Getting started on IRC

PyLadies PDX has a great resource for getting started on IRC: Getting Started on IRC – PyLadies PDX Portland, OR – Meetup.

IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is one of those tools that’s essential to many open-source (and other!) development communities, but sometimes intimidating and strange to new arrivals. This is a great guide to what it is, how to get there, and some basic commands.

Most large projects end up having a number of different channels for different subjects — for WordPress, the main #wordpress channel covers all kinds of support (from basic how-tos to site/theme/plugin development), and the others tend to stay very focused on specific areas (#wordpress-dev for core development, not site development; #wordpress-ui for UI team work; #wordpress-sfd for support & documentation team meetings). Other projects may break things up on social vs. work lines, skill levels, or work on particular sub-projects.

Work-oriented IRC channels are generally logged (social ones may or may not be). IRC Logs for the official WordPress channels are at — look them up by date, time, and channel if you missed a meeting, or when you need to refer back to a discussion in a ticket.

WordCamp Raleigh – I am WordPress

The slides are already up for my presentation I am WordPress and So Can You (Whizbangy html/js slides. Works right in your browser!).

I had a few followup questions about getting started with particular teams.

To get started with the Theme Review Team, go to the Ticket Request Queue (or find the current month, if you’re coming by this post at some later date) and leave a comment with your user name. Someone will assign a theme to you and make sure that you got through the reviewing process okay.

If you’re interested in UI/UX work, is very active — read through the last few months of posts to get a sense of the kind of discussions we have, and then drop in to one of our meetings on Tuesday afternoons (Eastern) in the #wordpress-ui channel in IRC. If you don’t know IRC yet, you can chat through the web at Since we’re currently in beta for 3.5, most of the current work is cleanup and bug-fixing, but we’re happy to have you come by and we’ll be starting up the next design phase before you know it!

And for the people who asked about getting started in the forums, I really, truly meant it when I said you can just dive in. Start with answering a question — even if you think you’re just one tiny step more advanced than the person who’s asking. It’s a great feeling, and you’ll learn more every time you do it.


(Name is subject to change. Oy, that sounds awful. But then, so does the original…)

Like so many ideas, this one started with a quick tweet that turned into a “hmm, this could actually be something”

For those who aren’t familiar with it, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month — the wonderfully crazy idea that thousands of total amateurs should sit down and write every day in November in order to finish a novel in a month. And they’d have community support, feedback, cheerleading, progress-tracking tools, and whatever else might help them along.

What they don’t have is the expectation that every novel that’s produced has to be a great masterpiece, or even publishable. A lot of people outside the project have sneered at NaNo over the years because it’s full of (sniff) amateurs who aren’t real, serious, writers; NaNo, in turn, just doesn’t give a shit. The people who do it year after year know that they’re getting something out of it regardless of the final product. They’re building a daily writing habit that they can take beyond this month. They’re finishing a thing — a thing that a great many people have dreamed of doing someday. And it turns out that a surprising number of them actually are “real” writers1, and they use NaNo to jumpstart projects, reset their work habits, and come out with perfectly serviceable shitty first drafts of something that — with much more work and editing and revision — will become a truly finished novel. Plus, they have a lot more fun doing it than any of the sniffers on the sidelines.

I’ve been thinking a lot this year about getting people into code, whether they’re beginners writing their very first Hello World, or experienced webheads who don’t identify as coders even when they write beautiful and clever code all day.

I live and breathe open source, and one thing every project always needs is people — their patches can always be improved with good feedback, but if the people aren’t there, full of enthusiasm and a sense that they can be a part of something really quite cool, then we’ve got nothing. Why not use NaNo-like tools of community support, feedback, and enabling the work to happen to nurture our own community?

So I’m launching this idea in hopes that it’ll be as intriguing for other people as it is for me. I don’t have a goal as concrete as a finished draft of a novel in mind2, but feel free to comment with any ideas for a good one-month chunk of stuff. And please spread the word, and keep posting your own progress!

  1. Let’s not even get into all the awful assumptions packed into that phrasing
  2. Daily LOC targets are a completely shitty metric for programming output anyway.

I went to WPCS and all I got was this totally awesome t-shirt

Oh, and…

Some much-needed recharge time here:

A few moments of the kind of determined weirdness you only find near the beach:

100 people who are no longer just avatars, twitter feeds, or IRC handles (sadly, a few couldn’t come due to visa trouble, life emergencies, or Hurricane Sandy. You were dearly missed.):

Photo credit: Konstantin Kovshenin. But he’s in it! So I’d also love to give proper credit to the person who really took it.

On top of all that (phew!) it was one of those rare conferences that really reworked my brain. I feel incredibly lucky to have had two of those this year, and just like AdaCamp DC in July, I left this one with a whole new sense of focus and community, mixed with some real, practical new knowledge and action.

There are summaries of the morning and afternoon discussions, with more detailed notes to come. I’ve always felt that the mark of a great conference is that I want to clone myself several times over in order to take in everything that’s going on at once. This one had that, plus overflow into more discussions (and hacking on everything and anything) the next day. Each session produced action items, many of which are already underway. There are new projects underway, making features people have wanted for a very, very long time. And I’m pretty sure the media system got about 3 new versions overnight…

Heading to Tybee

I’m incredibly excited to be heading to the WordPress Community Summit in Tybee Island, GA later this weekend. It’s a unique event — it’s smaller than a typical WordCamp, and more important, the attendee list was picked to bring together people who represent different facets of the WordPress community, but who might otherwise not meet up with each other. I expect my brain to be overflowing with great discussions about the project and the WP world — but also, I’m looking forward to a couple of fantastic days near the beach with dear friends and brand-new ones.

Before that, I’ll be dropping in at DrupalCamp Atlanta, where the spouse is speaking. WP is by far my favorite CMS, but Drupal always impresses the hell out of me with their approach to building their community. And when the fates decide to send us both to Georgia on the same weekend — well, the Peach State is getting ALL its content managed, like it or not.

Post Forking

Introducing Post Forking for WordPress « Post Forking.

A lot of people have been talking about this already this morning, so I’ll just throw a very quick comment into the mix: This looks like it could be one of the very rare plugins that will completely change how I build and use WordPress.

There are a lot of plugins that are basically “nice-to-haves” that provide a little bit extra, and a somewhat smaller number that provide a chunk of functionality I need that isn’t and should never be in core — if I need a calendar or a shopping cart for a particular project, I go out and find the one that best fits that project’s requirements. But it’s much more rare to find one that changes how you interact with the system itself. WordPress has been a great publishing system for a long time now; I’d love for this to be the first step toward an equally great collaboration system.

Spam poetry

Ran across an unexpected bit of zen amongst the spam in the database of a client I won’t name.

Some fishes become extinct, but Herrings go on forever. Herrings spawn at all times and places and nothing will induce them to change their ways. They have no fish control. Herrings congregate in schools, where they learn nothing at all. They move in vast numbers in May and October. Herrings subsist upon Copepods and Copepods subsist upon Diatoms and Diatoms just float around and reproduce. Young Herrings or Sperling or Whitebait are rather cute. They have serrated abdomens.

The Black Dog

I don’t do a lot of strictly personal blogging on this site, but this is one of those exceptions that I simply have to make.

I spent a lot of this summer fighting off the worst depression I’ve dealt with in several years. I’m not sure what exactly kicked it off: for me, it’s always a combination of factors (money, work, health, assorted flavors of burnout) landing at once rather than any one incident. But what I can now say with absolute certainty is that depression in the tech freelancing world is different. Not in good ways, either.

  • We have a strong tendency (born of the economics of the gig) to work through our sick days and even brag about it. There’s this dumb macho attitude about how many hours you work, how busy you are, how incredibly hard you’re hustling all the damn time.
  • And anyway, if we don’t work, we don’t get paid.
  • A lot of us (in the US) either live without health insurance, or have the crappy catastrophic-only kind where you have to pay full price for the first several thousand dollars of care. That’s certainly better than nothing for an acute illness or a car wreck, but it’s a strong disincentive to seek treatment for something non-deadly that could require years of ongoing treatment. And (as above) if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.1
  • We spend a hell of a lot of time alone. Even if you have a family, you’re probably spending whole days without seeing anyone; if you have dead time between jobs — and you absolutely will, because all those helpful blog posts about how you should be working on marketing every second you’re not coding mean shit once the reality-distortion field descends and your brain starts eating your will from the inside out — you stop having the incredibly loose structure of a project to make you check in with reality every once in a while.

But in the end, I’m still here, and I’m too damned stubborn not to be. I’m doing a lot better than I was a month or so ago; my bouts of depression don’t ever stick around forever. I dropped the ball on a couple of things and I’m still dealing with the aftermath, but I still have a husband and friends and work and a house. And even though I’ve never said it until now, an important part of getting past this latest mess has been all of you, my friends, my community. For pushing me to keep learning all the time, for believing in what I can do, and sometimes just for being around at whatever crazy hour I happen to not be sleeping. As dangerous as the isolation and tenuousness of freelancing can be for depression, the flip side is that the nonstop challenge and the sheer joy of having found my people is the way back out.

I’ve been sitting on this in draft form for a while, and then I was reminded that today is World Suicide Prevention Day, so there’s the excuse I’ve been looking for to dig this out of my saved drafts and finally dig up the guts to hit “publish”. I’m not (and have never been) at serious risk of suicide, but I’m far too familiar with its effects. My mother and grandmother both died by suicide2; both of them had both bipolar disease and addiction and I don’t, which in an incredibly sick way makes me the “lucky” one.

I’m not stronger or better than they were — I think they were incredibly strong to make it as long as they did with comorbidities (not to mention some frankly shitty circumstances). But I am lucky, in part because I’ve known for as long as I can remember to take this stuff seriously, to look for help, to listen to others who need help themselves.

If you’re facing down the black dog, or you know someone who is, please reach out for help. Our community may be spread out all over the place geographically, but there are people who care about you, no matter how hard it may be to believe right now.

  1. At least there’s parity now. It really sucked when even the good kind of insurance could get away with not covering any mental health conditions at all. You’ll just have to trust me on that one.
  2. I really dislike the term “commit suicide”: it casts suicide in the language of crime or at least of weakness, when in fact it’s almost always the end of a serious and progressive episode of mental illness.

My First Patch, chapters 1-3

My first patch to an open-source project was for Dreamwidth, which is a wonderful hosted blogging community built on a fork of the LiveJournal codebase, with an unusual commitment to supporting devs even if they’ve never written a single line of code. If I remember correctly, I added the trailing zeroes to whole-dollar prices in their store so the numbers would line up correctly.

My first patch to WordPress was one line of CSS changing the width of a table. Some people really hated the change, and anyway, the entire project it was part of eventually got rolled back because it wasn’t going to be ready for release time.

My first WordPress props only came after I signed up for a team and volunteered for a whole new feature, which I never would’ve had the guts to do if I hadn’t dipped my toes in first (and sat in on meetings, and followed lots of tickets, and learned who ask questions of, and generally watched the whole process through a cycle) (also, I got fired up by a WordCamp talk and tweeted to a bunch of people that I wanted to get at least one patch in 3.4, and public commitment is powerful stuff).

Ever since I went to AdaCamp, but really, ever since Dreamwidth, I’ve been really interested in new developers’ experiences. I still consider myself one, for one thing, but also, every dev I know, no matter how amazingly skilled or outwardly confident, has or once had a bit of “am I good enough for core?” And really: tiny patches and openness to learning really are good enough.

If you have a good first-patch story, tell me! Or better yet, put it in your own blog and let me know!

More on “Premium Themes” are a lie

Ever since I started digging into the WP theme world, I’ve suspected that “premium” means one or both of:

  • It has an options panel bigger than WP itself, which may or many not be secure
  • I suspect that you, the buyer, will believe that “premium” makes it better. Also, there’s this nice bridge in Brooklyn…

Technically, it doesn’t even really apply to paid themes: when I start to type “free premium” into Google, the first auto-complete result is “… WordPress themes”. Sigh.

Evan Solomon has a terrific post up called “Premium Themes” are a lie full of actual data and stuff that this here post lacks. I think the point he makes at the end is terrifically important: way up on the list of the people who really stand to lose from this mess are the makers of good commercial themes. They’re out there, and they do some great work that I happily recommend, and wouldn’t hesitate to use myself (whenever I’m not mucking around in the guts of my beloved _s, anyway), and most important, they back it up with solid support and real transparency.

You know, the way businesses are supposed to act.