Wrapping up 5 years at WSU today

Five years! Time has its way.

On Friday, July 12, 2013, Michelle and I took off in a U-Haul and a car we had just purchased—our first in over 2 years—to make the trip from Portland, OR to Pullman, smack dab on the eastern edge of Washington state.

I went from enjoying all that came with remote employment to walking in to an office that Monday morning, likely still trying to grasp what exactly it was that I had said yes to.

Five years later, and we’ve accomplished quite a bit.

From day one, all of the code I wrote was in the open. This spread quickly across the team and there are now 303 public, open source repositories on GitHub. I won’t try to claim that many of these are great examples of open source software, but I will say that we have done a good job of showing our work. There is a treasure trove of material for the code spelunker.

I started at WSU believing that public universities should open source their work. I leave absolutely committed to the idea. (More on that soon.)

The platform has been a success. On one WordPress installation, we’ve collected 63 networks, 2025 sites, and 10140 users. I now know what it feels like to manage a large WordPress instance. I’m lucky that we were able to survive with a monolithic stack so long. I’m grateful I was able to transition server management off to WSU’s central IT before walking out the door.

Building this platform is the reason I found myself able to contribute to WordPress so heavily the first few years. It’s the reason I became a maintainer of the multisite focus. And it’s the reason I became a WordPress core committer.

To complete that circle, my contributions to WordPress and awareness of day-to-day development are big reasons why we have had such a smooth time maintaining a stable platform.

The easiest way to reduce maintenance burden when extending WordPress is to be familiar with WordPress.

– Me, in my note to Greenpeace a couple years ago.

My advice to WSU as I leave—and really to anyone relying on a large open source project—is that everything is easier when you are involved in that open source project’s community. The organization does a disservice to the people responsible for the health of the project and to the people using the project if it does not budget resources for that involvement.

/leave #soapbox

Speaking of community! This is where the web team has excelled over the last 5 years. There’s a high chance I’m viewing this through almost-out-the-door-rose-tinted glasses, but in 2013 we had a university that didn’t really trust the central marketing group. As we built out the WordPress platform and the general web framework, we worked hard to solicit feedback and to create and support a community around the web.

On May 9, 2014, we had our first open lab. Since then we’ve had an open lab every Friday morning unless that Friday fell on a holiday. That’s more than 200 open labs with so many great people! Saying goodbye to everyone last Friday was definitely the toughest part of this all.

That’s that. I’m still in the process of reflecting, and I plan on sharing several more lessons. I’m already past due on a write-up to accompany my recent WPCampus talk, “What I’ve learned from 5 years of WordPress at a public university“, and I have been contemplating my collective thoughts for the last few months on the duty of public institutions to use, create, and contribute to open source software. That will get a post soon.

But for now, I’m off for a walk to campus to enjoy my last half-day at WSU. Tomorrow I’m officially a full-time employee at Happy Prime!

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