Ten years ago I set up my first website with the help of a content management system. After some research I decided to use Joomla. But already after one week the whole thing was history again. Because I was not was not as aware of the importance of passwords at the time, interesting Viagra advertisements found their way onto the site overnight. The blame for this problem is certainly not with Joomla to look for. But I was nevertheless demotivated and made me on the search for another CMS.
And so at noon on January 8th, 2008, I finally arrived at a small but fine system called WordPress.
Trial and Error
What one forgets as a die-hard user of a system (not only CMS, but also operating systems, text editors, etc.) is how difficult the first steps can be. Once you’ve climbed the tree, the way up seems quite clear, but from below there are countless ways. And because 2008 wasn’t that much documentation yet and WordPress itself wasn’t at the level we had the pleasure to experience in recent years, my personal first steps were difficult.
In the first few years I probably made pretty much every beginner’s mistake you can imagine. I adapted the sandbox theme directly and thereby lost the option to make theme updates. I translated plugins and themes directly in the code instead of using translation files, I made changes for a long time exclusively in the internal editor and so killed WordPress more often than I could count. I used the NextGen Gallery, which still caused me real trouble many years later when I switched back to the WordPress core gallery.
But with each and every one of these mistakes and with all the WordPress updates, I learnt a little more until I finally reached the point of saving others from the mistakes I had to make myself.
Community from A to Z
But before I got there I had to learn another important lesson: Other people used WordPress as well. 😱
In 2011 I became aware of WorldCamp Cologne. After some initial concerns and hopelessly overwhelmed by the amount of WordPress users, I quickly got to grips with this “community”. At that time I didn’t know anybody there at all. But a nice @gillyberlin lent me a multiconnector and a super impressive Walter Ebert gave a talk on WordPress multisites, a concept that I should meet again and again over the years, just like Walter.
Just one year later, at the WP Camp 2012 in Berlin, the idea was born to start a small WordPress regulars’ meeting, a so-called Meetup, in Frankfurt. In the beginning I was joined by Pascal, Thorsten and the already mentioned Walter. In the initial phase of our Meetups, I sought advice from my friend Caspar Hübinger, whom at the time I only knew as a WP Camp organizer. The sentence that he said to me at that time is evidence of exactly the kind of foresight that I still value in Caspar today. He said something like this: “You will meet some very good friends [through the Meetup], just let the rest come your way.”
In the first year our small four-person-meetup met largely undisturbed by other visitors. In the following years we changed the location several times and grew at the same time. To this day we meet monthly and indeed close friendships have developed in this group (as in all the other Meetup groups I have met over the years).
In 2015 I had the crazy idea to organize a WordCamp in Frankfurt. At the beginning of September 2016, after many months of sweat-inducing preparations, we finally welcomed our German-speaking and international friends to Frankfurt with a large Orga team.
While camps work like class reunions for a part of the German community, you still have to visit the Meetups to really immerse yourself in the local groups. In the summer of 2013, I drove across Germany for a month and visited all the Meetups that were active at the time. This was easier at a time when we only had a handful of Meetups than it is today with over two dozen meetings a month. But this year I would like to visit all the groups again.
At the beginning of 2017 I was finally able to join a group of talented developers from the German community, who take care of the maintenance and further development of some popular plugins like Antispam Bee and Cachify – the Pluginkollektiv. While I leave most of the development work to the other members who can do it much better than I do, my plan in the past year (and not much has changed for 2018) was to support the project more on an organizational level.
Sense of Mission
After almost 790 words it should be clear that I feel a certain need to share my thoughts from time to time. That’s probably why I started blogging about WordPress in 2010 – well before I was ready for it.
But only in the last few years have I begun to reach a wider audience with my writing (and later talking). And it was the withdrawal of Sergej Müller from the community that put me in a position to give the community a little more back. In addition to his plugins (which the Pluginkollektiv now maintains), his regular WordPress newsletter, the WP Letter, also ran the risk of ending up in the cemetery of history. With Sergej’s generous permission and very soft knees, I set out in the summer of 2015 to continue the project in his footspetps. It remains to be seen whether I have always succeeded in doing so, until today I still have a lot of fun with the Letter and am looking forward to providing my readers with the most important news of the last week on Mondays. Therefore I am particularly proud that a part of the audience came together in autumn 2017 to finance the Letter with voluntary micro-donations via the Micopayment platform Steady.
Later in 2015 I started the PressWerk. The first regular German-language WordPress podcast. The project, which (like so many others) had been in my drawer for a long time, is still developing better than I ever dared to expect. The PressWerk regularly reaches several thousand listeners and even though my broadcasting schedule is sometimes full of holes and irregular, I get great feedback on many of our episodes both on the web and in personal conversations.
I am especially happy about the many guests with whom I have been able to talk over the last two years. Beside german community veterans like Birgit Olzem, incredibly committed people like Bego Garde and Torsten Landsiedel or the WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg. I certainly wouldn’t have seen myself in this position back in 2011 during WordCamp Cologne.
In the spring of 2016, I finally launched a project that had been waiting in the aforementioned drawer since 2010: KrautPress. Originally conceived as a magazine-like blog about WordPress and the WordPress ecosystem, KrautPress Publishing developed last year under the energetic commitment of my good friend Christian Fuchs, which will certainly make some more visible progress in the next years. I am especially grateful to the many authors who have stood by us with their great content over the last two years. First and foremost Florian Brinkmann and Bego Garde.
In short: Thank you ❤️
I am so grateful for everything that has happened in the last ten years, for everything that I have learned during this time and for all the contacts and friendships that have developed along the way. That’s what motivates me every day to get back to work.
I am writing these lines at a time when WordPress is heading for big changes. 2018 promises to be an exciting year and I am looking forward to the things to come and of course the next ten years.