Contributing to the WordPress Codex

Since starting to use WordPress in 2008, I have been meaning to contribute to it in some way.  There are many ways to contribute, so I figured it would be easy to help.  Initially, I found the idea of releasing a theme or plugin most appealing.  Submitting a patch seemed too intimidating, and writing documentation for the WordPress Codex did not sound fun.  However, I quickly learned that plugin and theme development moves fast.  By the time I got something together to release there were already other plugins or themes releases that solved the same problem.  So I continued to do my daily tasks of supporting various people's WordPress sites and put off contributing until later. After a few failed attempts at contributing something, I decided to take a different approach.  Every week I received several emails about using WordPress.  Most of these emails came from new site administrators who had little experience with WordPress and the Web in general.  I found I didn't have the time to individually reply to, or meet with, everyone who needed help.  In order to offer support in a more manageable way, I started writing tutorials for basic WordPress procedures.

Around the time I started writing tutorials, I signed up for the wp-docs listserve.  Wp-docs allows anyone who is interested to email one another about maintaining and creating the WordPress documentation in the Codex.  At first, I was intimidated by the prospect of emailing the group.  Mostly, I didn't feel like I had anything interesting to contribute.  However, in December 2011, an exchange of emails went out over the listserv that I found intriguing.  Lorelle (of Lorelle on WordPress) mentioned the abundance of  "WordPress guides" that institutions write to get their users started using WordPress.  As someone who had starting writing tutorials that could categorized as some sort of guide, I felt like this might be a place I could help.

After Lorelle's initial email, I waited about a month to see if anyone replied to it--I was still a little intimidated to email the group.  Eventually, I told myself to get over it and I asked about the status of the "guide" project.  After a few exchanges both on and off list, Lorelle told me that this idea wasn't going anywhere and if I wanted to write some documentation for beginners, the best place for it was WordPress Lessons.

Eventually we decided that I would write something about Gravatars for beginners.  I had used Gravatars before, but never looked in the core code of WordPress to understand how they work.  The Codex document I wrote didn't cover everything about the topic--only enough to get administrators started using them and the basics of incorporating them into a a theme.  After some editing and suggestions from Lorelle and the people on the wp-docs team (everyone one on the list is part of the "team", which is nice), my Codex document went live and I had finally contributed something to WordPress.

After contributing to the codex, albeit in a limited way, I found that I enjoyed writing documentation aimed at both users and developers.  To my surprise, I had a lot of fun writing for the codex (I particularly enjoyed reading the code in the WordPress core).  I hope to contribute more to the Codex and start contributing in other ways as well.