge.
  • emphasizing how skills learned within the community can be used in other parts of our digital lives.
  • creating and becoming ambassadors for Digital Citizenship.

You can also get involved with specific events that have grown out of the wider WordPress project, championed by enthusiasts and those wanting to improve specific digital skills and bring wider benefits to society.

Community-driven Events

For example, WordPress Translation Day in 2019 had 81 local events worldwide. Running for 24-hours, individuals with language skills translated aspects of the platform into multiple languages with a total of 1181 projects modified. An amazing 221 new translators joined on the day. In addition, there was a live stream with talks, panel discussions, interviews, and sharing of tips and skills to help others learn how to translate. Volunteers are now planning the event for 2020!

Stories of how people came together for WordPress Translation Day


Interviews with some of the participants from a previous WordPress Translation Day giving a flavour of how volunteers developed this event.

Do_action days are WordPress events organized in local communities to help give charities their own online presence. Each event involves members of the local WordPress community, planning and building new websites for selected local organizations in one day. Some take place in a working day, others on weekends. 

Volunteer Tess Coughlan-Allen talking about how people came together for the first do_action in Europe to help local charities.

Find the next do_action hackaton nearby your home town.

Improving digital skills through WordPress


In this video clip, Josepha talks about the Digital Divide and what current technological trends mean for it in the future. She explores what it takes to be literate in the digital landscape and how WordPress can be used to build and perfect those skills.

Contributors

Thanks to @webcommsat for researching and writing this article and @yvettesonneveld for her supporting work in this series.

People of WordPress: Alice Orru

You’ve probably heard that WordPress is open-source software, and may know that it’s created and run by volunteers. WordPress enthusiasts share many examples of how WordPress changed people’s lives for the better. This monthly series shares some of those lesser-known, amazing stories.

Meet Alice Orru, from Sardinia, Italy.

Alice Orru was born in Sardinia, an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. As a child, she dreamt of becoming a flight attendant, traveling the world, and speaking many foreign languages.

Unable to meet the height requirements of her chosen profession, Orru ended up choosing a different path in life, following the Italian mantra: “You have to study something that will guarantee a stable and secure job for life.”

The unemployment rate in Sardinia is very high, a challenge shared throughout the surrounding islands. In addition to that, Alice wasn’t that keen on having the same job all her life, as her parents had.

When Orru was 22 she moved to Siena, Tuscany, to finish her studies. That is when she created her first personal blog. The website was built on an Italian platform named Tiscali, which she later migrated to WordPress.com.

After 2 years in Tuscany Orru moved to Strasbourg, France. She studied French and worked several jobs while living there. Her first serious job was in Milan – working 40 hours/week in the marketing department of a large, international company. She found herself surrounded by ambitious colleagues and a boss who constantly requested extra —unpaid— working hours per day.

Alice Orru
Alice Orru

Choices, choices, choices…

Alice gave up blogging because she wasn’t feeling inspired enough to write. She questioned whether she really wanted to do that job forever; working 10 hours per day under the neon lights of an office. It forced her to set aside her dreams for the time being, and for a while, she mainly lived for the weekends.

Alice decided to leave the job and moved to Barcelona, Spain, all by herself, in 2012.

After a few months of intense Spanish learning at the university, she found a job in an international clinic as a “Patient Coordinator.” Orru assisted international patients coming to Barcelona for their treatments. She acted as their translator, interpreter and administrative consultant. 

Patients came from Italy, France, England, Morocco, Senegal, and several other countries. Alice was so inspired by some of their stories, that she started to write again: She dusted off her WordPress blog and filled it with stories about her new life in Barcelona and some of the women she met at the clinic. “I was feeling stronger and more independent than ever,” Orru expressed.

Technical issues led to unexpected opportunities

In the summer of 2015, Alice was writing on her blog and got stuck with a technical problem. While she was searching through the WordPress.com documentation, she saw a pop-up in the bottom right corner of her screen. It was a staff member of Automattic, checking if she needed help. They chatted for a few minutes and the problem was solved. Alice left the chat with one question, though: how did that person on chat find a support job with WordPress?

Alice found the official WordPress job page: jobs.wordpress.net and noticed a job offer that caught her attention: WP Media, a French startup, was looking for a polyglot and remote customer service teammate for one of their plugins, WP Rocket. She read their requirements: fluency in English, French and possibly other languages, excellent experience with WordPress, and some coding skills.

She knew she didn’t meet all the requirements, but could speak 4 languages, and she had a WordPress blog. She didn’t know anything about PHP, though. Orru had been a WordPress.com user for years and knew she was ready to learn more.

Orru wrote a cover letter and sent her CV. A Skype interview was conducted and several days later she received the news that she had gotten the job! 

A steep learning curve

The early days in her new job were intense. Alice felt inexperienced but was supported by her teammates. She started studying and reading everything about WordPress for beginners. Initially, she answered easy tickets from customers. All the while her teammates were sending useful material to read, setting up video-calls for 1 to 1 training, and encouraging her the entire time.

Soon, Orru was replying to customers whose first language was either Spanish or Italian in their native language. This was much appreciated and resulted in several happy comments. Until that moment the plugin’s support had been offered only in English and French.

Finding her way in the WordPress community

At WordCamp Paris 2016, one of Alice’s teammates introduced her to how the WordPress community collaborated and kept in contact through Slack.

“You speak multiple languages, why don’t you try to contribute to the polyglots team?” he asked.

Alice knew very little about contributing to WordPress. She had only been working for WP Media for 6 months and didn’t feel ready to dive into a new challenge and start also contributing to WordPress.

Yet, curiosity led her to join both the local Italian and the global WordPress Community on Slack. For the first few months, she mainly observed what was happening the channels. Then, she attended WordCamp Milan and met some members of the Italian Polyglots team.

It was love at first string! Laura, one of the General Translation Editors (GTE) for Italy, taught her how to start contributing and translating, following the polyglots guidelines. She also told her about the Italian community’s big efforts to work together, consistently, to boost and grow WordPress related events in Italy.

With her teammates’ encouragement, Orru applied to WordCamps as a speaker and gave her first talk in December 2016 at WordCamp Barcelona. After that, she both spoke at WordCamp Torino on April 2017 and at WordCamp Europe in 2017.

Alice Orru speaking at WordCamp Europe, in Paris, in 2017

Dreams evolve, all the time!

Orru knows that her experiences are not just due to luck. She used her previous skills and passions and adapted them to a new career and life path.

“We all have some skills; and if we don’t know which they are exactly, we should take some time to make a list of the things we’re really good at. With that in mind, just try. Apply. Get involved. Don’t get stuck in the feeling of ‘I can’t do it because I don’t know enough’. So that’s what I did. Without even realizing it, I started putting into reality the dream of the little girl who was born on an island and wanted to travel and speak different languages.WordPress made this possible. I’m now part of a big community, and I am proud of it.”

Alice Orru

This post is based on an article originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. HeroPress highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories would otherwise go unheard.

Meet more WordPress community members over at HeroPress.com!

People of WordPress: Abdullah Ramzan

You’ve probably heard that WordPress is open-source software, and may know that it’s created and run by volunteers. WordPress enthusiasts share many examples of how WordPress changed people’s lives for the better. This monthly series shares some of those lesser-known, amazing stories.

Meet Abdullah Ramzan, from Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan.

Abdullah Ramzan was born and brought up in the under-developed city of ​Layyah​, which is situated in Southern Punjab, Pakistan and surrounded by desert and the river ​Sindh​.

He graduated from college in his home town and started using a computer in ​2010​ when he joined ​Government College University Faisalabad​. Abdullah’s introduction to WordPress happened while he was finishing the last semester of his degree. His final project was based in WordPress.

Ramzan’s late mother was the real hero in his life, helping him with his Kindergarten homework and seeing him off to school every day. 

Before her heart surgery, Ramzan visited her in the hospital ICU, where she hugged him and said: ​“Don’t worry, everything will be good.” Sadly, his mother died during her surgery. However, her influence on Ramzan’s life continues.

Start of Ramzan’s Career:

After graduation, Ramzan struggled to get his first job. He first joined PressTigers as a Software Engineer and met Khawaja Fahad Shakeel, his first mentor. Shakeel provided Ramzan with endless support. Something had always felt missing in his life, but he felt like he was on the right track for the first time in his life when he joined the WordPress community. 

Community – WordCamps and Meetups:

Although Ramzan had used WordPress since ​2015​, attending WordPress meetups and open source contributions turned out to be a game-changer for him. He learned a lot from the WordPress community and platform, and developed strong relationships with several individuals. One of them is Nidhi Jain​ from Udaipur India who he works with on WordPress development. The second is Jonathan Desrosiers​ who he continues to learn a lot from.

In addition, Usman Khalid, the lead organizer of WC Karachi, mentored Ramzan, helping him to develop his community skills. 

With the mentorship of these contributors, Ramzan is confident supporting local WordPress groups and helped to organize ​WordCamp Karachi​, where he spoke for the first time at an international level event. He believes that WordPress has contributed much to his personal identity. 

Abdullah Ramzan at WordCamp Karachi 2018

WordPress and the Future:

As a ​co-organizer of WordPress Meetup Lahore,​ he would love to involve more people in the community leadership team, to provide a platform for people to gather under one roof, to learn and share something with each other.

But he has loftier ambitions. Impressed by Walk to WordCamp Europe, Abdullah is seriously considering walking to WordCamp Asia. He also one day hopes for the opportunity to serve his country as a senator of Pakistan and intends to enter the next senate election.

Words of Encouragement

Abdullah Ramzan knows there is no shortcut to success. “You have to work hard to achieve your goals,” explained Ramzan. He still has much he wishes to accomplish and hopes to be remembered for his impact on the project.

Abdullah believes WordPress can never die as long as people don’t stop innovating to meet new demands. The beauty of WordPress is that it is made for everyone.

Ramzan encouraged, “If you seriously want to do something for yourself, do something for others first. Go for open source, you’ll surely learn how to code. You’ll learn how to work in a team. Join local meetups, meet with the folks: help them, learn from them, and share ideas.”


This post is based on an article originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. HeroPress highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories would otherwise go unheard.

Meet more WordPress community members over at HeroPress.com!

People of WordPress: Amanda Rush

You’ve probably heard that WordPress is open source software, and may know that it’s created and run by volunteers. WordPress enthusiasts share many examples of how WordPress changed people’s lives for the better. This monthly series shares some of those lesser-known, amazing stories.

Meet Amanda Rush from Augusta, Georgia, USA.

Amanda Rush is a WordPress advocate with a visual disability. She first started using computers in 1985, which enabled her to turn in homework to her sighted teachers. Screen reader technology for Windows was in its infancy then, so she worked in DOS almost exclusively.

After graduating high school, Amanda went to college to study computer science, programming with DOS-based tools since compilers for Windows were still inaccessible. As part of her computer science course of study, she learned HTML which began her career in web development.

How Amanda got started with WordPress

Amanda began maintaining a personal website, and eventually began publishing her own content using LiveJournal. However, controlling the way the page around her content looked was hard, and she soon outgrew the hosted solution.

So in 2005, Amanda bought customerservant.com, set up a very simple CMS for blogging, and started publishing there. She accepted the lack of design and content, and lack of easy customization because she wasn’t willing to code her own solution. Nor did she want to move to another hosted solution, as she liked being able to customize her own site, as well as publish content.

Hebrew dates led her to WordPress

At some point, Amanda was looking for an easy way to display the Hebrew dates alongside the Gregorian dates on her blog entries. Unfortunately, the blogging software she was using at the time, did not offer customization options at that level. She decided to research alternative solutions and came across a WordPress plugin that did just that. 

The fact that WordPress would not keep her locked into a visual editor, used themes to customize styling, and offered ways to mark up content, immediately appealed to Amanda. She decided to give it a go.

Accessibility caused her to dive deeper

When the software Amanda used at work became completely inaccessible, she started learning about WordPress. While she was learning about this new software, Web 2.0 was introduced. The lack of support for it in the screen reader she used meant that WordPress administration was completely inaccessible. To get anything done, Amanda needed to learn to find her way in WordPress’ file structure.

Eventually Amanda started working as an independent contractor for the largest screen reader developer in the market, Freedom Scientific. She worked from home every day and hacked on WordPress after hours.

Unfortunately Amanda hit a rough patch when her job at Freedom Scientific ended. Using her savings she undertook further studies for various Cisco and Red Hat certifications, only to discover that the required testing for these certifications were completely inaccessible. She could study all she wanted, but wasn’t able to receive grades to pass the courses.

She lost her financial aid, her health took a turn for the worse, she was diagnosed with Lupus, and lost her apartment. Amanda relocated to Augusta where she had supportive friends who offered her a couch and a roof over her head.

But Amanda refused to give up

Amanda continued to hack WordPress through all of this. It was the only stable part of her life. She wanted to help make WordPress accessible for people with disabilities, and in 2012 joined the  WordPress Accessibility Team. Shortly after that, she finally got her own place to live, and started thinking about what she was going to do with the rest of her working life.

Listening to podcasts led her to take part in WordSesh, which was delivered completely online and enabled Amanda to participate without needing to travel. She began to interact with WordPress people on Twitter, and continued to contribute to the community as part of the WordPress Accessibility Team. Things had finally started to pick up.

Starting her own business

In 2014, Amanda officially launched her own business, Customer Servant Consultancy. Since WordPress is open source, and becoming increasingly accessible, Amanda could modify WordPress to build whatever she wanted and not be at the mercy of web and application developers who know nothing about accessibility. And if she got stuck, she could tap into the community and its resources.

Improving her circumstances and becoming more self-sufficient means Amanda was able to take back some control over her life in general. She was able to gain independence and create her own business despite being part of the blind community, which has an 80% unemployment rate. 

In her own words:

We’re still fighting discrimination in the workplace, and we’re still fighting for equal access when it comes to the technology we use to do our jobs. But the beauty of WordPress and its community is that we can create opportunities for ourselves.

I urge my fellow blind community members to join me inside this wonderful thing called WordPress. Because it will change your lives if you let it.

Amanda Rush, entrepreneur

This post is based on an article originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. HeroPress highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories would otherwise go unheard.

Meet more WordPress community members over at HeroPress.com!