Outside Our Bubbles

My friend Mario is a bad-ass programmer who works with enterprise level clients on WordPress projects. He has talked frequently about how 99% of the WordPress community is not heavily involved in keeping up with best practices and what’s going on. He correctly states that only about 1% of the community contributes back to the growth of the platform.

I would argue that many communities in the larger tech space are like this. The Apple ecosystem is vast, but very few people contribute to the actual advancement of the platform. In the larger web development community, there are a larger number of active contributors, but many people are essentially end users, doing their daily jobs.

Of each of these communities, the voices that guide the community as a whole are perhaps 1% of the 1%.

This isn’t right or wrong, it’s just that once you get recognized as moving the needle — whether that’s page views, downloads or selling conference tickets, you’re going to continue to get booked.

Most people who gradually reach the point where they are seen as community leaders wholeheartedly deserve it. But the people who keep coming up with new ways to share what they have learned have the most longevity.

Every community has a sort of culture bubble. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about tech, politics, sports, or popular culture. Every community — every tribe, if you will, has an ideology bubble.

I have seen a few notable people in the WordPress ecosystem talk about learning from other programming communities. Tom McFarlin, Mendel Kurland and John Eckman are just a few.

Not only does each community have an ideological bubble, but as individuals, we each have a bubble of what we expose ourselves to.

As individuals, we continue to evolve through our lives, based on our experiences and what we are exposed to. Most of us go through several shifts in our thoughts, approach and demeanor while staying true to the “core” essence of ourselves — that which makes us unique, and cannot be separated from our being.

But one thing I’ve noticed as I get older is many people begin to limit what they expose themselves to as they mature. They cut off their opportunities to learn from others, perhaps for fear it will change what they believe their core essence to be.

Our identities are really about our beliefs, our knowledge, the affinities we have, and our philosophies about life.

When we restrict our ability to reassess what we believe in and why, we risk becoming stagnant. In this industry, that is lethal.

As a personal challenge, I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone. Read something, listen to something, do something that you have been putting off exploring.

Expose yourself to different voices — ones outside of the particular communities you have built your self-identity around.

Realize that you can learn from anyone, even if you think they have nothing to offer. You may be surprised where life takes you if you let it happen.

Author: John Locke

SEO consultant for manufacturing and industrial companies.