Many of my colleagues who work with WordPress have, by now, no doubt  read Matt Mullenweg’s post regarding giving 5% back to the WordPress open source project. It’s a notion that has inspired a lot of discussion already and I don’t think I have much to add to it. I can contribute to the noise, however.

From a literal standpoint, 5% can be tough to make sustainable.

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”

— Creighton Adams

The fact is that there are so many ways we can contribute to the thing we make a living off of that is, essentially free. You don’t have to be a “Nacin” you can just be you and contribute in your own way.

While just as important, if not more so, to growing adoption of WordPress, the community around it is a big responsibility. It takes a lot of people a lot of time to organize meetups, WordCamps and other related events. And these folks are volunteers, too, just like those contributing to support forums, UI/UX and bug-squashing.

I haven’t contributed anything to core at this point, but I have contributed to community building around WordPress and that’s been a rewarding thing. One thing I try to tell people who attend meetups or WordCamps is that the things you come for at these events don’t have to end there. You can go and take them out into the world and make your own contributions.

I look to a friend of mine, Roy Sivan. The guy basically didn’t hire me for a job a few years back, I’m not bitter though! I  hadn’t seen him for a couple of years after that interview where I didn’t get the job. Then he started coming to WordPress events; then he started contributing in online communities; then he started speaking at events, including his first WordCamp, in LA. He’s going to speak at another WordCamp and will no doubt spend countless hours online contributing his thoughts and opinions and helping people and will likely make some core contributions at some point, if he hasn’t already.

More than squashing a bug or committing a patch the WordPress community has big sharp claws that pull you in. People are often amazed that they’ve been “outside of the loop” and “had no idea” such community existed. But it does. And you can take part. You don’t have to organize events; you can attend them, learn from them and then share what you know. You can speak, tutor or donate your services and time.

This post isn’t about any perceived slight against community building. I think all methods of contribution to the WordPress project are thankless in their own special ways. But in whatever way you contribute take note of the ripple effect that YOU have in the community. Maybe the things you do gives the community the next person that does something or says something great.

It doesn’t have to be 5% either; I think the ability to take ownership of your stake in the project you make a living from is enough. Whatever that ownership means to you is just fine. For me, I’m going to keep helping nurturing my local community; getting more folks to share and take part and, who knows squash a bug or two and submit a patch at some point. Boom!

What will your 5% look like?