Anyone who uses WordPress – either for themselves or for clients – is already a member of the WordPress community. The community stretches across all 7 continents, into 72 countries and 65 languages.
An active member of the WordPress community goes beyond the dashboard, interacting with other community members to improve the overall WordPress experience. Active community members can be developers, designers, marketers, writers, analysts, and so much more. The only criteria for being an active community member are knowing a bit about WordPress, investing time to learn a bit more, and making an effort to share what you know with others.
What is the open-source project?
If you want to be an active member of the WordPress community, it’s important to understand the concept that lies at its core: open-source. Here’s how the leading WordPress educational blog – WP Beginner – explains open source.
“WordPress is an open source software and anyone can use, study, change and redistribute its source code. The open source software development model allows others to not only study the code but also improve it by testing, bug reporting, and submitting patches.”WP Beginner
The WordPress project – the joint activity of creating the code that makes up WordPress itself – is considered General Public License (GPL or GNU GPL). This means that anyone around the world can download, run, modify, and redistribute the software.
This mentality of openness, free access, and modification sets WordPress apart from other content management systems.
At the core of the community is this idea that anyone can learn and play with the software, building upon it and sharing it freely.
Why is it beneficial to be active in the community?
Being active in the WordPress community benefits WordPress, but it also benefits you as an individual.
There are definitely professional benefits. The community is fairly tight-knit and who you know does matter. Luckily, the community is so open that you can get to know lots of people all over the world. If you’re someone who isn’t a fan of traditional networking, being an active community member can provide the same benefits in a more organic and wholesome way.
Working with WordPress is made easier when you’re involved in the community. It’s faster to get product recommendations, learn a new feature, or find candidates to hire.
When you become active in the community, you add your own experience, expertise, and ideas to the pot. You don’t need to be a WordPress expert to be a great member of the community because the focus is never just on writing the best code or making the most money. The way you think and learn is unique, and therefore valuable to others!
All the tips that follow come from my personal experience as an active member of the WordPress community. As I’ve taken the time to learn and grow with the community, I’ve made note of what has worked for me, as well as what has worked for others. We all have something unique to give back to the community – and there is no one right way to do it!
Match Your Mindset
There are four main ways I believe you can approach being active in the community. Keeping these mindsets in mind will help you find a smooth and fun way to get more involved.
Community building is organic, but it also needs to be intentional. You have to decide to be active and figure out a method. You have to make the time and seek out opportunities.
For example, when I first decided I wanted to be more active in the community, I set a goal for myself. I would log on to twitter for 15 to 20 minutes every week day and interact. I followed, retweeted, and replied. I engaged in conversations and spent dedicated time asking and answering questions.
My first “big break” into the community was volunteering to speak on a podcast. I was the first guest on the now hit success – WP Coffee Talk with Michelle Ames! Through Michelle, I got my first full-time WordPress job which entrenched me in the community. And Michelle and I are now good friends and business partners. It was all because I stayed active on Twitter and sought out that opportunity.
This doesn’t mean you need to hop on a podcast right away! But make sure that you are setting aside time on a regular basis to join in on conversations surrounding WordPress.
My favorite community members are the ones who focus on welcoming and encouraging others. No one wants to spend time in a community where they don’t feel wanted or where they don’t have fun. The entire concept of open-source thrives on generosity and the idea that everyone has something to offer.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been using WordPress for 10 days or 10 years: there is something you know that you can teach to others. Focus on kindness, generosity, and openness. Focus on inviting other people in and making space at the table. Focus on learning as well as teaching. Create an environment you’d want to be a part of!
One of my favorite ways to be welcoming is to help out and encourage people at events. Whether that’s helping someone troubleshoot a site at a meetup, volunteering at a WordCamp, or answering a question in the chat of a live event… you have something to offer.
One of my favorite things about the WordPress community is the fact that everyone is always learning. There are people who have been using wordPress since it’s inception. And there are people who develop the very software that makes up the CMS. But those people don’t pretend to know everything. They are always learning and questioning what they know.
Asking questions and answering questions is one of the main ways community members interact. That might be in a support forum, at a Happiness Bar at a WordCamp, on Slack, or on Twitter. WordPress does come with a large learning curve, but there will always be someone out there to answer your questions. Don’t be afraid to ask!
That being said, as you learn, make sure you are putting what you’ve learned back out into the world. Virtually everyone who uses WordPress is self-taught. That means there are tons and tons of resources out there. But that doesn’t mean we should stop teaching each other. Everyone learns differently; your experience with a tool may be different from someone else’s. The way you teach it may be perfect for how someone else wants to learn.
Being helpful can mean answering questions on Slack, WordPress support, or Twitter. It can mean speaking at a WordCamp. It can mean creating content for a blog, video channel, or podcast. Great WordPress community members create resources that have value and that help people use WordPress.
When you create this kind of content, you are giving yourself a voice. You stand for something you have opinions and thoughts that matter. When you use your voice to help others, you make the community a better place.
Find a Place
The above tips are great for getting your mind right, but where do you actually go to find the community? Here are some actionable places where community members hang out. Connecting here – all for free – means you can begin the conversations and interactions that build community.
The people who make up the WordPress community are typically very active on social media. Most people would agree that Twitter is the most popular option, but if that’s not your thing, there are other options as well.
There are a handful of popular Facebook groups you may want to look into. Most of them are specific to certain WordPress-based endeavors and specialities. I can recommend the Advanced WordPress group, GoWP Niche Agency Owners, and WP Roadmaps.
If you’re a LinkedIn person, plenty of community members are active there. Seek out the WordPress hashtag and join in on the conversations happening there. There are often polls, video content, and other debates taking place on LinkedIn. If you’re actively looking for work, it’s definitely the place to be.
Contributing to the WordPress open source project itself is one of the best ways to become active in the community. The Making WordPress Slack is where you’ll need to go in order to do that.
Hundreds of people contribute to WordPress – in big and small ways – every year. I myself contributed to the 5.6 WordPress release in 2020! If you want to read a bit about my own unique experience, you can do so here.
Anyone with any level of WordPress experience can contribute. While there are channels for writing and submitting code, many channels are not code-based! Some are for reviewing documentation, helping out with community events, translating, design, and more. You’re certain to find a channel on the Making WordPress Slack that you can contribute to.
Here is a video on Learning WordPress about contributing. It is full of extremely useful information and tips about how to get started.
There are a wide variety of WordPress events that you can attend, volunteer with, or speak at. Right now, they are all virtual due to the pandemic restrictions. (Which is great for community building since you can now attend events all over the world without the cost of a flight!) But usually, they take place in cities all over the world, all year long.
Meetups are small local events that might happen multiple times per year. Typically they are only a few hours long and focus on a specific topic from one to three speakers. If you search Meetup.com for WordPress events, you should be able to find a few in your area. If you want to speak at a WordPress event, meetups are a great way to get your foot in the door.
WordCamps are the big events. Cities all over the world host them annually, so there is typically a WordCamp or two every single weekend. They go for 2-3 days and can have dozens of sessions, panels, AMAs, workshops, and similar activities. It’s common for WordCamps to even have afterparties where attendees can hang out in a more casual setting.
Independent groups and individuals can host WordPress-focused events, summits, workshops, and more. WordSesh and WPCampus are two of my favorite non-WordCamp WordPress-related events. Some companies – like GoDaddy Pro and Kinsta – will host their own events and webinars as well. Much more often than not, these events are 100% free to attend online!
My favorite community resources
Being active in the WordPress community has been personally and professionally gratifying for me. I’ve made friends all over the world and expanded my technical knowledge far beyond what I thought was possible.
To leave you with, here are some of my favorite community resources I encourage you to explore!
- The HeroPress Blog – A collection of essays from people all over the world about how they got started in WordPress.
- The Repository Newsletter – A weekly newsletter that highlights important things going on in the world of WordPress.
- Torque Social Hour – A weekly livestream about WordPress news and events.
- Make WordPress Community – The official blog of the community/outreach team for the WordPress open source project.
- WP Calendar website – A comprehensive list of all the WordPress events coming up all over the world.
- Underrepresented in Tech – A database of underrepresented people who work in tech and who are looking for opportunities, paid and unpaid.