Introducing Boone Gorges

Boone is one of the lead developers of BuddyPress, a contributor to WordPress, and the author of a dozens of freely available plugins. As a freelancer, his free software work is unpaid: he’s a vocal advocate for convincing clients to cover the costs of his community-focused work.

He works as freelance WordPress developer and consultant, specialising in custom functionality for BuddyPress. As a former academic, he works mostly with universities who are interested in creating online spaces where faculty, students, and staff can meet, collaborate, and share the work being done on campus.

He is also a dad, a competitive crossword solver, a former philosopher, a barbecue enthusiast, and a very cool guy.

In the beginning


Boone first used WordPress to create a forum for the students in his Introduction to Ethics class where they could share work and provide feedback to one another. In 2009, he started working professionally with WordPress when a friend started a WordPress-powered project called CUNY Academic Commons. From helping out with IE6 CSS bugs he found himself delving under the hood of WPMU and the then-in-beta BuddyPress.

The same year, he gave his first WordCamp presentation, on the WPMU & BuddyPress track at WordCamp New York. It was called “Developing BuddyPress as a Collaboration Hub.” Boone talked about some of the customizations he’d done for CUNY Academic commons.

I don’t remember much about the talk itself. I do remember being terrified that Andy Peatling – BuddyPress’s founding developer – was sitting silently in the back row. It was like being in high school and meeting a girlfriend’s father for the first time: I half expected to get my lights punched out for defiling his baby. (Postscript: I now know that Andy is One Sweet Fella and I am far less afraid of him.)

L to R: Matt Mullenweg, John James Jacoby, Boone Gorges, Raymond Hoh, Andy Peatling
BuddyCamp Vancouver. L to R: Matt Mullenweg, John James Jacoby, Boone Gorges, Raymond Hoh, Andy Peatling

At WordCamp San Francisco

2014 will see Boone attend WordCamp San Francisco for a second time. The last time he came was in 2012. He spent the contributor day working with other members of the BuddyPress team, wrapping up some final issues before releasing BP 1.6. “I had to catch the red-eye back to NYC that night,” he recalls, “and I remember sitting in a bar at SFO around 11pm, waiting for my flight to board, and drafting release materials in a WordCamp-induced haze.”

This year, Boone will be talking about why it is both prudent and feasible for WordPress freelancers and small business owners to contribute to WordPress and other related free software projects. Despite being a free software advocate himself, Boone stresses that the presentation will be non-idealogical. “The truth is that  people susceptible to Stallman-type arguments probably don’t need any convincing to contribute to the cause of free software,” he says “The people who need convincing are those who are more concerned with profits than with philosophy, and its to those people that I’ll really be addressing my talk.”

Boone will talk about strategies that enable freelancers to contribute to the project in a sustainable. He’s put together some interesting stats about the project’s contributor base:

I’ll have much more to say during the presentation itself, but I’ll tease it with this observation: WordPress powers some 20%+ of all web sites. Yet WordPress itself is built (even when we understand “built” quite broadly) by just a few hundred people. When such a huge economic burden is placed on such a small number of individuals, it puts the entire system in danger. For this reason, I humbly suggest that my presentation is super important and unmissable for every person who relies on WordPress in any way at all.

(Featured Image CC License webmatter – thanks! 🙂 )