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WordPress India is five years old!

A bit more than 5 years ago, a BBPress installation was done. No one but a few hundred bots signed up. Alex and I decided instead of people coming to our website, we would start a Facebook group.

What do we call it? We tried to keep it simple and obscure enough to everyone and not just someone who codes, feel welcome to join in.

Hence we called this Facebook group “WordPress India”. A couple of days ago, on 22nd November, we completed five years of the group.

On the 5th anniversary, Saurabh, Alex and I took part in a Live Hangout and talked about marketing yourself at WordCamps and meetups.

Catchup on the discussion here.

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The Future of WordPress in India

A few days ago I watched through Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word address at WordCamp US. In it he mentioned about the WordPress growth council. The idea is interesting and got me thinking about the growth of WordPress or open-source CMS in India.

While the increasing number of meetups and WordCamps are great, the average person from lower income groups has no idea of WordPress.

It is not to say, they have no idea about the internet. They do, but they are extensively using apps, services by Google or Whatsapp (owned by Facebook). Most technology that is helping them work, give them an online identity or a gateway to the internet are walled gardens. The open web is increasingly becoming something people do not know about and as a result care about.

This lack of awareness is acute in India’s poor and lower income groups.

I was starting to write down a rant on Twitter with the following tweets.

I did have a lot more to write about but remembered that I own a blog and came across some nice advice by Mike Little (co-founder of WordPress).

Since I live in India and I am active in the local WordPress communities as a volunteer, I have some views on our community in India. Note this is not a critique of the community, it is not a critique of WordPress either. I am not qualified to do that. I am writing this as way to write down what I comprehend about the future of WordPress in India for myself.

Some tough questions?

  1. Why will the local cab driver, rickshaw driver, small sandwich shop owner, self-employed carpenter, electrician ever use WordPress?
  2. How will WordPress serve people who are not looking to publish anything or blog about anything?
  3. How could several thousands of local newspapers and journals in local languages use WordPress to go online?
  4. Is the current WordPress community in India doing anything to be make WordPress relevant to lower income population of India that is discovering internet services?

Future of WordPress

WordPress is probably moving away from PHP focus to a JavaScript focus. It will be a slow and sure process. WordPress it seems is a bit ahead of the curve in moving ahead to become more of an app like software and than remain a CMS.

This is a big change and it is a change that is going to be more inclusive and hence ultimately good for its sustained future.

But the other big reason for the success of WordPress so far is the community around it.

I love WordPress!

Who are we? Are we growing in depth? Do we really even matter as a community in India when it comes to technology?

Much of the community that meets at WordCamps and meetups, reside in an echo chamber. They take part in meetups, organise WordCamps and feel happy about themselves. Why do I get involved in open-source, in WordCamps, in meetups – the common and most popular answer is “I love WordPress!”

Love is a strong word but we must wait and listen to our answer to why we love WordPress.

I love WordPress – because I make money from it?

I love WordPress – because it’s easy?

I love WordPress – because it opens avenues to me?

I love WordPress – because I love Freedom.

The problems start not with loving something but why you love something.

Love involves hard work, pain, effort, patience, respect and a level of altruism. Love is a powerful emotion and it should stand for an higher ideal or a higher purpose.

The higher ideals of freedom, choice and inclusion. While freedom and choice are protected because of its open-source nature and the GPL licence, inclusion is often neglected or less thought about.

Call for inclusion and dialogue

We all have meetups, workshops and WordCamps where we discuss various WordPress related topics. Can we take some time out and have one or two outreach programs in our local communities?

Where we speak to people from lower income groups or school students from lower income groups. Can we explain to them the benefits of open-web?

Where we can talk to them and their unions and associations to negotiate and carry out dialogues with tech giants from a place of awareness rather than darkness. Can we try to atleast talk about such things in our community?

The WordPress community as a result will become more inclusive, more broader and those are good signs for the future.

Let me know in your comments what we could do as a community about inclusion, about trying to promote the open-web ideals to lower income groups, to people who do not earn their living from the internet.

Our favourite software WordPress might not benefit directly but the open-web might end up winning!

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Yeah!! Yapapaya!

Early in July, I quit my old job of almost 7 years. Around the same time, Ganesh, a friend also quit and started to work on building a WordPress based company in Pune. It’s name Yapapaya. Among the folks at YapapayaGanesh Kerkar and Saurabh Shukla are probably the best friends I have in Pune.

Since I was friends with them, I started to enjoy watching their struggles (not in a Schadenfreude way), their discussions and philosophy around which they were building a company.

So sometime in mid-August, I thought, I would like to work for such a company. New, different and full of ideas that I was interested in. So I asked them if they wanted a partner aboard.

After some discussions we decided, I should be a part of Yapapaya. 🙂

And  thus, a new phase of life for me has started, and yes the name really is Yapapaya.

Chief Culture Office – The weird title!

One morning, Saurabh called me and asked me about what should be my title. I have always found job titles a bit silly. With a general dislike for strict hierarchies and pyramid style organisations, though I guess in some industries it matters.

I feel there is a lot of unnecessary reverence shown to titles. So  I thought it should be something irreverent and speak more about doing something rather than sounding authoritative.

Hence ‘Culture’.

I would be managing internal and external communications, interacting with the WordPress community, ensuring an environment that was open, free, safe and respectful of each individual and also helping at marketing by having a million interesting conversations with people around the world.

Here are my colleagues with whom I work with.

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Contributing to Open Source is NOT Charity!

During a WordCamp in 2015, I remember someone being praised for contributions to the community.

The person who received the compliment made the appropriate right noises but added “I do not expect anything in return, it was simply a way to give to community.”

The man wore benevolence quite splendidly and that is where I felt he was wrong.

Contribution to Open Source - Not Charity

No, if you are making a career out of WordPress or any FOSS platform/product, building a company on it, you are doing this because a lot of people before you wrote the code and contributed.

And they did not do this because they were benevolent masters of the the technology world, but because they wanted to improve and nurture something they felt was important and useful to them. In the end, almost everyone who contributes to open source projects like WordPress, ultimately does so because they have skin in the game.

Better Software = Better Society

Okay, volunteering your time for better software is not exactly comparable to volunteering time for a better society. Writing code for a FOSS project gets you a lot of credit and improves the software you use to make a living. This cannot be compared to basically volunteering time at a homeless shelter or teaching under-privileged kids at a school. Anyone who compares the two is being conceited.

That said better software can greatly facilitate a better society.

A free open internet, will help democracy in the true sense and societies will greatly benefit from the feedback loops and organisational power technology gives the users. Millions today use the web to connect, to write opinions (including what you are reading now), to interact, to collaborate, to plan and to demand rights and change policies and hold each other and also the might governments accountable.

And such an internet should support freedom (ie: open source architecture, software and in general its philosophy), it should allow you to transfer your data from one place to another and definitely should not be a walled up garden.

This is why, people who make a living from open source software, should contribute to it in anyways they can, and not smugly say they do not expect anything in return. We have received plenty already, it is time we realise we are very privileged. It is time to stop calling contributing to something that benefits ourselves as charity.


Also check out: What is open-source culture? What does it mean to me?

Image Credits

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What is Open Source culture? What does it mean to me?

Think about a large corporate company. Such a company is structured, systematic, primed to do things that experts around the world are hired to do to perfection. People come and go through revolving doors, experts are hired and fired or retired. CEOs are hired and fired. Many get jobs that are monotonous, mere cogs in a machine. The company is a machine, it is relentless and untiring. The financial resources it controls and sits atop of are enormous.

Now think about a village or a small town. It is exactly what a company is not. It is not really as super efficient, it is very informal in terms of how it grows or develops. Inhabitants often are poor or do not have the best education but usually have a lot of involvement in their society around them. They have skin in the game. It is a bit chaotic and when it comes to financial resources, it would never really be able to compare to a large powerful multinational company.

But tiny villages do outlast companies. Large powerful multinationals do meet their end, over decades or over a century. Villages grow like the weed, almost seemingly by chance and randomly into cities at times and survive for centuries and in some cases thousands of years. They survive earthquakes, droughts, floods, economic crisis and several other disasters. They survive because they are not machines, they do not break down completely, they adapt and survive.

Now think of several hundred such villages, towns and cities. What we have, is essentially a living civilisation!

Wait what does this have to do with open source?

Well, an open-source project is a lot like that village. It is like a living organism, it survives because it engages with people, it is not a machine that can break down.

It can grow pretty relentlessly but in unpredictable ways. For example, Unix and Linux as projects which many an expert thought would not be able to survive the might of Microsoft, today powers 67.0% of the web servers.

I have been involved over the past 3 years around community building around WordPress – an open-source project in Mumbai and lately in Pune. So I am more tuned into WordPress community and news around it.

Today, the WordPress CMS is used on 26% of websites that are out there. Not bad for a CMS ridiculed of being just good for blogging. Maybe it is because it was just that, a good blogging software, not pretentious and easy to start using than others, but that can be another post someday.

This happens because the community around WordPress or Unix (mainly Linux) is alive, is a living organism and it is so very deliberately – so that it can adapt, absorb and outlast all machines out there by centuries.

So open-source is a philosophy?

Yes. In many ways it is. In technical terms, the source code of the software is made open. So you can play around with it, customise it, rewrite it – no questions asked. But it means very little, without a sense of culture around it.

A culture to share expertise, make it accessible and easier to use for others. A culture that is not just about learning something and becoming an expert to get paid gigs – but a culture that nurtures understanding and expertise in others and you.

The software would not last too long without a culture of freedom and openness around it. This is why it is called FOSS – Free and Open Source Software.

WordPress culture?

Code contributions, free plugins and themes, free tutorials, free support over forums, free volunteering of time and effort to write content, translate content for the WordPress project, free time and effort to organise local meetups and WordCamps, all are many different ways we can contribute to the culture of WordPress.

It is what will keep WordPress more like a living organism and less like a machine!

Companion Links

  1. Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S Raymond – A great book that explains how this culture of community feedback and contribution works better against a more streamlined, structured style of development. The book will give you good insights into the history of FOSS movement.
  2. Revolution OS –  A documentary that starts with the GNU movement and is great for understanding early days of Linux growth and its blossoming.
  3. The Story of WordPress – A book that is hosted on Git. Its free and open for anyone with internet to read up. It will take your through a through history of WordPress and its growth and breakthroughs.

PS: Thanks Saurabh for telling me about Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S Raymond during a conversation.

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Goodbye rtCamp and “Hello World!”

Almost seven years ago, I joined the merry band at rtCamp with 6 founders and couple of us more. For a few years now, other than the two remaining founders, I was the oldest employee at rtCamp.

Yes, you read it right! I “was” the oldest employee at rtCamp.

Three months ago, I put in my papers. Served the notice and today was my last day with rtCamp.

I am thankful for many things there. I learned a lot over the last few years about how a company evolves. I have experienced joyous times, disappointing times and most importantly lot of freedom. Freedom at rtCamp, allowed me to do a lot of things I did not think I would have ever looked up let alone get involved. A big example of that is the WordPress and open-source community in general.

That freedom allowed me to bring some of the things I learned and experienced back into rtCamp.

I moved to Pune, recently to work from rtCamp’s office which is based in Pune. Those were major life changes. I won’t be returning to Mumbai, I will be staying in Pune for atleast the next few months.

Wait am I crazy?

Some might think I am a bit crazy to quit my job without landing another one. But since rtCamp and the ideas around it were so dear to me, I had to be sure, I was not just quitting for an extra 10% raise (not that there is anything wrong in leaving a job for a raise) or something similar.

That would not have been the right treatment to my time with rtCamp. I feel good about leaving, I am leaving with a lot of good memories and good friendships.

I am looking forward to freelancing.

So what’s the future!

I have been very involved with the WordPress community that is local in Mumbai and Pune. I hope to give more time over the next few months to the WordPress open-source community in India and more. I am also looking forward to giving more to the global WordPress community.

Also a few months ago, I have become a contributor to JaiWP.com. I want to interview people, search for stories that involve WordPress from around India and possibly all over South Asia.

I will be writing a lot more on this blog. So keep in touch here.

I also want to spend a few days home in Mumbai, catch up with old friends there and simply chill out a bit!

Here are some photos over the past 7 years in rtCamp.

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My WordPress story for HeroPress

heropress

 

So I ended up writing My WordPress orgin story for HeroPress – go read it here.

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What should a local WordPress community be like?

Since early 2013, I have started taking part in WordPress meetups. My initial goal or motivation was to create a group that met once a month or so – and create a common newsletter or forum where people could connect.

Basically I wanted to connect with WordPress fans in Mumbai with each other on some sort of platform and on a regular basis. I did not really find something like this online. Thankfully a good friend Alexander, had similar ideas and started working on building a meetup group along with a Facebook group. I decided it was a good idea and was on board.

Over the next year, we had many WordPress meetups, we even ended up applying for a WordCamp in Mumbai.

In this post I am semi-conversing with myself. It is also a call out to WordPress fans in Mumbai to get more involved.

More of that at the end of this post.

Now some numbers

Our meetup.com group has over 330 members.

I must have met atleast a 100 developers or designers using WordPress show up at our meetups over the last couple of years.

I probably have meet several more who might be experts by now but were just starting out using WordPress.

This is from my personal experiances with Meetups in Mumbai, I have missed more than a couple of meetups over the last year alone.

Yes, we are doing a lot of things right! One of them is transparency and being open about disagreements and enjoying debates and differing points of views.

While I can feel happy about really connecting with the local Mumbai based local community but some of these numbers need some perspective.

We might have 330 members in our meetup group – but we usually end up having meetups with 10 to 20 people showing up every time we have one.

WordPress is used by 22% of the web! Let’s say (and I am coming up with some terribly conservative number here I think) Mumbai has over 40,000 websites owners. 22 % of them are probably using WordPress if not more.

So now rounding it up to 20% of 40,000 users (discounting people who are using WordPress.com to blog but I guess they also count for several hundreds if not thousands)

So now a safer number we have is 8000. We are nowhere close to even having 10% (800) register on our meetup.com website.

So since we do this in the name of a open-source community, are we really having a good idea about what the community is like? What it exactly wants?

Are we even reaching out to the proverbial vocal minority which keeps a community alive and well? Possibly not always and lets be honest, everything is work in progress.

So how will things move forward? A lot of that will have to do with what a local community should be like in the first place? What should it stand for, what should it’s priorities be and more.

Dictatorships vs Democracies

Dictatorships work at times in developer communities. I have seen open-source leaders behave like dictators when it comes to deciding what the way forward is for certain open source software.

Some of these communities disintegrate with internal fights and some really survive for a long time. Some disintegrate when the dictator simply is no longer interested in the project. But things are really facilitated and organised when dictators, especially the benevolent kinds take care of open-source projects. Code backed by idealism often do great things.

But Dictatorships of open-source development projects cannot be replicated with communities that meets to discuss or learn about a software and not necessarily develop it or decide its future course of action.

Also WordPress is not about just code. It is about writing, designing, photography, enterprise and a lot much more. This is why the community cannot be dictated to. It is anarchist at its core, pulling its interests, values and ideas in different directions – so no template, no set of rules and hierarchy can really work.

So a WordPress community should be democratic.

But Democracy is tricky!

We think of elections in democracy – which is fundamentally a way to allow people to elect / select or nominate people who lead but maybe not really facilitate things. Also leaders end up consolidating their hold over what the community does and does not do. This democratic setup is actually more technical and really not an answer. The preamble should not be technical but more philosophical.

The idea of a vocal minority that does awesome things in a community. I have been to job fairs where literally thousands of young college going kids did not know about WordPress – did not have an idea about open-web for that matter. I think a great WordPress community would be one that manages to facilitate people to learn WordPress – become awesome designers, developers, writers, get jobs, create jobs and more.

I am a WordCamp co-organiser in Mumbai. Volunteer would be better term in my opinion but I won’t waste time over technicalities of events. A lot of very good people are involved with WordCamp Mumbai. Some are volunteering, some are speakers.

If you are coming over to attend WordCamp Mumbai this weekend meet anyone of from list of organisers.

Meet anyone of these speakers and talk about how we can do more in Mumbai in 2015.

Talk about this openly, find some commons and then maybe together can be part of 3000 instead of 300.

Notice that I have not really answered the question I ask in the title of this post. This is because it is a call to get involved and discuss, find answers, agree on common ground and move ahead.

PS – If you cannot make it to WordCamp Mumbai to discuss these things – make sure to leave comments. Or check out some of these links to attend a meetup or workshop.

WordPress Meetups: Meetup.com | FB page

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WordCamp Season in Mumbai

Are you a WordPress user, fan, enthusiast, developer, designer? Are you interested in finding out more about WordPress in general?

Do you want to meet WordPress experts from around the world, around India and most importantly Mumbai?

If you are find saying “yes” to any of the questions above you might want to check out WordCamp Mumbai 2015 that takes place on March 7 & 8, 2015.

Yes I am a co-organiser at WordCamp.

Check these links out:

Speakers | Schedule | Buy Ticket

What is a WordCamp?

WordCamp is a conference that focuses on everything WordPress.

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Bombay Pirate is now on WordPress

When I started Bombaypirate, it was without any thought or goal. The idea was to just write things I would like to write about. I ended up writing about people, society, my views and even movies. Yes, it was a post about a movie, that got me a job at rtCamp, and I was suddenly a professional blogger, who was managing Devils’ Workshop and other blogs in the network.

That is where I came into contact with WordPress as a blogging platform. Not being a developer, I had a tough time figuring out some of the minor details of WordPress. I could not really mess around and experiment on one of India’s most popular tech blogs.

Why WordPress?

Many reasons from being comfortable with it and to finding it a better platform than Blogger. But, the main reason was “It was time”.

Special Thanks

Let me first start by thanking Nitun Lanjewar who helped me with the migration from Blogger to WordPress and to Rahul Bansal for introducing me to the world of blogging.

Final note: If you are looking to move you blog from Blogger to WordPress, I recommend using BloggertoWp.org