My WordPress Origin Story And Why It Matters

Here's how I started, then promptly stopped, calling myself an "Expert."  Creative Commons Image Attribution.
Here’s how I started, then promptly stopped, calling myself an “Expert.”
Creative Commons Image Attribution.
Last week I wrote a post helping folks to vet potential WordPress developers.

Lest my developer friends think I am being two-faced, I thought it best to follow up with my origin story, for reference.

I’ve been the theme-tweaking developer I publicly shamed in my previous post. But I’m not much good at fast-talking slick salesmanship.

It’s lots of us second-career developers’ origin story. We were tasked with putting together a website for someone, found WordPress, kicked the tires a bit, and made the first DIY website we’d ever seen that was not terrible. It wasn’t good. It just wasn’t terrible.

So we bought the developer’s license to the Thesis 1.x framework which somehow inexplicably gave us without having to pay again, and a drag/drop(ish) interface for making WordPress sites. It was a high enough bar that it couldn’t be replicated by our target market, but by no means a high one. The techiest we ever got was having to add some code to our functions.php file, and there was always some to copy and paste on a forum somewhere.

If we were savvy enough, we could make a decent living from that point, without ever having to learn anything else. It’s the beauty of WordPress.

I can’t be sure, but I may have even referred to myself as an “expert” at that point.

I wasn’t savvy (or tenacious, or something) enough, so though I got to a point where people would pay me to make sites, I was never making all of my living from development. Then I made the mistake of continuing to learn.

See, had I pivoted away from the development side and into the marketing side of web design, I may have been able to continue blissfully unaware of how little I actually knew about WordPress, the community, or development in general.

I’ve always been a learner though, and soon enough I peeked from behind the curtain of Thesis and it’s hide-the-code philosophy and stuck a toe into the actual code that is holding up the whole affair.

I’m not exactly certain of the timeline, but it goes something like

  • Read something Otto wrote →
  • Read something Ipstenu wrote →
  • Immediately stop calling myself an expert →
  • Cobble together a plugin for a specific client need →
  • Release that plugin on the official .org repo →
  • Start trying to figure out enough code to call myself an expert again →
  • Read something else Otto wrote →
  • Go to a WordCamp developer’s track and watch the lingo fly over my head →
  • Come home with a three page document of terms to Google →
  • Join slack and sit through several meetings afraid to ever speak up →
  • Happily give up on ever calling myself an expert →
  • Volunteer to help a few people with their code on github →
  • Release another plugin →
  • Nothing has blown up as a result of my plugins after “1000+ active installs” on each of them.

See, I’m by no means the best WordPress Developer on the block, but I’ve started to learn how little I know, and I’ve contributed to the community, which puts me in the top 1% according to this great article.

...You are not dealing (any longer) with a guy just in this open-source game because it's cheaper. Share on XThat’s why this matters. For the client hiring me to set up a backup or maintenance plan for their WordPress site, it’s important to know that you are not dealing (any longer) with a guy who is just in this open-source game because it’s cheaper. I’m here to actually contribute to this product which has essentially already made good on its promise to democratize publishing.

For too long I’ve been a freeloader, or at least ignorant of the community supporting this thing with hours upon hours of free labor. It’s time to pay my dues.

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