Introduction to Contributing to WordPress

In this brief workshop with Courtney Patubo Kranzke and Cami Kaos from the WordPress Community team you’ll learn a little bit about the history of WordPress software, understand better how building open source software differs from building traditional “closed source” software, and learn what teams the WordPress project is divided into. With this, we hope you’ll glean a better understanding of how the WordPress project functions and where you might like to get involved.


Learning outcomes

  • Learn how WordPress got started and what it powers today.
  • Get an understanding of how open source software creation works, and why it works.
  • Introduction to the 18 WordPress contributor teams and the function they have in the program.
  • Find out where to go for more information on contributing to WordPress.

Comprehension questions

  1. What license is WordPress released under?
  2. Why does “open source” work, even though it should be chaotic?
  3. What four categories can WordPress contributor teams be divided into?


Cami Kaos 0:04
Hello, and welcome to an introduction to the WordPress open source project, a workshop with Cammy and Courtney.

Courtney P.K. 0:14
Hello. Well I am Courtney. Courtney Patubo Kranzke, also known as Courtney PK, as you might see in my name, wherever that is. I’m based in Portland, Oregon, in the pacific northwest of the US. I’ve been a WordPress user since 2004 and been a full time contributor to the WordPress open source projects since 2016. And I focus on the community team. Cami.

Cami Kaos 0:46
I’m Cami Kaos. Yes, that is actually how you say my name. I also live in Portland, Oregon and the pacific northwest of the United States. I’ve been a WordPress user since I think 2005 ish, and I’ve been a full-time contributor since 2013. But before that, I just really loved WordPress and have a volunteering, working at WordCamps. And I blogged way too much. So that brings us to why we’re here today. Word Press. What do we have in common?

So yeah, we thought we’d start with a brief history of WordPress, the software we all know and love and the reason why we’re all here today. So WordPress started in 2003, when two developers named Mike Liddell and Matt Mullenweg took a copy of the source code from a blogging tool called B2/Cafelog, and they developed independently upon it in order to create WordPress. This process is also known as forking. So although WordPress started as a bare bones blogging tool, eventually, plugins and themes were created, more functions were added, and WordPress grew to become a full fledged content management system that continues to be iterated on to this day. The WordPress open source project has evolved in progressive ways over time, supported by skilled enthusiastic developers, designers, scientists, bloggers, and more. That would be our contributor teams that we will be talking about shortly. So today, WordPress is the platform of choice for over 35% of all sites across the web. It is built on PHP and MySQL, and it’s licensed under the General Public License, which is right widely referred to as the GPL. By the way, though, there will be another workshop, down the road on the GPL. There’s a lot that that you can learn. I’m still learning about the GPL, so keep an eye out for that workshop in the future. So which brings us to talk a little bit about the open source values that WordPress is built upon. So back to you, Cami.

I was totally hoping you were gonna mention how much of the internet WordPress was so yay, over a third, over a third of the internet. Yes. So when they took that software, and they forked it, they made the decision to keep it open source and to move forward. And in order to really understand not just the software itself, but how the product, the program and the project have progressed, you have to understand the values of open source software. And to start understanding the values of open source software, you kind of have to also understand how closed source software works. So I’m going to share with you the best comparison that I have found between the two. It is from a book called The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric Raymond. And we’re going to put a link in the description down there of a free copy of the book so that you can read about it yourself. But basically, we’re going to compare and contrast. Based on architecture, we’re going to look at closed source software as a cathedral or a skyscraper. And we’re going to look at open source software as a bazaar or farmers market. And the cathedral approach, or the closed software approach, you take a set value of contributors or developers and they build out the structure for the entire system. They write the code, they search for bugs, they do some bug fixes, and they really solve for the problem that they’re working on solving the problem that they’re supposed to be solving. They have a set amount of timeline, and they work on it together in a siloed atmosphere. And then when they’re ready, they do one big release and they push it out. And it’s kind of like waiting to let people into the cathedral or the skyscraper until it’s completely built. No one gets a glance inside to see what’s happening until it’s completely finished. In the open source method, we look at it more like a bazaar, but I like to use a farmer’s market where the design is really built by the people who are coming into it. And so you have any number of contributors, as long as they are interested, and they have the skills to make it happen, contributing the very best of themselves, and building it up as they go along together. People have often stated that that can’t work, that the open source platform is doomed to fail, because it’s chaotic and very nature with all these people contributing different things in what they want. And we have actually found as WordPress proves to the contrary, it works out quite well. Conventional wisdom says that many people, you know, too many cooks in the kitchen, what have you. But in this case, it actually makes the software shine, it makes the community shine, it makes everything better based on the diversity of thought that goes into it. And there are four basic principles that kind of show how this works, and I will share them with you and briefly describe them because the phrases for them are a little bit odd. But the first is with many eyes, all bugs are shallow. And that means that the more people that are using the software or examining the situation, looking at the problem, the more bugs we found, and more quickly, because everyone else everyone’s using, for a different reason, everyone is doing a different test case, and they’re using for their own reasons. So they will more quickly find what’s going on. And then more quickly, we can fix them. Release early release often, which at that one’s self explanatory. As soon as it’s ready to go and functional and safe, you go ahead and push it out. And then as those more bugs are found, you go ahead and release more often scratching a personal itch, which is a phrase that I don’t particularly like, but I’ve never come up with a better way to say it. When you have a vested interest in something, when there’s something that you particularly want fixed or you particularly want to do, you’re more likely to dive in and get involved. And the last is egoless participation. And that does not mean that our programmers that are designers that are contributors that are collaborators are not without ego, it means that the program moves forward with the best intentions of the users. It moves forward to benefit all rather than to benefit one individual or one company. So we benefit everyone without ego. And when we take all of that, and we put it together, we have so many different people, so many different ways of contribution that we have to build them into teams. And so now we’re going to talk about that for a little bit, Courtney.

Courtney P.K. 7:39
Yeah, thanks, Cami. So with all of what Cami you said about the open source values of WordPress in mind. The WordPress open source project consists of a global community of people who collaborate on and contribute to the project. So these volunteer contributors bring a variety of experience and skills, including software development, design, support, security, training, writing, localizing/translating, event organizing, amongst many others. So the contributor community is organized into individual contributor teams. These teams can be sorted under the categories of building operations, extending and supporting WordPress. So I’ll I’ll start with the building category. So under the building category, we have the Core team, which writes the code that is the core of the WordPress software, the Design team, which helps design and develop the user interface for WordPress. They also have the Accessibility team, which makes WordPress and everything on accessible to people with disabilities. The Meta team, which helps with the infrastructure that powers, and So those those particular sites, the Mobile team helps build mobile apps for WordPress. And the Test team helps patrol test and curate the WordPress experience via QA, quality assurance, testing and user research. So those are all the teams that are the builders.

Cami Kaos 9:37
And then we have the Operations teams. And this is a much shorter segment. So we’ve got operations and those are the teams that help make everything go around operations. So first we have is the Marketing team. And they helped develop the marketing materials and resources to market WordPress software to the rest of the world. And they also help to support the WordPress community by marketing that We exist. And then there’s the Hosting and with Hosting, oftentimes people don’t really fully understand what it is. So this is one that we have to explain a lot. But the Make WordPress hosting, they Make WordPress hosting better for everyone through collaboration tools and documentation of best practices. So they kind of work on what’s best to host WordPress, and not necessarily anything else.

Courtney P.K. 10:27
All right, so that brings us to the extending teams. So these, this this category consists of the Themes team, which reviews incoming theme code to keep your theme directory in great shape, the Polyglots team which translates all the things and they maintain the localized sites on The plugins team keeps the plugin directory safe by reviewing code and ensuring standards the tide team which helps you learn how to make your plugin theme or plugin or theme more standardized, faster and more secure. And then finally, the COI team, which contributes to WP-CLI which is the official command line tool for managing your WordPress site. Okay.

Cami Kaos 11:28
So the last segment is the Supporting teams and they are the ones that support everyone else in the WordPress WordPress program to keep everything going along. And at the very top of the supporting team is the WordPress community team, of which Courtney and I are both very proud members. Yay. They bring people together with events like meetups and WordCamps. They do outreach initiatives for diversity and inclusion. And right now, we’re working a lot on Learn WordPress, so that we can help bring more information to everyone in the WordPress community. And then we’ve got the docs team. They help write and edit documentation, including the Codex and the handbook. So they assist other teams with what they’re doing. And that’s fantastic. We’ve got the Training team that creates curriculum for free WordPress training courses that people can trust. So you kind of know you’re going to a valued resource instead of just someone who is trying to benefit themselves by showing them how to be trained on their own product. And you can also find their materials on Learn WordPress where you’re going to find these workshops. We’ve got Support, and they help to answer questions to help other WordPress users They moderate incoming videos help with post processing and transcribe and subtitle videos that come in through WordCamps Meetup groups State of the Word every year and workshops like this. And next, we’re going to have Courtney tell you where you can find all of that information.

Courtney P.K. 12:52
Yeah, thank you. Um, so I want to say that’s it. But [laughs], but looking back, we we touched on a lot. But there’s even a lot more information to learn about contributing to the WordPress open source project. So you can find the information that we presented here, as well as some ways to start getting involved with the project if you’re interested at

Cami Kaos 13:22
Thank you all so much for taking the time to stare at your screen with Courtney and I today, we really appreciate it. I hope that this is the beginning of an amazing journey into WordPress for you and that you have found something that you’re interested in. There will be a series of videos that will deal with each of the contributor teams in depth coming along. And we’ll try to link them here as best we can. But as for the content that we shared here today, please if you want to discuss it more, sign up for a lead discussion in your community well in the global community as it were, and please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions. You can email us at Bye bye.

Workshop Details


Cami Kaos

Cami lives, works, and parents in the rainy city of Portland, Oregon. She’s had a love of WordPress and WordCamps since the last century, when she happened to stumble upon the first WordCamp Portland. SFrom 2013 to 2020, she worked at Automattic, as a community organizer for the WordPress open-source project.

Courtney P.K.

I’ve been using WordPress since 2004, and have been a full time sponsored contributor to the WordPress open source project since 2016.