I’ll be tagging posts for new open-source (not only WordPress) contributors with the “Contributing” tag.
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 irclogs.wordpress.org — 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.
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 WordPress.org 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, make.wordpress.org/ui 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 webchat.freenode.net. 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.
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!