EP437 – Funding the Dream with the WP Community Collective

December 2, 2022

On the show were joined by the founding directors of the WP Community Collective: Courtney Robertson, Katie Adams Farrell, and our very own Sé Reed. We’ll chat about what the WPCC is, its mission to support the WordPress community, and how you can be a part of it.

The WP Community Collective helps to answer this problem by collecting funds from different companies, different agencies, and the general community. The WP Community Collective is hoping to remove the barriers to contributing to WordPress by removing the need to market themselves to try and raise their own funds. The WP Community Collective is a thousand percent transparent like literally every single transaction that happens is public and posted on our open collective fundraising page.

WP Community Collective is launching with the goal of raising money for a six-month accessibility fellowship for a core contributor who is already doing this work.


Episode Transcription

Jason Tucker: [00:00:00] This is episode number 4 37, funding the Dream

I’m Jason Tucker. You find me at Jason Tucker on some stuff, and you can also find me over on Mastodon, so feel free to do that as well.

oh, my name’s say Reed. I’m at, Sé Reed Media. Not on Twitter. That’s Jason. Cosper. He’s out today. We’re sad about it, but he has his own mastodon instance. You should join it.

Jason Tucker: And you can find me on all of us on Apple Podcast, audible, Google Podcast and all that stuff. And you can also go and hang out with us on Discord Links are in the description below. Speaking of links, got some folks that we linked it up with today. We got Courtney and Katie on the show today. Say you wanna give us a little quick intro on who these folks.

Sé Reed: [00:01:00] Emphasis on quick. Okay. Can you tell that if you’re listening and not watching, then you can’t tell that I’m like jumping out of my seat. I love all our topics lately. They’re the best. but this one’s near and dear to my heart. We’ve got, two of my very good friends on the show today, and I’m so pleased about it.

This is Courtney Robertson

Courtney Robertson: Hello?

Sé Reed: Who are you and why are you here?

Courtney Robertson: I keep coming back. I’m not sure. so I’m Courtney Robertson. I’m a dev advocate at GoDaddy Pro, and I am a long time contributor to the WordPress training team.

Sé Reed: And, Katie Adams Ferrell to my this direction.

Katie Adams Farrell: Hello.

I this way. Are you, Oh, did you say, who am I? Who I don’t really know. so my name is Katie Adams Ferrell, and I’m actually say’s Business Partner and Carin Collaborative. and kinds of non-profit management and website development. I don’t do any of that, say, does all of that obviously. but my background is non-profit management, [00:02:00] fundraising, finance, marketing, all those good things.

Sé Reed: Yeah. Oh, Bob. Hi Bob. Yeah. so we are here today because in addition to being wonderful people and, super experts in their fields, like literally,Katie and Courtney and I have, joined forces together to launch to. Not to carry on forever. But, , just to begin, an organization called the WP Community Collect.

And this is the, secret. I’ve been, excitedly tweeting gifts about, for the past few months. and I’m so excited to finally be able to tell everyone about it. there were a few things that needed to come into place before we announced this publicly. One of which was really important to me was to make sure that Matt Milow wig was aware of what we were doing.

I just think that’s a good idea. No reason, particularly , but,yeah, everyone I told Matt, okay, , knows we could now move on. so anyway, the WP Community Collective, Katie, [00:03:00] Courtney and I are, the founding board members for, we Will Be for this first year. And after that we have a lot of plans for what we want that to look like afterwards.

Sé Reed: But, we’re gonna tell you a little bit more about it now. This started out cause of the ongoing problem in WordPress that if you’re listening to this podcast you are familiar with, of contribu. I like how up right. At the same time. Courtney, can you tell us a little bit about, some of the challenges that you’ve, run into over the course of your contributing career?

Courtney Robertson: Yep. as a contributors to WordPress since technically 2009, I’ve seen different amounts of. availability and organization. so to that, my very first contribution to WordPress was checking guests in for a word camp back before the foundation oversaw word camps, . I’m not sure if the foundation was even a thing yet, actually when I started.

and then I joined a team and started contributing regularly in 2014. And I was [00:04:00] juggling that against, my own. Building websites for clients. I have contributed While being a bootcamp instructor, I was not able to contribute, for a few years in there while I had young children. Financially, I needed to work on some other things with those hours that I had available.

Courtney Robertson: Those limited

Sé Reed: So precious hours.

Courtney Robertson: Yeah. During, when you’ve got littles and you’ve got a three hour nap to work in, you, you choose what you.

Katie Adams Farrell: None of my

Courtney Robertson: It wa

Katie Adams Farrell: three hour nap.

Courtney Robertson: Yeah. So we worked hard to get that scheduled and in place, show that I could have time to do some earnings for the family. and so as we navigated through a lot of those things, my availability as a contributor was hit or miss. I got to a point where I saw the work that was happening on learn.wordpress.org coming before we even launched it, and I felt so passionate about this work that I [00:05:00] reached out of my own accord to my now manager and said, if there is ever a possible way that I could be employed by a company to be a contributor, I would absolutely love to do But of course, even that became a bit of a challenge because companies don’t always think, about. Their methods of getting contributors involved would look like, what does it mean to hire staff to be contributors? And so I have a couple of coworkers, Mike and George, that are full-time contributors to Core and Gutenberg, and they do fantastic work in those areas.

but it’s an ongoing thing for contributors to juggle. I have this part of my life and I’ve got this availability, and they might go together, but I also have. pay for my living. I have to take care of my food. I have to do these things. And so that struggle is very real, and it’s one that I felt as a contributor that was not sponsored for eight plus years.

Sé Reed: Yeah, my work in WordPress. Whatever you may think of, it has [00:06:00] never been sponsored. I’ve been active in the community since 2000, 12. obviously never paid for any speaking engagements or organization for Word camps, obviously. But, I’ve never been sponsored other than I have, my own company and I can choose to spend my time on whatever I want, but it’s certainly not billable and I’m certainly not getting paid for it.

So what I’ve noticed, is that’s, there’s so many people in this boat and,it’s probably the bulk of the WordPress community that engaged WordPress community that people would do so much more if they could, if there was a way for them to just, spend five hours a week, working. Some problem that’s been in the, bug in the track for eight years, for example, and someone could just, spend that dedicated time. But it’s really difficult to do that when you are just allocating five hours of your life with no compensation whatsoever. And that’s without getting into the complications of, are people getting their contributor badges.

And there, is there even any sort of [00:07:00] actual recognition like in the form of emotional fuzzy.

S that whole thing. I’m literally practical element trading time because I’ve noticed the decisions more consistent. Long term plans are by default of this situation, relegated to people who are sponsored contributors that. How that happens because life comes up, you can’t make a couple meetings or something changes or you get a different job or you’re, you have to go in and can’t do the type of consistent volunteering that you were doing before.

And, that means that the project is being by, sponsored contributors primarily. I’m not arguing if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but what I do know is it’s not a balanced thing. And so that is a big part [00:08:00] of the, impetus to fund this organization, to find a way for all of us to essentially pool our funds.

And we’ll talk about that a little bit later, but put our stuff together to, support ourselves working. Our own software that is this open source software that is powering our businesses and our, our clients’ businesses and our cat blogs and whatever else I get. So like starry-eyed about WordPress these days, it’s like ridiculous.

I like get Let me talk about WordPress some more. that a lot of tech companies right now, I know Courtney, you’ve been working really diligently on finding ways to bring, to increase, corporate contribution in the form of onboarding more contributors or sponsored people through GitHub sponsors, or finding ways to make it so that people can work. Even just the code, but things like handbooks or the marketing or I don’t know, the mobile app or like whatever. so there’s all these [00:09:00] areas that need that work and you’ve been trying to work with different companies to, to develop that capability. And there has been a concerted effort,a slow maybe, but, and maybe confusing effort towards five for the future.

Courtney Robertson: Yeah.

Sé Reed: Is intended for anyone who doesn’t know to be that anyone who’s basing their business off of WordPress would donate 5% of their time or their, whatever it is, funds back to WordPress. And it’s actually that second part that I think is really important in terms of funds, because time and funds for c.

bigger, especially bigger corporate businesses, they’re not the same thing.

Courtney Robertson: Yeah. Even the smaller ones. I. I have experience working now for three different major brands in the WordPress space and in the time that I had been with the previous two before where I am now, I [00:10:00] expressed interest in contributing as part of my role there and that was not an option for me at that time.

Sé Reed: And that was at a, those were at WordPress, like specifically making WordPress products. That was not like, that was not like, oh, we’re an agency and we make WordPress projects as half of our stuff. That was like literally on LinkedIn for where it

we don’t need to dig into it. I But that said, that what’s really interesting or good to know, is that I’ve spoken with some of my former coworkers at the last place where I worked and,they’re checking out what’s happening on Learn. They gave me their hiring matrix and said, turn this into curriculum.

Courtney Robertson: You have our blessing. Go. so there are ways that they’re interested in, considering the work of funding open. They recognize that it is important.

Sé Reed: and it’s a growing,

Courtney Robertson: also face funky challenges. And the same is true for my employer. Like how do we have, if we’ve got, rules of where we are able to hire from?


Sé Reed: say funky, by the [00:11:00] way?

Courtney Robertson: I’m sorry.

Sé Reed: Did you say funky challenges?


Courtney Robertson: yeah. So you know, if they’re allowed to hire in certain areas, certain markets, maybe even down to specific states that they are allowed to hire from, because. Tax laws and all these other weird things. and the person lives in some location that they’re not open to hire from at this time.

How do you handle that? Or how do you oversee what department is go? Who’s going, who are these people reporting to that are contributing? What are, how do we identify what the goals are for what they should be doing and what are their performance metrics? And I say this, recognizing that for that as a volunteer contributor, 13, technically 13 years contributing to WordPress.

I, I recognize that plugin theme shops and, hosts are going to be the places that have money, right? They’re the ones that are primarily building a lot of things related to WordPress, but also I recognize that you do not have to get financial backing from those types of institutions [00:12:00] to do this kind of work and why it might matter.

Courtney Robertson: Always keep that in mind that I am not saying that only hosts should be financially supporting or that only plugin or themed companies or only big agencies that specialize in the repress community should be doing these things. No, but I recognize what the challenges are for those specific niches because that’s where I have worked.

and I recognize that the challenges of. Where we can hire from? Who are they, who are people reporting to? What are their performance objectives? How do we know when those objectives are met? When you have shareholders involved? And, communicating all of that to the shareholders, oh

Sé Reed: like, this really important.

Courtney Robertson: yeah.

Sé Reed: rare, it’s important.

Katie Adams Farrell: well,I think it’s just from a broader picture, it’s much more expensive and much more complex for a. Company to hire somebody to do this work. That’s nebulous, right? And and then if that company is setting those objectives, like the whole point in working for a company is to further that company’s objectives.

So they’re going to be along a certain [00:13:00] vein, right? That’s related to that company’s business regardless. And that’s fine. Like they, need that to thrive, right? that’s part of it. But just in terms of flexibility, to respond to what’s happening in the community and the environment right now.

those companies aren’t going to have that flexibility because it’s not their business.

Sé Reed: right?

and it’s so much harder to hire at those companies than,an organization that specifically built for this purpose.

Sé Reed: Yeah. so talking specifically about automatic. Automatic, I think has a much easier path to hiring contributors because it is their core software. So it’s the amount of contribution that Automatic does is wildly disproportionate to the rest of the ecosystem. And there are tons of people out there, but you. getting into too many politics there, I think it, there is reason for everyone feel disgruntled about the current [00:14:00] situation because I understand why the folks at Automatic would think that they’re doing all the work. And I would understand why the other folks who aren’t working at Automatic would think that automatics are running everything.

even though everyone’s like trying not to have it be the case, but it’s just literally, again, a matter of time and availability. the project needs to continue to move on, and if people can only check in once a week, it just, but that’s the difference between someone who’s working on it as a sponsored person, as a full-time person, versus someone who’s able to just join in because they love WordPress or they, have good ethos about like open source or something.

One of the ways that we can, that, that the WP Community Collective helps to answer this problem is through, taking a different tactic in terms of how do we fund those contributors, how do we support them? And instead of having that half that those, folks were coming on need to be a, an employee of, whatever company it is, [00:15:00] they can, I. Contract or be an employee through, the WP Community Collective, which can then collect funds both from, different companies, different agencies, and the general community, and channel it into, really clear and specific contribution pool, let’s say. Katie, before we get.

Courtney Robertson: don’t have to market themselves to try and raise own funds.

Sé Reed: Yeah, GitHub sponsorships is happening and that is a thing, but there, the idea that everyone’s out there, like trying to be like, can you put $5 on here? And it’s a Patreon for like code. Like it’s, it makes it just so much more work to contribute than just being able to contribute.

And that’s what we’re really hoping to remove. Some of the huge barriers and constant barriers to this. So I just, before we get too far into 10 minutes left, but I do wanna talk about real quick, why this, in addition to [00:16:00] the employment, the difficulties of hiring people to do contribution, I do wanna talk about also the, not the charity arm, but the.

The donation arm that many organizations and corporations have. And Katie, can you talk to that a little bit?

Katie Adams Farrell: Yeah, for sure. So I think one of the incentives for companies to give to a 5 0 1 C three incorporated nonprofit organization, and we are incorporated through our fiscal sponsor. Which I think say, we’ll talk about a little bit more, but it’s called the Open Collective Foundation. So one of the incentives for companies and we can talk about individuals a little bit more too, is that first it’s gonna be a lot less expensive for them to take an amount of money and donate it to a organization.

There are tax incentives there regardless. Like most larger companies have some sort of philanthropic. Corporate sponsorship arm, which is like a foundation or some sort of [00:17:00] tax deductible.

Sé Reed: dollars.

Katie Adams Farrell: Yeah. Or marketing dollars, Which can all, which are also deductible in a different kind of way.

so it can come from a number of buckets, but it’s,and of course there are metrics to Courtney’s point, there are metrics and performance objectives that go along with that, but it’s much easier to channel that money to an organization whose sole purpose is this then to try to figure out how to add it on top of whatever else they have going on.

Katie Adams Farrell: So it’s a financial incentive. And it looks great in the community, right? Because then you’re giving to this organization who is much more, open and transparent and accountable in terms of who we hire, who the community says we should hire, what the community says of the pain points.

like it’s that type of transparency that I think that the WP Community Collective can offer that something. GitHub sponsors or something like a company doing this work can’t. and that transparency is really important to me from a non-profit perspective [00:18:00] because obviously there are so many non-profits all over the place that are doing really important work, but because of the way that they are designated by the irs, there’s very little financial transparency or accountability.

Katie Adams Farrell: So you’re like, yeah, we hear you. That you say you’re doing all this work, but. very easy when that story isn’t there to just assume that there’s something nefarious going on when it’s just really opaque, right? So like the WP Community Collective is a thousand percent transparent, like literally every single transaction that happens.

Is public. every penny that we spend is public and posted on our open collective fundraising page. So fundraising is very easy and you can see exactly where that money’s going, like literally every penny. So I think that is a big and important difference in terms of, what we’ve got. why you would consider the WP Community Collective to be able to do this work in a more efficient [00:19:00] and accountable way.

Sé Reed: Yeah, I think accountability is a big part of this because,it’s not just about, I think it’s not that the GitHub, the folks working through GitHub sponsors are not doing the work, but it is that it is difficult for a company to. Assess that, like that is, it is difficult to translate whatever work they’re doing into why, to justify the contribution.

And part of the structure that we’re building into the W PCC is that, that. that feedback loop where we’re also talking about what are, what issues are coming up within the work of the contribution. Because a lot of the contributors who are corporately sponsored or just sponsored, let’s just say sponsored contributors right now are, they’re doing their contributions. The people I know are wonderful people doing great work, but part of their work is reporting back to the company that they are [00:20:00] working for. they’re giving that information and they’re giving it to their company. Again, not in a nefarious way, but it is not. Being put out there into the community.

There are some folks who are doing that. Like for example, Courtney spends so much of her time every week compiling,intense list of all the stuff that is happening in WordPress, all the different make teams and all of that every week. And she posts that, along with post status. So she posts that on post, post that on post status site.

Wow. It’s hard to say. and that work is, I think it’s really one of the few things I can point to where I’m saying this sponsored contributor is sharing information with the community in the hopes of encouraging, encouraging contribution, encouraging just knowledge and information, and a big part of the problems that we run into as a community.

Not excluding the [00:21:00] active growth plugin. Drama of the summer is communication and a lack of communication. Stuff is happening in the make channels. Stuff is happening in private channels, which is fine, but it’s not getting out into the community and there’s lots of avenues for that. Obviously the WP Briefing is happening, so I’m not at all saying that information is being withheld.

There’s just so much information and.

Jason Tucker: the contribution part of it is good because it’s outside of GitHub. Like GitHub is it’s developer.

Courtney Robertson: I will

WordPress as a community is not just developer. very much more other things too. But what I’m just saying is like I don’t use GitHub like me, myself, like my work, I don’t, but I can go onto a website that has a big donate button on it and donate a hundred bucks and didn’t have to go through the rigamarole of GitHub to actually do it.

I don’t know. I think it’s more approachable way of doing.

Courtney Robertson: A quick pause here. I will note, I did help get from GoDaddy to get an individual [00:22:00] sponsor, Joe Dawson, through his GitHub sponsorships page, and that was actually the easiest sponsorship to get through. and he is able to contribute. For accessibility, and that doesn’t require him to code, although he does review a bit of code as part of what he does that doesn’t require him to do GitHub sponsorships can be one of the avenues Open Collective uses to pay folks out. from what little bit of digging I’ve been able to do has happened. However, the burden of requiring someone to use GitHub and. connect to Stripe and some folks do not want to connect to Stripe. And then whatever the international markets are doing globally, that adds exorbitant extra steps.

Not just have it get hub, have it connect to their payment gateway, do this, do that. So it can work that way with Open Collective because it’s the API of payment gateways, I would almost say. it can work through a lot of those challenges as we’re exploring it. the burden of a contributor having to bring everyone to their own GitHub profile and [00:23:00] sponsor page, barrier is gone.

Sé Reed: So this is, I think this is important and this is where the collective, the commu, the community collective component comes in. Because what we want to do is consolidate these efforts. Not say, oh, you shouldn’t be doing your own GitHub sponsorship or whatever. But, consolidate the efforts so that the administration of this, the promotion of this, the awareness of who’s doing it, who’s doing what is, more centralized and that we can pool our efforts.

Smaller agencies or plugin shops or whatever, we can pool our resources to, advance many types of contribution. So not just core contribution, but also, handbook editing, for example, or helping, developing learn curriculum that helps people learn how to contribute. And all of this stuff feeds into a stronger. Project overall, a stronger community, a stronger code base. I’m really excited about the idea that we could maybe put together [00:24:00] some funds or a little fellowship for like old ticket . So like call, like old ticket fellowship or something. And it’s like, all right, your job is to go handle all tickets that are over five years old and talk about them, and let’s talk.

Let’s get these tickets off the table. Not that we’re doing that, actually. And I, we have a couple more minutes here, so I do wanna lead into what we are,starting with. So we’re obviously launching publicly today. Here we are. Hi. and our, we have a few buckets. Available on our Open Collective page.

You can go to the WP Community Collective here. So you can see different options there. But our primary, goal right now is our accessibility fellowship. So we are, in, final talks with, one of our,person who is a core contributor right now and is, not sponsored and is hoping to get sponsorship so that they can continue their. Excuse me, on the accessibility team and tackling some of those issues that, There and need to be dealt with. And so this is actually not [00:25:00] even a, an open fellowship at the moment that we’re asking to find someone. We are actually hoping to just support someone who is already doing this work so that they can.

Take six months, for example, and which is what we’re gonna be raising money for, takes six months, five hours a week, and know that they’re able to do this so they can take on projects that might have a longer duration, they can make plans for those six months. They can put that as part of their schedule and part of their work.

Know that they’re getting handled or their, their payment is coming through. It’s handled all through Open Collective. They don’t have to, as Courtney was saying, go market their funds. They don’t have to go. Do a bunch of, scrambling to raise money or to figure it out in the next three months.

they don’t have to about even, their own payment gateways, it’s just they get to do their contribution and we used to help them do that financially. And that is the very first, core, initiative that we are launching. And we do hope there [00:26:00] will be more in the future. Courtney, Katie and I are all, as we said, primary parents.

Sé Reed: I dunno if you said that before, but we’re all, parents of young children and our goal is not to run this organization by ourselves. This is not, this is. We are doing this to get it set up and our plan is to create a larger board, including representation from around the globe. For an at large board, we hope to have, we’ve started forming an advisory board.

Our goal is to have to offer whether or not it’s accepted on the advisory board to whomever holds the executive director position of Word, the executive director of WordPress position, whomever that is currently. and,we want to do things as Katie was talking about, in a very transparent and open way.

So this is not something that we’re just running, that’s our, we very, the community’s want, community’s We’re going to be developing this together, bylaws together, boards together. It’s [00:27:00] beginning of that. but the best thing if you wanna help to do now would be to help us fund our accessibility. And we’ll be tweeting out about it and talking about it, of course, more in the next coming months.

but we’d really love your help funding that. so we could literally get started.

Courtney Robertson: gonna give a quick disclaimer as well. my availability to work on this is definitely a project of my own choosing and a passion,

Sé Reed: sponsored

Courtney Robertson: not sponsored at this time. However, I’m exploring the opportunities of listing Open Collective. When you work for big companies, you’ll learn that you have to go through an.

Bigger, bigger challenge of who can be a vendor and who can get paid from such an organization. And so I will say that of course I’m exploring opportunities for my employer to list Open Collective as a vendor, therefore able to bring funds to this. But there is no guarantee of that at this time. And my time is, that I’m doing

Sé Reed: I like [00:28:00] Courtney’s disclaimer. She’s I would like to provide a disclaimer. no. we need the community’s help to make happen. We’re not relying on corporate sponsors. We’re not taking pack money or dark money. Just kidding. That was a different commercial. so we want you, we need your support, we need your help, we need your input, we want your ideas.

check out the website. You can join, for free. The individual membership just basically sent up, which means you’ll get our updates and you’ll be able to start having those conversations with us, and be part of the greater open collective foundations. Membership in general. let’s do this.

Sé Reed: We are now, ready to roll.

Jason Tucker: that’s about it for today. I wanna say thank you very much for coming and hanging out with us. I do approve this message, by the way, and,

Courtney Robertson: had you have given

Sé Reed: Yeah. Sorry.

Courtney Robertson: Thank you.

Jason Tucker: I’ve

Courtney Robertson: you’re

Jason Tucker: money as well. So yeah, make sure you do that and you’ll see that, the, that the contribution included, the fees and all those things that were tied into it and it shows you all of that. So yeah, go do that and, we’ll be checking in on that later and talk to y’all later.

Have a good one. [00:29:00] not be the last time we talk about this sort of stuff. See you

Sé Reed: no

Bye. Oh,

Jason Tucker: Places. Also, if you wanna listen to us and watch us, we’re streaming out all sorts of different places.

Sé Reed: We’re on what?

we’re over on tl, t i vids.com. We’re everywhere. So talk to y’all later. Bye-bye

Sé Reed: We’re on the internet live.

Jason Tucker: and we’re gonna be not live.

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