Software, Development, and WordPress

Contributing To WordPress 3.5

By nature, the idea behind open-source software is awesome: a group of people contributing their time to building something greater for others to use.

For the longest time, I’ve been someone who has often benefited from open source, but aside from contributing tickets, bug reports, or documentation, I’ve never actually contributed code to an open source project.

Contributing to WordPress 3.5 is the first time that I’ve ever contributed code to a project, and I couldn’t be happier that it’s on an application that’s such a significant part of my career.

Roll The Credits

Contributing To WordPress 3.5

I’m in good company

Though I’ve been using WordPress – for both blogging and development – for roughly seven years, I’ve never actually contributed code to the application.

Of course, it’s not because I didn’t want to – it’s because I lacked what was necessary to actually do it. Depending on your level of experience, this will likely look different for you.

The Challenge of Contributing

At some point, I think any programmer wants to contribute to his or her favorite open source project, but sometimes there are factors that make it more difficult.

  • Lack of knowledge of a particular language can hinder your ability to contribute to the codebase.
  • Understanding the processes that are in place – that is reporting, ticketing, source control, patching, etc. – have their own learning curve.
  • There are unintended consequences to the code that you’ll be modifying and you’re not prepared to handle that.
  • …or many other things.

Whatever the case may be, getting started with contributing to the core application takes time, energy, and education and that can take months – or even years – before you get to that point.

That’s what happened to me. In fact, I submitted a couple of patches several of which weren’t accepted because someone else provided better work (and I’m thankful for that).

How To Get Started

To get started in contributing to WordPress, I recommend the following things:

  • Read the Contributing To WordPress Codex article in its entirety. Odds are, you’ll be able to contribute something other than code immediately.
  • Follow the WordPress Trac closely. This is where all bug reports are opened, filed for milestones, and discussed. If you’re looking to contribute code, this is the place to follow.
  • Read Mark Jaquith’s WordPress Toolbox post. This post will describe exactly what’s required for submitting patches.
  • Follow the Core Contributor handbook that’s discussed in Helen’s comment.

It doesn’t look like much, but I highly recommend following Trac for sometime to understand how developers interact, how patches are created, submitted, and then accepted or rejected before going about it.

And Finally…

I’d love to contribute to the core application again – with more significant patches, no less – but the truth is that there are many, many more talented and skilled developers working on the core application.

I’m simply glad to be a part of the group of people who contributed as I’ve got great respect for everyone involved.


  1. Japh

    I can identify so much with a lot of what you’ve said in this post, Tom.

    I first contributed code to WordPress in 3.4, and have again in 3.5, and I plan to for every new release to come! There’s certainly a huge sense of satisfaction in knowing you’ve given something back to the software that’s given you so much.

    Great work! :)

    • tommcfarlin

      There’s certainly a huge sense of satisfaction in knowing you’ve given something back to the software that’s given you so much.

      Exactly. I’m also looking forward to working with you guys on the Plugin Handbook, too. 2013 should be a good year for all things WordPress :).

  2. GeertDD

    Good job, Tom! I made it to the contributors list too, for the first time. It were only some small fixes, yet I smiled when I saw my name in the list. Keep it up!

  3. Helen Hou-Sandi

    If people are looking to contribute in the code sense, the Core Contributor Handbook is an invaluable resource:

    • tommcfarlin

      Yes, definitely. I’ll make sure to link this comment up in the original post. Thanks Helen!

  4. Paul

    Good work Tom, this is something I would really like to do in the next version. I’m going to start reading about the contribution process, will be good to give something back to WordPress.

    • tommcfarlin

      Definitely – read up on the process, follow Helen’s comment and stay close to Trac. There’s often something for everyone at some point during the development cycle.

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