Five lessons from Eight Years as a WordPress Core Committer

Screenshot: New committers for WordPress 4.1 As many of you know, the lead developers review and appoint new committers to serve each release cycle, often to work on a particular component or feature. This guest commit access comes up for review after each release and can be renewed. I in particular work closely with every guest committer, providing feedback. I’m pleased to announce our largest guest committer class ever: Gary Pendergast (@pento), Boone B. Gorges (@boonebgorges), Konstantin Kovshenin (@kovshenin), Aaron Jorbin (@jorbin), and Jeremy Felt (@jeremyfelt).

Today marks eight years since I first committed to WordPress Core. Like many things, this feels like both yesterday and forever ago. Reflecting on this, I thought of five lessons I have learned from being a maintainer of what is now 43% of the internet.

Have a bias toward action

Learning when to move fast and when to move slow is a never-ending experience, but helping to maintain WordPress has helped me understand that it’s important to make decisions, even if that decision is the wrong one. Sometimes the action though is to not do something. In open source no is temporary, and yes is forever. But you need to make decisions. It’s also ok to make the wrong one because when it’s the wrong one, you should…

Wear your mistakes as badges of honor

I was told early on that as a committer I was going to encounter the day that someone reverted my code without consulting me. And I needed to be ok with this. When I’ve been reverted, when I’ve earned unprops, I learn something and ultimately the software is better. It might hurt in the short term, but I am ok with it because…

Committers are trusted by the community, but first you need to trust themselves

Trusting myself is something that has meant two different things as a committer: First was having the confidence to do it (and being ok with mistakes helped with this). The second is knowing the things I am still in touch with the code and having the confidence to continue to commit. I often think about this quote from Karl Fogel:

If the main criterion for granting commit access is good judgement, then why assume someone’s judgement would deteriorate just because she’s been away from the project for a while? Even if she completely vanishes for years, not looking at the code or following development discussions, when she reappears she’ll know how out of touch she is, and act accordingly. You trusted her judgement before, so why not trust it always? If high school diplomas do not expire, then commit access certainly shouldn’t.

Producting Open Source Software – Dormant Committers – Karl Fogel

While there are more and more parts of the code I don’t have a lot of confidence in my knowledge of, one thing I can continue to do is ask the question…

“What’s the problem you are trying to solve?”

Some variation of this is something that I saw Nacin and Helen ask on a regular basis during my early time as a commuter. Digging a little deeper and trying to understand the problem helps find the best solution. Learning this lesson reminds me to…

Make friends along the way

Committers aren’t a big group. You never know when that eagle-eyed new contributor at a WordCamp is going to turn into a friend, so appreciate the opportunity. I’ve used my commit 393 times. There are 93 people who have been trusted to maintain the codebase of WordPress at some time and I’m proud to say many are friends.

Here is to 8 years. 🍻

I previously blogged three years and seven years as a committer.






Comments accepted from Webmention and Pingback.

  1. Courtney Robertson 🌻 Avatar
  2. Birgit Pauli-Haack Avatar

    Huge Thank you to @aaronjorbin for being a Core Committer for the WordPress open-source project for 8 years –…