Yesterday, Matt Mullenweg gave his State of the Word. And we're going to talk all about that in this week's WP review.
Hey, everybody. And welcome to WP Review, a show that provides analysis on what's happening in WordPress, and what creators and small business owners can do to leverage WordPress to grow their business.
This podcast is brought to you by GoDaddy Pro. My name's Joe Casabona. It is December 15th, 2021. One day after Matt has given his annual State of the Word, and that's what we're going to talk about today.
Now, before I get to the main segment about how the way to learn WordPress is not actually by contributing, I do want to point out a couple of resources in case you missed the State of the Word. And that is GoDaddy's coverage, which gives you a point by point breakdown of everything that was mentioned. And the episode by the WP Minute, which is an audio version of the two hours or so that the State of the Word took. That is the entire speech, plus Q and A. The WP minute also has the slides and a transcript. So if you are looking to scour the transcript or just passively listen to the State of the Word, definitely check out the WP Minute. If you want to get a TLDR or a TLDW, I guess of the State of the Word, head on over to GoDaddy and check out their coverage. I'll have both of those in the show notes, which you can find over at wpreview.io.
Now as I said, a lot of stuff was covered in the State of the Word. But I'm going to focus on something that I felt came up a lot. But after reading those recaps, I mean, there were multiple times where it came up, but I don't think it was as much as I originally thought it was. And that is contributing and kind of against the backdrop of learning WordPress. And I'm really passionate about this. I have a new project out, called wplearningpaths.com that helps people figure out what they want to do in the WordPress ecosystem, and then where to learn it. But, that's going to be the subject of the main segment, ‘How to Learn WordPress’ and why I don't think contributing is the best way to do that. But first, I do want to tell you that this episode and every episode of WP Review, which by the way, WP review is going weekly, starting in January. Thanks to the generous support of GoDaddy Pro.
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All right. And with that, let's get to the main segment.
Yesterday, Matt Mullenweg gave his annual state of the word speech, where he covered everything that has happened in WordPress this year, and what we can expect moving forward. He mentioned the incredible growth of WordPress over other platforms, and even mentioned, learn.wordpress.org and the learning resource it's budding into.
He talked about acquisitions in the WordPress space, and he even talked about web trees and NFT’s. As always, he extolled the virtues of open source and the importance of contributing. He spent several minutes on Five for the Future. A program encouraging companies who make money with WordPress to give 5% of their time and resources to the open source project.
He also talked about how creators can now contribute by adding their work to the open verse. A sort of big search engine that looks for creative commons licensed work like photos and videos. Now, as I've stated many times, if you find value in something, you should absolutely ensure it continues to exist. Either by paying for it or in this case, contributing. WordPress has provided me immeasurable value over the years, and I've tried to contribute where I could. But when Matt was asked by Allie Nimmons and Michelle Frechette, what new and young people can do to learn WordPress, he said that it's easier than ever to contribute. And what I think Matt was basically saying was if you want to learn WordPress, contribute to WordPress. While I encourage people to contribute, I don't think the best way to learn WordPress is by contributing.
During his speech, Matt talked about the economic and philosophical idea of the tragedy of the commons. According to a post on Harvard Business School, this refers to a situation in which individuals with access to a shared resource, also called a common, act in their own interest. And in doing so, ultimately to pleat the resource.
I'd like to bring up a different philosophical idea. When I was in college, I learned about St. Ignatius, and the idea of Cura Personalis or care for the entire person. I'd like to think of contributing more like that. See, the idea behind Ignatius's teachings of Cura Personalis is that we can't take care of others if we neglect to take care of ourselves.
Matt talks about how important it is for us to give our time and creative energies to the open source project in order to help others. He believes that's how WordPress and perhaps even the internet can be the best it can be. And if we can contribute, we should. But it's irresponsible to position contributing for free as the highest virtue of being involved. We first must use our time and creative energies to get ourselves or our companies into a financially stable state where we actually have the time and resources to give back. Then, and only then should we contribute. Not a moment sooner.
Matt has certainly modeled his own company off of this philosophy. Again, likely with some good intentions to improve WordPress. Half of the WordPress 5.9 release team is made up of automatic employees with Matt as the release lead. In fact, Matt has been the lead on every major five.x release, except for 5.6, where Josepha Haden led an all woman released team.
That means Matt has been the release lead nearly exclusively for three straight years. Because of that, contributing to WordPress doesn't really feel like the commons. It feels like something that automatically lets people generously donate their resources to. And it has since WordPress 5.0 was released. If we really want to get as many people as possible to contribute to WordPress, Matt should do three things.
One, stepped down as release lead, and set up better governance programs. One where more companies and individuals have a bigger say of what happens in the open source project.
Two, help create a mechanism for people to finance their work better. Remember giving 5% of your resources back to the community is a good idea. So let's help people get to a place where it's easy for them to do that.
And three, help people and companies understand the value of contributing. Matt mentioned the recent Log4j vulnerability. I bet if more companies knew just how much of their infrastructure relied on that library, they'd work to ensure we didn't have this situation we’re in now. We've seen companies in the WordPress space do that with WP CLI. It was such a valuable resource to especially hosting companies that they decided to support it financially. Positioning contributions as making the software your business relies on, works best when people feel like they have a voice. So let's amplify the number of voices.
And let's get back to the original question. How do you actually learn WordPress? It really depends on what you want to do with it. I'm a big fan of learning by doing. But some guidance is likely necessary these days. And there are a lot of great resources. Of course I'll recommend my own project, wplearningpaths.com, which sorts learning resources by track or path.
Matt also mentioned learn.wordpress.org. This is a fantastic initiative with lots of resources there. It's also a great way to contribute. He and Josepha also mentioned mentorship. Do you know someone using WordPress? Pick their brain and ask them questions. You can go to meetup.com and look for Wordpress events. Talk to people in the WordPress space. Sign up for a wordpress.com account and bang around in the admin a bit before making the leap to your own install. But the most important thing to remember is to contribute when you're ready, but not a moment sooner. I've never contributed a line of code to core. I've written many plugins, I've created courses and I've given numerous talks at Word Camps. I do that because I want to contribute as much as I can. But I've been using WordPress since 2004. I owe a lot to WordPress, and I'm able to contribute. When you're just learning WordPress, remember Cura Personalis. Take care of yourself. And when you're ready, you can take care of others.
I want to give a special thanks to Brian Richards and Matt Madeiros for reviewing an early draft of this script, and helping me make it the best it can be.
And in lieu of a recommendation this week, I would encourage you to do three things. Go watch the state of the Word. I link that in the show notes at wpreview.io. Check out wplearningpath.com and see where you'll learn your next great WordPress adventure. And head on over to wordpress.org/five to learn a little bit more about Five for the Future and how you can contribute to the WordPress open source project even if it's not with code.
I want to thank GoDaddy Pro for sponsoring this and every episode of WP Review. I want to thank you for listening to get even more WordPress insights. And to subscribe to this show, you can head over to wpreview.io/subscribe. You can find all of the show notes over at wpreview.io.
And if you liked this episode, share it with a friend. Until next time. I'm Joe Casabona, and I'll see you out there.