People of WordPress: Kori Ashton

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.

The beginning

Kori Ashton

In 1998, Kori created her very first HTML website. Her dad was creating websites for a living at the time. She needed a website for her band because she wanted to be a rockstar. Under his training, and with a little bit of self-teaching, she learned how to build a website.

She had been aware of WordPress since 2005, and, in 2008 a client specifically hired her as a freelancer to develop a WordPress website. Kori went straight to Google and taught herself how to build a WordPress website over a single weekend. She really enjoyed the experience of working with WordPress.

My mind was absolutely blown when I saw the drag and drop options inside of menus to create dropdowns and a form builder. 

Kori Ashton

She suggested to her dad that WordPress could be a solution for their customers who wanted to be able to access their own websites. Previously, they had found this was not as easy for clients unless they had specific software and knew how to code. So, Kori and her dad worked to learn WordPress over the next few years. 

Then in 2012, Kori and her parents launched their new business, WebTegrity, in San Antonio, Texas, US. It started out small: just Kori and her parents. Soon, they started subcontracting design work and quickly continued to grow their team.

Going big time

Even though the business was in a saturated industry in San Antonio — over 700 freelancers and agencies were providing similar services — Kori and her parents were able to sell their company five years later, with a multi-million dollar valuation. There were a few choices they made early on that led to that success.

1. They picked a niche: WordPress specialists 

At the time, there were no WordPress-specific agencies in San Antonio. They emphasized the fact that WordPress was the only CMS their company would use. Prospective clients looking for a different type of CMS solution were not the right fit for their business. They also offered on-site, WordPress training and weekend workshops that were open to anyone (including other agencies) as one of their revenue streams. They soon were established as a city-wide WordPress authority.

2. They cultivated a culture

Kori wanted a great culture and environment in her company and to make that happen, she needed to hire the right people. She believes you must be careful about who you bring into the culture of your business, but particularly when hiring leaders into that community. You can’t teach passion so you’ve got to find people that are excited about what you do. You also need to look for integrity, creativity, a love for solving problems, and an eagerness to keep getting better. 

You can teach code all day long, but be sure to find people with the right hearts to join your community and then train them up the right way. This way you will grow your culture in a healthy way.

Kori Ashton
Kori and her two sons

3. They learned how to build sustainable revenue streams

Like many other web development agencies, WebTegrity started out with the “one-time fee and you’re done” business model. This business model is known for unpredictable revenue streams. Hearing about recurring revenue business models at WordCamp Austin was a lightbulb moment for Kori. She started drafting a more sustainable business model on the way back home. 

Support packages were key to their new business plan. Clients needed ongoing support. They decided to include at least 12 months of post-launch support into their web development projects. This doubled their revenue in one year and allowed them to even out their revenue streams.

4. They knew the importance of reputation

Kori believes that every client, whether they have a $5,000 or a $50,000 budget, should get the same type of boutique-style, white glove, concierge relationship.

Every single project results in the absolute best solution for a client’s needs. In addition to that, offering training helped boost their reputation. Explaining the lingo of the web development and SEO fields and showing the processes used, added transparency. It helped set and meet expectations and it built trust. 

5. They proactively gave back to the community

Tori heard Matt Mullenweg speak about Five For The Future at WordCamp US. He encouraged people in the audience who make a living using WordPress, to find ways to give back 5% of their time to building the WordPress software and community. Matt talked about how firms and individuals could give back to the community. He suggested, for instance to:

  • start a WordPress Meetup group
  • present at a Meetup event 
  • facilitate a Meetup group where maybe you’re just the organizer and you never have to speak because you’re not a fan of speaking
  • help organize a WordCamp
  • volunteer at a WordCamp
  • write a tutorial and tell people how to do WordPress related things 
  • run a workshop
  • make a video
If you’re making an income using WordPress, consider giving 5% of your time back to building the software and/or the community.

This gave Kori another light bulb moment. She could make videos to give back. So her way to give back to the WordPress community is her YouTube channel.

Every Wednesday, she published a video on how to improve your online marketing. This made a huge impact, both inside the WordPress community, but also in her own business.

Understanding

So, in summary, how did Kori and her family turn their business into a multi-million dollar buyout in just five years? 

Ultimately, it was about understanding that you have to build value. About keeping an exit strategy in mind while building your business. For instance when naming your company. Will it stand alone? Could it turn into a brand that you could sell as an independent entity?

  • Think about revenue streams and watch sales margins.
  • Be sure to include healthy margins. 
  • Don’t hire until you have no further option.
  • Make sure to structure your offerings in such a way that you’re actually recouping your value. 
  • Understand entrepreneurship, watch Shark Tank, read more tutorials, watch more videos.
  • Get involved in the WordPress community. Get to know its core leaders, the speakers that travel around to all the WordCamps. Start following them on Twitter and try to understand what they’re sharing. 

In the end, the fact that Kori was so active in the San Antonio community helped enable the sale.

We just kept hammering on the fact that we were the go-to place here in San Antonio for WordPress. We kept training, we kept doing free opportunities, going out and speaking at different events, and people kept seeing us. We kept showing up, kept giving back and kept establishing ourselves as the authority.

Kori Ashton

Contributors

Alison Rothwell (@wpfiddlybits), Yvette Sonneveld (@yvettesonneveld), Abha Thakor (@webcommsat),  Josepha Haden (@chanthaboune), Topher DeRosia (@topher1kenobe).

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: Robert Cheleuka

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 Robert Cheleuka

Robert is a self-taught graphic and motion designer turned web designer (and aspiring web developer) from Malawi, Africa. Over the years, he has grown fond of WordPress and has become a loyal user. Still, the journey is rough.

Robert Cheleuka
Robert Cheleuka

Malawi

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. A tiny landlocked country with a population of 17 million, it’s largely rural and still considered a developing country. The average entry-level monthly pay for most skilled jobs is about $110. If you’re employed full-time in the creative industry and if you’re very lucky, you might be able to earn more than that. Employees earning more than $300 a month are rare to non-existent.

Robert has been a freelance graphic designer since about 2011. He started by doing gigs from his dorm in college and from home. Earnings from his freelance jobs increased his interest in entrepreneurship and he started to consider starting his own creative agency.

How Robert was introduced to WordPress

Robert first came into contact with WordPress in 2014 when he and a friend started a local tech blog. Before that, all he knew was basic, outdated HTML from high school and some knowledge of Adobe Dreamweaver. They decided to use WordPress, and their new blog looked like it came from the future. They used a theme from the repo and got such positive feedback from the blog they decided to open a content and media publishing agency.

While they got a few web redesign jobs thanks to the exposure the blog brought, they lacked the administrative and business skills needed and ended up going their separate ways. Then in his first real job after college Robert finally took it upon himself to learn the ins and outs of WordPress. He learned how to install WordPress on a server and did some research on customizing themes. 

With that knowledge alone he got his first web design clients and started earning nearly as much as he did at his job. Robert soon realized that free WordPress themes would only take him so far, especially with his limited code skills.

Because in Malawi only people who travel abroad have access to credit cards, paying for premium themes was impossible. Like many WordPress designers in developing countries, Robert turned to using pirated themes instead. He knew that was both unsafe and unethical, and decided to learn how to code. Knowing how to build themes from scratch would surely help him rise above the competition. 

The WordPress community from Robert’s perspective

Robert doesn’t have a lot of interaction with the WordPress community. Although he would search for solutions from blogs about WordPress he had never actually talked to or asked anyone from the community for a solution. 

Robert believes that this isolation is the result of a glass ceiling — the WordPress community is partially online and partially in-person, but there isn’t a local group in Malawi. And because Malawi, like many other developing nations, lacks a way to pay online many can’t access premium support, online learning, or most other types of professional development. No matter how welcoming the people of WordPress might be, it can still feel like it mostly belongs to those with enough privilege to conduct business on the internet.

WordPress & inclusion

As most freelancers know, it’s really hard to learn while you also still need to earn. Add pitching to clients and shipping graphic design projects… there are only so many hours in a day.

Robert didn’t have a programming background and had always been more of a creative person. In order to grow as a web designer/developer, he needed to learn PHP. Again, without access to a credit card, that was complicated. Also, free coding training wasn’t as widely available as it is now.

Robert wishes that more developers would consider alternative ways for users who cannot pay for courses, themes, or plugins (whether that’s because of available infrastructure or otherwise). He wishes that WordPress tutors and developers would open up ways to accommodate aspiring learners in developing countries who cannot access plugins, courses, and themes, to be able to give back and to participate at another level.

WordPress has allowed him to build an income he would have no other way of earning and it makes a huge difference. He believes sharing stories like his will hopefully make WordPress products and services become more universally available. In addition, he hopes that more aspiring, self-taught developers will find courage in reaching out to connect with others out there.

Contributors

Alison Rothwell (@wpfiddlybits), Yvette Sonneveld (@yvettesonneveld), Josepha Haden (@chanthaboune), Siobhan Cunningham (@siobhanseija), Topher DeRosia (@topher1kenobe)

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!


WordPress Leaders Nominated for CMX Awards

Two members of the WordPress leadership team were nominated for excellent work in their field in the first ever Community Industry Awards. Andrea Middleton is nominated for Executive Leader of a Community Team and Josepha Haden Chomphosy is nominated for Community Professional of the Year.

CMX is one of the largest professional organizations dedicated to community builders. The awards were open to public nomination, and finalists were chosen by panels of their peers in the CMX community.

Andrea has been a vital community strategist for the WordPress project since 2011. Her work to build and support a vibrant community has played a part in the success around the popular open source CMS. Her work is sponsored by Automattic, where she leads a team that focuses on educational efforts, funding, and in-person community-driven events that serve a global base.

Josepha has been the Executive Director of the WordPress project since 2019. Her work to coordinate and guide volunteer efforts spans 20 teams and involves thousands of volunteers. Her work is also sponsored by Automattic, where she leads the open source division that focuses on all aspects of open source contribution including design, development, volunteer engagement, and the health of the overall WordPress ecosystem.

Votes are Open

Final recipients are chosen with open voting — if you feel like either Andrea or Josepha have had an impact on your careers, your trajectory in the WordPress project, or the health of WordPress as a whole, there are three ways you can show your support:

  • Stop by and vote for them (Andrea here, Josepha here)!
  • Share this post with your own communities!
  • Tweet some inspirational thoughts about your time/experience/learnings with WordPress (using #WordPress, naturally)!

Thank You Notes

A lot of care and passion goes into making the WordPress Project as fantastic as it is. I think these awards are a reflection of how wonderful the community and ecosystem are, and I appreciate everyone’s continued trust in my stewardship!

Josepha Haden Chomphosy

WordPress community organizers are some of the most generous and creative people in the world — working with them is exciting and interesting every day. I’m humbled by this nomination; thank you!

Andrea Middleton

People of WordPress: Jill Binder

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 Jill Binder

Jill Binder never meant to become an activist. She insists it was an accident.

Despite that, Jill has led the Diversity Outreach Speaker Training working group in the WordPress Community team since 2017. This group is dedicated to increasing the number of women and other underrepresented groups who are stepping up to become speakers at WordPress Meetups, WordCamps, and events. 

Jill’s back story

Internship

Jill’s WordPress story begins in 2011, in Vancouver, Canada. Jill secured an internship for her college program, working on a higher education website that was built in WordPress. As a thank you, her practicum advisor bought Jill a ticket to WordCamp Vancouver 2011: Developer’s Edition. After that Jill began freelancing  with WordPress as a Solopreneur. 

First steps in the WordPress community

The following year her internship advisor, who had become a client, was creating the first ever BuddyCamp for BuddyPress. He asked Jill to be on his organizing team. At that event she also moderated a panel with Matt Mullenweg. Then, Jill was invited to be on the core organizing team for WordCamp Vancouver.

Part of this role meant reviewing and selecting speakers. From 40 speaker applications the team had to pick only 14 to speak.

The diversity challenge when selecting speakers

For anyone who has organized a conference, you know that speaker selection is hard. Of the 40 applications, 7 were from women, and the lead organizer selected 6 of those to be included in the speaker line up.

At this point Jill wasn’t aware that very few women apply to speak at tech conferences and suggested selection should be made on the best fit for the conference. The team shared that not only did they feel the pitches were good and fit the conference, but they also needed to be accepted or the Organizers would be criticized for a lack of diversity.

Selecting women for fear of criticism is embarrassing to admit, but that’s how people felt in 2013.

By the time the event happened, though, the number of women speakers dropped to 4. And with an additional track being added, the number of speakers overall was up to 28. Only 1 speaker in 7 was a woman (or 14%) and attendees did ask questions and even blogged about the lack of representation.

What keeps women from applying?

Later that year at  WordCamp San Francisco—the biggest WordCamp at the time (before there was a WordCamp US)—Jill took the opportunity to chat with other organizers about her experience. She found out that many organizers had trouble getting enough women to present.

Surprisingly Vancouver had a high number of women applicants in comparison to others, and the consensus was more would be accepted  if only more would apply.

Jill decided that she  needed to know why this was happening? Why weren’t there more women applying? She started researching, reading, and talking to people.

Though this issue is complex, two things came up over and over:

  • “What would I talk about?”
  • “I’m not an expert on anything. I don’t know enough about anything to give a talk on it.”

A first workshop with encouraging results

Then Jill had an idea. She brought up the issue at an event and someone suggested that they should get women together in a room and brainstorm speaker topics.

So Jill became the lead of a small group creating a workshop in Vancouver. In one of the exercises, participants were invited to brainstorm ideas—this proved that they had literally a hundred topic ideas and the biggest problem then became picking just one!

In the first discussion, Jill focussed on:

  • Why it matters that women (added later: diverse groups) are in the front of the room
  • The myths of what it takes to be the speaker at the front of the room (aka beating impostor syndrome)
  • Different presentation formats, especially story-telling
  • Finding and refining a topic
  • Tips to become a better speaker
  • Leveling up by speaking in front of the group throughout the afternoon
women gathering to discussion presentation topics
Vancouver Workshop 2014

Leading to workshops across North America and then the world

Other cities across North America heard about the workshop and started hosting them, adding their own material.

Many women who initially joined her workshop wanted help getting even better at public speaking. So Jill’s team added in some material created from the other cities and a bit more of their own. Such as:

  • Coming up with a great title
  • Writing a pitch that is more likely to get accepted
  • Writing a bio
  • Creating an outline

At WordCamp Vancouver 2014—only one year since Jill started—there were 50% women speakers and 3 times the number of women applicants! Not only that, but this WordCamp was a Developer’s Edition, where it’s more challenging to find women developers in general, let alone those who will step up to speak.

More work is needed!

Impressive as those results were, the reason Jill is so passionate about this work is because of what happened next:

  • Some of the women who attended the workshop stepped up to be leaders in the community and created new content for other women.
  • A handful of others became WordCamp organizers. One year Vancouver had an almost all-female organizing team – 5 out of 6!
  • It also influenced local businesses. One local business owner loved what one of the women speakers said so much that he hired her immediately. She was the first woman developer on the team, and soon after she became the Senior Developer.

Diversity touches on many levels

Jill has seen time and again what happens when different people speak at the front of the room. More people feel welcome in the community. The speakers and the new community members bring new ideas and new passions that help to make the technology we are creating more inclusive. And together we generate new ideas that benefit everyone.

This workshop was so successful, with typical results of 40-60% women speakers at WordCamps, that the WordPress Global Community Team asked Jill to promote it and train it for women and all diverse groups around the world. In late 2017, Jill started leading the Diverse Speaker Training group (#wpdiversity).

Dozens of community members across the world have now been trained to lead the workshop. With now dozens of workshops worldwide, for WordPress and other open source software projects as well, there is an increase in speaker diversity. 

Diverse Speaker Training group
WordCamp US 2019

As a result of the success, Jill is now sponsored to continue the program. She’s proud of how the diversity represented on the stage adds value not only to the brand but also in the long-term will lead to the creation of a better product. She’s inspired by seeing the communities change as a result of the new voices and new ideas at the WordPress events.

Jill’s leadership in the development and growth of the Diversity Outreach Speaker Training initiative has had a positive, measurable impact on WordPress community events worldwide. When WordPress events are more diverse, the WordPress project gets more diverse — which makes WordPress better for more people.”

Andrea Middleton, Community organizer on the WordPress open source project

Resources:

Contributors

Alison Rothwell (@wpfiddlybits), Yvette Sonneveld (@yvettesonneveld), Josepha Haden (@chanthaboune), Topher DeRosia (@topher1kenobe)

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: 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

2019 Annual Survey

It’s time for our annual user and developer survey! If you’re a WordPress user or professional, we want your feedback.

It only takes a few minutes to fill out the survey, which will provide an overview of how people use WordPress. We’re excited to announce that this year, for the first time, the survey is also available in 5 additional languages: French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish. Many thanks to the community volunteers who helped with the translation effort!

The survey will be open for 4 weeks, and results will be published on this blog. All data will be anonymized: no email addresses or IP addresses will be associated with published results. To learn more about WordPress.org’s privacy practices, check out the privacy policy.

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.

Join Us Again for Global WordPress Translation Day

The WordPress Polyglots team is organizing the second Global WordPress Translation Day on November 12th. Everyone is invited to join – from anywhere in the world!

Translating is one of the easiest ways to get involved with WordPress and contribute to the project. Global WordPress Translation Day is your chance to learn more about translating WordPress, meet people from all over the world, and translate WordPress into one of more than 160 languages.

Join us on November 12th from anywhere in the world

The translation day starts on Saturday, November 12th, 2016, at 0:00 UTC and ends 24 hours later. See what time that is for you! You can join right from the start, or any time it’s convenient for you throughout the day.

What are we doing?

Local contributor days are happening all over the world, and are a great way to get involved. Check out this map to see if there’s already a local event happening near you. Can’t find one? Organize a local event!

At the same time, join the community for 24 hours of live-streamed, remote sessions in numerous languages. Sessions will cover localization, internationalization, and contributing in your language.

Who’s it for?

Whether you’re new to translating and want to learn how to translate, or an experienced translation editor building a strong team, the translation day is for you. Developers will also enjoy topics from experienced contributors, whether you’re learning about internationalization and or want to find more translators for your themes and plugins. There’s a session for everyone!

Get Involved

Joining is easy! On November 12th, in your own timezone, translate WordPress or your favorite plugins and themes into your language, while watching live sessions over the course of the day.

Want to get more involved? Sign up to organize a local event and invite your local community to translate together on November 12th. Events can be formal or completely informal – grab your laptop and a couple of friends, and head to a local coffee shop to translate for an hour or two.

Can you get involved if you only speak English?

Absolutely! Even if you only speak English, there are great sessions about internationalization that can benefit every developer. There’s also lots of English variants that need your help! For example, English is spoken and written differently in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. You can learn about these differences and why these variants are important during the sessions.

And if you’re feeling fun, try translating WordPress into emoji! Yep, we have a translation of WordPress in emoji! 🌎🌍🌏

Questions?

If you have any questions, the polyglots team and the event organizers hang out in #polyglots in Slack and are happy to help! (Get an invite to Slack at chat.wordpress.org.)

Sign up to take part in the event on the official website.