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?