Today, 15th of June, 2015 is exactly ten years since I discovered this little software called WordPress. Ten years is a long time, yet I remember the day ever so vividly — as if it were just a day ago — because of other incidents that were happening in my little life at the time.

At the time, I was working as a Cellular Network Planning & Optimization Engineer with Ghana Telecom (this was before the Vodafone theft takeover), during the reign of the Norwegians (Telekom Malaysia had just been kicked out, and Telenor of Norway had been brought in to manage the network), with managerial oversight over swapping the then ONEtouch GSM radio network in the five southernmost regions of Ghana — Greater Accra, Volta, Central, Western and Eastern — from Motorola to Alcatel.

But my discovery of WordPress had nothing to do with my day job though. Alongside my professional RF career, I’d been teaching myself website design, and had been building free websites for friends and local NGOs using Mambo CMS. (I’m not sure which I was worse at at the time: design or persuasion; maybe I was terribly bad at both — or perhaps I was too far ahead of the time — as I couldn’t convince a single local newspaper to accept a free website. Oscar Ugoh, are you still in Ghana, and is BusinessWeek Africa still alive?)

And then bam! The Mambo thing happened. Even as a rookie web developer, back in 2005, I could see trouble brewing ahead and I certainly couldn’t see any bright light at the end of the Mambo tunnel. So while people far wiser and smarter than me were busy re-organizing themselves to create a fork of Mambo (which became Joomla), I started looking for a new CMS I could count on to keep my pet projects running. In the process I discovered WordPress.

The Early Days

The first WordPress version I used was 1.5, code-named “Strayhorn” after American Jazz composer, pianist and lyricist Williams Thomas “Billy” Strayhorn. I don’t remember which domain I built this first WordPress website on, but it couldn’t have been this site because it was not until November 14th that I purchased my namesake domain name.

George Appiah's profile at WordPress.org
George Appiah’s profile on WordPress.org (I lost access to my first account and had to create a new one, hence the October 17th, 2005 date)

WordPress 1.5 had the simple administrator dashboard shown below. There  were those who felt this simplicity was too limiting; but for me this  simplicity was a welcome relief from the kludge of confusing menus and  submenus that I was used to, coming from Mambo.

screenshot of WordPress 1.5 editor
WordPress version 1.5 aka "Strayhorn"

Memorable Themes

In my ten year journey with WordPress, I’ve used dozens of themes for  my own websites and for the few client projects that I’ve had the  privilege to work on. But two themes that have a permanent place in my  rather limited memory are Kubrick by Michael Heilemann (of BinaryBonsai.com) and Trisexuality by Scott Jarkoff (aka Jarkolicious).

Kubrick was originally developed for WordPress 1.2, but became the  default theme shipped with WordPress 1.5. If you have been around  WordPress and blogging for a while, you’re probably familiar with the  famous and ubiquitous blog design below. Huffington Post described  Kubrick as “the Blog Theme That Changed the Internet”, and rightly so.

Screenshot of WordPress Kubrik theme
Kubrik, an early WordPress Theme 

I can’t say for sure whether it’s the name, the colors or the rather  unusual (at the time) layout that attracted me most to Trisexuality. But whatever the attraction was, it was strong enough for me to have kept a  non-default theme on GeorgeAppiah.com for nearly 5 months (a record for  me!) and to still remember my fondness for this theme though I stopped  using it nearly ten years ago.

Screenshot of early WordPress Theme TriSexuality
TriSexuality, an early WordPress Theme

Reflections

When I started using WordPress, I could neither code nor design well  enough to save my own life (I still can’t, but I’m better now than I was  back then, and I’ve become even better at hiding my shortcomings 🙂);  and as I didn’t know enough about the software, I couldn’t even  contribute in the areas of documentation and support.

But WordPress was changing so rapidly at the time that every update broke nearly all the existing themes and plugins. So for each new version, we had to manually test individual themes and  plugins and maintain plugin and theme compatibility lists – wiki pages  showcasing which themes and plugins worked with the particular version  of WordPress. This was the only area I could contribute, as I knew how to install WordPress and I had a lot of time on my hands.

Ten years on, I do regret that I haven’t made any meaningful  contribution to WordPress, beyond using it for every website I build and  telling everyone and their dogs (sometimes even their cats too!) to use  it. And while I owe every line of PHP, HTML, CSS and JavaScript that I  know to WordPress, I find it inexcusably appalling that, even though I  use WordPress every single day, I haven’t committed myself to deep  enough study so as to gain confidence in my WordPress and coding  abilities.

Part of the reason for the above is my stubborn adherence to the  original career path I charted for myself early on, and my refusal to  follow any of the exciting forks in my career path that life has so  forcefully and benevolently opened up to me (more on that in future  posts).

So that’s my 10-year journey down the WordPress memory lane. I’m still at the fork in my career path, undecided as to which  direction to turn. Depending on which direction I turn, I may have  continue to be a passive user using WordPress for my own short-lived  projects, or WordPress will become my bread and butter — at which point  I’ll have no option but to learn to become a WordPress ninja and  contribute in a meaningful way to this amazing community.