Building The Community: WordPress

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August 04, 2010
thumbWith the recent release of WordPress 3.0 we're entering a very exciting time. For the first time in the history of the platform, nobody is working on the next version. All development outside of essential bug fixing has been stopped... and 3.1 won't even start development until the beginning of September. The reason? Well, the core contributors aren't taking a vacation to Hawaii, in fact they're doing something much less relaxing: working on the WordPress community.

Introducing WordPress 3.0rg

1 Right now, all of the WordPress core contributors are working on building up and improving the WordPress community features. Removing an entire release cycle from 2010, the WordPress project sits cleverly between 3.0 and 3.1. So what does that mean for you? Well, first and foremost, has just received a small face-lift. The main WordPress site hasn't been redesigned for years so this facelift will be a welcome change and the base for almost everything else that will be going on. The new site sports a lighter interface to match the new lighter interface for WordPress 3.0 and again this should carry through to other changes and progressions in style throughout the community. So what are all the other things which are going to be happening? Well, that's what we're going to get into now. Before we start though, an important disclaimer: The world of OpenSource development is in a constant state of flux and as a result these things are subject to change without notice. Some things may be added, some things may be removed, but here's a general idea of where things are going:

WordPress Handbooks

A long time coming, the first WordPress official Handbooks are now being put together in order to teach you your custom post type from your taxonomy, and your category from your tag. The handbooks will cover a wide variety of subjects with multiple books being produced for different types of users. For example: end-users may get one handbook, theme developers another, plugin developers, core contributors and so on may also all get access to specialized handbooks which are most relevant to them. These hand books should make an extremely valuable addition to almost all segments of the WordPress community and really help new people get involved without feeling too daunted.

API Reference

One team is looking at the possibility of creating a comprehensive guide to the WordPress API outlining all of the template tags, functions, hooks and filters which can be utilized within the core code. Not only would this be tremendously helpful to plugin developers who need reference documentation to help them tie their functionality into the core as smoothly as possible, it should also help theme developers who are looking to create advanced custom options which ship with their themes. The API Reference is also planned to integrate closely with the WordPress Handbooks.

Making bbPress a Plugin

2 When it comes to forum software that integrates well with WordPress, your choices are pretty limited. A small platform called bbPress has been around for a long time and, despite being an official WordPress project, hasn't gotten very far. Right now it runs independently from WordPress with some really tricky integration that's far beyond the average user. The plan now is to turn bbPress into a fully fledged WordPress plugin so that it will integrate quickly and easily with any install - giving millions of WordPress users access to hosted forums on their sites.

The Plugin Directory

3 The plugin directory is having so much done to it that it's essentially getting mini-mini-projects. That doesn't mean the tasks are any smaller than any of the others, it just means that the plugin directory as a whole is very big. So what's been planned so far? Well, read on and find out:

Support & Management

Firstly, a set of tools are being considered to allow plugin authors to better support and manage the administration for their plugins within the directory. This is an ongoing effort to try to raise the quality and the standard of plugins in the WordPress plugin repository and allow plugin developers to connect with their users far more easily. Details on the exact tools being put together aren't available at this early stage, however it goes without saying that this is a big deal for any and all plugin developers who actively support their code. Community
Secondly, a team is going to look at building much more user interaction into the plugins directory to allow people to leave comments, reviews, and show adoption rate statistics. The project in particular should make the plugins directory much easier to browse through and give users a far better idea of whether or not a plugin is doing well based on what other people are saying. Opening up plugins in this way makes it much more transparent. Core Integration
Thirdly, a team will be looking at how the plugins directory integrates with WordPress itself. Right now you might know that as the way in which you search for and add new plugins directly from inside your WordPress dashboard. This is the type of functionality which is going to be built on and improved. A few notable areas of focus for improvement will include the plugin installer itself, the updates manager and much better compatibility reports. Compatibility reports are already in place in the current version of WordPress, however this new work should make them even more accurate than ever before - which is a weight off the mind of anyone who has ever upgraded their version of WordPress only to discover that one of their most important plugins has stopped working, or broken everything! Developer Statistics
Finally, the plugin directory may get SVN notifications, improvements to the bug tracking software integration, and far more detailed statistics for plugin developers including aggregate public download counts. Again this will contribute a great deal to the overall value of the plugin directory with both users and developers able to see more accurate figures on which plugins are popular and which plugins aren't, leading to a more transparent and useful experience all round.

Internationalization Projects

Moving away from the plugins directory now, several internationalization projects are being discussed to improve the management of localized plugins and communities. Internationalization work, as covered in some detail in a previous post on Webdesigner Depot, is absolutely crucial to the success of WordPress - and it's no small task!

The UI Group

4 There aren't enough people in the UI working group to be able to assign one person to each development team, not to mention that they can't do much by themselves. So they will instead be collectively bouncing between all other projects filling in with design and UX help wherever required, you know, making stuff look pretty. With gradients.

Closing Notes

So now you have some idea of the things which are starting to take place, you can start to get a sense of where the community as a whole is going, and there may still be more coming. There are projects which are being complete for the Google Summer of Code which will also greatly benefit the WordPress community. Finally there are couple more project ideas that are still being discussed so there may still be more to come this summer during the big drive for It's incredibly important that all of the core contributors are taking this break because it means that for this period of time they're focusing on you. How can your experience of WordPress be improved outside of just the platform itself. How can plugin authors be supported better, how can new users learn the ropes quicker, how can all users update everything more easily, how can WordPress be made accessible to more different languages and cultures? These are all questions which are being answered now, with the ultimate goal of making the community better all round. There's never enough time to do everything that everyone wants, so the chances are that you might have a wishlist in the back of your mind that isn't being totally fulfilled. Just keep in mind that WordPress is OpenSource, that means decisions are made by the people who show up. Anyone can become a contributor to WordPress, so if it interests you then you should definitely think about getting involved with everything that's going on. It takes time, commitment, good communication skills, patience and diplomacy, but it's extremely worthwhile. What about you? What are you looking forward to out of this list and what other things do you hope to see on the horizon for WordPress? Let us know in the comments below!

John O’Nolan

Founder at Writes about Open source, startup life, non-profits & publishing platforms. Travels the world with a bag of kites.

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