Today marks the 11th Anniversary of WordPress being unleashed upon the world. I’ve personally been working with it for about six years, since the summer of 2008. While my first sites are not online anymore, I remember that they weren’t that great. The struggle to get started with using WordPress was great for me in the beginning.
There wasn’t as large of a community built around WordPress in 2008. I didn’t even know that there was much of one until 2011. I attended the first WordPress Roundtable (now WordPress Orlando) in the fall of 2011, and by the third meeting I was organizing speakers, setting up events, and doing a few talks of my own. I’ve got an awesome team around me, including James Tryon, Jean Perpillant and Carol Gann, as well as some newer faces that are stepping into leadership roles. The community has grown since then to include a website and Facebook group, as well as two or three events per month. As of writing, we’re about a month off from hitting 1000 members, making us the second largest tech meetup in Central Florida!
In January of 2009 I began to leverage the web design training I’d been practicing since early high school, and started my own freelance business, Orange Blossom Media. I started out with static websites and basic dynamic design, but it took a while before I made WordPress the tool of choice, after learning some PHP to go along with the HTML and CSS. In December of 2012 I quit my current job of the time, incorporated the company and haven’t looked back. I’ve now got a team that I work with, and we’re looking to add a few people over the coming months.
In 2012 I also started working on organizing WordCamp Orlando. The event was a huge success in my mind, considering it was my first go-round with this type of event. Since then I’ve attended a dozen camps around the country, and love using them as work vacations. WordCamp Orlando 2013 was even bigger, adding 100 attendees, an extra day and about twenty more speakers. I’m already excited for 2014, which is going to be a year of slower growth due to venue choice, but is still going to be a huge step forward.
WordPress has helped me to make a life around doing the things that I like to do, namely teaching, consulting and building for the web. The community is amazing and helpful, and they all deserve support and respect for helping to foster something larger than any one individual. The fact that we can throw events for a piece of software, as well as have a highly attended party just celebrating it’s existence is a sign that it’s something that many of us are passionate about. I thank you WordPress, and all that you have given me through the past few years. I look forward to helping you celebrate many more birthdays in the future.