WordPress exists today because people contribute to it. They contribute in their evenings, weekends and lunch times. People choose to take WordCamp vacations, attend contribution days on a Sunday with their family. These volunteer contributors are the heartbeat of WordPress. They are the stories that whilst often unheard need listening to.
Let’s be real, contribution to an open source project isn’t the easiest thing to do. If you managed to get beyond the hurdle of actually working out how to contribute, you suddenly turn up in a community that can feel overwhelming to put it mildly. Beyond the first steps, continuing, growing and sticking around contributing is another really difficult path to walk.
I get to work with these amazing contributors on a daily basis as I am donated back to the WordPress project. Over the past year one thing has become clear to me, contribution is a product and needs designing. In order to do that I have taken myself back to planet listen and I am reminded of an Automattic design principle in doing this:
“Search for and tell stories about people, not just data.”
– Muriel principle
The stories of contributors are varied, powerful and often unheard. WordPress isn’t just about commits and tickets, it’s so much more. It’s the person that turns up to the meeting to take notes tirelessly, the person that takes it on themselves to meet every new person that lands in a channel, the person who leaves unable to contribute… Every story needs telling because that’s how it can be learnt from, positive or negative. It’s important to always remember not every story has a happy ending and when listening we need to listen to all.
A percentage of the web doesn’t tell the real story
Often when talking about WordPress the focus is on how much of the web runs it. That’s natural, we like to label, put a number and hold data as the guiding light. That number though doesn’t tell the story of those that every minute, every hour, every day contribute. Those stories are so important and by listening it shapes the future of contribution. An open source project is only as good as the way it treats those that make it.