WordPress is an open-source publishing platform. As such, the most important asset it can have (and actually has) is a great community behind it. You may not be aware of this, but if you’re a WordPress user, you’re part of this community. If WordPress is where it is today, it’s because of all the programmers, translators, supporters, and, of course, users (like you and me) that improve it day after day and give the necessary momentum it needs to be the most used CMS.
Today I’d like to briefly discuss why it’s important to contribute to the WordPress project and examine some of the options you have for contributing. Good news is, you don’t need to be a developer or hardcore user for helping in the progress of WordPress—you just need some spare time and a cup of coffee 😉
Why Should I Contribute to WordPress?
The first question you might ask is “why should I contribute to WordPress?” I mean, it’s an open-source and free platform that anybody can download and install for their own benefit, right? Then why should I spend my spare time working on it? Well, that’s precisely the reason for contributing! WordPress relies on volunteers all over the world (plus some people working at Automattic and other WordPress-related companies), who take care of its development and support.
Just take a look at the list of people who contributed to the latest version and you’ll quickly realize of how big this is. And this is only one release. And not everybody that contributed somehow to the project is there.
So if you’re a WordPress user, or a developer who makes his living out from WordPress, it makes total sense for you to give whatever contribution you can to the project. It’s easy, and your helping will definitely be welcome.
Great! How Can I Contribute?
There’s a lot of different areas in which you can contribute and, as I said before, it doesn’t really matter your background or profile. So don’t despair if you don’t have the skills to write code; there’s plenty of work to do. Let’s review them all.
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Build a Strong Community
First and foremost, I’d like to start with the community. Even though the most obvious way to contribute to a software project is by adding or fixing code (and we’ll talk about it in just a few paragraphs), I wanted to emphasize the community facet of WordPress. Why? Because the project is much more than just the code. Being one of the fastest-growing projects, WordPress has a huge and diverse community of users. These people range from beginner bloggers to fully-experienced developers, and include store managers, freelancers, professionals, and so on.
Contributing to the community is one of the easiest, yet important ways to give back to the project. The first stop here is WordPress Support Forums. Anyone can help there, because it basically consists in replying to a ticket offering a solution to a problem you’re familiar with. Is somebody asking how to configure something on the theme you’re using? Help her! Somebody is looking for a plugin to solve something? Recommend the one you’re using for that! Is that simple.
There’s a lot of people in the support forums that help in their spare time (as well as some “professionals”, such as Automattic’s Happiness Engineers), and you can be one of them. Don’t hesitate and jump in! You can even be more creative and share your experience with other users simply by writing about it in your blog (which might drive some traffic to your site too 😉 ).
Another great opportunity for helping other WordPress users is to look for your local community. Likely, your town will have a WordPress community that organizes some offline events, like meetups or WordCamps. In these events you’ll have a great opportunity to learn from other WordPress users and share your own expertise. It’s also one of the best ways to know people in your area that are somehow related to WordPress, which means you can easily find potential partners for your upcoming projects!
Documentation and Translations
If you’re a more advanced user, but you don’t feel like contributing to the core, you may want to contribute to its documentation.
If you’ve installed, configured, or tweaked WordPress, chances are you’ve found and read an entry from the Codex. The Codex is the online manual for WordPress and a living repository for WordPress information and documentation. As new versions of WordPress are released and WordPress evolves, so has to its documentation. In the Codex you’ll find a lot of information about:
- Getting started with WordPress,
- How to use WordPress in your own language,
- How to develop plugins and/or themes for WordPress, or
- How to contribute to the project.
As many things in today’s world, the main Codex is written in English. In an effort to become a true platform for everybody, though, the community behind WordPress is very hard to translate the software and all the resources into any language in the world.
If you’re a native speaker of a language other than English, but feel comfortable reading in English and understand it effortlessly, then you may want to consider translating the Codex to your own language. Polyglots is a project within WordPress for translating it into different languages. Just look for your language team and join it to start your contributions in this area!
As I said before, this is the most obvious way to contribute to the WordPress project. But if you’re thinking that these contributions are only about writing (or reviewing) code… you’re wrong! There’s a lot of activity going on in WordPress core, and you can easily help them.
For example, one of the easiest ways to contribute in WordPress Core is by raising tickets. If you detect a bug in WordPress, just let the developers know by submitting a ticket to the trac system. Just make sure that the bug has not already been submitted by somebody else and, if you’re the first one to detect it, raise a new ticket.
Once tickets are submitted, someone has to take care of them. If you’re an experienced developer and you’re familiar with the core code, then do not think it twice and become part of the core team. Just select the ticket you want to work on, let other developers know that you’ll address it, work on a patch, and submit it. This process is better explained in the Core Contributor Handbook, which I really recommend you read before going down this path 😉
WordPress is a fantastic platform that happens to be free. But this freedom (as in “free beer” and “free speech”) is only possible because of the huge community behind it. You can easily become one active member of this community and give back to it. There’s plenty of ways for contributing, so go ahead and help the project move forward!
Featured image by lostintheredwoods.