May 27, 2013

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Happy 10th Birthday, WordPress

WordPress turns ten years old today and that’s celebrated across the world (see #wp10 on Twitter and the WP10 site for more). Unfortunately I’m not joining the festivities, despite there being quite a few events in Sweden. Instead I’m stuck at home putting the finishing touches to a very long day, the first of several this week.

Before I turn my attention elsewhere, someplace offline, I did want to write a little something about the world’s dominant CMS, and what’ve paid most of my bills the past few years.

I stumpled onto WordPress early. I used to roll my own platforms, with the help of people more talented than me, and publish videogame sites in Swedish. But I never came to terms with relying on other people’s free time and good will, and I never did get comfortable with all the help I got for free. It was nice and necessary, something we all did together, a bunch of kids making a dent in cyberspace, but in the end I always knew that it was neither sustainable nor fair should costs and money threaten to gain control. I’d been down that road before, and lost a friend because of it. 

The classic W logo, snatched from the official website

And there was WordPress. I’m very good at bending things to my liking. Not spoons, forks, nor sporks, but open source software, that’s my magic power. Blogging wasn’t on my mind when I set out to launch one of Sweden’s largest videogame sites on WordPress – I saw something different. To me it was always about publishing content, what you called it mattered little.

WordPress 1.5 and the Ultimate Tag Warrior plugin, along with some creative theming, proved to be one hell of a CMS. Of course I needed a powerful server to keep the site up when the traffic surged, but cache plugins came along, and WordPress got better. I grew with it, so did the implementations and solutions.

My background as a developer is chaotic. I’m a content guy first, a concept guy second, and a designer and developer only by necessity. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy building things, it’s just not my approach to a problem, but the solution.

Maybe that’s why I wrote that piece on using WordPress as a CMS for Devlounge. It wasn’t comprehensive or anything, nor a huge how-to, or a linkbaity list of things. I was just sharing what I’d learned the past few years running a major site on WordPress. Frankly, I thought it a bit weird that nobody else were talking about this type of usage.

The CMS piece hit a nerve, and Matt Mullenweg was kind enough to link it. I believe he wrote something along the lines with “we need more posts like this“, which I was happy to read.

The email from Chris Webb at John Wiley & Sons was also a delightful read. He wondered if I’d be interested in writing a book about WordPress, and thus the Smashing WordPress series was born.

I’ve done a lot of things over the years. My first international freelance gig was as a contributor to the Blog Herald, headhunted by then editor-in-chief Matt Craven, as a result of my second blog post on my first ever English blog was published. A lot of the things I wrote for the Blog Herald, and later Devlounge, 901am, BloggerTalks and Wisdump, would be related to WordPress in some way. My writing about blogging, tech, and WordPress paid the bills for several years. While I was covering the beat, I was also rebuilding and redesigning the sites I worked for, because they needed it and I figured I was the best guy for the job. Learning by doing is great, especially if you have a few hundred thousand eyeballs pointing out your mistakes.

The books about WordPress, the blog posts, all the articles and columns I’ve written for publications both online and in print, and the Odd Alice web agency – all this was made possible thanks to the open source CMS that turns ten years old today. I try to give back, by organizing WordCamps and events, release code, fund related projects, help people with problems, and just make the web a better and more open place. It will never be enough though, as long as I’m in this game I’ll be in WordPress’s debt.

I would like to extend my thanks to Matt, and every contributor to WordPress, both to the core and to all the excellent themes and plugins that have helped people over the years. WordPress is great thanks to its contributors, and to its community. Sure, we fight sometimes, but it’s only because we care, right?

So happy birthday WordPress. Let’s hope you’re around for another ten years, OK?

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.