What I’ve learnt from (ten) years of contributions to BuddyPress

By yours truly, from an Automattic company meet-up in 2014. Then-titled “What I’ve learnt so far in about 5 years of contributions to BuddyPress”:

1) Sometimes you have to believe that something is a good idea for a long time before other people do. If the idea has your passion, keep believing and sell the dream.

2) You’ll always know a little more than someone else, and someone else will always know a little more than you, so be friendly, approachable, and helpful. Someone you help may become an important future ally.

3) Being on a “core team” isn’t important, but if you are, it is an important responsibility. I sometimes describe it as something like being part of a small start-up; you’re representing the heart of the product. As such, I’ve learnt you have to stay on message and be unambiguous with any project-related statements.

Especially for young projects, people want to be reassured about their choice, and any signs of weakness will only attract haters who just suck up all your time (and sometimes even your enthusiasm, which is even worse).

4) Mentoring is something that open source projects should do more of, BuddyPress included. Despite our best efforts at making it easier for people to find a way to contribute to a project, oftentimes what you think is easy and straightforward is perceived by other people very differently.

When I’ve been told this in the past by contributors (both new and old), sometimes at WordCamps, or when I think I see it happening on our issue tracker or support forums, I’ve learnt that it’s worth however much time it takes to spend on just that one wannabe contributor to make them feel happier and more comfortable.

New contributors are the lifeblood of a successful project. Whatever you were working on is always less important.

5) As we all understand here, communication is oxygen, and we’d die without it. The BuddyPress core team has had only a couple of misunderstandings over the last few years, and if collectively we’d done a better job of talking to each other, even these could have been avoided, and any consequences minimised.

And even if your contributors are all communicating well, the project itself also needs great communication. For BuddyPress, this mostly takes the form of blog posts, and the occasional feature on a podcast, or a WordCamp presentation, to keep our potential audience of users informed.

I re-discovered these notes recently. The 25th March 2018 was BuddyPress’ 10 year anniversary, and this is as true now as it was then. Thanks for all the good times, friends. šŸ»