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#66 – Sé Reed and Courtney Robertson on How the WP Community Collective Is Helping WordPress Contributors

[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the Jukebox podcast from WP Tavern. My name is Nathan Wrigley. Jukebox is a podcast which is dedicated to all things WordPress. The people, the events, the plugins, the blocks, the themes, and in this case, enabling people to contribute to WordPress.

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, you can do that by searching for WP Tavern in your podcast player of choice. Or go to forward slash feed forward slash podcast. And you can copy that URL into most podcast players.

If you have a topic that you’d like us to feature on the podcast, I’m keen to hear from you, and hopefully get you all your idea featured on the show. Had to forward slash contact forward slash jukebox, and use the form there.

So on the podcast today, we have Sé Reed and Courtney Robertson, and they’re here to talk about the WP Community Collective, or WPCC for short. In a nutshell, the WPCC is a nonprofit that is hoping to fund contributors to the WordPress project.

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again, people who can afford to contribute to the WordPress project are the people who can literally afford to contribute to WordPress.

This sounds obvious, but think about it for a moment. Most of us know WordPress is built on top of a dedicated base of volunteers. People give up their time and expertise to contribute towards the project, and in this way, make it free to download and use. But we all have to earn money at some point. Most are not in a position to donate their time completely freely. They have to put food on the table.

Often contributors are sponsored by the companies that they work for, either part-time or full-time. There’s nothing wrong with this model, but what about the capable, willing volunteers who are not in this position? The people who have the skills and motivation to contribute, but not the time or finances to make that a reality.

The WPCC wants to act as a go-between for companies or organizations who are willing to spend money improving WordPress, and the individuals who can implement those improvements.

This enterprise will be done via the WPCC fellowships. A fellowship in a specific area of WordPress is created, for example, an accessibility fellowship. People apply for that fellowship, and if successful, get the finances they need to take on the work.

This means that individuals don’t need to be working for an organization, which funds them directly, and the organizations which wish to contribute don’t need to fund only their own team members.

We talk about where the WPCC is at with their fellowships, and how it’s set up so that all participants are fully aware of where the money is being invested.

If you’re from a company who would like to assist contributors to WordPress, or an individual wishing to get involved, this episode is for you.

If you’re interested in finding out more, you can find all of the links in the show notes by heading to forward slash podcast, where you’ll find all the other episodes as well.

And so without further delay, I bring you Sé Reed and Courtney Robertson.

I am joined on the podcast today by two wonderful people. I have Sé Reed and Courtney Robertson. Hello, both of you.

[00:04:21] Sé Reed: Hi. Thanks for having us.

[00:04:22] Courtney Robertson: Hey, Nathan.

[00:04:23] Nathan Wrigley: Hello. Hello, hello. Well, welcome. We’re going to get into the meat and the bones of this subject today. We’re going to be talking about the WP Community Collective. I confess at the outset of this episode that I am going to be schooled. Most of the questions that I’m going to ask are from a point of view of ignorance, so forgive me. You’re going to educate me hopefully on this subject and we’ll learn together.

But first of all, just to orientate the listeners. I wonder if in turn, shall we start with Sé? Just a quick little potted history of who you are and how you’ve come to be in the WordPress space.

[00:04:56] Sé Reed: I’ve been using and building WordPress websites since 2007, which is wild to me because that’s, I think that’s 15, 16 years. I’ve been doing a WordPress podcast called WP Water Cooler since 2012. That is 10 years. And I have been part of the community, speaking at WordCamps, organizing WordCamps for I think also since 2012.

I fell in love with WordCamps at WordCamp Phoenix. I live in California, but I went to Phoenix and just absolutely fell in love as people do with the WordPress community mostly. I already loved the software. But yeah, I’ve been part of it ever since. I took a little break to have a kid and then Courtney here brought me right back into the fold. So blame her. It’s her fault.

[00:05:47] Nathan Wrigley: That seems like a perfect segue. That’s lovely. Thank you. And, let’s then segue to Courtney. Tell us about yourself.

[00:05:55] Courtney Robertson: Hey there. So I have been in the WordPress community since, well, I started using the software I believe in 2005. It would be around version 2.5. Started contributing by checking guests in at WordCamp Mid-Atlantic in 2009, and joined the training team, thus beginning my actual team contributions. In 2014 have had several stints of being the training team co rep. And at this time, you could still find me within the training team as a WordPress faculty member. And when I’m not doing all of those wonderful things, I am a developer advocate at GoDaddy Pro, and a lot of that work involves working with the open source and specifically WordPress communities.

[00:06:42] Nathan Wrigley: Wow. Really deep and rich, both of you.

[00:06:44] Sé Reed: I forgot to say what I do, now. It’s all about the past. I was like, oh yeah, the present

[00:06:49] Nathan Wrigley: Well tell us.

[00:06:50] Sé Reed: Courtney reminded me with her awesome contribution. I just took on a co-team rep role as well on the make marketing team, for 2023. So that’s exciting. In my day job I have my own company and I build websites for people and do digital strategy of all kinds.

[00:07:09] Nathan Wrigley: I’m often in awe about how many different roles there are in the WordPress community. I remember when I first stumbled across the software, I just viewed it as exactly that. It was a piece of software. So this is going back probably to 20, I don’t know, 2014, 2015, something like that.

And then it very quickly became apparent that there was an awful lot going on with the community. Much more than I’d anticipated. And fast forward to today, 2023. I mean it has more or less taken over my, my entire life. It is more or less everything that I do.

[00:07:38] Sé Reed: We can relate to that.

[00:07:40] Nathan Wrigley: Right. Yes. So we’re all in good company. We’ve given ourselves up to WordPress.

[00:07:44] Sé Reed: To an ethos, I think, is really what it is. I think that’s part of what draws the community together. You didn’t ask, but I’m going to answer it anyway. I think that’s really what, that ethos and the being part of something bigger. Whether it’s open source or the community or just spreading the goodness of easy to use software. I really think that’s what makes it different.

[00:08:05] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Somebody was saying to me the other day about their conversations that they’ve been having with people about ceasing to use WordPress as their CMS of choice. But the glue which has kept them in it is the community. It’s that piece which has actually kept them going with the software. So in a strange sense the community has trumped the software in that instance.

[00:08:28] Sé Reed: That’s so true. I think that a lot of people stay in WordPress and WordPress has had such a, well, 20 years, this is its 20th anniversary year. So it’s had that success. I truly believe because of the community and because of the, really the stewardship that’s happened within the community. And again that ethos of drawing people together and, really just feeling like there’s a sense of, sort of a sense of ownership I think over, or at least stake in the community and stake in the software. It feels like we all have a part of it. I think that that’s, it’s something really special. It doesn’t exist even in other open source communities to the same degree.

[00:09:10] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it is constantly remarkable to me that that is such an important piece, and it’s so ephemeral. I can’t quite get my hands on it. I don’t really understand what that thing is, but there is a thing there.

[00:09:21] Sé Reed: Exactly.

[00:09:22] Nathan Wrigley: And, it’s wonderful and it, it’s gathered us together today to have a chat. You’ve recently got involved with something that, I’m going to pronounce it once. I’m going to say it once at the beginning and then I’m going to truncate it. So from the start we’re going to be talking about the WP Community Collective, so the WordPress Community Collective. But I’m probably either going to call it the community collective or just collective, because it’s going to be a whole lot easier.

[00:09:44] Sé Reed: Yeah. I didn’t think about WPCC being hard to say in a British accent, but.

[00:09:48] Nathan Wrigley: No, it’s funny, isn’t it? But that acronym somehow completely gets stuck on the end of my tongue before it escapes my mouth. What is it? I don’t mind which of you want to take it on? What is it? How did it come about? Broadly, in broad brush strokes, and then we can get into the detail. What’s the point of this?

[00:10:04] Sé Reed: What’s the point? That’s a great question, Nathan. I’ll take it, just to give the broad strokes. What the WP Community Collective is, is essentially it’s a non-profit project that allows, we are in the process of funding contributors to the WordPress project. So people who are working on the make teams and the open source WordPress software, that’s who we’re going to be, who we are supporting.

And, it’s really a way to bring together the community to allow us to fund and support the contributors who are doing so much work to keep this software slash community slash lifestyle going, moving forward and growing and responding to the needs of the community and technology. So really it’s about supporting the contributors that make up the community.

[00:11:06] Nathan Wrigley: So you mentioned two things there. You mentioned funding, and obviously that’s a key component of it, but you also mentioned more the community side of things. Being there as a supportive hand. Are they two distinct parts or is it all about the funding? Is that primarily what it’s about, or is it also about being a friendly face?

[00:11:25] Sé Reed: We’re trying not to be, we are, and we’ll continue to try to not be US focused. That’s something that happens a lot. That kind of defaults to that when we’re here. But, in America, the way that we like to show our support is with money.

That’s a thing. You know we tip people. That’s sort of how we demonstrate that we like a thing. So not trying to bring that ethos necessarily into the greater world, but primarily we mean funding. So primarily we mean sponsoring people to do contribution of various types.

But we also have goals to basically be like a third space to have conversations about WordPress and the WordPress community and the ecosystem adjacent to the WordPress project. So, you know, all of the plug-ins and the themes and the assemblers and all of that world, the marketers. So, we want to provide a space to integrate all of that. But that’s more of just soft support. Really what it does come down to is funding support.

[00:12:36] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. Given that you’ve set up this WP Community Collective, and usually when something like this is set up, there’s a problem to be solved. There’s something that is identified as could be better. Let’s all gather around and figure out how we can do it. So, essentially what is the problem around the community?

What are the problems that people are facing? Is it one simply that people who would willingly contribute their time simply can’t afford to do it? We often hear this mentioned that, you know, those who can afford to contribute are the ones who can afford to contribute, because they live in a certain part of the world. They may be fully employed so they can dedicate something. Perhaps their company is kind enough to, give them a day, a week or half a day, whatever it may be. They’re seconded in some way so they can contribute to the project. But there’s a whole ton of people, hundreds of people who would love to be in that position. But the financial component is the barrier. It’s the wall that’s stopping them being able to contribute.

[00:13:33] Sé Reed: Yeah, at the end of the day there’s really two sides of this. And, one side is how can people effectively and consistently and meaningfully participate in the project if they can’t consistently show up? You know, so much happens every day in the WordPress make channels on the P2s, on the blogs. There’s a lot going on, and there are a lot of people moving the project forward and even just paying attention and keeping tabs on all of the new stuff that’s happening is kind of a full-time job.

So really, what ends up happening is that the folks who are in leadership roles tend to be sponsored contributors. And I say leadership roles, whether that’s a team rep role, which is, it’s leadership, but it’s not like authority leadership. But, just by showing up consistently and responding to things and being there every day, which you can do if you are paid to do so, that gives you, I don’t want to use the word clout, but it gives you, I’m not really sure what the word is. When we talk about it being a meritocracy, right?

If you do things, then you have influence, and people want to do more, but only the people who are really supported financially to be able to do that. Or like you said, have the means in some other way, have the ability to consistently show up in that meritocracy. And so in a way, by default, we’re really the leadership and the ongoing constant push forward really does tend to be from the sponsored side of the contributor pool, let’s say. And everyone else tends to just be catching up or lending their opinion in different places.

So, that’s one of the reasons, is we want to be able to have folks contribute and contribute consistently, and contribute in a meaningful way to parts of the project that are maybe not getting as much of attention or need more attention, like accessibility. And so we’re really trying to find a way to support those people, and bring the community together to support those people. And really, Courtney can talk a little bit about the problems that, it’s not just that individuals have problems finding support, it’s that the people who want to support have problems funding the individuals. So Courtney, do you want to talk to that, about that a little bit?

[00:16:05] Courtney Robertson: So for context, I shared that I had started contributing in 2009, and for a number of years, in fact, up until a year and a half ago, I was not sponsored. I wouldn’t even say I was self sponsored financially. But I contributed. In fact, I was the person couch surfing at a WordCamp US on my college roommate’s couch, and driving quite a distance in, and could, at the time, barely scrape together the funds to take care of my parking.

So I know what that experience has been like and to still want to contribute and to still feel that this is part of my work, my role. And I undoubtedly benefited from all of the hardships of my past. I’ve had some medical challenges, some other life things, you know, as people do. And without that experience, I certainly wouldn’t be involved in WPCC. I wouldn’t have gotten to the job that I have now at GoDaddy Pro. There’s just a lot of reasons for seeing from that perspective that I think has really benefited.

So from the person that is seeking to be sponsored in some capacity, I’ll say what I did, very publicly. I was teaching at the time, I loved it, but I felt like my higher purpose was to do more of the work on Learn to be able to create this content that could be a multiplier effect to impact that many more students, that many more learners than the current job that I had had.

And in order to do that, I started to let some folks know. And I went to my now manager and said, if GoDaddy ever has a role open up where I could be contributing to the training team as part of my work time, Adam Warner, please keep me in mind for that. And in fact, he did. Now, that doesn’t mean that everybody has the gumption to go out and start approaching folks and say, I would like to receive.

I appreciate those that have spoken up and let folks like Sé and I know. We’re working on some processes to sort of collect that information. Who’s already contributing that would like to contribute at a higher capacity? We have some contributors that I know of in our WordPress community that said, I would like to be sponsored. For instance, Joe Dolson says, I would like to be sponsored at $500 US a month to contribute this certain amount to accessibility purposes. Other than that, I’m tied up with clients. And then increasingly grew that over time.

But still that process, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. That process of saying, I want to do this takes a certain amount of navigating, what can be perceived as awkward because you’re expecting handouts, but at the same time you are a professional and you bring professional caliber qualities to the work that you do for this open source project that is used by 43% of the internet.

So yes, there is a reason that contributors should be funded. We definitely know this and that pathway of letting folks know can be awkward and challenging. And then the pathway from those that have the funds to do the sponsoring, whether you are an individual or a company, both perspectives of this get a little tricky.

So from an individual’s perspective, there are those if you look through the WPCCs sponsors so far, we’ve raised all of our funds essentially through individuals at this time. And that’s several thousand US dollars. So that’s just coming in from individuals who said, yes, this matters. Yes, we want to fund what’s going on in the work.

And so it takes a lot of people, that are individual people, giving a little bit to reach that kind of a goal. And then from a company’s perspective, a lot of companies struggle too, how to fund the work of open source. And recently I’ve been researching in and getting into this more deeply, and it’s not just about the WordPress community, but just how does whether you are an individual, small business company, and I see some really great ones that are doing this.

JB over in the Core team is part of about a two dozen staff member agency based out of France. And all of their staff are contributors. And I think it’s amazing that companies who done it. So, great work on them. But other organizations, whether you’re a small business, you may not quite know how, well, how do I manage, how do I, if I’m contributing, what do I get? Is it just I’m contributing in a charitable way and I don’t have much attachment to the work that the person does? How do I know that what I’m contributing to has any payoff for, not just the goodwill of my company, right? That’s a marketing approach, but also that the people receiving it are actually doing something productive with it.

Should there be accountability in all of that? When you get into larger size organizations like my employer, we’re not structured in a way, we’re a publicly held company. We’re not structured in a way that has a whole staff of who’s overseeing the work of those that we are sponsoring.

GoDaddy does have two full-time people that are essentially staff that we sponsor to work on WordPress. We ambitiously would like to keep growing that, but there are challenges. So when it comes to GoDaddy related to WPCC, I’m really excited that we’re in the conversations right now of getting that money flowing a bit more.

I can’t make any promises from GoDaddy’s side of as to what all that would look like, but what I can absolutely say is that we know it’s a real need. We know that the WordPress community will greatly benefit from this. But as it would turn out, a large company like this can’t just go making purchases from any kind of business or giving money to any kind of organization.

[00:21:27] Sé Reed: Shareholders don’t like it when you just randomly give money to people.

[00:21:30] Courtney Robertson: No, they don’t.

[00:21:32] Sé Reed: They don’t.

[00:21:32] Courtney Robertson: Oh, there are so many stories that I could say. But, to that end, what I for sure am happy to say though is that we’re working together in a way that will do all of the red tape that a company would need, to get that approved and cleared so that those funds can start flowing. And, so I’m really excited about it from that side because you know what? GoDaddy can’t just stuff a bunch of bills in an envelope and mail it out to someone. They have to actually have a strategy when it comes down to why are we doing this? What’s the outcome? What’s the, the ROI, right, of these things?

And investing in the software that powers 43% of the internet, that many of our customers are using. Well that sounds like we have a good reason to be investing in that. So it makes it quite interesting to navigate those challenges. From an internal perspective, I encourage folks at other corporations, if you’re facing those challenges, to reach out to me and I’d be happy to have some private conversations with you about what specific challenges you might be facing.

[00:22:34] Sé Reed: And how the WPCC.

[00:22:36] Courtney Robertson: Yes, can help with that.

[00:22:38] Nathan Wrigley: Courtney, there was loads in there, and I just want to drill down a little bit on you personally, if you don’t mind, because I find that quite an interesting dialogue. You used the word gumption there, which I thought was quite interesting. And, it sounds like you’re very self-reliant. You are driven, and it sounds like you just kept banging on doors and fighting the good fight and keeping going, and eventually that paid off. But I’m guessing that there were times during the period where it wasn’t paying off, where you must have looked at yourself and thought, what the heck am I doing?

And I guess that’s the person that is going to benefit from this, the person who knows that they want to contribute, but really has maybe been trying, struggling, doesn’t have a way through, doesn’t have a pathway through. And we don’t want those people to be disappointed and turned away.

[00:23:22] Courtney Robertson: Correct. Yeah, so for a number of years, in fact I took a hiatus. I had little kids and I had a set amount of hours available in my day, and I worked for a WordPress plugin company that I loved that experience. But I worked during only their nap time schedule. So, I didn’t have time to contribute or even keep up with the quantity of information that was happening on WordPress. And that was all during the lead up to and release of Gutenberg. So, it was a hard time to be missing all of that information.

But I will say that there are a wealth of contributors in our community that if they had that financial backing would have a better quality of life, be able to contribute that much more because they could let go of their other income sources as an offset.

So I had started to let the previous employers, I worked for two other WordPress organizations previously, and I started to let them know that I would like to be involved more in WordPress, and the work happening there. And they didn’t have that capacity built into their business models, right. And so I felt that by approaching somebody like GoDaddy, I knew that they had a couple of contributors, and this was more of a, the role that I am in affords me some time. I am not full-time sponsored to WordPress. But it affords me quite a bit of time and it is vital to the job that I do to be a contributor, if that makes sense?

[00:24:53] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. That’s really, really interesting.

[00:24:55] Sé Reed: I was going to say that that’s the, it’s exactly that dilemma that even Courtney, who is literally representing open source and doing massive WordPress contribution with her company. Even her job is not a hundred percent WordPress. And that’s part of it because there’s a need for contribution.

I don’t know, we really have clarified that part, but like the contribution has, because of covid, because of the lack of WordCamps or whatnot, did definitely take a dive. And also there are so many other CMSs and worlds out there that it’s not just inevitable that WordPress is going to continue to have a healthy community and continue to grow and continue to be the CMS and the software that we all know and love.

That’s not a given in the world of actual capitalism that we live in and whatnot. So if we want it to be around, if we want to support it, then we need to find ways to connect the resources that are there with the efforts that can be made on the ground. And making that connection between companies that have budgets, but don’t have the ability to hire people. That is really, I think the, well, it’s not just for companies, but that’s really the key element for the WPCC.

Because we know there are lots of resources out there. There’s lots of agencies, there’s lots of businesses that have some funds, you know, they’re making revenue off of their various products or their services. But they can’t say maybe giving five hours a month or something isn’t even that productive for them. But if they were able to take their money and combine that with other folks who are also in the same situation, then they can help fund someone who is able to put that focus in.

And also a big part of what we’re doing is making sure that those fellows are talking about what it is they’re doing. The challenges that they’re facing. So bringing the information also back out into the community, so it’s not just a you’re putting money in and you know, you never know what happens to that, right?

Our fellows will be responding, or blogging actually, on the website telling us what they’re doing. Telling us what’s going on in the project and, so folks who are putting their funds into the WPCC are combining their money to make it more effective, but also doing it in a way that gives them a say in it. Not necessarily a say in it, but like a part of it. They get to participate in it.

They are also part of the community collective. So it is all, all of us working together. So it’s really just about allocating resources and, available energy really. We’re just putting resources and energy together and combining them and helping to move the project forward.

[00:27:56] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, so essentially it feels to me, I mean I may be parsing this wrong, but it feels like you are acting as a conduit. You are the bridge between the people who have money, let’s say for want of a better word, finances. But they don’t necessarily know where those finances would best go. So they come to you, deposit it there in the collective, and then your job is to make decisions about who would be the best steward of that money.

And then get them to do whatever it is that you’ve agreed to do and then report back to the sponsors in the form of blogging or what have you, so that they’ve got some way of, well, I guess the word is, sort of oversight really. They’ve got a little bit of oversight and they can see that their money hasn’t in fact just been squandered. And so it’s a really neat little idea.

[00:28:45] Sé Reed: Thanks, we like it.

[00:28:47] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, yeah. The thing that interests me is, as soon as you get involved with money, and you alluded to this earlier, you know. The government, they don’t like to have people just willy nilly spraying money all over the place. And so if companies are giving you money, presumably they want to know that it’s being marshaled correctly, you know. It’s not being squandered. It’s being used effectively in ways that perhaps align with a brand that they’ve got, you know, it maybe that they want it to go in a particular direction. They might be more interested in accessibility than others. Others might be more into, I don’t know, we could invent a thousand different other categories. How does that all get figured out? In other words what are the kind of roles that you are giving people who are taking on the work that you are paying them for?

[00:29:30] Sé Reed: That’s a great question. We are starting with accessibility, because it is so clearly a need, and it is also very, very underfunded in terms of sponsored contributors. We’ll be launching, I keep pushing the date on this, but we’re going to be launching our first, or announcing who our first fellow is shortly, for our accessibility fellowship. The goal is to fund that person for five hours a week for a minimum of six months.

Normally we would fund the entire fellowship prior to launching it, or starting with the person. We would fund the fellowship first. But in this case, we wanted to start with a fellowship that we already knew was really important. And so we created the accessibility fellowship first.

That’s really our initial goal is to get that funded. So we are working with some additional partners to develop partnership fellowships. And essentially those, it’s in a way, it’s like a scholarship, right? A fellowship is very much like a scholarship. We’ll have an application process for folks to apply to be fellows, and then different fellowships will have different focuses. So we are scoping out currently, like I said, accessibility fellowships, but also some Core fellowships. And not just Core in terms of development, but also Core in terms of communication.

[00:30:51] Courtney Robertson: I’d like to elaborate a little bit on what Sé was saying there is that, as part of all of this, we have so many roles across different teams. Whether you are in Core because you’re a developer or because you can help wrangle the information that the Core team needs to function as a team, to share externally.

Over in other teams we need some assets like project management. In other teams, we need areas like project management skills. Accessibility could relate to the accessibility of the software, but it could just as easily relate to the accessibility of the content, and or site functionality. So you could see how there are different roles beyond what we normally envision for the different teams that relate to just keeping the whole project up and running. And we’re pretty aware of that.

Likewise, being able to get to your nearest international camp and or a couple of very local regional camps might be important. Or ongoing professional development in your areas. So those are all skills and assets and resources that come to our mind because we have been both contributors into the WordPress project for quite a while.

Additionally, if I were to ask folks how to get involved in the WPCC, there are a few ways to do so. Any person is welcome to come be a member. So we have memberships available, anyone can be a member. Ideally that would come with a few funds towards those that are contributors. But we welcome members to just come and join. And the show notes will link you over to our website, and from there you can follow it out to the

We also welcome sponsorships. Sponsorships, again would look like those that would like to sponsor a specific initiative. So if we have a very specific fellowship that you would like to help fund, you can choose to come along and be a part of that.

And then we also have areas for partnerships. And that’s the area that, one of the areas that, my employer is starting to look at is partnerships. So perhaps they would like to kick off a specific fellowship, right? There might be general fellowships that the WPCC declares and says, the WPCC needs to, sees that we need to work on accessibility. So we’re going to launch one of those.

But what if there were specific fellowships available based upon different companies in the industry, right? And so if you would like to set up a specific partnership to drive a specific initiative, that’s definitely an option available as well That could also look like partnering with other WordPress organizations to help fund initiatives that we’ve seen already.

I loved for WordCamp US the amount of organizations that pulled resources together to increase diverse speakers at organizations. To increase diverse speakers to attend and speak at WordCamp US. So we can partner with lots of different organizations. We hope to be announcing some of those partnerships in the not too distant future to really benefit what the work of the WordPress community is and what that can look like.

[00:33:56] Nathan Wrigley: So the next question I’ve got is, Courtney just then mentioned that happy to have people come along and if they bring finance with them, that’s very, very welcome. But let’s say that I come along and it’s my company, or it’s me and we just bring a modest amount of money. You know, I’m not a giant entity. I’ve got $500, a thousand dollars, whatever it may be. Do I have sort of any say in where that ends up? Or is it more a case of just trust us on this one? We’ll publish some documentation about where the money’s being spent? Where do we stand with that?

[00:34:30] Sé Reed: Well, the organization that we are fiscally hosted through, is a, it’s a payment system essentially, with nonprofit sponsorship that allows us to take in funds and spend funds and the entire budget, every dollar that goes in or out of the WPCC is documented and on the website for everyone to see. So everyone can see exactly where all of the money is going in terms of accountability.

But in terms of participatory, or just influence or whatnot. We’re actually in the process of working on our bylaws, but our rough outline for this is essentially that we have a membership and you can join for free, or you can join at a membership payment level annually, if you want to support that way.

And we’re working out the exact guidelines for voting and that sort of a thing. We want to base it on, have you contributed in the last year, or we’re working on those types of criteria. But essentially the membership will be able to, first of all talk to us, which is not just talk to us, but talk to the board. But we’ll also be part of the decision making process. Not on a individual, specific, fellowship level, but on a what do we focus on level.

And also for the larger projects that we want to take on, the community will be, or the membership will be involved in that as well. So, a company cannot be a member because we don’t believe in Citizens United in our organization, which is a Supreme Court ruling that said corporations are people here in the US. So it’s only individuals who are going to be able to participate as members.

Like I said, that will be more of a let’s figure out what needs to be funded. Do we want to worry about old bugs in the system, or do we want to fund accessibility, or do we want to really have a push to the re-envisioning of the media manager, for example. The media library. So, the community, the membership will have a say in that type of way. It won’t be that the community, the membership is voting on every single action that is taken. Because that would become a bureaucratic nightmare.

But in terms of direction and goals and partnerships and strategy, the membership can and will be an active part of that conversation. So our goal is to really be transparent and also be a, sort of a incubator for those conversations about funding. About project priorities that aren’t just the make project priorities. Because there are also important components that affect the rest of the ecosystem, like PHP 8, for example. And the push, the development push, that’s needed to get things ready for that. Like that’s something that’s definitely been important to the community, but has not necessarily gotten as much traction in Core as some people would like. So there’s all sorts of different issues like that that can be given attention and brought to the surface, and hopefully, we all just can move forward, move the project forward, more.

[00:37:47] Nathan Wrigley: Can I ask in terms of the fellowships and who receives the fellowships? So how will that work? So let’s say, for example, I would like to contribute my time into some area, and I notice on the website at the time that I’m looking that I fit the bill. I would like to help in that way. Is it kind of like a job application process, where I fill out a form and some panel that I may be speaking to, or may do it without the need for my attendance.

Do they decide who it’s going to be? Because obviously there’s concerns there about things like favoritism, or whether the correct person gets the job. But also concerns about weighting things so that people who perhaps, how to describe this, people who currently really would struggle to be able to contribute, maybe they get some leg up if you like. There’s a little bit more weight for certain individuals than others for the circumstances in which they find themselves. So just questions around that really.

[00:38:44] Sé Reed: It’s going to be more like, rather than a job application, more like a scholarship. And that’s really what fellowships, that that kind of fellowship structure is really why we chose that. Because, it’s not a permanent position. It’s a temporary position, six months, a year, two years, depending on what we, you know, are tackling. Maybe even three months for short term contribution if that needs to happen.

But, basically it’ll be, we will create the fellowships and identify the need, and then open applications for people to apply for the fellowship. And then we will evaluate those applications and select fellows. So essentially it’s very much like a scholarship or, I would like to think less like a job interview.

[00:39:26] Nathan Wrigley: So given everything that Sé just said about the way that you are going to be giving out these fellowships, and the way that they’re going to be distributed. Given that there’s a lot of work on the sponsorship side, there’s a lot of work on the people who are getting these fellowships as well.

There must be a lot of work being done by you and the people in the organization. So how is that funded? Is there a certain proportion of the finance that goes through the WPCC that is taken for administrative tasks and so on? Or is this an entirely nonprofit? I think in the US you call it a 501C3?

[00:40:04] Courtney Robertson: Yeah, so there are a few ways of the funds coming in. It is an option, strong option to go through the nonprofit direction. There is a total of 15% overhead that we need to take care of. Some of that goes to the direct operating costs of the WPCC. And to be clear, that doesn’t fund Sé, Katie or I, who are the current board members, personally. That just goes to the operating expenses of the WPCC.

Also, there is a fee in addition to that, that goes through Open Collective because they are the payment processor. They are the way that makes it possible for us to see all of these financial transactions. This is an organization that is set up specifically for open source initiatives, and they provide that oversight. That means we don’t have to go get a bank account. We don’t have to go set up a non-profit organization. We don’t have to do all of those extra things because Open Collective provides that for us and many others. So they do take a small portion of the funds that come through.

And the remaining amount goes directly to those that are doing the work. At this time, because we are the three that stepped in together and said, let’s launch this thing, we are the board. Over the next year you’ll start receiving some more announcements and information about putting together a more complete board. That board will always hold a seat for the executive director of the project, whomever that shall be. So that’s definitely going to be one board member, optionally, additionally added.

But in addition to that, we will be looking for those to become board members over the next several years. This first year out, we just thought, you know, we just need to launch this thing and get some traction going. Let’s get some action happening.

[00:41:53] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. This may sound like an incredibly cynical question, and I apologize if it is. Sometimes I get the feeling that companies when they do sponsorships and things like that, they like to proclaim, they like to advertise the fact because it’s good business. You know, they’ve done a good thing and they would like a little bit of recognition on the backside of that.

Is there anything in here like that for people who contribute? Say, for example, a company, they might get a badge or a sticker or some kind of way that they can say, look, in the year 2020, I contributed to this project and I’m proudly going to identify myself as such.

[00:42:30] Courtney Robertson: Sure. So first and foremost I’ll speak to, there are three different departments within my employer at GoDaddy, that each have varying reasons they would like to make use of funding contributors through the WPCC. Out of all of those, none of them are for self-interest. And I say this to be super clear to the community, yes, I am an employee. Yes, I have mentioned my employer many times in this episode. But it really is not about proclaiming, here we are, look at us.

I do though understand that there is a marketing advantage and so, I think it is worth people being aware of the good that does happen. That’s not the sole reason why it should be done, this work should continue. But for those to know who is helping make that work be possible, the WPCC will be able to set up fellowships with those partnership type of programs, those partnership initiatives, so that if some other organization would like to come along and say, we would like to start up a fellowship for an individual or for a group of individuals, and that being maybe a six month rotation.

And out of that, perhaps they later bring them on as staff as well. And so there is that piece, or that component as well, where the WPCC can be that entry point. Especially for organizations that don’t have the dedicated internals of managing and maintaining this. And they’re just beginning to explore what does it look like. Or they would like the contributors that are doing this as their job to be really thoroughly trained.

And also, all organizations that sponsor contributors, some of that information goes back to what that company does. For instance, I know that the work that George Mamadashvili does in Gutenberg really helps shape some of the internal information around how some of the themes and plugins that GoDaddy creates makes Gutenberg implementation possible for our customers, right?

And so, there’s a lot of value in this, and at no point would I ever slight that a company should be able to say, here is what we have contributed. Especially when many are looking at or watching, well, how do you contribute to WordPress as an organization, right? So those fellowships and the partnership programs will definitely be an option for that. As well, organizations can say, we are providing this amount of funding, and it could go into whatever bucket the WPCC would like to put it into.

[00:44:58] Nathan Wrigley: Hmm. I guess you’re on the first few steps of hopefully a long journey and a lot of these things are going to be ironed out and figured out over time.

[00:45:07] Courtney Robertson: Right.

[00:45:08] Nathan Wrigley: Courtney and Sé if somebody has been interested in what they’ve heard today and they would like to come to you and get some more information, where is the best place to find you? Let’s start with Courtney.

[00:45:20] Courtney Robertson: You could find me personally as courtneyr_dev on most of the social platforms. Sometimes that’s a hyphen. If you get lost, head to my personal website, You could certainly find out about That will get you the information that will take you across our website as well as across to the listing that we have with Open Collective, where you can actually put in your information.

[00:45:47] Nathan Wrigley: Thank you very much. Right, Sé. Where do we find information about you?

[00:45:51] Sé Reed: Well, the best thing to do is go join us on the Connect to us by joining our organization. That’s the best way. But I am currently @sereed on I’m on LinkedIn. I’m in the Slack channels. I’m in the Post Status channels. So if anyone wants to get a hold of me, probably Slack in the WordPress community is the best way. I still look at my Twitter DMs, even though I’m staunchly anti Twitter now, sadly. But I’m still there. I’m still around listening, so. I’m at sereedmedia on all the things, I’m around. There’s, I don’t know if there’s any other Sé Reeds either, but you know.

We really want to participate with the community. We really want to hear from the community. Have ideas, have suggestions, have comments. This is a community effort. This is a, a larger project than Courtney and myself. We’re trying to be anti gatekeepers. Taking influence from Courtney, who is an anti gatekeeper. We really want this to be a community project and a community organization. So please get involved. Connect with us. We want to hear from you.

[00:47:02] Nathan Wrigley: I will make to put all of the links in the show notes, so if anybody is curious, just head over to and search for this episode. Really an absolute pleasure talking to you. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve definitely got a much greater, more concrete understanding of exactly what the WPCC is, and hopefully you will get some more interest as a result of this podcast.

Courtney, Sé, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it.

[00:47:27] Courtney Robertson: Thank you Nathan.

[00:47:28] Sé Reed: Thank you Nathan.

On the podcast today, we have Sé Reed and Courtney Robertson, and they’re here to talk about the WP Community Collective, or WPCC for short.

In a nutshell, the WPCC is a non-profit that is hoping to fund contributors to the WordPress project. It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again, people who can afford to contribute to the WordPress project are the people who can literally afford to contribute to WordPress. This sounds obvious, but think about it for a minute.

Most of us know WordPress is built on top of a dedicated base of volunteers. People give up their time and expertise to contribute towards the project, and in this way make it free to download and use. But we all have to earn money at some point. Most are not in a position to donate their time completely freely; they have to put food on the table.

Often contributors are sponsored by the companies that they work for, either part time or full time. There’s nothing wrong with this model, but what about the capable, willing volunteers who are not in this position? The people who have the skills and motivation to contribute, but not the time or finances to make that a reality.

The WPCC wants to act as a go between for companies or organisations who are willing to spend money improving WordPress, and the individuals who can implement those improvements.

This enterprise will be done via the WPCC fellowships. A fellowship in a specific area of WordPress is created, for example, an accessibility fellowship. People apply for that fellowship, and if successful, get the finances they need to take on the work.

This means that individuals don’t need to be working for an organisation which funds them directly, and the organisations which wish to contribute don’t need to fund only their own team members.

We talk about where the WPCC is at with their fellowships, and how it’s set up so that all participants are fully aware of where the money is being invested.

If you’re from a company who would like to assist contributors to WordPress, or an individual wishing to get involved, this episode is for you.

Useful links.

WP Community Collective (WPCC) website

WP Watercooler podcast

WordCamp Phoenix

GoDaddy Pro

Make Marketing Team

Learn WordPress website

WPCC on the Open Collective website

Open Collective website – Courtney’s website

Courtney’s Twitter

Sé’s Twitter