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Be Kind, Educate

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August 18th, 2008
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Blogging Essays, WordPress
I was preparing the following post as a speech for an event, but since I already used the above quote in a comment and the event did not pan out, I would like to post it for my readers. This version is smaller and is modified to suit the medium but I have tried to keep the message as close to the original thought as possible. I hope it helps at least one WordPresser help another WordPresser.

I started on my Masters degree in Computer Science after having worked in the industry for over four years. I decided that my education in Physics was not enough because it did not give me the ability to make enough of a difference to the people that I worked for. I could solve their problems and try my very best to make them smile when I left their establishment (I worked as a computer tech, making my way up to service manager when I quit) but I did not have the ability to help change their computing world and make them more content with their technology. I was just a fixer and could not enable change. So I quit my job, took out some loans, borrowed some money from my parents and went right back to school.

When I started school, I was fresh to programming. I had written some code in C for my undergraduate thesis and had taken one programming class at Wooster. However, truth be told, I was a real newbie in the programming world and was faced with a complex and advanced Computer Science curriculum that scared the living snot out of me. While searching the web for a project to sink my teeth into, I ran into blogging, then into b2 which finally led to me WordPress and a lanky kid from Texas with a lot of ideas and some fantastic leadership skills. I figured I would start two blogs to dip my toe in the water. One would be my personal blog and the other would be a log of all the programming work that I was doing. I figured it would help me get my arms around code, would help me help others and I would chronicle my journey in programming.

When I downloaded and installed WordPress, I had no clue about PHP, SQL, web servers or about most of the other technologies that I worked with. I huffed and puffed, stumbled and fumbled, tore my hair out and swore like a pirate almost every night when I sat down to play with my PHP scripts after finishing my Knowledge Based Systems homework. After much learning and quite a few painstaking weeks, I put together a few ‘hacks” for WordPress to make it do the things I wanted it to do and posted them on the support forums and on my blog.

But I quickly learned that the magic was not within me. The magic was within the community, the ideals championed by the community and benevolent nature of the community. Every hack was welcomed with open arms. Every tip that I posted made me more friends. Every theme I hacked up with my color blind eyes made me more popular. People started to recognize my name in the forums. I regularly received emails and conversed with folks from across the world. Before I knew it, I was a part of a fantastic community where I was more than just a nickname. The experience was sickeningly satisfying. The WordPress bug had bitten me and I could not stop scratching.

But the community was growing very quickly. I was not the only person that found solace in being within the community. There were dissensions, disagreements, flare ups, trolling and everything else in between. In watching various events unfold that first year, I learned my first lesson in community building.

Everyone speaks a different language even if we all speak English.

This is a well discussed and researched topic so anything I say has probably been said more lucidly in the past. But here is why I think our community works in spite of all our differences.

We have a glue. The glue is WordPress.

Why are we all such fans of a piece of software? I am a fan because it has helped me promote myself and my work. My dad is a fan because it helps him teach others about his fascinating ideas on alternative medication and spread wellness and news on staying healthy.

WordPress is a gift that keeps on giving.

WordPress is not just a one time pleasure. It continues to give me a lot for next to nothing. My ROI on WordPress is just massive. If you think for a few minutes, you might see your ingredients for the glue. I would love to know what WordPress gives you back.

Take a penny, leave a penny.

To me, WordPress represents everything that is fundamental to the Open Source movement. It represents a virtuous circle. Every WordPress personality keeps harping about how every user should think about giving back to the community because it will pay them back. Here is how I think of it. If all effort and resources were like a little penny holder in a store and we believe that all people, in their heart of hearts are good people (which I do), then every penny that you leave in that penny jar will make the jar look more full. An overflowing penny jar gives the person who needs a penny the confidence that if they take a penny, the jar will not become empty. It also gives the person who has a few extra pennies the desire to do what other good people have done in the past. WordPress enables us to feel good about ourselves.

We are all wellwishers.

I think we as human beings tend to forget that most people have good intentions. I also know that knowing that is not enough. It is very difficult to see the other person’s point of view. This is especially true if you feel very strongly about your opinion. That brings me to my next point.

We eat our own dog food.

Even core WordPress commiters have disagreements. However, I believe that we as a community have matured enough that we know when to give in. We have given WordPress the ability to be molded and shaped in the way it needs to be in order to make ourselves happy. Most features in WordPress can be removed, changed or enhanced to suit individual needs and abilities. There are plugins developed by core WordPress folks that get around certain features which they did not like but did not have the reasoning to enforce a global change on. Even in its failures, WordPress shines through.

That brings me to my final thought and the title of this post.

Be kind, educate.

I adore Lorelle. To me, she is the embodiment of our community in everything she does and in every action she performs. She is supportive and critical at the same time. She embraces and challenges in the same breath. She sticks her tongue out and throws her arms wide open all in one swoop. I believe what makes her approach so nice is that she is kind to the people that can enact change and she loves to teach other people to do the things she does so well. She is a WordPress enabler.

I wanna be like her. So I pledge to be as kind as I can be and I promise to educate everyone that cares to listen. While I am at it, I hope to learn a thing or two along the way. Will you help me do that?

So what do you pledge to do for WordPress and what can WordPress pledge to do for you?

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26
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Comments

  1. Sid Savara (9 comments.) says:

    Very nice =) I’ve just started using WordPress for a few sites, but you’re right – it enables us to build sites so quickly and provides us so much infrastructure, if we have the ability we should give back to help others as well, in particular like by developing plugins.

  2. shawal (2 comments.) says:

    Since changing from free blogging platform into wordpress, i feel my blogging style much better and sweeter…..

    WordPress is amazing….

  3. Chris Hedges (1 comments.) says:

    Thanks for all that you’ve done to help all us non-technical people learn more about Word Press and all of the excellent plug ins that are available to make life in the blogosphere a little easier.

  4. Keith Dsouza (82 comments.) says:

    I too started out like you, not knowing anything about PHP or MySQL and having taken up a project from a client to do a small contact form, that was quite a few years ago, and if I would have not taken up that project, I probably would not be doing PHP today, I took it up as a challenge to learn something and be proficient with it and over the years I have succeded to a extent.

    The same goes for WordPress where I was using Joomla and most of my friends were using WordPress, though I wanted to switch there were several reasons why it made it harder for me, the first thing was that there was no simple way to migrate from Joomla to WordPress so I started searching for something that did and came accross a script, though it did not work, I took my first steps understanding WordPress by tweaking the script to migrate my own data from Joomla to WordPress and that was just the beginning of my experiments with WordPress.

    As I begin using WordPress I was always impressed by the way number of plugins that were available and how easy they made people’s life, but I was pretty annoyed at the fact that I had to visit each and every post to reply to comments, searching for a plugin that would do this from the administration section led me to nothing, and there was my breakthrough with WordPress, I wrote my first plugin called Better Comments Manager that allowed users to reply to comments from the dashboard.

    Though it was not easy and I had to read through several pages of documentation on WordPress codex and also read from several tips and tricks about creating plugins. After I created the plugin I instantly made a lot of friends in the community, people who I never knew congratulated me for creating something they missed, they embraced me with open arms into the community, the one I took so long to join.

    This is how the community is, several developers work to solve a problem and with that they make lives of 100s and 1000s of people much more easier than ever, this is the community I love being in, helping and learning at the same time.

    Three cheers to WordPress.

  5. Lisa says:

    All three of my sites now run on WordPress. I’ve occasionally migrated them onto other software, and invariably move them back again. You can’t beat WP for reliability and community support.

    I pledge to continue doing what I’ve been doing.

    I don’t have any mad developer skills to offer, but I can answer simple questions in the support forums, especially those whose answers involve passing along a link to the codex. Maybe this frees up those with the skills to answer more complicated questions.

    I’m not good at designing themes, but if I use a theme, I remember to PayPal the designer a few dollars if they have a donation button. If the theme designer has a forum, I remember to go there and post a link to my finished site, along with a thank-you. If someone asks how I made that theme jump through the many hoops my sites require, I show them.

    If I use a plugin that’s invaluable, I donate to the developer. I don’t snipe at that developer if things don’t work right off. I read through comments to see if someone else has experienced a similar issue, and how it was solved. If I can’t find it, I ask politely, and wait patiently for an answer—I usually don’t have to wait long.

    I keep “Powered by WordPress” in all my footers, with the link to WP.org.

    I sing the praises of WP to anyone contemplating a new site.

  6. LearningNerd (1 comments.) says:

    Thanks for building such a great community and resource here! WordPress really is an amazing tool, too… I’m using it for my own site. I vow to give back by sharing what I learn — sharing it with the community that allowed me to learn it in the first place!

    In fact, using WordPress is what inspired me to learn PHP, my first programming language. I made a whole series of video tutorials on it as I went along. In turn, people who learned from my tutorials then taught me a bunch of new things too. It’s a beautiful cycle!

  7. xxxevilgrinxxx (4 comments.) says:

    Your post could as easily be applied to so many different kinds of forums. Excellent advice all around, for anyone that has to deal with a large amount of people, especially online.
    But since we’re here talking about WordPress…. :)
    what do I pledge to WordPress?
    – in the forums I’ll ignore the negative, unhelpful posts that make my hackles rise and settle on the ones I can learn something from
    – whatever small bits of information I’ve managed to squirrel away, I’ll offer when I can
    What can WordPress pledge to me?
    – to remain open source
    – to keep loving what they do, and passing that on

    E.

  8. countzeero (6 comments.) says:

    I couldn´t help but grin as I opened my Dashboard this morning and see a news feed entitled “be kind, educate”. This simple phrase stuck with me last night as we discussed the “implications” of certain comments on a WeblogTools post on the plug-in updating mechanism. I am a professional Graphic Designer with many years of experience and although I have only been using wordpress for a little over 3 months I already feel like “Part of The Family”. WordPress and more importantly the WordPress Community has enabled me to move my emphasis as a Designer into whole new fields, all of the sudden I “understand” php and sql, I approach webdesign with a new enthusiasm and optimism beyond just producing “pretty” websites with flash and embedded media. I am madly enthusiastic about WordPress and hope to become a valued and respected member of this community, I believe that keeping your “three little words” at the forefront of my activities and contributions will help me become just that. Thanks.

  9. Dhruva Sagar (1 comments.) says:

    What can I say, it is absolutely true, each and every word you said.
    The beauty of wordpress isn’t just in the software, but it lies in the community it has built over the years!
    I pledge to do the same my friend. I have been using wordpress for over 2 years now and I recently am planning to shift to a new domain. Not going to be good for SEO of my site, but I’ll love to start from scratch.

  10. Yemoonyah (1 comments.) says:

    Beautiful post.
    As an artist who for now still belongs to the starving artists guild, WordPress made a huge impact on my life when I discovered it.It gave me the possibility to show my art to the world without having to invest any money I don’t have.
    With all the available themes and plugins I was able to set up a site with which I can even sell my creations and I as soon as I make some money the developers will get their well earned donations.
    As I know there are a lot of other talented artists out there without any means,I started to post articles on how to use the internet in general and especially WordPress to set up your own art business.
    My boyfriend tells me I have the WP fever and he is right. I love Wp!

  11. Nick (4 comments.) says:

    What can I say? GREAT POST!!!

    @LISA:

    In my opinion, your comment is the code of conduct for every WordPress user.

  12. BillH (7 comments.) says:

    Excellent post. We all need to remember that we were all once noobs. We can’t be too good or too “high and mighty” that we can’t spare a few minutes to help a noob get what we might consider a simple question answered. After all, that “noob” may come up with the next cool plugin for WordPress that everyone simply HAS to have!

  13. mosey (20 comments.) says:

    As the other comments have pointed out, this is an excellent post! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts – I think it’s just as good and powerful as “Price of Freedom” by Matt Mullenweg (which was actually in response to one of Mark Ghosh’s posts: “Turning the other cheek“)
    Sometimes, it can be frustrating replying to posts on the forums, and this is inevitably reflected in the reply. But after reading this article, I feel I should really try to be more patient with people – both on the Forums but also in real life.

  14. Tal galili (10 comments.) says:

    Your words touched me. Thank you!

  15. Alejandro Urrutia Daglio (1 comments.) says:

    Excellent post Mark, as you and other said, the strenght of WordPress is on every little improvement that everyone made as “WPers”, plugin, theme developement, hacking, supporting, sharing makes that everyone of us could grow on different fields.

  16. aristy (1 comments.) says:

    Oh, very deep post. Good one sir.

  17. mercime says:

    Wow, that was profound. Didn’t expect that, and that’s what made this reading so special. Thank you for sharing.

  18. Rod (2 comments.) says:

    I agree, there is a great “open-handed” spirit in the WordPress community, just like in most other open-source communities, which is what I love about the movement. Open-source software really does make the world a better place, and I find I’m more appreciative of the software because it’s kind of like a gift, rather than something I’ve gone out and purchased. This altruistic nature of OS software really does remind me too, that there is a lot of good in people.

  19. Elaine (2 comments.) says:

    loved your post.. i’m an ex computer programmer, and the course of study was so difficult that people dropped like flies, nervous breakdowns, even cancer… 49 people started, 9 graduated.. the first day in that college, i sat in fear in the cafeteria, waiting for my muscles to be able to move again :) but alas i was a business/mainframe programmer, and can’t help y’all with anything, i do love wordpress tho, i think it’s a shining star of what the internet should be.

  20. Marina (1 comments.) says:

    Amazing post!!!! I’m not used to leave “author-fan-like” comments, but this time you deserve it A LOT.
    I’ve moved from blogger because of the “lanky kid from Texas with a lot of ideas and some fantastic leadership skills” at a Wordcamp in Argentina, and there is no way that I could be more grateful to him for making me do this change.
    The minute you perform the “5-minute installation” (in fact, less than 5 minutes) you instantly become a part of a community, where blog-dummies like me could seek and give advice any-time, any-where and any-languaje.
    Now I’ll take YOUR advice, I’ll be kind and I’ll try to educate more :)

  21. Lorelle (1 comments.) says:

    Wow! I loved this before I even got to the part about me! I’m stunned. Thank you for the kind words.

    When you took over Weblog Tools Collection, Matt was very clear that you would have to prove your worth before he’d allow the site back into the community fold. You proved your worth immediately and have continued to set the standards SO HIGH, my friend, from day one.

    Thank you for all you do and all you give back to us, the WordPress Community. I want to be more like YOU!

  22. Edde (1 comments.) says:

    How eloquently put. I couldn’t agree more.

    Let me just use the opportunity to say thanks to you and Lorelle for your useful contributions to the WordPress community. The rest has already been said by you and Rod, who was kind enough to write down what I was about to add.

  23. Joe Hall (1 comments.) says:

    Every now and then you run across something on the net that really sticks out as both profound and all encompassing of the true spirit of the internet. This post with your amazing description of the WP community definitely falls into that category. Bravo! And, God Bless WordPress!



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  2. […] I become bored with it. My history with joining the WordPress Community is the exact opposite of Mark Ghosh, in that I entered the community after many years of programming and many failed projects, […]

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