I attended WordCamp Baltimore a couple of weeks ago. It was my first WordCamp, and I’m so glad I went! I got two days’ worth of excellent sessions in the beautiful Institute for Marine & Environmental Technology (IMET) in Baltimore. I also got some fun freebies like WordPress/Baltimore stickers that featured Edgan-Allen-Poe-Wapuu. Best off all, though, I got in-person interaction with the community that powers WordPress.
There’s a lot of debate in the business community about whether open-source software is a boon or a bane. I’ve had clients who really loved their proprietary Squarespace websites. I’ve also had clients who wouldn’t dream of switching from open-source WordPress. It seems like a new web platform is cropping up every day in both the proprietary and open-source spaces. No one can settle the question for-once-and-for-all because the best option depends on a company’s needs.
As superb as proprietary software can be, I won’t deny that I greatly admire the open-source software community. Let me count the ways . . .
Reason 1: Ingenuity
Perhaps the primary reason we have open-source software is developer ingenuity. Developers work for hours turning an idea into a technological product. The product varies. Perhaps it makes a website easy and beautiful to create. Perhaps it adds a feature like safely accepting donations or payments online. Maybe it’s digital product distribution, scheduling, or just telling stories to build a community. Either way, their innovative work makes it possible.
Reason 2: Perseverance
Many of these developers spend hours helping to maintain, support, and expand their open-source creations. Not satisfied to simply create something and drop it, they maintain and preserve their software from threats, bugs, and compatibility issues with core software. They see it through, and I strongly believe in that philosophy.
Reason 3: Responsiveness
Proprietary software is built by companies to make a profit. Support for existing code and new features is completely dependent on the company. Goals can change, industries shift, and individual users are along for the ride. Because the source code is available to all, open-source software can often be more responsive to community needs. Anyone who sees a need for a feature can start creating now and innovate without waiting for their boss to give them a green light to give the people what they want. Especially in larger, well-established communities, features are often developed with astounding speed and quality.
Reason 4: Generosity
Ultimately, it was the generosity that stood out most at WordCamp. From newbie bloggers to enterprise-level developers, all the attendees I met were welcoming. No one who shared a talk or asked a question was shooed away. All were eager to share their experiences and expertise with one another and receive feedback.
Collaboration is the essence of the open-source concept. But we all know movements can fail to live up to their ideals. It was refreshing to see that the WordPress community lived up to their own hype. Everyone is welcome to contribute: code jockeys, entrepreneurs, higher educational institutions, nonprofits, business service providers, and individuals. It might sound utopian, but why not aim high?
Until Next Time
I look forward to attending future WordCamps. I’m looking into local WordPress meetup groups. I feel like the community has thrown down a friendly gauntlet. I want to match their ingenuity, perseverance, responsiveness, and generosity with my own.