By Cliff Foster
WordPress calls itself the largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world, one used on millions of sites seen by millions of people. It’s open-source software—you can download it for free—developed by Web-savvy volunteers, including a pair with ties to MSU Denver.
Kristopher LaGraff, a technical communications major set to graduate in December, and Drew Jaynes, a 2010 journalism graduate, contributed to the latest version of WordPress, called 3.4, which was released in June. For their work, the pair got their names in the credits and the satisfaction of contributing to a project that, as WordPress puts it, allows more than 60 million people “to power the place on the web they call home.”
WordPress is fueled by a small army of Web developers, designers and volunteers who contribute bits of code to add new features or fix glitches. In addition to submitting code, LaGraff and Jaynes have written and submitted several plugins—software packages that add features to an existing application—to WordPress.
“In the open-source community, if you see a need for something there’s a good chance you’re not the only one,” LaGraff says. “It’s nice to make it public so if other people need it then they can download it.”
In the spring, Jaynes worked for about six weeks with another developer in Australia on enhancement code for WordPress 3.4 that, in the end, largely wasn’t used. No big deal, though. “It was kind of a bummer but it was a learning experience,” he says.
Together, LaGraff and Jaynes comprise the Office of Student Media’s web team, which manages websites for several student-run media entities, including The Metropolitan, MSU Denver’s student newspaper. Several submitted plugins were a direct result of their work.
For LaGraff, Web design and development “kind of started as a hobby and it never went away.” Besides his course work, he learned a lot on his own. “I was lucky enough to excel in it and start working in it professionally.”
Jaynes, the team lead, has worked in Web development in his spare time for more than 10 years, but initially didn’t see it as career. “It ended up just falling into my lap.”
For them, working on WordPress is a passion with a purpose. In a sense, the cadre of designers and developers are like members of a commune who contribute their time and talents for the common good.
“We basically make our living in this software medium, so we feel a certain amount of responsibility to contribute back whatever we can,” Jaynes says. “It’s an open-source project that lives and dies by its contributors.”
LaGraff echoes that view: “I’ve been using WordPress for a long time and the community around it is a good community,” he says. “It’s nice to be part of that and it’s nice to give back.”
“I don’t think anyone tries to get an ego bump out of it.”
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