by Nichole Betterley, WordPress Designer/Developer at “N” Powered Webistes and WordCamp Seattle 2016 Speaker
I’ve been working with WordPress for close to 10 years now. I have somewhat of a background in development, but just about everything I’ve ever learned about WordPress has been self-taught thanks to super-smart, generous people “out there” in the WordPress community. No classes, no actual books. Just YouTube and what must be thousands of blog posts and support forums researching how and what to do. And miraculously, I’ve been able to build a business out of it.
I’ve discovered that WordPress is kind of a unique community in that way.
There are lots of industries where individuals protect and hoard their knowledge (and are proud of it), and you have to take expensive, college level courses to gain any traction. Not so with WordPress.
A few years ago, I was hit with a strong realization that it was time to find a way to give back to this community that had given so much to me, so freely shared their expertise and advice and recommendations and know-how all over the place, in all kinds of forms. I very rarely ran into a problem that someone else hadn’t already solved and gone to the trouble of sharing how they did it online.
So I started trying to figure out where I could possibly be effective.
I’m not a hard-core coder by any measure. I do like to dabble in PHP and can code a mean theme from scratch when the occasion requires it, but actually trying to contribute to WordPress code seemed insurmountable to me. So no dice there.
I tried joining some WordPress groups on LinkedIn and answering questions for people there. But, I picked a group that had like 60,000 people in it already, so that was a big flop. I might have known the answer to some of the questions, and there were even one or two where I was able to weigh in with my opinion about something, but the group was overwhelming, and I never felt actually useful.
I even answered a question or two on the WordPress.org support forums. Happened to come across a post I actually knew the answer to and no one else had responded to this poor guy. That was a good day, but my approach – random encounter with an open ticket I knew something about – didn’t seem sustainable (although I might try tackling this one again at some point).
And then I discovered a meetup group that wasn’t too far from where I lived.
The focus of the group was helping small business owners use their WordPress websites. Hey! That’s right up my alley. I started out just attending and even working with folks 1-on-1 at the end of the session to help them fix a specific problem they were having with their website. But then eventually I got brave and gave a talk at one of the meetups and began to find other ways to help make the meetup successful.
I didn’t think that public speaking was my gig (I still really don’t, but I try to get out there anyhow), but man – scheduling meeting rooms and emailing out a newsletter to the meetup members, now that’s something I can get behind! It’s not sexy, but it’s something I have ended up enjoying tremendously. This year, I even branched out into volunteering to help plan this WordCamp, and I feel like I’ve finally found my place where I can contribute to the WordPress community.
We’ve put together the Becoming a Part of the WordPress Community Panel first thing Sunday morning, the 30th, so that regular folks, just like you and me, can share the myriad of ways they have found to be a part of the community and to give back some of what was so generously given to them.