The desire to be part of a community is a human instinct. Whether it’s a tribe, village, city, or even the WordPress community, we have an innate need to group together. The benefits of being in a community far outweigh being alone, but there are also challenges to operating within a group, and the worldwide WordPress community isn’t immune.
What is the WordPress Community?
The WordPress community is comprised of anyone and everyone who uses the WordPress software. More specifically, if you’ve ever participated in a conversation about WordPress online or at an in-person event, like a Meetup or a WordCamp, you’re most definitely part of the community and should be aware of how your behavior and actions affect others in the community.
There’s a lot to consider when talking about an interest group that spans the globe. One of our main questions should focus on how we continue creating and fostering the kind of inclusive and nurturing community that will benefit everyone involved.
What are the Challenges?
This subject could be a blog post of its own, but I want to talk about the challenge of communication specifically. Because the WordPress community consists of individuals from almost every corner of the Earth, there is a lot to consider when sharing concepts, ideas and discussing just about any WordPress subject.
To start, there are language and dialect differences, even with the same country, that need to be overcome. One way this is being addressed is through Contributor team programs, like Translations and Accessibility.
Secondly, over 75 million websites are powered by WordPress. With such a large number of people using the same platform, there’s bound to be competing opinions and reactions to the software. This can raise challenges for the WordPress community.
As an example, I suggest you watch Andrew Norcross’ presentation at LoopConf earlier this year named “Creating the Community You Crave”. Andrew showed several examples of the dark side of being a part of a large community, including comments on WordPress Core Trac and on the .org support forums that are too unpleasant for me to post here.
The takeaway from Andrew is summed up nicely by this quote he included, “A community’s culture will be defined by the worst behavior the leadership is willing to tolerate.” And who’s the leadership in this community? The answer is below.
What are the Benefits?
When I discovered WordPress in early 2004, I not only found the software solution I was looking for, I also found my tribe. Once I started participating in the forums and elsewhere, I felt a part of something and I didn’t know it at the time, but finding the WordPress community was a pivotal life moment for me emotionally.
As outlined nicely in this Smart Company article, there are benefits to being in any community, especially a global software community, such as WordPress.
- Inspiration and motivation – in strong communities there is always someone doing something amazing, which can have the effect of inspiring you to achieve bigger goals.
- Shared lessons – rather than having to learn from your own mistakes or successes, you can reach out to the community and ask if anyone can share advice that will be valuable to your situation.
- Contacts – in life and in business you are always in need of a particular service or may find it beneficial to network with new people. When you are in a strong community, it is highly likely that someone can make an introduction for you.
- Opportunities – successful people are always doing cool stuff, and when you are associated with them, you often get to go along for the ride. Whether it’s a social activity, a once in a lifetime experience or a business opportunity, there is always an opportunity to be had.
- Fun – we are social animals and when you are part of a community there are always social aspects involved that you can have a lot of fun at.
All of the above are great but it’s not just about shared education, opportunities, and fun. It’s also about your own well-being and that of others around you. It’s been documented that being part of a group is better for your physical health as outlined in an article from Psychology Today.
Last, but certainly not least, we can’t underestimate the power of human connectedness. We need each other. Tinybuddha.com does a nice job of telling us why we need each other and why we should choose community over going at it alone.
- Collective wisdom. No one person has all of the answers, and regardless of the amount of Google-fu you may have, consulting with experts is always going to give you better information.
- Pushing our limits. When working alone, it’s oftentimes too easy to give up when things get hard. By surrounding yourself with others working toward a similar goal or objective, you’ll get motivation, support, and friendly competition to push yourself just a bit further than you would have done on your own.
- Support and belief. Some days those big goals just seem impossible. On those days when you want to give up, you need to lean on your community the most. They believe in you—probably more than you believe in yourself.
- New ideas. I truly believe that when you are working within a community of like-minded people that the wisdom of crowds is considerably greater than any one person working alone. Our divergent world views and lenses mean that we all approach the exact same problem slightly differently.
- Borrowed motivation. Even on those days when your belief in yourself isn’t waning, doing what needs to get done can seem overwhelming. Look around your community and be inspired!
- Accountability. If you’re an uber-responsible person, you may not want to admit to people you care about who are pulling for you that something didn’t get done. There’s nothing like having to be accountable to others to up your game.
How to Do Your Part
So who is the leadership behind the WordPress community? It’s not a single person: It’s a collective. In other words, it’s all of us…every person who uses WordPress. Whether you contribute to the software, attend a Meetup or WordCamp, or participate in online discussions, you are leading the WordPress community, and that comes with a certain level of responsibility. In order to create the community we want, each one of us needs to get involved and define limits on what we’ll accept and what we won’t within a group. Furthermore, each of us should feel free to speak up and defend ourselves and others when something or someone goes beyond those limits.
With such a varied user base across the globe, you might think it difficult to define the rules for the WordPress community, but luckily, the Make WordPress Community team has us covered with the Code of Conduct included in the WordCamp Organizer handbook.
My overriding suggestion is to simply get involved and take an active role in creating the kind of community that best supports us all.