Six tips I learned about sustaining long-term core contributions at WCLDN
As a developer and hopeful future contributor to the WP Core, I question what lies on the road ahead. So I sat for Felix Arntz’ talk at WordCamp London on how to sustain long-term contributions. Since joining his first core-contribution table at WordCamp Europe – Seville in 2015, he’s gained a lot of knowledge (and frustrations).
#Tip 1 – Hold your horses
He first talked about the headaches of reporting bugs and creating tickets when in this zone. That even though you’d want to go ahead and immediately patch – you still need to discuss first. This is not a solo project. You need to learn the philosophies of the circle you’re part of and make them part of your mindset.
Always place the project’s goals ahead of your own ego. It’s worth allowing others to try to convince you. In the same way that you should feel free to convince others when necessary. If you disagree initially – step away, think about it further, and come back later.
#Tip 2 – Sometimes you’re wrong
Understand that rejection’s part of the whole process. Your ideas Will not always be accepted by the group – and that’s OK! Here’s how Felix suggests you deal with that rejection.
- If someone gives no good reason for saying no, ask for one explicitly.
- Disagree? Then dig further. Ask for a third and fourth opinion.
- Still disagree? Then, your thoughts may not comply with the project’s philosophies.
- Always keep your calm and be polite. Don’t take anything personally.
#Tip 3 – Get your answers
Felix shared how when he joined Multisite in 2016, he struggled a bit with unanswered questions. He would say be persistent when you don’t receive an answer for a while. Your question is valid and deserves an answer too. But I think that it’s often up to you to chase your own answers. One way or another.
#Tip 4 – Find your focus.
First, you need to find out what interests you the most, before you can start placing your focus towards it. Then you’ll know which meetings you can participate regularly in for that component.
I may not like to sit back myself – I tend to dive right in and participate. Always keeping in mind that direct communication Works best. But Felix says it’s perfectly OK to just pop in with a hello at first and hang around a bit, seeing how it’s done. And the more you show up, learn and present ideas, the more you build trust over time.
#Tip 5 – It ain’t just code.
You’re not just gonna be sitting there coding the stuff all day, by your lonesome. Be open to new tasks. And when you accept them, document changes precisely so that others can follow. Or even recap so your colleagues can stay up to date.
Write precise ticket descriptions and commit messages. You may be the one interested in the core, but you’ll still need to collaborate with other teams, like design and accessibility.
Want to become a component maintainer? Once you’re more familiar with your component, start providing responses to new tickets. And make new contributors feel welcome.
#Tip 5 – Learn and repeat
You don’t need to be a coding virtuoso to land an important role in the core. All you need to do is keep contributing, learn from mistakes and never stop improving your skillset over time.
Why is this important?
Well, we advise that you pay attention to details. But keep in mind that even a small change might break something in another location. So write tests to verify functionality and integrity. Don’t break any through a commit. And always make sure your code is reviewed by other experts in the respective area.
#Tip 6 – Be time-aware
You need to be reasonable with the time you have to things. Don’t overestimate what you can do within those core-dedicated hours. Moreover, don’t get involved with too many components. Just stay focused on those select few, so you can make a real difference.
Wanna increase your core time?
Then know that making an impact on core development will spark your fellow coder’s attention. Already got a lot on your plate with the company employing you 9-5? Bring up your aspirations with your boss.
Many companies will be more than happy to grant their developers extra time to work on extra projects that grow their skillset. Also works if it’s time for a change. Because prospective companies may become interested in sponsoring you. So my advice would be to take a chance. You never know!