Understanding WordPress Community Fanaticism

Filed as Features on October 14, 2008 11:21 am

When the first Barcamps became WordCamps, Barcamps for WordPress fans, I was so excited. As soon as possible, I got myself involved and invited to these grassroots events, enjoying meeting WordPress fans from all over the world.

When asked to speak at WordCamp Portland, they chose “How WordPress Changes Lives.” While preparing the video and presentation for “WordCamp Portland: How WordPress Changes Lives,” I kept asking myself what it is about WordPress that changes lives – that something that goes beyond blogging.

Blogging changes lives, but when enters into the conversation, faces light up. Fans recognize fans instantly. They want to “talk” WordPress. They want to debate over favorite Plugins, Theme features, SEO, and how to make WordPress work better for them. They share their thoughts openly about what’s wrong with WordPress, what’s right, and what can be better.

When I go to blog, web, and social media conferences, I don’t hear folks using TypePad, Movable Type, Live Journal, Blogger, or other hosted or blog platform services getting so fanatical and energized by talking about their blogging tool. Sure, they will whine and moan about this and that, wish they had this feature, and say they are satisfied with that feature, but the passion for the product is lacking.

Step into a WordCamp and you are surrounded by energy and enthusiasm. People don’t just shake hands, they hug. They cheer. They can’t stop talking, twittering, and sharing.

I’ve watched people totally new to WordPress be transformed at a WordPress event. They see the energy and they want to be a part of it. It’s contagious.

When I turned my video camera on WordPress fans and asked them how WordPress changed their lives, I was sure that I would be told that it hasn’t changed their lives. Their blogs changed their lives, but WordPress was just their blogging tool, their CMS – just another web app that helped them blog. No one gave me that answer. They all had very fast and definite responses about how and why WordPress changed their lives.

WordPress Fans Represent the Social Web

The WordPress Community has long been about sharing and caring. Volunteers came out of the wood work to help each other out on the and the , the online manual for WordPress Users. They wrote articles for and about each other, answering questions, solving riddles, and advancing the code.

When the first social gatherings were announced, they flocked in droves, some driving for days or flying cross country to be a part of the party.

started some of the first release and anniversary parties, but soon groups and communities were hosting their own all over the world. There have been WordPress release parties in England, Canada, Germany, Israel…all over. I’m sure there will be one scheduled soon in San Francisco where several of the WordPress developers live, but one is already scheduled for Portland, Oregon, on November 10, 2008, whether or not the release is ready.

WordPress Meetups started up, many of them announced on Yahoo Upcoming events for WordPress and Meetup.com WordPress upcoming events. WordCamps started following, an annual regional, community event, which led to blog being started, offering WordPress fans a way to stay up-to-date with all the various WordPress events. There have been WordCamps in China, Philippines, Israel, Germany, Greece, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, and more countries are starting their own WordPress groups and WordCamps all the time.

I report on the many WordPress events and news on the weekly . Early on, the WordPress news was all about development in the blogging platform, WordPress Themes and WordPress Plugins. Occasionally there would be a WordPress event or two. Now, WordCamps and Meetups represent a huge section of the post!

WordPress folks are very social folks. They want to get together. They want to meet each other. They want to learn from each other. More importantly, they want to work together.

Over the past four years I’ve seen companies choose WordPress experts over other web publishing and design experts because they wanted to work with those who work with WordPress. I’ve watched WordPress fans hire other WordPress fans to work for them and with them on their projects. I’ve even watched web designers and developers go from being Web Experts to WordPress Experts, or even the much-abused WordPress Rockstar titles.

WordPress reaches out internationally, breaking down language barriers by making it easy to blog. Have you checked out the WordPress in Your Language page on the ? While it might need updating, it lists more than 58 different languages that WordPress is available in, and includes many language and country-specific WordPress support groups to help fellow WordPress users.

Why is WordPress so different from other blogging programs? What is it about WordPress that energizes people – as fans or haters? Are there grassroots events and social get-togethers for the other blogging platforms? Have you attended? What was your experience?

While blogging changes lives, WordPress changes them even more. Has it changed your life? Help us understand how. I’m still trying to understand.

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  1. By Jerod Morris posted on October 14, 2008 at 2:15 pm
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    WordPress has absolutely changed my life. Three months ago I took a job as a copywriter for a social media marketing company in Dallas, TX. I didn’t know html from xml from php. I wrote web copy and press releases and was given periodic spoonfuls of basic SEO knowledge.

    A few weeks into my job, my boss started talking WordPress and we began to get requests for blogging services. While I didn’t know much about blogging, I did have a healthy curiosity. My boss told me about WordPress and with his blessing I started a “side project” to learn how WordPress works and how it can be used as part of a comprehensive online marketing strategy.

    My passion is sports, and I am from the Midwest, so I decided to start a little practice blog around something I liked to write about. Thus, MidwestSportsFans.com was born, powered by WordPress, and with an administrator who had never used WordPress or php before.

    Two months later, we are celebrating our second straight day of 1,000 unique visitors and our company is pitching blog strategy and implementation left and right — and feeling totally confident in doing so. Why? Because WordPress is such an amazing open source platform, with such a rich volume of plugins and tutorials to draw on.

    With minimal tech savvy but a lot of determination and curiosity literally anything is possible with WordPress. Midwest Sports Fans is proof of that, as I am quite proud of my little “work project” creation. Needless to say, it’s quickly becoming more than just a side project — it is now a major selling tool and credibility builder with potential clients; and, most importantly, something I truly passionate about waking up and contributing to every day.

    Without WordPress, Midwest Sports Fans wouldn’t even be just a dream in my head. The dream itself never would have even been possible.

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  2. By Mike T posted on October 15, 2008 at 12:51 pm
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    WordPress has done a lot, I’ll give them that, but let’s be realistic here. Most of what is being done here can be done with any platform. From a technical point of view, WordPress is not even at the top of the game. Movable Type 4 is actually heads and shoulders above WordPress from an engineering point of view. I know from personal experience, since I’ve written plugins for both, and Movable Type feels much more like a real enterprise-worthy system than WordPress.

    What really matters, though, is that people get a chance to publish, and make use of their other first amendment right: the freedom of the press. The freedom of the press isn’t the freedom to be a reporter, but the freedom to take your ideas, put them into a distributable medium and make them available to others. WordPress, Movable Type, etc. It’s all good if people are actually celebrating the ability to thumb their nose at the mavens of media control and publish freely.

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  3. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on October 16, 2008 at 1:35 am
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    @ Mike T:

    I agree that it is important that people get the freedom to publish and use whatever laws of their country that allows free speech, and go against those that don’t. I’m not saying that one program is better than another – it’s the grassroots community that supports WordPress that amazes me.

    As I said, the platform for self-publishing isn’t the issue. The issue I found is the powerful community and the participants within it. That is what amazes me and keeps me hanging around. :D

    What is it about WordPress that attracts the energy and enthusiasm I don’t see from those using other programs?

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  4. By Daniel posted on March 19, 2009 at 1:56 pm
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    I can honestly say that wordpress changed my life. I´ve worked with other CMS and Drupal, and wordpress is so far the best, for one single reason – it´s create for a user without technological knowledge. Also it´s modular characteristics, with thousands of new modules inside the wordpress plugins database, create a perfect match for any type of website. WordPress gave me freedom from the “geek” part of bloging such as keep tracking of code, customizing and version tracking. Now i just focus on content, and I´m sure that the platform will be up to the job. Cheers from Brazil!

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