Time flies. It’s hard to believe I’ve had some sort of web presence for 20 years. Wow I feel old. How about a trip down memory lane? The middle of my sophomore year in college was a pivotal time for me in life. I had two years of hard sciences under my belt with a tough decision to make. Did I want to spend the rest of my life working in large chemical plants optimizing processes as a chemical engineer? The answer to that fortunately was a resounding no.
The next step was an obvious one. I switched my degree from chemical engineering to computer science. Unfortunately, that meant I got to take a whole new set of weed-out classes designed to thin out the newcomers. Yay! What excited me about computer science was the rapid feedback loop, which occurs when developing software – particularly web-based software. The distance between a creative idea and a published work is very short in software and it’s one of the things I most enjoy about my trade.
The Early Days
In college, the computer science students had access to a special server that published content online. Once a day, an automated process copied your home folder out to production. If you didn’t get your content in on time, you had to wait until the next day. Learning HTML was fun for me. It was a simple language to develop content with which to communicate with the world. The first version of my website: The Exit Ramp. I’ve long had a love of travel and at some level, my web presence has reflected that.
Chasing the web
After college, I joined the Dreamweaver team at Macromedia. One of the big ways we tested the product was through scenario testing. We used Dreamweaver to build new web content or work on existing web content. That site I built in college turned out to be a great opportunity to test the product, A lot of the content remained the same, but the design changed significantly. Changing the design was a great way to learn new web standards and to test Dreamweaver. It was a great time being a part of the web. As new standards brought new coolness, we’d quickly integrated them into the product.
The big shift was moving my site from purely static HTML to a database-driven site. I had exposure to PHP in college but spent a fair chunk of time at work using PHP, CSS, and Dreamweaver. My first open-source project came out of this endeavor, PHP for UltraDev (PHP4UD) which later was integrated back into Dreamweaver MX.
Focusing on content
In the summer of 2005, my website took a significant turn. I was leaving on a motorcycle trip traveling about 3000 miles. I knew friends and family were worried if I’d be alive each day. I created a blog to record my experiences of traveling so that those at home could follow along and sleep well at night. It also marked the change in name from The Exit Ramp to The Daily Injection. I needed to write in each day to share the day’s adventures with my small but loyal fan base :).
Serendipity (s9y) was the platform of choice as it was easy to configure, ran well on my web host, and was code I didn’t have to write. It was the first PHP package I ran on my web host. Serendipity also marked a change in how I worked with my website. I didn’t have to do everything by hand. It now became about configuration, customization, and optimization of someone else’s code.
Note: I don’t have the visuals anymore that went with this site. It wasn’t near as ahem, structural, when live.
Joining the cool kids
After a few years of working with Serendipity, it became clear there is a new kid in town: WordPress. WordPress was the hot, new blogging platform that was gaining a lot of traction with organic support from the developer community – something Serendipity didn’t have. With a bit of luck using an awesome importer, a touch of CSS, and a bit searching for a theme to provide the right look and feel, I was on my way!
Going with a pro theme
WordPress has a thriving developer community that provides free and paid add-ons. Woo Themes, one of the larger WordPress plugins and theme providers creates awesome themes. A quick swipe of the credit card brought the Injection a whole new look and feel. I was after a more visual look on the site and a richer content home page. I dropped the “daily” as I was wildly optimistic about my ability to publish content on a daily basis.
A year after I bought my first theme, WooThemes released a new theme called Canvas. Their flagship theme Canvas is awesome. It’s super configurable to get the look and feel you’re after using the UI. Sure, CSS is a powerful thing. But, if you are less technical you just can’t get that level of customization via a UI with an off-the-shelf free theme. I was sold. Another swipe of the credit card.
But The Injection isn’t stopping there. There are new changes in the midst ahead for the next phase of the Injection’s life. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.