My WordPress journey and why it’s time to change

I had a turbulent time in my teens after losing my Mum to an alcohol-related illness when I was 16 years old. To cut a long story short my career started as a trainee chef, hence my passion for creating culinary delights, partly down to my upbringing in the Mediterranean. I’m particularly interested in making bread especially pizza, as I’m sure you may have noticed if we are connected on social media! I also like to make full mash beers from time to time.

Back to my working journey… although I love to cook, as a chef I wasn’t settled so with a little help from my father I enrolled in a rather expensive computer programming course studying C programming. I never completed the course but it did give me a basic understanding that was to come in very handy later on in my career. Having a creative mind I managed to find employment that enrolled me into college studying Graphics and Communications. My long term career path settled when I started working for local design agencies in Cheltenham and around Gloucestershire. So my background really is in graphic design and typography or at least that is pretty much where it started.

After many years in graphics, logo and brochure design and eventually the natural step into freelance independence I started to self re-educate myself in code again during the late ’90s, I used to build static web pages with Dreamweaver using tables before I discovered CSS and tableless layouts. After building a couple of websites for myself I soon became interested in providing clients and myself with something more dynamic, something that was easier to change and manage content. I actually touched on B2 before trying WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and crossing over to the dark side of .net, no offence to any .net programmers of course 🙂

During the late noughties, I soon noticed a rise in popularity within the WordPress community. Things called meet-ups started happening, bigger things called WordCamps started getting mentioned. This community seemed vibrant, exciting and incredibly open as well as giving, something that I wasn’t used to working in the design industry and the agency environment I was accustomed to. I remember listening to a podcast called WP Candy hosted by Ryan Imel and later co-hosted with Brad Williams and Dre Armeda that ended up seeing the birth of the DradCast. There used to be a section on the podcast where the hosts would welcome suggestions from listeners, tools, tips and tricks or things that the listeners had built. I submitted a couple of my own WordPress tips and creations and got a mention about one of them, although, I can’t remember if the mention was on WPCandy or the DradCast now!

Update: Found it and I was totally wrong! It was on WP Late Night

Why did I get a mention? Well, one thing I created was an online advent calendar using _s, I built this thing just in time for Christmas 2012 and it allowed users to subscribe to the RSS feed and get the released WordPress code snippets daily until Christmas day, it was pretty cool and I got some neat contributions submitted by some prominent developers at the time, it also got featured on WPTavern which was super cool to me and still is if I’m honest.

As this community grew this thing happened in London, I’m not sure if it was the first WordCamp but I went along to it anyway in 2013… I was blown away, not only did I get to see and hear what my peers had to say but I got to meet a whole bunch of people I was connected with on Twitter – virtual friends that I wouldn’t have ever expected to meet in person but hey that was how Twitter was back in the day I guess. I was hooked on WordPress anyway but attending this WordCamp really fired me up for more, I wanted to learn more and honestly I couldn’t get enough of it!

Inspired by all this good stuff I purchased books, subscribed to blogs and podcasts, went to local meetups to meet other users and developers, purely to absorb as much information as I could, this community was so giving it was almost like there wasn’t anything I couldn’t find out or get help on with some kind of problem I was having. Over the years it made me feel kind of guilty as I felt I was taking more than I was giving. Being aware of this I wanted to give something back. I wasn’t sure what or how I was going to give back given that I was so busy working nine-to-seven, five or six days a week. I tried to blog a few times to try and share with others but it wasn’t really as much as I was taking from the community.

I attended the Bristol and Birmingham meetups a few times but wanted to do something closer to home and this was the time I started to think hmmm, how about a Cheltenham meetup, not knowing that it would really happen at all! So moving forward to 2015 I met somebody at WordCamp London and mentioned it would be really nice to have a meet up in Cheltenham. Some years later I bumped into the same person at WordCamp Bristol in May 2017 and the following November the WordPress meetup in Cheltenham was born and the rest is history.

We have a small yet lovely growing community of people all interested in the same things, the biggest challenge is getting speakers but I don’t think I’m alone as an organiser here, seems that this is the hardest thing for all organisers but hey, we like a challenge don’t we!

This year a few of us attended WordCamp 2019 and the focus was very much about the content. It’s been obvious to me for a long time that just building websites isn’t what the Internet is all about, especially given the power and flexibility WordPress gives us to publish content on the Internet. It’s become so important to have a voice and share our opinions in order to create debate and challenge people these days, especially in the current climate. The Internet isn’t just about creating online businesses or creating addictive apps for collecting users data, it’s also about sharing ideas and opinions and publishing content.

So why is it time to change? Well, as I said, the community has given me so much more than I have given over the years, I’ve always wanted to blog more so now it’s about time. I think now is about the right time to do it given the focus on content at this years WordCamp in London.

Now I’m no speaker, I’m a little bit shy and awkward at times, I’m mildly introverted, so mingling with people is a bit of a struggle to me at times but given how welcoming the WordPress community is and purely the power that WordPress gives us with the ability to publish content in words, why not publish those words and knowledge to help others if I can. If this helps somebody in some way then great, if it challenges someone in some way still good, if it helps me to learn from others then how great is that! I can’t think of any better way than to learn from others through debate and how you can do that by publishing content, so this is my reason for a change.

I’ve been promising this for a long time and now I’m going to do it. I will continue to push myself as a speaker and the host of the local meetups, I will continue to attend WordCamps, but my mindset is changed and I’m fired up for this so now is a good a time as any.

So let’s do this!

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5 Comments

    1. Thanks Lee, hope to see you at the meetup sometime, would be good to finally meet face to face 🙂

  1. Always very interesting to hear someone’s journey. Yours is quite similar to mine but leave out the chef bit. I would say that your future plans are good ones. The WordPress community is so welcoming that it allows you to learn along the way. Go for it!

    1. Not sure about leaving the chef bit out Janice, I think from memory I’ve seen that you can create a bit of a mean chopped salad no? 🙂

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