When To Start Contributing To WordPress

One of the points of frustration – or even dismay – that people have when they have a passion for working with WordPress is the fact that they don’t have an opportunity to commit anything to core. Or, rather, they don’t have the time that they wish they had to contribute anything to core.

And it can make you feel a little guilty (though it shouldn’t).

Sure, there are a lot of open source projects that are available many of which will merge a pull request in the same day if you were to offer one, but if you’re someone who uses WordPress daily for blogging, design, and/or development, then you likely have a strong urge to commit a patch to core and to see your name show up in the credits screen.

And no, it’s not for the point of having your name listed as a core contributor or for pride or anything like that, it’s for giving something back to the software that’s given you the ability to make a living, to make a side income, or just to build cool things for cool people.

But the challenge is actually finding the time.

How do you find the time between your day-to-day schedule between work, family, projects, and so on to pour through Trac in order to find something that you’re able to work on, to patch, to submit, and then to hope it gets merged into core?

WordPress Core Trac
WordPress Trac

The easy answer: You make time.

Easy. Just use a black hole like in Interstellar.
Easy. Just use a black hole like in Interstellar.

But, c’mon, is that really a fair answer to give to someone who really does want to give back or who feels a sense of dismay that they aren’t able to do so for whatever circumstances?

Start Contributing To WordPress

Like anyone who uses WordPress frequently, I’d love to spend as much time as possible committing as many patches as I am able back to the core software. It’s hard to find the time to do that, though, between work, family life, and so on.

But the thing is, I’ve contributed very, very little.

To be clear, this isn’t saying that those who do commit patches have it any easier. It’s not like that. We all have the same amount of time – it’s just allocated differently. But as someone who loves WordPress and wants to see its continued growth and success, part of me has this perpetual, proverbial itch that wants to constantly give back to core.

The problem is that I don’t currently have the time to devote to that particular task.

So how are we supposed to balance than tension that gives almost a sense of obligation to do something with the fact that we have other things to do?

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but it basically breaks down like this:

  • Every time a new development cycle starts for WordPress, I tell myself “Okay, I’ll get back into committing to core during this cycle.”
  • I’ll read all of the development related emails and skim IRC (well, now Slack), and then see if there isn’t something I can work on.
  • Find a bug that I think I have the chops to squash and make a note of it.
  • Try to schedule a time to work on it.
  • Come to work on it to already see a patch has been made

On one hand, it’s great that a patch has been made – it means that one less bug exists and one less thing is going to be negatively impacting users.

WordPress Slack
WordPress Slack

On the flip side, I wasn’t able to make the contribution I wanted. It’s not a competition, but it’s a matter of just having a strong desire to give back, you know?

The truth is that we are giving back, just in a different way.

We’re creating things that are pushing the platform forward – be it themes, plugins, client work, whatever – and though we may not be considered “WordPress core contributors,” we’re still doing a lot of good in terms of keeping up with the status of the software, that we can do with it, what we can’t do with it, what’s planned, and we’re still making sure it progresses by building solutions with it.

And who knows: Perhaps the time will eventually align at some point where we’ll be able to make core contributions again.

Whatever the case, don’t let others make you feel bad for not being able to contribute to core on their schedule for whatever reason. We’re all busy for our own reasons and that’s a Good Thing™.

So continue to stay in tune with all things going on with WordPress and then work on it if you, can if not, someone else will – and that’ll resolve the issue – and you’ll be able to keep providing whatever work you’ve got going on for your clients.

Even though you may not get to patch the bug you want, everyone wins. Besides, bugs are never going way. You’ll have the time for one at some point.

 

11 Replies to “When To Start Contributing To WordPress”

  1. I’m highly sympathetic. When I’m into a project full bore, the time for
    core contributions seems a million years away. Yet I feel great about the
    past contributions I’ve made, and remain determined to return in the
    future. Here’s the hardest thing for me: those contributions were fun to
    make! I wasn’t stressed for time, and I could get fully into. That’s the
    true challenge I make for myself: don’t just make time to contribute, make
    enough time to enjoy it!

    1. When I’m into a project full bore, the time for core contributions seems a million years away.

      Exactly this.

      Yet I feel great about the past contributions I’ve made, and remain determined to return in the future.

      Same thing. It’s like “I will eventually get back to this. Not right now. But soon. (Where soon is so indeterminate. ;)”

      That’s the true challenge I make for myself: don’t just make time to contribute, make enough time to enjoy it!

      Love this.

  2. I would say that you are already contributing as this blog provides an inspiration, certainly to myself and I am pretty sure plenty of others. The topics you cover seem to cover pretty much most thing a developer could need to work with WordPress – I would call that a core contribution.

    For myself I am lucky that I live in the UK, not because of the weather as that sucks but that as we are a relatively small country I can get to some fairly major WordPress oriented events and 3 weeks ago went to a WordPress Contributors day in London. It is apparent that there are quite a few things that can be done without having to devote all your spare time. I suspect also that it can become addictive!!!

    Oh yes, the beer in the UK is exceptionally good too, especially if you can find the right pub….

    1. I would say that you are already contributing as this blog provides an inspiration, certainly to myself and I am pretty sure plenty of others.

      Wow. Thanks very much, I appreciate that!

      I do hope that the things I share end up helping others, but the truth is that many people also end up providing insights on things I’ve shared that help to improve my work code, workflows, and so on.

      It is apparent that there are quite a few things that can be done without having to devote all your spare time. I suspect also that it can become addictive!!!

      I agree on both accounts.

      It gets really addictive especially because it feels good to get working code into core :).

      Oh yes, the beer in the UK is exceptionally good too, especially if you can find the right pub….

      If I’m ever over, you’ll need to show me around ;P.

      1. I would love to show you the wonderful watering holes of this nation – in fact I believe that WP Europe is going to be in London next year so if you got over to that (fancy being a speaker?) then I’m sure it could be arranged…

    2. You right. I really appreciate even tweet to point some good blogpost about WordPress or to some quality plugin/theme.
      I think majority of WP users are not coders and for them every ”hot” word – tweet, post, anything about WordPress is huge help … especially if it becomes from authority like Tom and many others.
      Thanks for that.

  3. Thanks for this Tom – you’ve articulated the feeling that I (and so many others I’m sure) share. Finding time for core contributions is super tough, but I so badly want to do it more.

    That being said, I totally agree that plugins, themes, docs, etc. are all equally significant contributions to WordPress – to both the software and the community. Inspirational blogs like yours are also just as important – without discussions sparked by posts like this, the community wouldn’t be thriving like it does. It’s awesome being on the contributor list for a WordPress release, but all the other areas of contributions are just as significant and I think we sometimes forget that.

    1. you’ve articulated the feeling that I (and so many others I’m sure) share

      Hopefully :). It’d suck to be alone in something like this ;).

      But based on what you and others have said, it’s pretty clear, I think, that it’s something we all deal with on some level.

      It’s awesome being on the contributor list for a WordPress release, but all the other areas of contributions are just as significant and I think we sometimes forget that.

      Agreed! If you get caught up in contributing to core for the reason of seeing your name in the proverbial lights, you’re going at it for the wrong reason.

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