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Stepping Up (Part 2)

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.

Continue reading → Stepping Up (Part 2)

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Stepping Up

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?

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Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires

bokkieMy 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 not.

I’m talking about open-source.

Democratising Community

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:

sketch

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Chatting on WP Round Table

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!

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Community is to WordPress as Bacon is to Breakfast

Yesterday afternoon I presented a session on WPSessions that was all about the WordPress community and how we can all engage with it in a more meaningful way. The session went very well and I had loads of fun doing it – a big thanks to Brian Richards for inviting me to speak!

You can watch the session for free right here – it’s a little less than an hour long in total.

I won’t spoil the content for you, but think of this session as a motivational talk that will inspire you to get involved in the WordPress project in a way that is not only relevant to you, but impactful on the broader community. I can’t stress the importance of meaningful community engagement enough, so have a watch of the video and feel free to leave a comment on here.

Getting Started With WordPress Development

Last night I spoke at a meetup of the Cape Town PHP Group. I was speaking alongside the excellent Gareth McCumskey who was giving a run down of what we can expect in PHP 7 (we can expect a lot of awesomeness by the way – you should really check that out).

My presentation for the evening was a primer on WordPress development and a guide on how to bend WordPress to your will (which would have made a way more awesome title for the talk).

The vast majority of the 30 attendees at the meetup were advanced PHP developers who had minimal experience with WordPress development – this gave me a nice opening where I could talk about some of the basics of writing code for WordPress without having to start with the basics of PHP first. It was also relatively intimidating knowing that most of the people in the room were probably more experienced and more qualified developers than myself, but I think I held my own well enough.

My talk was well received and I think I went on for quite a bit longer than I was supposed to, but that was mainly due to so many questions being asked. It was very encouraging to see that there is clearly a significant interest in WordPress development inside the PHP community.

The video and slides for my talk are below, along with a list of useful links that I either mentioned or feature in my slides at some point.

Useful links:

WordPress plugin developer info
All the information you need in order to get your plugin on the WordPress plugin repository.
WordPress coding standards
WordPress has defined coding standards for PHP, Javascript, HTML and CSS.
WordPress Action Reference
An ordered list of (almost) all of the action hooks available in WordPress core.
WordPress Filter Reference
A list of (almost) all of the filters available in WordPress core.
My WordPress plugin template
A plugin template I developed for my own use that helps get a new plugin off the ground with very little effort.
Varying Vagrant Vagrants (VVV)
Varying Vagrant Vagrants is an evolving Vagrant configuration focused on WordPress development.

Whether you were at the meetup or not I would encourage you to dive head first into WordPress development and I’ll happily lend a hand where I can, so get in touch with me in the comments!

Starting a New Chapter

Today is not only my 3 year anniversary of joining WooThemes, but it also marks the first day that I am no longer a full-time developer on the team. This kicks off a significant new chapter in my professional career as it will be the first time since I started working that my job will no longer be 100% focussed on writing software.

My new title at WooThemes is Community Engagement Manager, but titles don’t mean all that much in the WordPress community these days so let me explain that a bit further. I essentially created this position for myself because I saw a need at WooThemes that I wanted to fill.

What is it?

The Community Engagement Manager position exists to manage WooThemes’ relationship with the WordPress community. It will involve engaging with other companies and individuals in the community as well getting involved in practical ways – from events and sponsorships to core contributions, plugin development and engaging in discussions. On top of that, a big part of this position is ensuring that our whole team gets involved in the broader WordPress community on an individual level.

Why does WooThemes need it?

I believe it is incredibly important for WooThemes, as a company, to be more heavily involved in the WordPress community than we are currently. Matt Mullenweg also thinks so and, while this isn’t a quest to tick a box or fill a quota, the principle behind his 5% is to be giving back to the community in a dedicated and intentional manner – this position fills that need at WooThemes.

Why me?

I completely believe in the community and I’ve benefitted so much from it already that giving back in an intentional and direct manner is something that I am totally passionate about. I love what the WordPress community is and what it represents – being the Community Engagement Manager will allow me to tie my work at WooThemes together with my passion for the WordPress community.

What will I be doing?

Seeing as though this is a brand new position at WooThemes, we’ll be figuring a lot of it out as we go, but the overall goal of the position is to move WooThemes to the forefront of WordPress contributions and the community. This will come in the form of active contributions on my part as well as working with each member of our team to get them all to a point where they are actively contributing on a regular basis. I’ll also be working towards getting WooThemes directly involved in community projects (such as CommHub and HelpHub).


I’m very excited for this position – not only because I now get to devote 100% of my time to improving the WordPress community, but also because it will enable WooThemes to become far more effective and present in the global WordPress community.

As a side note, this move is nicely complemented by Bryce Adams moving into a full time development role at WooThemes.

Developers are people too!

Believe it or not, people who develop WordPress plugins are actual real live people with actual real lives and actual real feelings.

If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?

When we release a plugin on the repo we don’t do it out of need or obligation – rather it’s out of passion and a desire to give back to the great community that enables us to earn a respectable living. We do it because we believe that being selfish with our code doesn’t benefit anyone and by making it available for the world to use we are adding to the overall value of WordPress as a platform and as a community.

So if all that’s true, how can we show appreciation for developers who have spent hours of their time writing code from which they will never directly profit? Well the plugin repo provides a few very easy ways to do this:

1. Write a review

Leaving a review for a plugin is incredibly easy and will only take you a minute of your time. It’s really easy to do and it’s the best way to give more detailed feedback to the plugin developer. Along with a star rating you can leave a review detailing why you rated the plugin how you did and what you think of it all. Plugin reviews are criminally underused, especially now that all star ratings require a review to be written as well.

2. Vote for compatibility

Another surprisingly underused feature is the compatibility voting. On every WordPress plugin you can indicate whether the current version of the plugin works with the current version of WordPress. The has two significant benefits for the plugin – firstly, it displays a friendly green box on the plugin page that states very clearly that the plugin works with the latest version of WordPress and, secondly, when someone searches for a plugin from inside their WordPress dashboard it indicates that the plugin is 100% compatible with their current WordPress version. If only the creator of the plugin has voted for their compatibility then the 100% notice will qualify the ‘working’ status with a tagline saying ‘according to its author’, which makes it seem a lot less valid than otherwise.

3. Donate to the developer

All plugin developers have the option of including a donation link with their plugins that will be added to the plugin page on the repo. While this is the only method shown here that will actually cost you money, it’s a great way to show your appreciation while also supporting the livelihood of the developer. I’ve only ever received a few donations through my plugins (although I no longer have have a donation option on any of them), but every time I do I feel hugely encouraged.

4. Spread the word

The final way of showing your appreciation that I’m going to mention here is pretty basic really and is probably the most natural and organic way of helping to support plugin developers – simply tell others about the plugin. Head to Twitter, Facebook and your other networks and tell others how much you enjoy the plugin. Given that this is something you would probably do anyway it’s pretty easy to be more intentional about doing it.


So what are you waiting for – go through your plugin list today and show the developers what their work means to you.

What WordPress means to me

WordPress is web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. We like to say that WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.

That’s how WordPress is introduced on WordPress.org – a humble introduction for software that powers a huge chunk of the internet. Not only that, but to many people (myself included) WordPress is more than just ‘web software’ – it enables and signifies something far greater than that. This is what WordPress mean to me.

1. People

I make it no secret that I strongly believe in the WordPress community. Through this community I have met a ton of awesome people who share my passion for WordPress and the people who make it what it is. On top of that, I work at one of the coolest companies in the WordPress space where I get to work with some of the most talented individuals in the community on a daily basis.

2. Purpose

With WordPress powering nearly a quarter of the internet (seriously – that’s massive), being a part of the community means you’re a part of something that is genuinely changing the world. WordPress’ mission to democratise publishing is one that it is currently succeeding at in spades and I’m honoured to be even a small part of that mission. Whether it’s fixing code directly in WordPress core, getting involved in your local WordPress community, or by participating in any of the other ways that you can contribute back to the project, you are throwing your hat into the ring of the evolution of the internet and publishing. That’s a real purpose that is worth getting behind.

3. Progress

On a personal level, I have progressed so much from just being a part of this community – my code has improved (publicly sharing it through plugins will force you to improve very quickly), I’ve learnt a lot about contributing to open source projects, and through organising WordCamps and other meetups I have learnt important management and organisational skills. This kind of growth is truly invaluable.


All of these things are, as WordPress itself is described above, both “free and priceless at the same time”. It is for these reasons that I love being involved in this great community and I will continue to work hard at doing what I can to improve myself and the community around me.