What It’s Like to Contribute to WordPress

As a core developer for WordPress, I’m often asked what goes on behind the scenes.

What is it like to contribute code to WordPress — a CMS used by 60 million people?

I would like to share some thoughts about WordPress core development.

How to Contribute Code to WordPress

WordPress core is developed by hundreds of volunteers.

Becoming a core developer for WordPress takes a lot of dedication.

The first step is to regularly contribute back to WordPress core with fixes. No matter how small these fixes are. Any and all suggestions lead to making WordPress a better platform.

After gaining some code contribution experience, contributors typically begin to focus on specific areas of WordPress. Members of the community will also start to recognize these efforts.

For me, I focused on XML-RPC and image manipulation.

From there, it’s important to be forward-thinking and proactive. Continue to make valuable contributions and improvements before being asked.

To become a WordPress core contributor, it can also help to meet a member of the WordPress core development team in person.

Seeking advice from someone already heavily involved in the WordPress process and the community can advance your technical knowledge and confidence. It’s to the benefit of a newcomer to embrace such a one-to-one mentorship.

A Global Community of Contributors

Through collaboration with some of the best minds in the development industry, I have been able to contribute towards improving the usability and functionality of WordPress.

It is an incredible experience to work with people from all over the world.

We each have unique ideas of how to accomplish the same tasks based on cultural differences and experiences. We all have our own notions on how to evolve WordPress.

Personally, it has been very beneficial to interact with and discover cultures that I normally would not have.

While it is one of the biggest benefits, the span of global influences also proves to be a challenge.

From time to time, coordinating across time zones and general communication can be points of frustration.

The subtle nuances of differing cultures are sometimes difficult to understand from another cultural perspective. Things can sometimes be interpreted differently than they were intended, which leads to misunderstandings.

How WordPress Does Code Review

When it comes to the code review process, the majority of core changes are done by patches uploaded to Trac, our issue-tracking tool.

WordPress Trac

Trac is used often and has been an established contributor tool for quite some time.

After contributing code to Trac, the next step is to determine whether it’s a bug fix or a feature enhancement.

Also, the amount of people that are (or will be) affected by the code is determined.

The larger the impact of the code contribution on WordPress users, the more likely it will attract the attention of core contributors/developers.

When this happens, the code then has the potential to be committed to core within minutes.

However, not all changes are implemented that quickly. ┬áThe speed of implementation depends on many factors such as the code’s complexity or if use-cases or unit tests are missing.

Code can also be rejected by the development team. This is usually because the code contribution is not a bug fix or a necessary WordPress feature enhancement.

Conclusion

These are just a few insights into what happens behind the scenes of WordPress core development.

There aren’t too many elements that are secretive. One of the great things about WordPress, and the open source community in general, is that it is very open.

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Photo of Marko HeijnenMarko Heijnen has been a WordPress core contributor since v3.0. He works as a WordPress specialist at 1&1 Internet. He’s also the main core developer of GlotPress. To learn more about Marko, visit markoheijnen.com and join him on Twitter.