WordPress 3.8 was released just a few days ago. There were 188 contributors that helped make WordPress 3.8 a reality. I’m proud to say that I was among those 188 contributors. I never thought I’d be able to make the list but thanks to some help, I was able to contribute in my own way. The following is my experience contributing to WordPress.
During the development of WordPress 3.8, I used the WordPress Beta Testing plugin to keep up with changes on my local server. While testing the default theme TwentyFourteen, I noticed a typo within the theme details. I could have reported the typo to a default theme team member and it would have been fixed immediately. However, once I discovered the typo I knew it was an opportunity to contribute to the core and make it on the contributors list.
Is Fixing A Typo Really A Contribution?
Before I reported the typo, I thought about whether fixing a typo would classify as a contribution. It was a small change that involved adding one letter to a word. I asked my followers on Twitter what they thought.
Curiosity question. If I fix a typo in WordPress core, is that enough to get a credit link for a contribution or is that not enough?
— Jeff (@jeffr0) December 11, 2013
What I learned is that some people have contributed to WordPress simply by removing white space from code. Konstantin Obenland contributed to WordPress by adding an underscore where it was appropriate. The moral of the story is that no matter how small the contribution, every little bit counts and helps to improve the software. There is no need to feel guilty or unworthy of being listed as a contributor if all you did was fix a typo.
Getting My Patch Into Core
After discovering the typo, I immediately reached out to Konstantin Obenland who was a member of the team responsible for TwentyFourteen. I reported the typo to him and he recommended that I create a new ticket on Trac. Bug reports along with their associated patches go through Trac in the form of tickets. Trac is not for the faint of heart. It’s an intimidating website for those that don’t frequent it often. Even though I’ve participated in the WordPress community for years, Trac still rattles my nerves when I create a ticket.
Using Konstantin as a mentor, he walked me through the process of creating the ticket. He also created the diff file for me that I uploaded as a patch. I didn’t know how to create diff files so it was nice of Konstantin to create one for me. Once the patch was uploaded, the ticket was out of my hands. After some edits to the ticket, the right people saw the patch and applied the fix to WordPress 3.8 before it was released.
WordPress Needs Core Contributor Mentors
WordPress would benefit from having a list of people that act as mentors for those contributing to WordPress for the first time via Trac. Drupal has gone through great lengths to make core contributing mentorship a priority. They have an entire site dedicated to mentoring new contributors. Even if it were not as organized as Drupal, I’d like to see a list of mentors I could get in touch with to walk me through the process of patching a bug or fixing a typo in core.
A few years ago, WordPress tried to create a core mentorship program but it didn’t take off. The contributor team was much smaller than it is today and WordPress didn’t have regular working teams. I asked Jen Mylo if there are any plans to try and create a mentorship program now that there are a lot more people involved with the core development of WordPress. She tells me that she is currently working on a proposal for a formalized mentorship program across all of the contributor teams.
We didn’t really have regular working teams then, and even the core team back then was much smaller active group. We’re in a much better place now to support formal mentorship programs since we now have regularly meeting teams, team reps posting weekly updates, etc.
Jen says the proposal will be posted sometime before the end of the year.
Contributing Was Awesome
Despite it only being a typo, contributing to the core of WordPress was exhilarating. For a brief moment, I felt like learning PHP and MySQL to contribute everything I could to WordPress. After the excitement went away, I came back to my senses. Special thanks to Konstantin Obenland for holding my hand during the process of contributing. The last thing I want to do on Trac is make the core WordPress developers job harder by improperly filing tickets. Instead of screwing up, it’s better to not mess with Trac at all. At least that’s the way I’ve approached it.
While there is a handbook devoted entirely to contributing to WordPress, it’s not the same as being guided through the process with an experienced individual. Thankfully, most of the WordPress community is approachable and getting help is as easy as tweeting, skypeing, or emailing someone.
At the end of the day, I contributed to WordPress and you can too.