I thought about something as I prepared to publish a tweet about my newfound habit of lurking around the WordPress support forums to help out.
It’s not totally one-sided, though. I’ve learned a lot by dedicating my time to other people’s unique situations… and that’s what I just realized today. I’ve had two specific time periods where my skill level clearly jumped a level or two.
1. Working Support Forums
A buddy of mine has been running a WordPress theme shop for years. Back before I used one of his themes, I used to tweak my own for personal use. I was pretty good but I never learned anything outside of what I needed.
After tweaking the hell out of one of his themes and voluntarily helping out a few of his customers in his support forums, he asked me to work the forums for him. I agreed… and everything changed.
In a few month’s time, I had over 1,000 posts and my value to the community was pretty clear. What’s even better is the fact that almost every question I answered was new to me. I learned new things every day.
To make a long story short, working the support forums bridged the gap between anti-social (in this context), slightly skilled WordPress tweaker and creator of the Volatyl Framework, which was my first WordPress product ever.
Working those forums was a breakthrough and I have Volatyl to prove it.
2. Being Active on GitHub
What the wut? I know. It sounds funky and I definitely didn’t expect to gain much from using GitHub. I just wanted to manage my Volatyl files like the big dogs managed their files. That’s all.
I did just that for many months… about a year, actually. Volatyl’s repos are private and I didn’t have any public repos. So I was not social on GitHub, meaning I collaborated with no one on my own projects or on theirs.
That all changed a few months ago. I had a few simple projects that weren’t private but sitting on my computer taking up space. I decided to upload them to GitHub which naturally caused me to visit the site more.
It wasn’t long before I started looking around to see what other people were doing. I wanted to see other people’s code. Instead of scrolling Instagram late at night, I was surfing repos.
One day, I found a typo in a WordPress starter theme that I was using on my live sites. I knew the theme had a GitHub repo and I also knew that I could contribute to it. I didn’t know how.
Needless to say, I figured it out and was amazed at how easy it was. I never realized that developers actually wanted people to collaborate with them to make their code better. I forked another developer’s repo, made my edits, and submitted a pull request during a late night lurking session, and nothing has been the same since then.
See for yourself…
Right around early February, I got active. In that time period, I’ve finally started writing basic object oriented programming. I’ve also built my first four (at the time of writing this) plugins which are officially available on WordPress.
People have even started helping me out with code I have hosted on GitHub. Bottom line, I became social and my skill level has jumped to the next level (and still moving).
Getting active [in other people’s endeavors] on GitHub was a breakthrough.
Paying It Forward
Chatting with Andrew Norcross on Skype a few months ago, he told me to get active in the [WordPress] community if I wanted to learn more. He laid it out in as few words as possible.
It took me a month or so to get moving but let me tell you something… he was damn right. These recent experiences coupled with how much I’ve learned by helping others with their situations is all the evidence I need.
Expose yourself to more than just your own code. In fact, I’m going to stop talking now so you leave here with that point in mind. Bye.