“I came for the software and stayed for the community.” In this episode of our series Why we love WordPress, I’ll show you what’s behind the software we love. Software isn’t writing itself (yet), and behind WordPress is a great number of volunteer teams working on the software and everything around it. These people are the driving force behind WordPress. Together they form a big (online) family, one that I hold very dear. And today, I want you to meet my family!
WordPress is more than software
Usually, when we speak about WordPress, we’re referring to the software. We’re referring to the code that you can install and use to build your website on. This nifty piece of software is also called ‘WordPress Core’ because it’s at the core of everything we do. Core is built by hundreds of developers. But the WordPress project isn’t limited to the Core. It isn’t limited to the code. It’s a lot bigger than that!
When you went to download WordPress over at wordpress.org, you visited the main platform for WordPress. It’s built and maintained by people on the Meta team. Or, maybe you’re Dutch and went to nl.wordpress.org, which is the same platform but translated by people on the Polyglots team.
Then, after downloading and installing WordPress you probably decided that you want a custom theme for your brand new website. So, you go over to the themes section on wp.org and pick one of the free themes listed. All of these themes are built by people and companies who offer them for free, and all are reviewed by the people on the Theme Review Team before they’re offered to you. The same goes for all of the 56,000+ plugins listed. They are all reviewed by volunteers on the plugins team.
Are you getting an idea of the number of volunteers involved with WordPress? Great! Now consider I’ve only mentioned a few of the 18 (!!) teams working on the WordPress project. As you can see, people are at the heart of the WordPress project. People, volunteers, who are willing to put in all this effort to help themselves and each other. For so many people to work together on one project successfully, you need a strong sense of community. WordPress has exactly that.
Who are these people?
In WordPress, you’ll find people from all walks of life, all trades and all levels of expertise. Each and every one of them has their own reason to be involved with the project. Maybe it’s to learn from experts in their field, maybe they love open source, want to improve the web for millions of people worldwide, or to give back to the project that’s giving them a lot. Everyone has their own story to tell, and I can only encourage you to listen to those stories.
What I found they all have in common is a great passion for their area of expertise in the WordPress project. And it’s the positive energy they bring to the project that makes WordPress what it is today. Most contributors to WordPress started out as users of the software, who found a problem and started fixing it. It’s that collective mindset of wanting to make WordPress better for everyone that defines both the people and the project.
Some of them found their job through contributing to WordPress. Others are now employed just to work on the project. Some are building websites and submitting patches to resolve the problems they’re running into. Others have their day jobs in completely different fields but contribute their spare time for the fun of contributing.
Regardless of their reasons, WordPress is thriving because of the passion of its contributors, the WordPress community.
Joining the WordPress community
I know. Reading about the energy the community gives makes you want to join it. And you know what the best part is? You’re most welcome! The WordPress community is a friendly, inclusive, and welcoming bunch that would be happy to have you.
Back in 2013 when I was completely new to WordPress, one of the most experienced contributors to WordPress told me this; “All you have to do to be part of the community is show up. And here you are. Welcome!”.
If you want to be part of this group of amazing people too, all you have to do is find something you’re passionate about, something that’s currently broken you want to fix, or something that you see can be improved in WordPress. Listen to the conversations in teams, especially when you don’t know what to work on yet. Show up, and start doing the work. Talk to the people on the team about your ideas and you’ll find they’ll be the first to welcome you in.
Meeting the community
Much of what’s happening in WordPress is happening online. So you can meet the WordPress community from basically anywhere with an internet connection.
Make WordPress and Slack
Make WordPress is the central location for all the teams in the WordPress community. Each team has its own blog and its own handbook. The handbooks are the ‘playbooks’ for each team. They describe what the team does, how it’s done, and how to get started as a new contributor to the team. So it’s a great place to learn about all the teams.
Day-to-day communication within and between teams happens in Slack. Slack is chat software, based on IRC – for those of you old enough to remember it, like me. Everyone who has a wordpress.org account can join the WordPress Slack. Almost 35.000 WordPressers now have an account on the WordPress Slack. This makes it a great place to meet, have discussions, and share information for everyone involved with WordPress.
Meeting people who are working with WordPress -obviously- isn’t limited to the official channels. You can find WordPress user groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, check out tutorials on YouTube, and follow WordPressers on Instagram and Twitter. Who knows, you might even find TikTok videos on WordPress. All of these networks allow you to interact with the people behind WordPress.
Is everything happening online then?
Well, the timing for that question is interesting, given the current state of the world with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, under normal circumstances, there are also great opportunities to meet in person. These -mostly local- events come in two flavors; Meetups and WordCamps.
WordPress meetups are highly local events where WordPress enthusiasts, users, students, developers, configurations, and everyone who has ever touched or is planning to touch, WordPress can go. They’re mostly free events that are organized in the evening once a month, or every couple of months to talk about WordPress and the things you can do with it. You can find all the official WordPress Meetups on meetup.com. If there’s one near you, I can highly recommend you to go check it out!
The bigger version of a meetup is a WordCamp. They’re usually one or two days long conferences featuring presentations about a wide variety of WordPress-related topics. The conference tickets are kept low-cost with the help of amazing sponsors. Again, if you really want to get involved, this is the place to be! And I’m not just saying that for the (after)parties
The impact of COVID-19 on offline events
Since the COVID-19 virus pandemic started, in-person events worldwide have been canceled. But when you have a community filled with positive energy, anything can happen. Anything will happen. And so, the events that used to be offline, are now moving online through Zoom, YouTube Live, and other video and streaming services.
One of the known effects of the pandemic on people, especially on those who are self-employed, is loneliness. It’s amazing to see how the WordPress community is handling that. I often see people check in on each other, just have a quick chat and keep others involved. It’s absolutely heartwarming. It’s also people from the WordPress community who started Big Orange Heart, a charity focusing on mental health support for remote workers. And while this initiative started well before COVID-19, it’s extra important in today’s world.
Why we love the WordPress community
The WordPress community is a global group of thousands of enthusiasts who share a passion for the WordPress project. Because WordPress is open source, it attracts friendly, open and welcoming people. WordPress is thriving because of the energy these people bring, and that’s why we are actively involved in, and absolutely love the WordPress community!