Wow, HeroPress! How did I even get here? Why am I even here? I’m hardly a hero after reading so many inspiring stories.
Let me tell you mine. I do this with my usual reluctance which I will explain in a bit.
I got started with WordPress about 10 years ago. I was having lunch with a friend (formerly a client) in Grand Central Station in New York. He, being much wiser than I, said, “Hey Bud, you ought to learn WordPress.”
“No way,” I objected. “I’m a code guy. I’m a ‘Rage Against The Machine Guy.’ I’ll never use anything like that.”
He pleaded with me to re-consider. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Things are changing. I’ll give you my username and password. Just login and have a look. My guy installed a bunch of plugins that you can use.”
What the heck was a plugin?
And so it began. I logged in. Looking back, it was WordPress 2.6. I didn’t really know what that meant.
I signed up with Bluehost. I played around with lots of themes but kept coming back to Kubrick (aka TwentyTen). I religiously installed all the plugins used in my friend’s site, holding on to his railings as I began to learn WP. Then came Thematic and its “easy” introduction to what a child theme was. Once I saw that you could edit anything and make it yours, I was hooked. The endorphins were freely coursing through my veins.
Spreading The Word
Now soon after – being an instructor – I thought, “I could teach this” and so I did at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. That first class was totally by the seat of my pants. Hardly my usual MO. The syllabus was completely in my head. I pulled it off and that was a lot of fun.
The classrooms were packed those first few years of teaching. WP was exploding. If you were the first kid on the block using or teaching it, you were gold.
Then two big things were about to happen that were really going to change my life. They would show me the way to the WordPress community – not that I even knew what that was.
A student advised that I should go to the monthly WordPress MeetUp in New York City. That was in 2014. He’s long gone but I’m a regular. I have presented talks many times where we usually got about 40 people to attend. Other types of WordPress MeetUps started to take hold and I became a regular there as well.
At the same time, I started going to WordCamps in NYC. Those were eye openers. This WordPress thing was getting big and there were people connected to it and each other. They were all so nice and smart and I felt at home – not that I’m always so nice and smart. In 2016 I was accepted to speak at WordCamp NYC. (It still is the only WordCamp ever held at the United Nations.) I didn’t know a soul but one of the organizers loved my presentation, “Lessons Learned: Considerations For Teaching Your Clients WordPress.” He and I became good friends as he ushered me into the New York City WordPress community.
From there it was on to WordCamp US in Philadelphia and the following year in Nashville. I started meeting WordPress Royalty like BobWP (aka Bob Dunn). WordCamps were starting to feel like high school reunions. In 2019 I spoke at WordCamps Boston, Montclair, and Philadelphia. Speaker wrangling became my thing. I’ll be doing it for the third and final time this year for WordCamp NYC. (That’s if all goes well given how many WordCamps have been cancelled because of COVID-19.)
Somewhere in the middle of it all, I was listening to a WordPress Weekly podcast and a host, Marcus Couch, just got a gig with Smashing Magazine as their WordPress guy. He put out a call for anyone to submit an article for publication. I sent in “The Golden Age Of Web Design” and, after a few back and forths, it got turned down. Then I came up with an idea that I didn’t think they’d turn away, but I did not want to write about.
I figured why not write about something that is very personal and something I was reluctant to discuss publicly. I am legally blind.
Freedom From Blindness
So “Using Low Vision As My Tool To Help Me Teach WordPress” was written. There was no way Smashing Mag would turn me down now, and they didn’t. In a year or so I turned that article into “My Way With WordPress,” a WordCamp talk. While I was not really interested in the subject, it seemed as if others were.
But the funniest – I suppose – story was when I spoke at the first ever WordCamp Montclair in 2019. It was a presentation on Gutenberg plugins. Since I couldn’t do this from a notebook screen (the screen is too small and the keyboard is hard for me to manipulate), it was decided that I would bring (I am about to embarrass myself) my 27″ iMac to a WordCamp. I’m probably the first person to ever have done this. It was good thing I only lived a few miles away.
After lunch on Day One, it was my turn to present. The guys (it was a crew) spent a few minutes hooking me up to all the equipment. I sat behind my computer, did my thing, and every once in awhile peered out to make sure people were still there. While there doesn’t seem to be any pictures of this ever happening, I don’t need visual proof to remind me of this. I hear about it all the time!
And that’s fine with me.
WordPress changed my life. It’s not just about the community but through it the sense of accomplishment I get whenever I launch a new or re-designed site. It’s also given me a great feeling to know that many people have learned WordPress around the world because of my 2 free online classes. This might just be the most gratifying thing of all.