I began my web development journey way back in 1996, during the days of Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer 2. To be honest, it still makes me shudder to think about how primitive everything was.
But it was also new and exciting, and I felt drawn to the information superhighway that was going to change the world.
I was living in Alaska at the time, slinging fish in a salmon cannery during the summers. I was more than ready for a career change. I don’t regret that time at all though.
It was a character building experience. Everybody should work in a factory or do some other grueling labor at least once in their lives. I learned a lot, met some great people, and spent time in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
But the blush was decidedly off the rose, and it was time for something new. I packed my meager possessions into my trusty VW bus and hit the road. I had a month to explore Alaska before my final summer in the cannery. I needed to make some funds to finance my move south.
My plan was to move down to the San Francisco Bay Area, the hotbed of the burgeoning dotcom scene. At that time almost everybody was scrambling to build a website. If you could spell HTML and had a little bit of experience, somebody would put you to work.
I did some interning (slave labor) and took classes at the SF State College of Extended Learning. I had the dream of living on a boat in the bay, so I also worked full time at a yacht brokerage in Alameda to pay the bills. It was here that I met the Arethusa, who was to be my home and creative outlet for the next nineteen years. Loved that girl.
I landed my first paying web job at a startup in San Francisco in ’97. I worked there for about a year learning the ropes before moving on to a corporate contract gig at Autodesk. They’re one of the biggest software companies in the world, and this was a new and exciting experience for me. The money was pretty cool too, at least by my standards at the time.
It was at Autodesk that I started working with Vignette StoryServer. StoryServer was an industrial strength content management system first developed for CNET to manage their publishing. Vignette is no longer around, but they developed one of the earliest dynamic publishing platforms.
Storyserver was quite expensive, and geared towards large organizations. I worked as a Vignette consultant for both Sybase and TechTV for several years after AutoDesk. But I’m not a 9 to 5, go to the office everyday kind of guy, so this was not really my cup of tea.
Luckily, it was about this time that WordPress came onto the scene, and the rest is history. I think the web should lower barriers to entry. Working for huge corporations, while easy money, did not fit the bill. I’d rather help small businesses and nonprofits leverage the internet.
I became a WordPress aficionado back in 2005, and have used it for most everything I’ve built since then. It’s not the best solution for everybody. But if you’re looking for a free platform with the capability to do pretty much anything a website can do, it’s a great choice.