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James Lau
James Lau

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The Constant Gardener

The last known statistic about WordPress is that it runs 44% of the web. That's a lot of websites out there! Even with the growth of SAAS platforms like Squarespace, Wix, Webflow, etc. WordPress takes the cake. One major proponent of this is that it has a large open-source community that keeps the core code maintained. There's also a healthy presence of third-party software out there that adds substantial extensions to the overall ecosystem. Everything from contact forms, image galleries, e-commerce features, data table displays, security settings, organization settings, etc. The plugin space for WordPress is HUGE!


After the launch of a new site, more often than not, we abandon the site to its owners. We don't have continuous contracts with our clients or perhaps they have moved on with another vendor to maintain or to redesign the site all over again.

Obviously, the cost of time and manpower is needed to maintain these sites. But what if the company doesn't have the luxury of paying someone to work on the site? Well, the way I see it from a developer standpoint, you either help the open-source community and improve the overall system of WordPress or you volunteer your time to help maintain these sites. Most often, it is the non-profits out there who are in need of some assistance.

I know there are those who may frown upon the idea of working on an unpaid website project, but that's no different than offering your time to maintain open-source code. You're not getting paid to work on the project. In the end, your work is shared amongst developers and other companies abroad, showcasing your work. You're adding value and reassurance to the owner of the site that WordPress isn't just a one-off tool that should be replaced after a year or two. Someone has suggested the software in the past, but they did not continue to help maintain it. However, YOU can jump in at any time and offer assistance.

For me, I think being the constant gardener and helping out companies such as non-profits who need assistance is just as vital. Your open-source code may benefit other technologies down the road, but in my view, helping an established non-profit's business objectives by maintaining its site has a greater impact on society.


I have never contributed to open-source code except for when I worked at a large software firm in the past. There's probably a lot of good value in contributing and helping out technology. There are also lessons to be learned with moving parts within a larger system and working with multiple developers towards a common goal or release version. What I don't know is how much a typical developer provides his or her time to the technology on a weekly basis. There probably is a strict timeline.

Helping out non-profits is a completely different timeline altogether. Ever since I started juggling these projects, I have had to keep tabs on my own. I utilize Toggl to keep track of my hours. Even though these projects are unpaid, I like to keep a tally of how much time I am investing. Because there are other organizations out there that could use my assistance.


Remember, we're all human. No matter which path you take. Either open source or helping in assisting non-profits. There's a great deal of finesse one has to consider when mitigating each project. In open-source technology, you would have to work with like-minded developers to bring together a new feature. With non-profits, not everyone is tech savvy and they will rely more on your expertise to do the job correctly.

My most recent project involves moving a website from a UK hosting server to a US-based hosting provider. The site was often down, more than 24 hours at a time, and this prevented the owner from accepting donations and promoting their campaigns. I got together with the owner and two others who are more IT-centric and brainstormed on a more viable web hosting platform. Since I am not familiar with the realms of deep IT nuances, I rely on their judgment call. My role comes later when I need to secure all site assets, secure the current copy of the database, update WordPress core, and update Elementor, which is their theme builder of choice.

The owner entrusts all to do their part in getting the site up and running again. By the way, each and every one of us are volunteers. We can only devote so much time, but we are also ensuring that if one of us leaves, there is a good safety net set in place for the owner to debug on their own if they need to.


In the end, I recommend everyone to devote some time to help out others whether it is paid or unpaid. Giving back to the community is important. If you're a WordPress user and would like to help out the open-source community, you can check out Make WordPress. And if you want to help out a non-profit organization with their website (even if it is not WordPress-based), you can check out VolunteerMatch.

Let's all go out there and make a difference!

This was initially published on my site at ( Please come by and check out more of my writing and other works!

Thanks for reading!

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