In this episode, Josepha discusses the importance of co-development and testing for the continued growth and maintenance of the WordPress project.
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Hello, everyone, and welcome to the WordPress briefing, the podcast where you can catch quick explanations of some of the ideas behind the WordPress open source project and the community around it, as well as get a small list of big things coming up in the next two weeks. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. Here we go!
Prior to Gutenberg, our current multi-year project that is changing the way we see WordPress, another multi-year project changed the way we saw WordPress. Starting in 2008, substantial changes to the WordPress interface came in a series of major releases, starting with WordPress 2.5. That was before my time in the project; I’ve only ever worked with the current dashboard in WordPress. But, from what I’ve read, the user testing that would have gone into it was a huge undertaking and very well coordinated. Now, WordPress has not taken on that type of robust testing project since, but starting around 2014 or 2015, a community testing practice was started. I’ve shared these calls for testing frequently, both on Twitter and in this podcast. But you may not really know why I find the testing program so valuable. So today, I’m going to explore with you the concept of co-developers in open source.
Open source software, like WordPress, is built by the people who show up. There are a few obvious groups when you think of software, the developers, designers, technical writers, folks who monitor the forums, and really, all the teams you find in our WordPress project. Co-developers or co-creators, if you’ll join me in making our tent a little bigger, refers to the users of an open source product who actively engage and contribute to the work by using the software and sharing any bugs that they find.
I mentioned this group in the episode about how WordPress improves. Specifically in that episode, I underlined that if you consider users to be part of the collaborative process, as long as people use your product, those people will have opinions about your product’s needs. And today, I’m extending that thought a bit further to say that, as long as there are opinions, there are opportunities.
When you know what isn’t working, you can focus your attention on a solution, you can focus on making sure that you can make it work. The existence of co-creators is one of the great things about open source. No designer or developer or product owner has to know every sort of user to be able to get feedback from them. If they show up, test the software and get their thoughts written down, then you can start to see patterns and common pain points. It is also, unfortunately, one of the great difficulties of being an open source project. After all, if users don’t show up, or don’t test, or don’t write down their feedback, it’s impossible to know what worked for them and what didn’t. And on top of that, with such a large percentage of the web being supported by WordPress in this case, not every problem is part of a pattern. And not all patterns are part of the current priorities.
Looking beyond that double-edged sword. Let’s say that this idea of a co-creator makes sense to you. And more than that, you feel like it describes you. What does it mean for you to show up in WordPress? There are lots of good ways to offer this sort of feedback and contribute to those patterns that can help us see through the fog. So I have for you a mini list and, of course, a bunch of links in the show notes for you.
So some good ways. First, you can participate in any of the dedicated calls for testing. They are short and frequently have a guide. I participate in them and generally find them fun. I say generally because sometimes I also find them frustrating. That’s really okay too; the frustrations helped me to identify that I found a problem. And if I can find a problem, then I have saved someone else from finding that problem in the future. The second thing you can do is file a bug report with information about what happened when you ran into a problem and how someone like me could make your bug happen on their site. Bug
Reporting is one of the things I’ve grown to really love in my time and open source; I did not love it. At first, I was really scared to do it. I mostly used to send videos of the bugs that I found to other people and ask them to file the bug reports for me. But then, of course, I never knew whether they got fixed or not. So I was scared to do it at first. But once I figured out what makes a “good report,” I felt like I was helping circle hidden treasure on a map or something. I realized also not everyone’s excited about finding hidden treasure on a map. But I play video games and finding hidden treasure on maps is, like, a thing.
A third really great way to contribute like this is that you can join any community meeting to learn more about what’s happening now and in the future, or just to see what makes WordPress work. As a heads up, these meetings go really fast. And they’re all in text. And there’s sometimes, but not all the time, a little bit of jargon that you have to head to your favorite search engine to find. But I sit in on about half of them myself and get a lot of really good information about things that I’ve been wondering about, things that looked broken, but actually are functioning exactly the way that they should. And I just didn’t want them to function that way. And more often than not, I found out that something that I thought was broken, was already identified and being fixed. Those are three great ways to show up and help give feedback that helps make WordPress better and more functional for more people.
There are also a few other ways that we see people trying to share that feedback that don’t work quite as well. And I’m going to touch on a few of them just because it’s important to know, as you’re trying to figure out how to get started with this. The first one is just tweeting your frustrations, and I get it like that’s literally what Twitter is for.
But also it’s hard to create a block from “I am frustrated, behold my hateful rhetoric.” Not that any of you, my dear listeners, ever tweet hateful rhetoric. Still, that is really hard for anyone to figure out what was actually wrong in that moment. Another thing that is not the most functional way to give feedback is review brigading. The Internet rewards this kind of behavior, but I have found at least for WordPress, those false positives and false negatives can be really confusing for our new users. And the third way, that’s not our best way, and probably is the least best way, is just by giving up and not telling anyone what broke for you.
I know that I already said it’s not possible to fix everyone’s problems. But while it’s not possible to fix everyone’s problems the moment they get shared, it’s also truly impossible to fix any problems that no one knows exist. And so giving up and not sharing an issue so that we can identify it as part of a pattern of problems is probably the least effective way to help us help you get your problem solved.
This brings me back to the question of the value of WordPress users as co creators in the development process. As WordPress grows, both in usage as a CMS and in participation as a community, it’s important for us to shed the idea that software creation is only about what literally can be done to code or what literally can be done to core or what literally can be done to the CMS. It’s also important for us to constantly remind ourselves that the best outcomes are the result of collaboration with the people who use WordPress the most. I know that not every type of user we have is showing up to give us feedback about where WordPress doesn’t work for them. And I would love to see more feedback that helps us to figure out where our patterns are.
So the bottom line is this without user feedback that has some clarity of what was expected versus what happened, the work to make a good choice involves a whole lot of guessing. So since open source software is built by the people who show up, I hope this gives you an idea of how you can show up and help improve the tool that powers your sites.
That brings us to today’s community highlight every episode or so I share either a great story of WordPress success or a great story of a WordPress contributor who helped some folks along the way. Today’s community highlight comes from @trishacodes who shared one of her early to WordPress mentors. She says “@RianRietveld was such an encouragement and helped me find the courage to speak up.” I have had myself many conversations with Rian, and that rings true for me as well.
That brings us to the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the small list of big things. It’s actually kind of a medium list. Today, I’ve got four whole things to share with you all. The first thing on my list is that WordCamp Europe is coming, that will be June 7th through the 10th. It’s a multi-day online event. I will share in the show notes a link to the main website; there you can get an idea of what will happen, the schedule, and get your hands on some tickets so that you can get it in your calendar and prepare yourselves.
The second thing I want to share is for all of our polyglots out there. The French team is planning a translation day coming up on April 30. I will share a link to that as well so that you can get an idea of what that takes if you’re feeling like you want to do some translation work. The third thing I want to share is that the Indian community in Pune actually started a new meetup series. It is a translation work along self-study – also for all of our polyglots out there. I would love to see as many people as are interested in both learning about how to do translations and certainly translating WordPress get registered for that. A final thing I want to share with you all is that if you are curious about what full site editing features will be included in the 5.8 release, that’s the WordPress release that’s coming out in the middle of July, you can check out my recap and recording of the demo that was held with Matt, Matias, and the rest of the team. There’s are also a number of other posts of next step ideas that I will share in the show notes as well.
That, my friends, is your small list of big things. Thank you for joining in today for the WordPress briefing. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks!