This was the case until I attended the WordCamp Europe 2018 in person but the biggest change in my thinking about WordCamp was when I attended WordCamp Milano 2018.
Artbees was lucky to choose WordCamp Milano as the first WordCamp event to sponsor. Rouzbeh and myself were representing Artbees at the event. We not only had the chance to showcase our Jupiter X to the Italian community of WordPress and also visit the beautiful city of Milan but also were able to manage to work hand in hand in one of the best WordCamp Contributors days we have ever attended. In this post, I will share you the insights I’ve collected and how they changed my mind about voluntary work.
Does anyone contribute to WordPress?
Have you ever thought about how WordPress makes money? WordPress is a free platform. You can download, install and use its CMS from wordpress.org to build a website for free so how WordPress pays its bills. Well, you might s with wordpress.com subscriptions, the WordPress VIP service, its sponsors such as GoDaddy, BlueHost and SiteGround or with its plugins such as Jetpack, WooCommerce, Akismet and so on. Well that’s true, but it will surprise you to know that most of the work in WordPress behind and in front of the scene is being done by volunteers (so no bills to pay)!
As you know, WordPress is an open-source publishing platform and thousands of developers from different countries contribute to its codebase for free. All of them are working either for free or they are hired by companies that are built around WordPress. Oh, and by the way, they owe their existence to WordPress; Yoast -the leading SEO plugin for WordPress- is one of those companies that hire developers and puts them in service of WordPress core team to contribute to WordPress codebase.
In addition to the developers who contribute to the WordPress core, there are also volunteer teams called ‘MakeWordPress Teams’. These teams are organized within different teams such as design, accessibility, mobile, support, documentation, themes, community, plugins and more; where we do lots of pro-bono works related to different parts of the WordPress software, WordPress community and everything in between!
You may have recently downloaded the hot new release of WordPress, Bebo. There is a high chance a particular feature in Gutenberg that you have liked or disliked was made by a contributor. Or for instance, if you have ever attended a WordCamp event, you should be aware that the entire team of organizers of that event are volunteers who work without getting paid. So, in fact, there are many people who contribute to WordPress, there are thousands of people who do it regularly and as part of their lives.
Is contribution to WordPress rewarding?
Yes. Actually, your voluntary work for WordPress can even be more rewarding than your full-time job. Below, I’ll have a look at our experience at WordCamp Milano contributor day and I’ll explain what ways you can get rewarded for the ‘free’ work for WordPress.
You will get a shiny badge in your WordPress.org profile
If you care about resumes, CVs and LinkedIn profiles (which you should!) you know how important it is to list certifications, degrees, achievements, awards, etc. related to your career and how effective they are to win the position you’re after. The good news is that the WordPress foundation will give you one of those shiny badges based on the kind of voluntary work you do for WordPress!
It can be a core team contributor badge, marketing, design, accessibility, mobile or other teams badges that are issued by a prestigious software development company recognized by almost everyone in the software industry. I started my contributions to MakeWordPress Marketing team in WECU 2018, and I continued my contributions after the event as part of my regular life. And, at WordCamp Milano 2018 I was granted my Marketing Contributor badge!
There are hidden people and opportunities you want to discover!
The contributor days are not you sitting behind your laptop, writing code or anything else. It’s people who collaborate on getting things done for a software platform they like. This is accompanied with a lot of fun, chit-chat, snacks and launch sessions. WordCamp Milano was a great example of this atmosphere. You could see people organized in different team working in maximum harmony. Among these teams, you happen to meet people you would never see outside a WordCamp; a fellow developer, a designer, a blogger, or a marketer.
At WordCamp Milano, we were lucky to catch up with folks from Yithemes– who run some of the most successful WooCommerce plugins in the market. We had a nice chat with Andrea and Giuseppe during the launch session about the state of affairs of the WordPress plugin and theme market, as well as discussing possible collaborations between Yithemes and Artbees. And you know what, that’s already in progress 😉 and soon you will see that reflected in both of our products! This is the result of joining a session you know people in your area would join as well, knowing them, talking to them and expanding your networks.
And that was not all. We happened to see some of the greatest members of the WordPress community there as well. Yes, someone you normally saw in photos next to Matt Mullenweg or wordpress.tv famous talks is sitting right next to you doing the very same job as you do. In the same place, on the same team. During the contributor session at WordCamp Milano, I got to meet Raffaella Isidori, an expert designer and passionate speaker on the marketing contribution team. She is an active part of the community team and a great leader to many on that team.
I was lucky to accidentally share the topic I was going to be speaking at WordCamp Thessaloniki a month later, ‘WordPress & Problem of Diversity’ with Raffaella and discovered she had a lot to share related to the topic. She referred me to a couple of people who have relevant experiences and stories regarding diversity. If nothing else, just the tips, ideas and people she openly shared with me made my talk a better and richer one. And to think I would have never known her outside WordCamp Milano 2018 Contributor day!
You will find your next job or missing team member
WordCamps are powered by the bound of their community members to WordPress and its cause. It has a simple working economy, not to sell tickets on different tiers for the sake of more money (again like WebSummit). So chances are, that you can easily spot a legendary developer from Automattic, Yoast or WooCommerce (or Artbees! Just kidding ;)) during the contribution day, event day or afterparty! And, many entrepreneurs and business runners attend WordCamps to make use of this exact potential.
You learn. You learn a lot!
While working with agile development, design, marketing, community, training, and other teams on WordCamp Contribution days, you are likely to learn a lot of new things in your area. These teams are working under the supervision of leads. They are appointed based on their experience and cutting-edge skillset in their areas and can teach you what you could normally learn working in high-end tech and marketing companies or with very expensive training courses and events (i.e. Smashing Conference). Let me give an example from WordCamp Milano so you may relate better.
Being a CMO and driving the marketing wings of my company, I have always had issues working with remote teams on Marketing. I’ve always had (and still have) doubts about how and if marketing teams can be remote? It wasn’t that it had completely changed my mind about the problem, but seeing how the MakeWordPress Marketing team is managing the remote work using a combination of Slack, Trello, protocols and weekly ceremonies started to make me think. And not to mention with dozens of contributors who have not met one another even once, was a bit of inspiration to maybe say that it is possible. At the least, I can understand that there is a still room to improve in my remote team.
How else can you support WordPress?
Simple. Support WordCamp events by sponsoring them! Look for local or continental WordCamp events in your area or where your target market lies. There are two continental WordCamps held every year: WordCamp Europe WCEU held in June in a European country, and WordCamp US WCUS held in the US in December every year. There are also dozens of local WordCamps in cities big and small on all continents. The sponsorship plans and prices can vary. You can find a sponsorship plan for as low as 500$ in a local WordCamp, but you can pay up to 100000 Euros for a top-tier sponsorship plan at a WordCamp Europe event.
In November 2018, we had the pleasure of supporting WordCamp Milano 2018 as Bronze-tier sponsor. We had the chance to meet and network with local WordPress businesses, meet with some of the great organizers of WordCamp in Italy and also had the opportunity to feature our brand new Jupiter X WordPress theme to WordPress lovers. This was our first WordCamp event to sponsor, but that led to a chain of interest to sponsor other WordCamps including WordCamp Thessaloniki in Dec 2018, and WordCamp Europe in June 2019. And then who knows, maybe many others 🙂 Start by checking make.wordpress.org to find the team you like to start contributing or visit WordCamp Central to find the next WordCamp event nearby to sponsor!
Hero image > Courtesy of Massimo Mormile – WordCamp Milano 2018