Podcast Episode

358 – Ways to Contribute to WordPress for the Developer


Is there a plugin for that?

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Ways to Contribute to WordPress for the Developer

This month we are going to spend time talking about different ways you can contribute to the WordPress community / WordPress project.

There are a lot of opportunities to use your developer skills to give back to the WordPress community.

If you are a WordPress blogger, here’s how you can give back to WordPress:

  • Work on WordPress Tickets
  • Help make WordPress Accessible
  • Test beta versions of the software
  • Review themes and plugins for the WordPress repository
  • Improve documentation
  • Teach others developer things, workflows, how to submit a patch, etc
  • Make WordPress.org better by helping the Meta Team
  • Contribute to the codex

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Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

On today’s episode, we’re gonna continue the discussion on how to contribute back Word Press in today. The discussion will revolve around how you can contribute as a developer. Right here on Your Website Engineer podcast, episode #358. Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler. Today we’re gonna be talking about developer things that you can do to contribute back to the WordPress project. But first, we’ve got three announcements and a plug in the week to share with you. The very first piece of announcement that I want to tell you about is WordPress 4.9 Beta 1 is now out in the wild.

It’s slated for release on November 14th so we’re talking just about a month away. And they’re making it even easier to customize your site. There’s some big items to test, there’s some bugs to try to fix, and there’s just a whole list of things. I’ve got to the point where I’ve installed it, but I haven’t started playing with it. But you can now draft and schedule changes in the customizer. So you can do some things there. So if you wanted to schedule some changes to happen in the future, you can do that right in the customizer. There is the addition of a front-end preview link on the customizer to allow changes in the front end. There’s a brand new theme browsing experience inside the customizer. They’re working on a lot of customizery type things.

There’s also support codes for text widgets. There’s adding media to text widgets. There is support for adding OM beds to post-content including text widgets. There’s support for video providers other than YouTube, Vimeo in the video widgets. Lots of things happening. Lots of things to test and to play around within the WordPress ecosphere. So that’s what I want to share with you today. It’ll probably be a couple of weeks 'til we get another version or so or maybe every week or so they’re gonna push out a new version of the Beta. And so if you are a developer, if you’re somebody that’s interested in the latest and greatest and what’s happening with the WordPress community, I definitely recommend checking out WordPress 4.9 and as always, just install it on a non-critical site or a test site if you will.

And make sure that you don’t have that test software running on your main website. So that’s item #1. Item #2 is the article’s called “The Dream Internship: Work at Automatic. Winter 2018 and Beyond.” So Automatic as you know is my employer and which runs WordPress.com, a kismet ball press jetpack, and many other services. But the one that we don’t talk about very often here because it’s kind of it’s off to the side. It’s kind of its own thing and it’s WordPress.com VIP. It is a hosting and support for high profile, high traffic WordPress websites including time.com, people.com, qz.com, internet.org, thesun.code.uk, nypost.com, and many more.

The VIP is looking for interns to work on client facing development and support. These are paid internships at $25 per hour. They run for almost 16 weeks and be completed either on a full-time or part-time basis. And so I’ve got a link in the show notes for episode #358 where you can go ahead and apply and it just talks about some of the things that you’ll get to do as a VIP intern. And this isn’t just like interns as in somebody that’s coming straight out of a college intern, this is open to anyone. And the internship will focus on things like improving VIP and community plug-ins and debugging client code, building tools to help clients better manage their sites, making performance and security improvements in the WordPress.com VIP platform.

And the work can be tailored to fit your personal interests and goals. There is a form right there that you can go ahead and sign up for. You can either do the winter session which is January 2018 to April 2018 or summer which is May 2018 to August 2018. And so the applications are due by October 27th and so you just got a couple of weeks there. So if you’re interested, go ahead and check that out in the show notes. And then the last thing that I found and it’s not really WordPress news, but it is website related news. And I saw this article that was posted on webkit.org and it was talking about designing websites for the iPhone X. The thing is, the iPhone X is this big new flagship phone that Apple’s releasing next month and it looks really cool and it’s got some weird cutouts and the screen is very, very wide or long.

If you turn the phone into a landscape mode, there’s some wonky things that can happen because the screen goes all the way to the edge, but there’s this weird notch cutout where the camera and the speaker and things like that is. So it just goes through some of the information and some of the documentation, how to set up a website with that proper spacing. That’s right there. If you don’t have that, if you don’t have that viewport set correctly, then some of your content is going to be overlapped on that side. It almost reminds me of those social icons that kinda hover over all of your content on the left-hand side. It kinda looks like that with the iPhone. So there’s an article there from webkit.org. I’d recommend checking it out, just seeing what it’s all about and see how you can prepare for getting ready for the iPhone 10.

Alright, moving right along to the “Is there a plug-in for that” section. There are tens of thousands of plug-ins in the WordPress plugin repository and each week I just try to pick out one that’s interesting that may serve some sort of value to somebody that’s listening. And the one that I want to talk about today is called counter number. And this is a designed layout plug-in that uses the latest CSS animation and it allows you to update and put all kinds of stats right on your website. So it’s fully responsive, it’s got a clean design and it’s one of those ones that you can put like “consumed 1200 cups of coffee while writing this blog post”. And it will kind of automatically count from 0 to 1200 as you scroll down the page.

And it’s got all of this information. You can fill it out with any information that you want. It’s just kind of a widget type thing and you can set the icons. They’re just the general icons that you can get from Font Icon and you can pick any one of those icons. And it’s a pretty neat plug-in. It’s a simple plug-in; it’s only got 80 active installs. But if you need something like this on your website, I recommend checking it out and it’s called counter number in the WordPress repository. Alright, moving right along here to the meat and the potatoes of the show as my friend Adam always says. Today we’re gonna talk about how to contribute back to the WordPress space as a WordPress developer. And there’s lots of opportunities for all types of skill levels and today we’re gonna focus on the developer.

Last week we talked about for a blogger, all the things in the ways you can get involved in the Word Press community and how to contribute back to Word Press? But today, we’re gonna focus on the developer. And so, again, I’ve got a whole list of things and ideas that just kind of spewed out of my head that we’re gonna talk about and they’re in no way, shape, or form in any type of order. They’re just things that I thought of. And so let’s go ahead and just talk about them. Let’s work through them. The very first one is to work on WordPress tickets. A bug request that may come in or new features that need to be added and there’s some links that I put in the show notes and there’s ones for good first bugs.

And this is a report or a filtered list of collection of curated tickets that are considered good for developers that are new to contributing to WordPress. I’ve found a couple of tickets in this range that I’ve at least understood what they’re asking and kind of how to go about doing it. And it just goes ahead and just you can work through those. There is a first section called “Untitled” or “Unclaimed”. And you can jump right in. You can find the tickets that have been newly given that first bug keyword and they can cover all kinds of development things.

Some of them may be easy that have to do with the 2017 theme. Some of them may be just a fix in the documentation or a fix in the in-line documentation or very, very simple things. So that’s where you can find some tickets if you wanted to just start to stretch your fingers and try to figure out how this whole thing works. There’s another category called “No Patch”. And this is a great report for finding tickets to work on that still need a patch. This could be that no one has tackled the ticket yet or there is an existing patch that has problems and a new clean patch is required. And so that’s another section to go through and browse. And again, this all depends on your developer level. For me, I’m not a hardcore WordPress developer when it comes to fixing WordPress and so the good first bugs is gonna be a place where I’m gonna stay.

Another thing, if you are interested in unit test, then there is a list for that. And so if you’re very handy with unit test, I’d recommend checking that out. The next two, one is called “major release” and the next “minor release”. And these are catch-all reports and they’re just basically bugs that have been tagged whether they’re gonna go in the next major release. So like WordPress 4.9 or the next minor release which could be WordPress 4.8.6 or whatever the next point release is gonna be. So that’s another thing that you can look at. And there’s bug reports in there. It is basically like the ticket dashboard and you can just go and look at different various reports. I just find a lot of value going in here to look at the tickets and just like, “Oh, yeah. That kinda makes sense.” Or, “Oh, yeah.”

Just kinda read through them and see if there’s any way that you can muster up the courage to develop something and write the code or submit a patch or whatnot. So that’s something you can do that I’d recommend checking out. You can also head on over to the WordPress course slack group. And that’s found at wordpress.slack.com. It’s a free community that you can go and get involved with. But the WordPress core channel is a place where they talk about core tickets. You can ask in the core channel, they’re super-friendly there. You just have the opportunity to go in and ask further questions. Instead of cluttering up the bug report in the track which is where all of the tickets and stuff lay, that you can just go into the core channel and you can ask about them there.

And then you can get direct feedback, back and forth from people that are working on WordPress core. So that’s something that you can do as well. So the first item of business is work on WordPress tickets. There’s tons of tickets out there. There’s some that have been out there for I think, 10 years that haven’t been addressed and it’s just something that nobody’s got around to doing it. Nobody has the time so that could be something that you could work on this week if you really wanted to. Another thing that you could do to help to make WordPress better is you could work to make WordPress accessible. I believe I talked about this a little bit last week with the bloggers that you could go in and find things that need to be more accessible.

Well, on this piece, I wanted to just highlight that if somebody has highlighted and said, “Hey, this needs to be more accessible.” Then as a developer, you can go in and add the necessary code or the programming that it needs to make it automatically more accessible for all users of WordPress. So that’s where that is. Another thing a developer can do is go in and install the latest Beta just like I did the WordPress 4.9 Beta 1. You can go in and you can start playing with it and tweaking and figuring out where there are bugs and even if you don’t want to fix bugs, you can find them and you can report them. And there’s a lot that you can do in that manner as well. So go ahead and install a Beta version of the WordPress software.

One that I’ve never got a really chance to do but I think would be a super-interesting find or super-interesting kind of side project is to work with the themes team or the plug-in team. And look at the code and help review themes and plug-ins for the WordPress repository. Like I said earlier, there’s tens of thousands of WordPress plug-ins. Every one of those gets looked at and read through the code to make sure there’s no malicious attacks in there make sure that the code looks somewhat decent, makes sure that the database entries are being sanitized. There are a lot of little things that they look for and if you’re a developer and that’s something that is really easy for you, you could go in and spend an hour a week and just search through some of these WordPress themes and the WordPress plug-ins.

At one point when I submitted my plug-in to the WordPress repository, I was talking to Pippin Williamson who is one of the people that do the plug-in review and he was just talking about they try to let every plug-in developer or everybody that wants to be a plug-in developer, they allow them to enter into the space.

And so it doesn’t matter if their plug-in isn’t designed exceptionally well as long as it works and there’s no malicious attacks. They’re gonna allow that plug-in into the WordPress repository. So that’s something to think about. If you have those chops and you have that ability to review code that could be coming into the WordPress grid or community that could be a way that you could contribute back to WordPress. The next thing is you could create a theme or create a plug-in depending on a specific need or desire or something that needs fixed or worked on within WordPress. And so if you have a theme that maybe you use for all of your themes, maybe think about outsourcing it or open sourcing it and allowing it to be one of those themes that’s on the WordPress repository that people can download.

Then if it’s open source like that, then people can contribute back and make your product and your starter theme just that much nicer and that much greater. So that’s another thing that you can do. Like I said, there’s tons of things to do on the WordPress repository or to contribute back as a developer. Another item that I have here on my list is to improve documentation. We talked about this for a blogger, as a blogger is generally somebody that’s very well-versed in technical writing or even writing in that manner. But from the developer’s side of things, there’s some pieces of information that need a developer to write the documentation. Things like the API, rest API. That blows my mind and I really don’t understand how to even talk about it because I’m not a developer and I don’t really understand all the technical pieces of the rest API.

So a developer could be that person that goes in and improves that documentation or even just writes documentation and just makes it easier for the non-techies to figure out what WordPress is doing and how they can start using the technology in whatever application they may be using. So that’s improve documentation. Another one that I have is teach other developers. And this is just to teach them how to use WordPress, teach them their workflows. What software tools did you use? How do you create that dif file that you need to upload a patch? There’s lots and lots of little pieces of the puzzle that developers use every single day.

How they use terminal, how they do things more quickly, how they – there’s tons of stuff that you can teach and this can be at a word camp or this could be at a local meet up group or you could put a webinar together and put it on YouTube. There’s tons of ways that you can share what your knowledge is to help you improve. I love going to webinars that are very technical in nature that I don’t understand most of it, but usually, I can glean a piece or two out of it over the course of the hour-long presentation. Or even at a word camp. I sometimes go in the developer track just to try to somewhat comprehend what’s going on. It’s really tough for me sometimes, but that’s something that I truly enjoy and so if you have the technical chops and are a very technical person, I’d recommend teaching others in some way, shape, or form. Workflows, how to make a patch, all those great things.

You can also as a developer make WordPress.org better by helping out the Meta team. Meta team is the team that focuses on everything on WordPress.org. I believe they also help out in the WordCamp.org site, probably the WordPress.tv. But WordCamp.org is the big one. They did the big plug-in refresh, the visuals for the plug-in section of the WordPress repository a year or so ago. And that’s something they’ve worked on and they’ve worked on the different pieces inside the dashboard where it talks about the meetup groups. I believe that was part of the Meta team. There’s just lots of pieces of the puzzle to keep WordPress.org running and making things easy to find, plug-ins, themes, making sure all the blog posts are there, all that good stuff.

So if you are interested in improving that, that’s another route that you can go on, another place that you can contribute back to WordPress. The last one that I have here on my list and I’m sure I’ll think of about a dozen more as soon as I wrap up this podcast. But the other one is to contribute to the codex. And the codex is a tricky piece of documentation. It’s this big long thing that talks about all the functions and talks how the technical aspects of WordPress work. So maybe if you wanted to figure out how the debugger works or how to enable debugging, there’s a whole codex page just on how to do that. And what happens with the WP-config.php file and how to create a staging site. There’s tons of technical pieces of information there. But the codex also includes a lot of the functions that are inside of WordPress and how to use them or how to use an action or filter.

And when I say help to improve or contribute to the codex, what I mean here is find examples of code that the documentation does a kind of a brief overview of what the function does, but it doesn’t show any examples. Like as a non-ish developer like myself, I love to be able to see, “Okay, here’s the function. Here’s all the parameters. Here’s the arguments that need to make the function work.” And then, “Okay, show me two or three examples so I can see it in action.” Maybe I can even copy and paste that code into my site, see it work, and then start modifying and tweaking it to really understand what’s going on. So that’s another way that you can contribute back to WordPress as a developer.

So those were the things that I thought of this week as I was sitting down and just trying to figure out different ways that you can contribute to WordPress as a developer. Of course, all of the reasons that we talked about are all the ways last week that we talked about as a blogger. Those fall into effect as well, but these were more technical things that I wanted to share with you this week. Next week, what we’re gonna talk about is how to do this as a designer, what to contribute to as a designer. What are the things if you’re a passionate designer, how can you improve and contribute back to the WordPress project as a designer? So we’ll talk about those things next week. ‘Till next week, go out and find some little way that you can contribute back to the WordPress community.

I’m going to Ann Arbor this weekend to go to work camp in Ann Arbor and I’ll be spending time doing a couple of different sessions and I’ll be hanging out, meeting the community and at the jetpack and will commerce booth. So that’s my way of contributing back to WordPress this week. Find your way and we’ll talk again next week. Take care. Bye-bye.

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