BlogathonATX sits down WordPress.com “Happiness Engineer” and BlogathonATX volunteer, Jackie Dana. WordPress.com is a Silver Sponsor of this year’s BlogathonATX.
1. What do you think is the top reason WordPress has gained such enormous popularity as a blogging platform?
Way back in the early days of the web, it was difficult to build a website. You needed to know HTML and do everything in a text editor to build your site. Then there were various programs like Dreamweaver that allowed you to do it, but that software was complex and expensive.
What WordPress did was make blogging (and more broadly, website creation) available to everyone – what we call the democratization of the web. WordPress – both the software and the hosted blogging platform on WordPress.com — is free, open source, and easy to learn.
However, I think the key to it all isn’t that the software is free. I think what makes it successful is the open source nature of WordPress. Over the years, huge numbers of people all around the world have contributed to WordPress directly or indirectly, constantly helping to improve the core product as well as extend its functionality through the release of thousands of plugins and themes.
This has made WordPress responsive to the needs of users and the demands of an ever-changing marketplace.
2. What does it mean that WordPress is an “Open Source” project?
Open source means that the code is released under the GPL (General Public License),http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html . The software and underlying code is free, can be modified and redistributed, and no one “owns” it. This is in contrast to proprietary software such as Microsoft or Adobe products that you purchase, and you are not allowed to view or modify the code for your own uses, or share the software with others.
But open source means more than “free”. For projects like WordPress, instead of a corporation developing the software, development shifts to the community. This community then contributes directly by submitting patches and creating new plugins and other functionality on top of the base software. Because of the way the GPL works, all derivative software also must be licensed with the GPL, so people can look under the hood to see how things work, engage with the product, and iterate upon it so that it better addresses their own needs.
3. What is your favorite thing about working at WordPress.com?
Easy: the people are what make it awesome.
There are the users that, as a Happiness Engineer, I get to help every day, whether it’s teaching them how to use WordPress.com, explaining how to be a successful blogger, or assisting them with troubleshooting.
There are the forums volunteers and other WordPress community members who I interact with daily, all of whom have a passion for WordPress and devote their own time to helping WordPress users.
And there are all of my colleagues at Automattic (the company that runs WordPress.com as well as other services like Gravatar, PollDaddy and Jetpack), who make my job a lot of fun. Unlike a lot of other places, people who do support, designers, coders and operations staff interact constantly. We help problem-solve for each other; we discuss big issues that affect the whole company collectively and openly; and we post all kinds of silly videos and GIFs. Even though we work hard, it often feels like we’re hardly working.
4. What is the number one piece of advice you would give someone who has just started using WordPress for their blog?
Keep at it. One of the biggest issues we see is that people give up too quickly. Maybe they don’t know what they want to write about, or they think no one is interested in what they have to say, or they get frustrated by the technology. Just keep going! If you do get stuck, read other blogs, engage in blogging communities and challenges (like The Daily Post, http://dailypost.wordpress.com/ ) or reach out for help by posting on the WordPress.com or WordPress.org (self-hosted) forums. You can also encourage others to keep blogging by commenting on posts you like and sharing them with your friends via social media.
5. Why did WordPress.com decide to support BlogathonATX this year?
Blogging is in our blood. It’s how WordPress.com got started, and even though many of our users build beautiful non-blog sites, in the end it’s blogs that foster communication and build community. It’s natural that WordPress.com would want to support activities that bring bloggers together and build a stronger sense of community among them.