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What Five for the Future Means to Me

Five for the Future (5FTF)—an ideal that WordPress companies should give 5% of their time back to the WordPress community.

When I joined WebDevStudios (WDS) in April of 2017, I considered the company’s ongoing participation in 5FTF a fringe benefit. I was even more excited when I learned that much of this contribution takes place during regular business hours. See, one of the core tenants of WDS is that we work “bankers hours,” meaning that evenings and weekends are for employees and their families. (Did I tell you WDS is awesome?) So by allowing the team to devote work hours to 5FTF, not only is WDS encouraging employees to give back, but the company is essentially donating its own resources to 5FTF, too.

After a year, I can say that Five for the Future is just another part of our values and company culture, which make it great to work at WDS. It’s a fringe benefit that is also a retainer.

Throughout 2017, I used most of my 5FTF time to support and improve the WP-Strava plugin I helped author, along with a few other developers. My words here are specifically applicable to that plugin, and free WordPress plugins in general, but they can really be applied to whatever you decide to pay it forward via 5FTF.

Giving back

5FTF is a time for giving. You give back to the community by using your skills and applying them to something you love—something of your choosing.

It can feel like time off because you’re not serving clients. Yes, free support requests are like clients, but it’s on your terms. This is a project you love, remember? On this day you can pick and choose whatever feature requests you like best, and turn them into reality. My favorite part is you can set realistic boundaries with your support commitment because you know when your next 5FTF day is. (Keep up with WDS’ Five for the Future contributions by following #5FTF on Twitter.)

Scheduling

There have been various iterations of 5FTF scheduling at WDS, from the entire company donating the day to the cause to teams that staggered their contributions on various days throughout the month. My coworker, Russell Aaron, talks about the various iterations of 5FTF scheduling WDS tried on this episode of WP Watercooler:

Whether you stagger in teams or participate simultaneously as a company, dedicating an entire work day, rather than the more nebulous “5% whenever you want” is a great regimen. It makes the time feel more substantial. You can take a deeper dive and get more done.

For the greater good

Why am I so head-over-heels about 5FTF? From the outside, it may seem rather self-serving, especially when I pour my time into my plugin. You might ask, “How is that giving back?”

Strava, being a fitness tracker of sorts, is for the greater good. It’s for my health and yours. Can we brag a little or compete along the way? Absolutely. If that competition drives you to do more, it’s a win-win.

Progress

Before I started at WDS, the last update to the plugin made by me was December 10th, 2014. The last one from our team was February 25th, 2015. I am embarrassed looking at these stats. For a couple months, the plugin languished into the dreaded “this plugin hasn’t been updated in over two years” funk.

I was able to release a new version, care of 5FTF, on May 10th, 2017, just a month after starting at WDS. Here’s what the release schedule looked like:

  • 1.0 – December 10th, 2014
  • 1.1 – May 10th, 2017
  • 1.1.1 – May 26th, 2017
  • 1.2.0 – December 8th, 2017
  • 1.3.0 – December 26th, 2017

Some were minor releases; some were big feature additions. But it’s progress. Movement is being made, bugs are being fixed, and features are being added. I made 300% more releases in 2017 than I did in the previous three years. Now, that’s some statistical results to put in your pocket!

Do your best

When Five for the Future day comes around, put eight of your best hours into something. Do quick/small releases if you can. It makes users happy to see progress, and it will bring a greater sense of accomplishment. Most of all, know that because you’re committed to 5FTF, you can return to your project in a few weeks and make it even better.

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