My Story

My WordPress Involvement, Meeting Matt Mullenweg, Working for High Profile Clients and Community Involvement

Just like many members of the WordPress Community, my story and journey with WordPress is very interesting, including Meeting Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress and as I look back, a lot of events as part of my WordPress History. All of this really ends up telling quite a tale, so I decided to make a post out of it!

INDEX

History of WordPress

The story and History of WordPress and how it came to be what it is today is very interesting. Basically, two users who were writing on and contributing to a project called B2 Cafe Log.

Matt has always been a voracious writer and back in that day, he was working on and thinking about forward compatibility with B2 Cafe Log.

Michel Valdrighi started the project somewhere around 2001 and aside from a few contributors like Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, he was largely taking on the burden of supporting this project on his own, was suffering burnout and also had a full time job and it just became too much for him, so he had to slow the amount of time he was able to put into the project.

Given B2 Cafe Log was Open Source, Matt and Mike Little decided to fork the project and take on the continuance of it into the future and ultimately ended up building a community around it. The start of this was around 2003.

Matt has his roots in CNET (I ran a CNET BBS way back when I was a kid) and he still talks about his Geocities days in his speeches. I’m one of those who has fond memories of these old platforms as well, harkening to the days I started with Microsoft FrontPage, Dreamweaver and MySpace. We definitely have that type of nostalgia in common! (he now runs WordPress.com, Tumblr and Automattic.

Mike has always been continually involved in WordPress, including working for large companies like Human Made and his company Zed1.

Getting My Start with WordPress

These were somewhat design basic sites, but remember, this was 2005

I got started with WordPress 4 years after the fork in 2007…after starting with regular HTML sites around 2005. I was looking for something that made handling the tens to hundreds of thousands of content pages more manageable.

For many years, I was a struggling site developer, helping people with WordPress and setting their sites up as quite a few people tuned into WordPress. It was the only thing in the internet environment that allowed people the ease of taking advantage of being able to get content on Google without having to do a whole lot of coding and html.

I started with my own group of sites that I was running, primarily as a Hotels.com partner, but I also had a free videos site, back when videos weren’t really that accessible or available. YouTube had just started and wasn’t in any way popular. I brought in content across a variety of categories with everything from funny videos to informative ones. It was sort of like a mini homegrown YouTube. In the heyday, this site had over 100k posts, all being updated several times a day and all free. On the travel site, I would target events and geotarget hotels available during large special events.

I was in Florida at the time and ended up offering my services to those with WordPress sites at the time (it was still a newer phenomenon at this time, but highly sought after for the SEO benefits in comparison to other CMS systems (as WordPress was making its transition from a purely blogging platform. I ended up heading out west as most of the clients I would get were located there and in the United Kingdom. I’ve never been one doing a lot of local business, it’s always been spread out across the United States and UK.

Some of the highlights of this period were working for a producer of Snoop Dogg, Katy Perry (and Electronic Music Legend Kaskade), a large Display and Events company called Southwest Displays and Events (now SWX Global Design) (big clients like Nespresso, Sony, Peterbilt Trucks, Fossil Watches, AT&T) (working with owner Brian Cree and two innovators in the display industry, Derek Dewberry and Kevin Beck (Throttle Exhibits) and a builder of really nice fireplaces, Bonfire.co.uk as well as a UK based business working with large sheet metal projects, MetalOffCuts. I also worked with a company called Simple Team Solutions, which later turned into Red Bucket Strategies. This is the company that wrote training information and employee programs at the inception and early days of Starbucks Coffee!

I also got to work with financial strategist Lloyd Williams, Sales Success Coach Robert Stover and strategic and innovation consultant Andrew Papageorge (founder of the GapZip program, the Next You book and the GoInnovate! Innovation Guide (and Blair Ghiringhelli who went on to become an executive assistant at Zillow) I also continued working with the two rockstars from Red Bucket, Greg Wingard and Barry Napier.

There wasn’t a ton of money in this industry at the time, but I would continually get different jobs and continue something I knew well with accomplishments that others in the industry that were not producing at the time and I ended up knowing the platform almost inside and out. Being a one man show comes with its own set of challenges, mainly you can only do so much and at some point reach your burnout point…then start the same cycle, over and over.

I feel very blessed to have been able to cut my teeth in this industry with these incredible innovators. Wow, we made eBooks, multisites, social networks, member sites, product showcases and so much more.

I didn’t attend WordCamps or go to Meetups, but always had interest. I was very much involved online with the Community and even had my own community oriented website, but finding the time given my hectic life to go to WordCamps and participate in a more tangible face to face fashion was always a challenge I couldn’t overcome. Although being caught up in the struggles of life, due to the blessings of the internet, I was able to follow what was going on at these WordCamp events on Twitter and started tuning in when they were still being held in San Francisco every year. It just seemed like such a vibrant event and although not being there, I was able to interact with people attending these events.

Years of Hard Work Lead me to the Community in Philadelphia

After experiencing a little more stability in my life, I was able to save up enough to go to the WordCamp 2015 in Philadelphia. It was my first WordCamp and for a first, it was a WordCamp US (and the first one held outside of San Francisco)! (most people start at the Meetup Groups, end up going to a regional event and then ultimately attending a WordCamp US…I just jumped right in). Those that know me know that I am very into Virtual Reality and this is where I actually picked up my first Google Cardboard from a vendor representing a company in Japan. (unrelated in a way, but a key point in my history)

Some of the project highlights here were working on existing sites of AdvancedAV and Diakont Energy Solutions.

Working at San Diego State

Fast forward to when I was hired as a WordPress tech for a project called ReadyStrong (this is when I had met up with innovator David Henderman, (a leader in Operational Security and Open Source Intelligence), first working remotely, then moving into utilizing some space at San Diego State University on this cooperative project. They were gracious enough to fund my attendance at WordCamp Philadelphia 2016 and I was on the road to being more involved with these events. I ultimately became the Senior Developer for this project, which transitioned into Intelligent Social Media and moved to Louisville, KY. We worked on some incredible projects centered around EMS and Emergency Management. I worked long and late hours and you can see it in my eyes…

Working at the San Diego State University VizCenter

San Diego State Visualization Center

I Find My Way to Louisville, KY

Fast forward to serving as Senior Developer for Intelligent Social Media (the project moved to Louisville, KY and ended up having a similar relationship as with San Diego State University, but connecting with a program with the University of Louisville Speed School of Engineering, (so we moved forward with working with them in an integrated fashion). In this case, they (ISM) had interest in having a representative attend and graciously extended both the time and money to finance an additional trip for WordCamp Nashville the same year, 2016.

During this total time (about 4 years), we produced about 7 IOS and Android Apps, many standup collaborative networks and even participated in Federal Emergency Management exercises while conducting countless pilots with high levels of the military, government and NGOs. We also participated in the North American trials and integration of an app primarily utilized by the United Nations overseas for emergency management imaging retrieval over satellite networks.

This was a great experience for me as I got to work with two University teams at this time, the San Diego State VizCenter team and the University of Louisville Speed School of Engineering. So much so that this has been an inspiration for an upstart student integration project, Innovation Project Spaces of North America, where I am presently personally involved in consulting and developing the concept.

Nashville Regional, the Fun that Spawned a 2 Year Run

It was a regional event and held in Nashville, TN. I was working in Louisville, KY for Intelligent Social Media (as the project moved there) and hopped on a bus (yes, a bus) and took an hour and a half ride to Nashville.

This was super fun and this is where I really got the bug to want to be more involved in these events (although I already sort of had it from the experiences in Philadelphia). In my day to day life, I would mention WordPress and people knew about it, but few were really all that passionate about it. Upon finding these events, I found the passionate ones. I felt connected to people who I already followed and knew about and got to meet some of them.

We had an amazing time. The after party for the event was so fun and so packed with people that we exceeded the budget, which called for an “emergency call” to the foundation, who graciously stepped up and allowed the event to go on as long as people wanted to be there.

Regional WordCamp Nashville the year before the two WordCamp US conferences held there.

WordCamp US 2017 in Nashville, TN

Intelligent Social Media then funded my participation at WordCamp Nashville in 2017. This was an absolute hoot. I was sort of on my own here, but quickly met lots of folks and had a great time.

Working at Behla Design

So super fast forward from this, moved back to San Diego and was fortunate enough to connect with Los Angeles based WordPress Designer Andrew Behla. I ended up working with him for 2 years across some really neat clients managing projects and doing light development tasks (as he had a full-time developer that I was able to work with to accomplish some really incredible things).

These are just a few of the many projects worked on while there.

SEE MORE AND SOME OF MY UPDATED WORK IN MY GALLERY

Los Angeles, San Diego Regional WordCamps, AdvancedWP Meetup Group

Somewhere in this period, we managed to attend the regional WordCamps in both San Diego and Los Angeles. These were both great events and I ended up getting involved in the local Meetup WordPress Group, at that time, the group had also established their presence as AdvancedWP on Facebook and that group ended up and still is a fantastic resource for people Worldwide on advanced WordPress topics.

Let’s Go Back to Nashville for WordCamp US 2018

Again, as a super gracious gesture, Andrew further funded our trip to the WordCamp US Nashville WordCamp. We had a great time, got to see a show in the Grand Ole Opry (original) theater and really immersed ourselves in all of the activities of the WordCamp (pretty sure we went to about every vendor party)

WordPress.org Docs Team

I had already been participating in the WordPress.org Docs Team and got to participate in the Contributor Day. This was great as all of the sudden, there I was, working along side people who I had followed and idolized for many years, actually collaboratively working and just having a good time.

WordPress Docs Team Coffee Hour

Meeting Matt Mullenweg

It was here that I got to meet Matt at the Adventure Science Center, which was were the afterparty for the WordCamp was held. This was a super exciting moment in my WordPress history. I give Matt a lot of credit, he’s similar to me in the fact that he doesn’t give up and despite facing some backlash about the multi-year Gutenberg integration endeavor, we discussed how it was a lot of work and I gave him congratulations for all the things that he’s done. It was really nice to have had an opportunity to have been able to have done this. In addition to being a founder of WordPress, Matt is also founder of Automattic who operates WordPress.com and the owner of the social network Tumblr, amongst investing in many other things internet.

Meeting Matt Mullenweg and My WordPress History

Back to Being an Independent Designer and Developer

Eventually, I ended up going back on my own doing site design, development, fixes, same things I’ve always been doing.

This had it’s ups and downs, but I had kept on working with the Docs Team (albeit it somewhat sparingly due to time constraints)

Let’s Organize a WordCamp in San Diego

WordCamp San Diego 2020, the show that didn't go on unfortunately.

I additionally joined our local WordPress Regional WordCamp Organizer Team. I was working on both volunteer organization and setting up a get involved with WordPress table where we would have well known contributors helping people understand how to get involved with the Open Source project. This was a really great opportunity and fun endeavor with a lot of great people and was all going along really well…then…Covid. You can see what never was, but could have been on the WordCamp San Diego 2020 website.

And with Covid, unfortunately, all WordCamps at that point were halted by the WordPress Foundation. This was for good cause, but a little bit frustrating as we were really at the tail end of the planning stages, had a venue, had a budget, had a plan and…stop.

Business as Usual, More Site Development

So after this, I kept on doing the same thing as always, helping people and companies with their sites, but unfortunately found myself to some form of health problems near the end of the major Covid closedown period (not related to Covid, but some things that catch up to you as you get older)

WordCamp US Comes Back Online in San Diego

So as pretty much an incredible gesture, the first WordCamp US popped back up out of the blue, right in San Diego! Maybe they felt bad for us that we tried so hard on our organization endeavors. Unfortunately, I was knee deep in the health issues at that time and didn’t get a ticket and by the time I was ready to, there weren’t any left. WordCamp had been halted so long, I think the demand was pretty feverish.

Coming down to the wire, I contacted somebody who I had some previous dealings with that was on the organizer team offering to volunteer, only to be told that no more volunteers would be needed (even though even offering my truck to cart things around) (I really wasn’t too happy about that, but we’ll save that discussion for another day)

As a die hard, at first I figured maybe I’ll just show up and probably just be let in (a light form of storming the door) (I actually got this idea from a European friend that I worked with at Contributor Day and on the Docs Team), but I figured maybe that might not be so elegant.

VR Replica of WordCamp US San Diego

So I got this idea that, hey, maybe there were other people who were in the same boat or would just like to experience what the WordCamp was like. Since I still wasn’t 100% health wise anyways (an all day event probably would have been tough anyhow), I decided to go out and photograph the venue with my 360 camera (as I’m blessed with some pretty high forms of immersive hardware, that being one of them).

You can see it here and walk all around the venue and to the different rooms (on a computer, mobile or in VR): WordCamp 2022 VR watch party

I ended up replicating the entire venue to VR (virtual reality) and connecting different areas of the venue and hosting a watch party type thing where you could basically walk around the entire event in VR. This WordCamp San Diego VR experience is still there! (on Spatial.io where I had set it up) (VR, mobile, desktop)

This wasn’t the first VR WordCamp experience, there had been one before, but it was not so much centered around a photo-realistic replica of the event, but rather more centered on the community and connection features.

So this passed and I still do wish I got to go to the actual camp, but streaming in some of the Live Streams from the event and meeting people actually in a replica of the event really was something really fun.

State of the Word VR Watch Party

In a sort of follow-up, I hosted an unofficial State of the Word 2022 watch party in an arena type venue (in VR, mobile, desktop). I still keep this venue open for miscellaneous watch parties and a meta presence on the internet and in VR.

My WordPress VR arena for collaborating on all things WordPress

Fast Forward to the Present

So here we are now, I’ve been continuing independent design and development, building sites, optimizing user interface, repairing broken sites and working on WooCommerce customizations.

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with probably what is hundreds of sites at this point through all these different endeavors, so through the ups and downs of the platform, I’ve somehow found myself as part of the many people who are the history of WordPress.

State of the Word 2023 and the Next WordCamp US in Portland, Oregon

State of the Word 2023 just happened in Spain and the next WordCamp US location has been announced as Portland, Oregon September 16 – 19, 2024.

Here’s hoping that all my cards will be aligned in order to attend. Much like Matt, I’m unlucky in cards sometimes too, but feel really good about how things are going presently and looking forward to a hoppin 2024!

The many projects I’ve worked on really tell the rest of the tale here, everything from the Ring Doorbell blog to open source intelligence to an app used by the United Nations to an arts grant recipient through the Carnegie Foundation. Companies and organizations of all sizes from huge to independent operators.. It’s been quite a run, all centered around the WordPress open source platform and relationships I’ve been fortunate to make with innovators big and small! It’s really not possible at this point to list them all!

If you’ve gotten this far in the post, I truly appreciate you reading and taking an interest in learning about me.

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