WordPress is growing. It currently runs more than one quarter of all websites on the Internet, including Four Kitchens’ own website). I’ve been immersed in Drupal for the last five years or so, but I’m curious what is going on with WordPress and its community. And so I bought a ticket to WordCamp US, dusted off my WordPress skills (that I haven’t used in over a quinquennium), and drove to Philadelphia.
What is WordCamp US?
WordCamp US (WCUS) is a conference that focuses on everything WordPress. People from around the world attend—casual users to core developers— to participate, share ideas, and get to know each other.
The first thing that I noticed about WCUS is that WordPress has a huge umbrella—international travelers were plentiful, there were a lot of women, and there was a wide range of diversity. There was even a 10 year old boy in a hallway, face in his laptop, working on his WordPress blog for Minecraft.
The sessions were setup to be accessible to everyone. Each presenter’s slide deck had a space at the top for closed captioning that was done live at the event. And for those who couldn’t make it to the event, every session was recorded and live-streamed in real time.
Everyone was welcoming, questions were encouraged, and conversation flowed. I was upfront with everyone that I was a Drupal developer exploring a foreign land and I got a lot of good information about the WordPress ecosystem.
Comparing Modules and Plugins
Drupal and WordPress both share a love for being open source. Both communities strongly encourage contributing back to the project. But there is one place where Drupal and WordPress have very different opinions—paid modules and plugins.
Drupal modules generally provide building blocks for developers to use as they implement custom solutions for clients. In WordPress, this is sometimes the case, but usually WordPress plugins are complete solutions for a need. For example, to implement a custom intranet with user groups and a Facebook-style feed, a Drupal dev would install a few modules, build some views, and style the new theme elements—and that would all take time and expertise to put together. To accomplish the same thing on WordPress, a user (who doesn’t even have to be a developer) would simply install BuddyPress.org and fill out some administration choices.
I believe that because of this difference between modules and plugins, the WordPress community welcomes paid plugins. And just because they are paid doesn’t mean that they get to be proprietary. The expectation for paid plugins is that they still be open source and what you are paying for is a license for upgrades and support. A lot of the people who I talked to either have their own plugins that they sell as part of their own business or make generous use of paid plugins. Why not pay $100 for a full featured calendar plugin that saves you hours (or weeks) of work?
Looking Forward to WordPress
I enjoyed my trip to WCUS and exploring WordPress. It is a great community and I’m looking forward to continuing to explore it more. Right now I’m looking into development workflows, so if you have any advice, I’d love to hear it in the comments.