I had an experience at a WordCamp in 2016 that I wanted to take a moment to share. It was unexpected and made me reflect on my involvement in the WordPress community and why participating is so important to me.
Let’s travel back to 2014. I was teaching a workshop called Plugin Development from Scratch at WordCamp Providence (now WordCamp Rhode Island). This would be my third year in a row speaking at this WordCamp, but it was my first time running a workshop. Participants would learn how to build a plugin using basic WordPress action and filter hooks, APIs and best practices.
As I was going around the room to answer the questions people had, there was one person that had many more questions than the others. I spent as much time with her as I could while continuing to run the workshop. I could tell something was not quite making sense to her yet and did my best to explain things to her.
The workshop went on and eventually came to an end. The participants slowly filed out of the room until there were only two people left: the person with all the questions, and myself. She had a few more to finish off the day, so I spent some more time with her to ensure she had the pieces she needed to continue on her own.
WordCamp ended, and I went on with my daily life. When the next WordPress meetup came around, the person from my workshop showed up. She had more questions related to the material in the workshop and told me that she was determined to get her example plugin to work.
This went on nearly every month for a year. She continued to show up with questions ready to learn. WordCamp RI 2015 & 2016 came around and she volunteered, helping to organize both years.
At the speaker’s dinner for WordCamp RI 2016 I had a chance to catch up with her. It had been several months since our paths had crossed at a meetup, and she, of course, had a handful of questions for me. This time was different, though. Her questions were far more advanced than the last time we had talked.
“I am really impressed, Karen. You’ve come a long way!” I told her.
“It’s all because of you. Your workshop changed how I saw everything. Because of the way you explain things, something clicked. And all of a sudden, everything made sense.”
When I was driving home I reflected on what she said to me. It caught me off guard. I always contribute to WordPress and speak at WordCamps because I enjoy it. But I had never thought about what impact the things I said would have on the people who attended my talks.
Because I took the time to teach a workshop (that I was afraid no one would receive any benefit from) and answer some questions, someone received a level of clarity that helped them understand WordPress better. And this improved their ability to make a living on WordPress.
I started to think back. I was once that person. We all were. Even though we may not be able to trace our own eureka moment back to an individual person’s instruction at a workshop, the collective pointers that we receive from the people we interact with in the community play just as much a part of our skill sets as the long hours spent at the keyboard combing through the files in WordPress Core.
No matter what level your skills are at, there is always someone who can learn from you. Don’t be afraid to offer help. Open source a project you have been working on. Answer questions in the support forums. Attend local meetups. Speak at WordCamps. Translate plugins & themes. There is a way to contribute to the community for every person.
This is why I love the WordPress community. The number of people willing to take the time to teach, mentor, give guidance. Everyone belongs, everyone has a right to be there. WordCamps pull all of these people from all walks of life together to collaborate, to help, and to learn about WordPress.
This is why I WordCamp.