15+ years in open source and can’t recall a time I’ve ever felt “pressured” to contribute for free to WordPress, it’s community or any other. My primary responsibility has been (still is) to provide for myself and family, and I feel I know how to balance the two.
That’s not to say I haven’t been encouraged, nor have I ever done so. I have been with WordCamp Miami for 12+ years! 😄 But even with the volunteer work I did for WordCamp Miami, it wasn’t “free labor” to me – I saw the indirect potential benefit going into it, and it’s paid off for me in droves financially. Was that a risk or a gamble of my time? Yes. But unless you get paid when you network, you likely do the same just in another way.
Freely giving back is part of the DNA of open source – but free isn’t the only way. Nobody should feel pressured or pressured. For me I know my priorities & boundaries. If what I do fits into an intuitive (say like Five for the Future) great. If it doesn’t – alright then.
Don’t Forget Those Who Cannot Contribute
Some will say that I’ve been privileged to give my time freely, to be able to have some sort of voice (although for me I don’t think I’ve raised that voice that often) by being involved. It’s not impossible to think that I got a privilege or a job offering because of my contributions – because I had the time to do so – versus someone who can’t afford to offer such a time (family, financial problems, etc.)
So respect to those who can devote time to Open Source contributions and contributions in general (again, like volunteering for a WordCamp). I don’t have a problem giving these people credit, especially since the right amount of credit (say, a badge, similar to how Girl Scouts I assume, earn theirs) inspires new people to think of contributing.
But those who CAN should also consider there are many that CAN’T.
If you are networking remember those people who aren’t present… and if the right time comes up in a conversation remember to mention or even refer them. If you’re involved in making decisions about a product or (in general) having discussions about WordPress, remember those opinions that might differ a little from yours and perhaps present or offer alternative viewpoints, especially if those people aren’t present in those discussions. Running a regular meetup or event? Survey the group via email to see what might be some good alternate times or days so you can have a more diverse group show up. Some people can only participate for an hour or two after the kids are in bed… or during the day.
There are other ways to not forget ones who cannot contribute but still want to have a voice. Everyone is welcome at the “table of WordPress” but that implies one has to make time to be at the table, and that isn’t always possible. Make it easier for people to get to the table but try your best to represent those who just can’t make it.
I never felt pressured to give my time to WordPress, mainly because it was my time to dictate how to give it. Some don’t have that luxury or that time at all. Keep an eye out for how to use your time so that you are happy with your “return on investment” – especially if that means helping represent others or giving others an easier path to be at the table.
If there’s any pressure to become involved in WordPress, it comes from this need to be heard. Outside of this if an individual can’t contribute time to WordPress but still uses WordPress then no need to feel guilty or pressured. Now if you’re a company profiting off of WordPress? I think giving back would be worth it (something to write about in the future).