Democratizing Software

Bocoup as a company arose from the open source software community, and we participate in or lead many open source software projects. When I was asked to keynote WordCamp Portland, Maine, a regional WordPress community event, I described how I think open source communities may become supportive learning communities.

If you ask a WordPress contributor what the project’s goal is, chances are we’ll say “to democratize publishing.” However, for over a decade the community that has grown around WordPress has been doing something even more important: by making a user-centered product that both permits and encourages customization, WordPress can democratize software itself. The community encourages gradual learning, starting with a single line of CSS and ending with a single-page JavaScript application backed by a custom REST API, all in incremental steps. There is always somebody to help because the WordPress community includes everybody from writers and photographers to interaction designers and senior software architects. The strength of an open source community is its spectrum of abilities and interests, and its ability to guide the beginners who will lead the project in the future.

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