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WordPress to Explore Using GitHub Codespaces for Improving Contributor Experience

WordPress lead developer Helen Hou-Sandí has proposed using GitHub Codespaces to improve the contributor experience. GitHub recently announced the availability of GitHub Codespaces, its quick launch cloud-based developer environment, for all users, with 60 hours free per month for Free users and 90 hours for Pro users. Codespaces makes it possible to launch any GitHub repository in a single click.

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“I’m looking to make wordpress/wordpress-develop usable in GitHub Codespaces with an initial target audience of folks getting started with contributing to core on a Contributor Day,” Hou-Sandí. “This seems to mostly be a matter of making decisions about our container setup(s).”

Getting a development environment up and running can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of attending a contributor day, especially with slow wi-fi. Hou-Sandí recently experienced this at the 2022 WordCamp US Contributor Day.

“This experience reminded me that as a project we should take a look at making it ever-easier to contribute to WordPress, and a remote development option is a good thing to have in our toolkit,” she said. “This allows contributors to get started with minimal setup and without the requirement of a desktop/laptop – you could patch and test WordPress from a tablet or your phone.”

Hou-Sandí has been working with Codespaces for nearly two years. In her 2021 WCUS presentation titled “A voice for the new White House administration with the block editor,” she surprised the audience with a live demo of the architecture of a custom block using Codespaces. The recording, which tours some of the work she and her team did on the 2020/2021 Biden/Harris website, is a good example of how Codespaces can be a helpful tool for WordPress development.

WordPress developers responded positively in support of using Codespaces to improve contributor experience and many are eager to help on the project and test when it’s ready.

Gutenberg engineer Riad Benguella said having a built-in online development and testing environment would be “a great addition to the WordPress and Gutenberg repositories.”

If using Codespaces can reduce the friction and help people get set up with a development environment in a matter of minutes versus hours, it would significantly improve the productivity at events dedicated to contributing.

“I believe this will help not only new but all contributors,” WordPress developer Tung Du said. “To me, using Codespaces to review PRs is such a great experience.”

“Besides, adding Codespaces support also means adding devcontainer support, which makes it way easier to set up the local development environment for contributors who use VS Code.”

GitHub’s limit of 60 free hours may also be used up by developers in their own projects so there may still be the need for tutorials on using other local development methods. For the occasional Codespaces user, it’s tough to beat the convenience of spinning up a development environment in seconds.

“I love this even for contributors who aren’t new,” Scott Kingsley Clark said. “I personally would find this very handy as it removes another roadblock towards contributing. I’m all for it, I can’t wait to give it a try once it’s ready for testing.”