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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.