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What It’s Like to Contribute to WordPress

As a core developer for WordPress, I’m often asked what goes on behind the scenes.

What is it like to contribute code to WordPress — a CMS used by 60 million people?

I would like to share some thoughts about WordPress core development.

How to Contribute Code to WordPress

WordPress core is developed by hundreds of volunteers.

Becoming a core developer for WordPress takes a lot of dedication.

The first step is to regularly contribute back to WordPress core with fixes. No matter how small these fixes are. Any and all suggestions lead to making WordPress a better platform.

After gaining some code contribution experience, contributors typically begin to focus on specific areas of WordPress. Members of the community will also start to recognize these efforts.

For me, I focused on XML-RPC and image manipulation.

From there, it’s important to be forward-thinking and proactive. Continue to make valuable contributions and improvements before being asked.

To become a WordPress core contributor, it can also help to meet a member of the WordPress core development team in person.

Seeking advice from someone already heavily involved in the WordPress process and the community can advance your technical knowledge and confidence. It’s to the benefit of a newcomer to embrace such a one-to-one mentorship.

A Global Community of Contributors

Through collaboration with some of the best minds in the development industry, I have been able to contribute towards improving the usability and functionality of WordPress.

It is an incredible experience to work with people from all over the world.

We each have unique ideas of how to accomplish the same tasks based on cultural differences and experiences. We all have our own notions on how to evolve WordPress.

Personally, it has been very beneficial to interact with and discover cultures that I normally would not have.

While it is one of the biggest benefits, the span of global influences also proves to be a challenge.

From time to time, coordinating across time zones and general communication can be points of frustration.

The subtle nuances of differing cultures are sometimes difficult to understand from another cultural perspective. Things can sometimes be interpreted differently than they were intended, which leads to misunderstandings.

How WordPress Does Code Review

When it comes to the code review process, the majority of core changes are done by patches uploaded to Trac, our issue-tracking tool.

WordPress Trac

Trac is used often and has been an established contributor tool for quite some time.

After contributing code to Trac, the next step is to determine whether it’s a bug fix or a feature enhancement.

Also, the amount of people that are (or will be) affected by the code is determined.

The larger the impact of the code contribution on WordPress users, the more likely it will attract the attention of core contributors/developers.

When this happens, the code then has the potential to be committed to core within minutes.

However, not all changes are implemented that quickly. ┬áThe speed of implementation depends on many factors such as the code’s complexity or if use-cases or unit tests are missing.

Code can also be rejected by the development team. This is usually because the code contribution is not a bug fix or a necessary WordPress feature enhancement.

Conclusion

These are just a few insights into what happens behind the scenes of WordPress core development.

There aren’t too many elements that are secretive. One of the great things about WordPress, and the open source community in general, is that it is very open.

Related Content

Photo of Marko HeijnenMarko Heijnen has been a WordPress core contributor since v3.0. He works as a WordPress specialist at 1&1 Internet. He’s also the main core developer of GlotPress. To learn more about Marko, visit markoheijnen.com and join him on Twitter.

This was published on Apr 17, 2015

8 Comments

kksilvery Apr 25 2015

I must say, i have been using wp for a long time now. i have never gave a thought about it. How much do you make from wp, Marko Heijnen ?

    Christopher Apr 28 2015

    “WordPress core is developed by hundreds of volunteers.”

    I wonder….

    Jacob Gube Apr 28 2015

    Marko is a volunteer. He dedicates his time and talents to making WordPress core better for all of us. He doesn’t make any money from doing that.

    Marko Heijnen May 04 2015

    It’s hard to tell. Directly you don’t make any money but obviously giving back does result in recognition for it. And because of that you could get clients for it or find a job. But in the end if you want to contribute, you should do it because you want to give back and not because of the motive to make money out of it.

Pretty standard stuff – to be expected that they don’t use everything, I would guess. I suppose the most interesting question to a reader like me is “why work on core code vs developing paid plugins?”

    Jacob Gube Apr 27 2015

    This is a great question Matt!

    Why contribute to open source? Many people have their own reasons. I can think of a few:

    • To work on something you’re really passionate about.
    • To be part of something bigger.
    • To give back to the community.
    • To improve your coding skills.
    • To gain exposure. Possibly because you want to improve your resume.

    I think the most important thing to keep in mind when deciding to spend the time contributing to an open source project is that we shouldn’t expect anything in return. Otherwise, it’ll probably be a very disappointing experience.

    For example, code that makes it to WordPress core in all likelihood means your programming skills are already excellent, so there’s little opportunity to improve your coding skills. There’s no guarantee you’ll be recognized for your contributions or that being recognized directly translates to significant exposure. A majority of WordPress users probably can’t even name one of WP’s core contributors.

    For me, open source contribution versus working on commercial projects aren’t really either/or options. They’re different activities. They’re polar opposites in terms of purpose. You do one thing because you want to, expecting nothing in return. You do the other thing because you want something specific in return for your time and efforts. At least that’s how I think about it.

    The reasons why open source contributors volunteer their time to projects such as WP is a very fascinating topic.

    Marko Heijnen May 04 2015

    Hey Matt,

    It’s about contributing back to WordPress and in my opinion building paid plugins doesn’t count. But obviously paid plugins can make the environment of WordPress better. I agree what Jacob is saying about that you shouldn’t expect something in return when contributing back.

    In my case I started contributing back because I had issues when using CPT’s when implementing that during WordPress 3.0. I liked that experience and after that I was really passionated to give back more. During that I became a better developer and also felt responsible to maintain the code I have build. Together with someone else I rewrote the image manipulation code and that was more then 2 years ago but I still look at it and see if I can improve it.

    Maybe the stuff is basic and I could also have discussed about the things I would change. But why talk critical about things that new contributors shouldn’t care about? It should be something that is easy and fun, even when it’s not always the case.

Daniel Keith Jul 31 2015

Hi Marko,
Very nice thoughts. WordPress started it’s journey as a simple blogger and now standing in the queue of best CMS of the industry.

Any updates about the version 4.3 that what’s new in it to optimize the website.

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