Ten Years Later…

In January 2006, WordPress was just another web script at a time when most websites were custom built. In fact, most of the websites I built back then were custom scripts written in PHP, Perl and more other languages than I care to remember.

A few days earlier, a friend called asking if I wanted to take over teaching his Internet Communications class at OSU for journalism students. My first response was, “They want to pay how much?” But then, after talking to some friends, I decided to do it. Thus, 10 years ago today, I started using WordPress professionally.

Previously, the class had been a way to learn Dreamweaver, Photoshop and a bunch of Adobe products for which the school owned a site license. I decided to make it about learning a content management system (WordPress), HTML and CSS along with those Adobe products.

I made the students use TextWrangler — a darned awesome text editor even now — to write basic code. Instead of the book on using Dreamweaver that was required for the class before, I made them buy a good reference on HTML and CSS from O’Reilly and at least learn a few basic elements and styles. Those would be skills that if they chose to learn them would be useful today. Does anyone still use Dreamweaver?

The class was small — 20 students at the start — and in the first week I set up installations of WordPress on a hand–me–down Mac running Mac OS X, Apache and PHP for each of them. Their instructions were to come up with a subject for their website, 17 weeks of content — written, audio, video or graphic — and a design where they would create a customer header, tweak the colors, choose the fonts, etc. If they did all that, they’d get no worse than a C.

We struggled — they and I — to make sense of the whole thing. I struggled for five semesters, ultimately guiding 77 students through creating a website from inception to completion. Others have now created similar courses, but 10 years ago there was nothing like this. I got over my fear of public speaking.

Other than that class, I’d guess that I’ve personally built a few hundred WordPress sites in the 10 years since. Sometimes, I haven’t used it as it was intended, but instead, have used it’s natural organization to create things like this archive, a collection of more than 150K essays, a collection of children’s books, a newspaper archive of 40K stories, a collection of concert photos and videos, and a lot more. It’s basically how I’ve made my living for the better part of these 10 years.

WordPress has done pretty well too. It had a tiny portion of the content management system with probably fewer than one millions sites at the start of 2006. It’s now approaching 100 million sites worldwide and it’s hard to find a media site that isn’t using WordPress in one way or another.

When people ask me what I do for a living, I’m going to start telling them that I publish. And that I do that using WordPress. It’s a lot better than perishing. Thank you Matt Mullenweg and Automattic.