Last week I wrote about how I’m planning on stepping up this year to speak at more conferences. Even though I also challenged you all to do the same, public speaking may not be a goal of yours (which is totally fine of course). There is, however, another way you can step up in a similar arena without all the anxiety of being up in front of people. It’s something that you can all start today and you can easily start small – I’m talking about organising local events.
In 2016 I spoke at a local conference for the first time. It felt pretty easy because it was WordCamp Cape Town – an event and community with which I am intimately familiar. I was also speaking about a topic that I know really well. Later on in the year I spoke at WordCamp Johannesburg too – I didn’t know the community as well as Cape Town’s of course, but my talk was pretty similar to my Cape Town one, so it also felt really easy.
This year I plan on stepping up to speak at conferences that I would see as a lot less simple for me. Ones more outside of my comfort zone. I have already applied to speak at PHP South Africa with three different talk options (one workshop and two regular sessions) – I’ll find out in a couple of months whether any of them are accepted. I’d like to do more though – we all have knowledge and sharing it outside of our comfort zones is not only helpful for our own personal growth, but it benefits our listeners too.
I’m going to be on the lookout for local conferences to speak at and I encourage you to do the same. Why not start with PHP South Africa?
On 13 December 2012, I launched Seriously Simple Podcasting – a plugin that I initially built for my church’s website, but then expanded into a full-featured podcasting plugin available for anyone to use. The initial purpose behind the plugin was to create a podcasting experience for WordPress that none of the other available options at the time offered – simple, hassle-free podcast management using a simple UI that did not sacrifice features for ease-of-use. Essentially, I wanted to democratise podcasting in a way that no other WordPress-based options were doing.
Now, 13 major releases of WordPress later, the time has come for me to move on from building and maintaining Seriously Simple Podcasting.
My fellow South Africans will be familiar with Bokkie making sure we know that only WE have the power to prevent bush and veld fires. The emotive tear and the damning words “Look what you’ve done!” accusing passers by of ruining a beautiful natural habitat – even if only by their inaction – were a powerful (if not repetitive) image along the side of the road all over the country.
My American friends will be more familiar with Smokey the Bear giving the same message I’m sure, but the point is the same:
You are responsible for your own environment – only you can make it better.
As a child I generally shrugged this kind of sentiment off as an issue that was simply just not my problem. This is something that I think most people did back then and largely still do today. Not just with forest fires of course, but with everything in life that is too large to fully comprehend or nail down to a specific (in)action on our own part – forest fires, climate change, unemployment, government, crime, or any other global issue. We would rather bury our heads in the sand about these things, instead of actually doing something to help make them better.
This is a common human characteristic – something that we all do to some extent. I applaud those who actually do stand up and take action to improve their place in the world – those who actually heed Bokkie’s words and take responsibility for their own lives and situations. Even if what they do feels so small that barely anyone else would even notice, at least it’s something.
Why am I talking about forest fires?
I’m talking about open-source.
This morning I presented a talk titled There is no “I” in WordPress at the first ever WordCamp in Johannesburg. The video of my talk will be up on WordPress.tv at some point in the next month or two, but in the mean time you can see the slides here:
The talk was about how WordPress is far bigger than just you and illustrates just how you can (and should!) get involved in the broader WordPress community. The more astute of you will notice that this talk is very similar to the one I presented at WordCamp Cape Town earlier this year, just with a different emphasis (and much better looking slides).
Today I presented a talk titled Democratising Community at WordCamp Cape Town 2016. Even though I gave an intro talk last year, this is actually my first real WordCamp talk and it’s one that I’m hugely passionate about. I spoke about how people can give back to the WordPress community in real, effective and tangible ways – a topic that I could talk about all day long.
The video of the talk is up on WordPress.tv and you can watch it right here:
To go along with that, here are my slides from the talk (which are displayed in the video as well as they are needed) that include the URLs that I mentioned for a quick reference:
As an added bonus, one of the attendees (and workshop presenters) at WordCamp, Steve Barnett, made a nifty sketch of my talk while I was speaking:
Last night I had a fun time chatting about WordPress, the community and what it all means on the 100th episode of the WP Round Table podcast. I had a great time with Kyle Maurer and Jason Crawford and we spent the better part of the hour we had together talking about giving back to the WordPress community – a topic that I’m always passionate about.
You can watch the full video (about 1 hour long) right here:
Some of the video of me seems to lag a bit at times (due to the generally lower bandwidth speeds in my area), but the audio all comes through just fine.
Thanks to Kyle and Jason for having me!
When building a UI for adding meta data to a post in WordPress it’s always best to stick to the WordPress styling as much as possible. So, if you’re adding an image upload field to a post, it’s often a good idea to use a known UI element such as the Featured Image meta box. This especially useful if you are asking for a ‘secondary’ featured image – such as one that could be used as a post header image, while keeping the default featured image separate for blog listings, etc.
I did exactly that in a recent project where the posts needed a landscape listing image to be displayed in blog listings while the featured image was reserved for social sharing and viewing inside the single post content.
The WordPress Foundation is a charitable organisation founded by Matt Mullenweg to further the mission of the WordPress open source project: to democratise publishing through Open Source, GPL software.
That is the opening of the WordPress Foundation’s about page and something that is always at the forefront of my mind when building WordPress products.
One of those products that is a passion of mine as a personal side-project, is my podcasting plugin for WordPress dubbed Seriously Simple Podcasting. I originally built the plugin for my church’s website because all of the available podcasting plugins at the time were either too bloated or too under-powered to use effectively. With that in mind, the main thing that separates my plugin from the rest of them is, as the name suggests, the sheer ease of use. My development focus has always been on the user and Seriously Simple Podcasting is no exception in that regard.
But I digress – what I’ve brought you all here for today is actually to say that my podcasting plugin isn’t just an easy to use solution for podcasters to make their content available to the world, but it is also aiming towards the lofty goal of emulating the WordPress project itself by fulfilling the mission of democratising podcasting as an open-source and entirely free product.
Now, to be clear, ‘open source’ does not necessarily imply that the software is free (in fact, the definition given by the Open Source Initiative doesn’t even mention price at all), but this is something that I wanted to do as a way of giving back to the community by making audio publishing just as free and easy as blogging has been made by WordPress.
If you’re interested in joining me on this mission to democratise podcasting then know that the Seriously Simple Podcasting repo on GitHub is always open and ready for your contributions as is the repo for the hugely significant stats add-on. You could even come on board by helping to translate the plugin.
Whether you get involved or not, however, I will continue to work towards the goal of democratising podcasting for everyone and I’d love some company.
WordPress core development is an exciting world to explore and I highly recommend that any and all WordPress developers go and jump right in. This post is not for developers though – this post is for those who have strong and valid opinions about WordPress core features, but are not able to contribute to the codebase itself.
If you fall into that category then you might feel somewhat left out and unable to get involved, but I’m pleased to tell you that there is actually a lot you can do.
WordPress itself is, as we all know, 100% open-source. One of the implications of this is that there is a vast community of people who are able to have a say in what goes in the development of the platform. That community includes you.
So how do you have your say and provide feedback? Some people like to use angry blog post comments or passive aggressive tweets (which usually involve threats to leave/fork WordPress), but I’m sure we can all agree that things like that are completely unproductive. There are, in fact, three primary locations that allow you to easily provide feedback, each with their own focus and purpose:
1. The Make Core blog
Each aspect of the WordPress has it’s own (publicly available) ‘Make’ blog and the core one is right here. This blog contains, amongst other things, updates on core feature development. Each post that includes these updates is also open for commenting, so if you have an opinion about a specific feature then you can easily get involved by simply commenting on the relevant post.
Take the recent oEmbed feature that is going to become available in WordPress 4.4 for example – all of the posts about that feature are open for reading and commenting on the blog. If you would like to influence how the feature is built or if you maybe have a use case that the developers may not have thought of, then the best thing to do is to comment on the relevant post as it is published.
2. The Making WordPress Slack channel
Blog posts comments too cumbersome for you? Want to chat to the developers in real time? Then the Making WordPress Slack channel is perfect for you. Slack is free to sign up for (which you can do here) and it provides a platform where you can have live conversations with a number of key decision makers for the WordPress project.
All Slack conversations are recorded in the channel archive, so if you missed a conversation then you can always go back and have a look at what you missed.
3. The core issue tracker
All of the code that is written for WordPress core is managed through Trac – if you would like to give feedback on the actual code then this is the place to go. It can be a bit daunting (mostly because the Trac UI isn’t super user-friendly), but this is a great place to provide your feedback, opinions and maybe even a patch or two if you’re feeling brave.
Test new features
This should come before you provide feedback, but testing is an incredibly important part of each WordPress release (and indeed the release of any software) – simply using the new features and providing feedback on how it works is more valuable than you might realise.
To make things easy for you, all you need to do is install the WordPress Beta Tester plugin and you will be automatically updated to the latest development version of WordPress that includes all the new features and fixes that are set to be included in the upcoming release. From there, you simply need to try out a few things and see how it works – if anything breaks or if you think something should be done differently, then provide some feedback using any (or all) of the methods listed above.
So that’s it – it really is that easy to get involved in WordPress core development, even if you don’t call yourself a developer.
If you’ve read this and you’re interested in WordPress development, then what are you waiting for? Go forth and test!