Experience has taught me the best way to learn something is to teach it. If I can’t effectively understand the problem, internalize it, and explain it back simply, I haven’t really mastered it.
The WordPress support forums is a place that needs a lot of help. It is full of people just getting started, who desperately call out to the forums as a last cry for help. They hit a brick wall, and don’t even know how to use Google properly to search for an existing answer. On these posts a little bit goes a long way and I believe it is the front lines of tech evangelism. The WordPress community and leadership talk so much about how WordPress is easy to use and user friendly. When a new user runs into a problem, especially their first catastrophic-soul-crushing-omg moment, that is the time when the community needs to support them the most.
As of this writing, there are nearly 12,000 pages of posts with no replies.
Many of them are very simple to solve, and nearly every one offers a new perspective on a bug, plugin or implementation that I haven’t considered before.
I’d like to set a public challenge to myself to answer at least #athreadaday. It doesn’t have to be fully resolved or completed, but it takes 10 minutes for me to jump on there, find a lost soul, and acknowledge their issue. I can probably find and point to another solution already available online (probably already in the wp forums), and that will help consolidate the posts.
For the trickier ones, I can leverage vagrant and wp-cli for quick testing and installation. I keep a ‘random.plugin’ entry in my hosts file pointed to my vagrant IP. I jump into Vagrant, wipe and reinstall WordPress and immediately install the plugin. The whole thing takes less than 30 seconds, and I’m able to reproduce the user’s problem (or not) and give specific answers without guessing.
Just yesterday I answered a post about the Posts-to-Posts plugin. I wanted to learn more about it, and helped the user along as best I could. I got pretty far, but accidentally misled the user. It was awesome when Scribu showed up, the plugin’s author (and top WP developer), and answered both of our questions.
So in an effort to learn and give something back the community, I hope to answer athreadaday. For the better, more insightful, experiences, I will post about them here under that tag name and also put them on Twitter. With any luck it will encourage involvement in the support forums, for both helpers and helpees.