This post was originally published on the Automattic design blog.
In 2015 I set out to buy a 2006 Dodge Ram 2500 with a Cummins diesel engine. I could probably get a used 2014 or 2013 model for a great deal, so why would I want something so… old?
I did a lot of research, and a diesel engine of that particular year proved to suit the needs of a new diesel user such as myself. And now, as I spend time in the crevice of that Cummins engine, I find a similar relation to WordPress.
A platform for learning
I wanted to learn more about diesel engine mechanics. I like working with my hands and getting dirty, pulling things apart and figuring out how everything is connected. Take a look at my 2006 diesel engine compared to the new 2017 models. The 2006 isn’t pretty, but notice that there’s a lot more room around that engine. I can get my arms in there and do a lot of work without needing anything special. The 2017 model is like a beautifully wrapped package. It’s so tightly wrapped that I can’t figure out how to get past the first layer and into the deeper parts.
Isn’t this the same for WordPress? In 2015 at WordCamp US, Matt Mullenweg asked the audience, “Who learned how to code using WordPress?” A good majority of people raised their hands. WordPress is an open source project built with inclusive software, PHP. People are able to dig into the internal parts and get dirty while figuring out how it’s all connected. They break things, they learn, and they build stuff.
No magic required
Nowadays diesel engines are run magically with computers. It’s much more difficult to fix them with my bare hands; I need special equipment, and special knowledge. But this isn’t the case for the basic work I need to do on my older Dodge Ram.
WordPress is like that 2006 diesel engine. It’s not magical, and I like that. It’s better than magic, it’s real. I can jump in and figure out what’s happening. I can learn without the aide of special equipment and knowledge. When you’re new to development and coding, that’s a big deal. There’s a lot of parts that make the web go round, and when those parts are made up of magical libraries and walled off platforms, it’s much more difficult to work with.
No new tech required
The 2006 model was the last year before Dodge significantly changed the engine based on new emission standards. Their engines struggled for the next few years to meet their past performance quality. And because of this, the 2006 model remains to this day, a sought after truck. If I want to improve emissions, I can. If I want to add a navigation system, I can. The cool thing is that it’s not a requirement for operation.
Out of the box, my truck is powerful, strong, and built to perform heavy duty tasks. I can plug a computer into the OBD2 connector and tune it further if I need, but I’m extremely happy with it’s default performance.
WordPress is also built to perform heavy duty tasks on the web. A user’s web presence is ready right out of the… install. If something more is needed, just search for a plugin, install and activate it, and you’re set.
Everyone knows it
I chose a Cummins engine because I’ve heard great things about them. Every diesel mechanic knows about, and how to work on, Cummins engines. They’re considered among the most popular and best engines out there today.
When we’re just getting started in web technologies, WordPress is the way to go. It powers over 28% of the web, and is considered among the first go-to platforms on which to build websites. People on the web, know WordPress. There’s great documentation and plenty of support to help work through the little (and big) stuff.
I guess what I’m saying, is that when I wanted to grow my mechanic skills, I chose a quality product that had a lower learning curve and didn’t require extensive knowledge. And being a part of the WordPress community, I see a similar desire being met. People want to grow their software skills, and those that turn to WordPress find a quality product that’s open and easy to dig into.
Neither of these are perfect. But I’ve found the more I learn about each one, and the more I contribute to each, the better they get.