What is a WordPress Contribution?

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Checking in on Twitter this morning, I saw twitter thread by Jb Audras hightlighting WordPress Core contribution data over 2022. I wanted to respond on Twitter with my thoughts, but that quickly become a Twitter thread as well, so I figured I’d hack my brain back to my blog and write up my thoughts here.

Because I have an opinion about what’s being shared. Now, first off, I enjoy reading these things as it gives some indication of what happened in WordPress Core over a year. And since the way this is measured is done consistenly in the same way over the years, you can draw conclusions from year to year.

I do find that these types of posts skewe the perception, though. Because what is “a contribution” and how much did that contribution actually weigh in the grand scheme of things?

Let me try and break it down into what I see as the two main points. There are more, but these stand out to me.

What is a Core contribution?

What do I mean with the grand scheme of things? Well, things like: What is a Core contribution? If we’re going to use the concept of a contribution to base our statistics on, we need to have a clear definition of what a contribution is. Right?

I’ve looked, but I couldn’t find one. But based on the information in the post I feel like we’re missing a couple of things:

  • Does every single contribution stand for an equal amount of time?
  • Does every single contribution weigh in equally?

Because if we’re sharing these stats as a way to measure “who did more”, than we’re missing a lot of key metrics to give a proper indication. I’ve got props for two Core contributions myself. The time I spent on those combined is no more than an hour. I also know some Core contributions that amount to dozens of hours, if not more!

  • Is Leadership taking decisions where to go with WordPress (core + project) taken into account?

Leadership can be anything ranging from Matt Mullenweg pointing in a direction, to Josepha Haden Chomphosy assisting in that. Equally, it can be any and all activity done by the actual Release Team, the core contributors discussing things in Slack, mentoring by any of the aforementioned parties… I mean, the list goes on. Are we not to take that into account?

I think we should. I also know those things are extremely hard to measure, to quantify, if not just straight up impossible. But, at the very least, these types of contributions need to be part of the narritive whenever we talk about “Core contributions”.

An Example

Let me demonstrate with an example. Juliette’s, one of the people contribution back to WordPress Core in a massive way, raised this question on Twitter as a response to Jb Audras’ initial tweet:

To which Jb Audras replied with this:

If his conclusion is the case, it would indeed not be a bad thing. But I don’t agree with the conclusion itself. I think WordPress is maintained by big stakeholders, but the data being used here does not demonstrate that. Also, staking a claim like this where one equates contributing to WordPress to being the same as contributing to (the) WordPress (Project) is false.

As this brings me to my second point.

What is a contribution to WordPress?

Conflating WordPress with WordPress Core happens a lot. And I get it. It is literally at the core. At the core of the WordPress Project. Because that’s what it is. It’s a huge project with an incredibly vast amount of components. And all those components need to be maintained and updated as well.

So, if we’re doing contribution roundups, we should start organizing and presenting these types of contribution as well:

  • Documentation on developer.wordpress.org
  • Translations (and there are MANY!)
  • Design of any WordPress.org site (component)
  • Maintaining WP CLI
  • Support forums contributions (providing answers, moderating, etc)
  • Organizing WordCamps and meetups
  • Anything happening in WordPress Meta
  • Etc

There are many more ways in which one can contribute to WordPress. In fact, just check out any of the teams listed on the Make WordPress site. There are a lot!

I’m fully aware that not all types of contribution can be measured. I truly am. If the contribution lives in data in some way, we can do calculations. It would not an accurate metric either, but it’d be something.

As someone who mostly contributes to the WordPress Project as a WordCamp organizer and Global Translation Editor for Frisian and Dutch, I’d love to see some stats reflecting this, for example.

To end on a note

I’d like to end on this note: I know sharing data and drawing conclusions off of that data are hard. Very difficult to get right. I mean, there’s a book called “How To Lie With Statistics” that demonstrates perfectly how data can be used to push any desired agenda. Not suggesting that’s happening here, btw!

For the record, this is not in any way shape or form intended to be a negative commentary to either the data or the bringer of data, but more a moment of let’s figure out how to do this more inclusively, more accurately.

But… I do think we need to become more inclusive in our thinking here. This discussion about “what is a contribution” pops up regularly in various locations connected to the WordPress Project. And I think it’s time we devote some time to finding ways to better answer that question. Both in definition, completeness, as well as in data respresentation.

I don’t have the answers. But, I’d love to discuss this with any and all at the next WordCamp you see me 🙂

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6 responses to “What is a WordPress Contribution?”

  1. Jb Audras Avatar

    Hi!
    Happy new year and thanks for putting this post together!

    There’s definitely many thing that can be improved about how Core contribution are measured. We can even debate about whether we should measure it or not!
    My opinion is that it provides useful details about who contribute to the Core side of the project.

    About quantity versus quality. It would be possible to introduce more details in the props count, like the number of lines modified (although a single-line commit can easily be more difficult than moving 10 files, resulting in thousands of line modified), the time it took to resolve the ticket, etc. But it would be a lot more work and I’m not sure the resulting blogpost would be more useful for WordPress. Stats are just stats, nothing else, honestly 🙂

    Also, and as an example, I saw a number of people credited for just commenting “LGTM” in a Trac ticket. Is this really a Core contribution? Maybe. Maybe not.
    And maybe we also have a few people who left a great, useful, but uncredited comment in a Trac ticket?

    It’s hard to define what is or not a contribution, so don’t tell me about a “good” or “great” contribution 😀

    About other teams: I was requested – and I offered – to various people to collect similar stats for their team, I only requested them to give me a list of dotorg profiles so I can collect these stats. I didn’t get answer for now but maybe they will ask me later?

    Again, thanks for putting together this blogpost, you’re asking good questions 🙂
    Cheers,
    Jb

    1. Remkus Avatar

      Thanks for chiming in, Jb. Appreciate it. I think stats are more than just stats as they work, in this particular case, as a motivator of some kind as well. So, if whatever you’re doing is not represented in the stats presented, we’re doing something wrong.

      I agree, LGTM does not constitute a contribution to me as well, but that’s the point I was making. My point is about all the other stuff that happens related to WordPress Core. That should count towards what we’re counting as well.

      Ideally, we start working on quantifying more what a contribution is. And perhaps just share it on someone’s WordPress profile? And aggregate from there? That’d be a good step in the right direction to move away from this common notion that only contributing to Core (in code) is important. There’s so much more that happens!

  2. Jb Audras Avatar

    Ok, I think I get your point 🙂

    Then, I think the post title should probably not be “A Year in Core – 2022”, but rather “A Year in Core Codebase – 2022”? Maybe the same goes for the “Week in Core” blogposts weekly published on Make/Core?

    I’m saying that because at the moment, there is no efficient (and sustainable) way to collect the variety of Core contributions.

    In the future, there may be a way to collect that (see dotorg profile page feed, for example for username “audrasjb” and you will see many other contributions, like posting a post on Make/Core, for example) in an efficient manner, but for now, it’s just not sustainable… Putting together the Week in Core blogposts take me half an hour each week, and the Year in Core blogpost took me a good dozen of hours to collect and clean up the data ^^

    Thanks again for pointing out this 🙂

    1. Remkus Avatar

      Yes! That would be a better title. It still wouldn’t cover some of the things, but no need to repeat that again .

      One could even argue that your time spent on the blog posts is also a contribution worth counting!

  3. Torsten Landsiedel Avatar

    My first bug report on Trac was in 2016 and at this time you got no prop for “just” reporting something or joining the discussion (don’t know when this exactly changed), but the change in counting explains the reported “records” of contributions in the State of the word in the last years.

    And there are places which are not easy to measure. Translating the video captions for some WordPress versions was not done via translate.wordpress.org, so not credited anywhere. For WP 4.2 this was at least mentioned in the release post.

    For WP 4.6 I researched a solution that was already available (but provided no PR myself), I even wrote a dev note on make.w.org/core for it, but got no prop for it.

    Cleaning up the issues for the dashicons GitHub repo was also not credited anywhere.

    And there are many more examples of Community driven work which is not mentioned or credited. Especially if it comes to ongoing maintenance tasks.

    For example: Translations are easy to measure and you get nice looking charts out of it. But how many PTE requests are handled, how many questions are answered in localized WP Slack channels, how many spam rejected, planet feeds curated, news posts written/translated, bug reports written on side projects like GlotPress, …

    Even the “LGTM” could be done after thoroughly testing something for hours or just a short look for some seconds. You don’t know it.

    I don’t have any easy solution, but agree that this is something we could try to do better in the future – do you know there is a props channel for things like this on Slack?

    1. Remkus Avatar

      Appreciate you stopping by to comment, Torsten! You bring up a lot of valid points of things that should be counted as well.

      I know there’s a props bot, but I did not know there’s a dedicated Slack channel, no.

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