“The biggest challenge of the 21st century is the irony of technologies of abundance in the hands of those still thinking in terms of scarcity.”
WordPress Origin Story
Years later, as WordPress and PHP both continued to improve, I set up one small toe-dipping WordPress site around 2009-2010 (at beyondajoblessrecovery.org). I exported that content to a static site to reduce maintenance needs when I stopped posting there after about a year.
I first started using WordPress significantly for a formal organization only in early 2014. I set up a site hosted at WordPress.com for a local historical society for which I am a trustee, migrating a static HTML site to WordPress (at edinburghistoricalsociety.org). I chose WordPress after considering and setting up test sites in WordPress, Drupal, Omeka, and Google Apps. WordPress seemed to have the broadest support — for good reasons. Omeka might have been better as a museum-focused WordPress plugin. Drupal’s flexibility appealed to me as a software developer, but Drupal required a bunch of manual effort for upgrades, and I read of people abandoning it from user interface complexity. Google Apps was proprietary, was surprisingly confusing to use, and would also force people to log into Google often which had extra privacy issues. So, the question then was where to host WordPress?I installed WordPress a few times locally, on shared hosting, and on Amazon Web Services to test it. I got WordPress to work in all of those places (even with getting outgoing email working on AWS via Amazon’s SES email services). However, I decided that hosting at WordPress.com was the most reliable option for the society. Most of the society’s board and membership has limited computer expertise (let alone knowledge about the details of computer security). We on the historical society board all agree what a pain in the backside computers can be — although my own feelings on that topic may be a bit more complex and for different reasons — as a software developer with decades of experience all the way back to my first computer — a KIM-1 with 1K of RAM. 🙂
Going through the process of evaluating options for our historical society helped me to understand better how the web was changing. I began to see what a positive force WordPress was in providing a potentially decentralized alternative to using centralized proprietary services like Facebook and Google Apps (even if, in practice, it is a good idea for many people to host at WordPress.com instead of elsewhere). Also, my wife and I began to see that her Rakontu project for story sharing communities (written for Google App Engine in 2009) would have been be most easily installed and used as WordPress plugins and thus reached the largest potential audience that way instead of fading away as unapproachable except by very technical people (which were not Rakontu’s intended audience).
NarraFirma was a year-long labor of love by my wife and me,. It was based on her Creative-Commons-licensed 700 page textbook called “Working With Stories in Your Community or Organization”. We hope the NarraFirma WordPress plugin increases demand for my wife’s consulting services as an investment. But even if it doesn’t, it was nice to feel we helped make the web and the world a better place as with some other free software projects we’ve written together over the years. We wrote our “Garden With Insight” Garden Simulator together in the mid 1990s and made a soul-searching choice to released it under the GPL on the web in 1997 (along with its extensive help documentation about the science of gardening) instead of trying to sell it. We then spent years digging out from debt we incurred while writing it. 🙂 We used to tell ourselves: “At least we got the web in return, so it was still a good deal…” 🙂 The return to us and the world on the NarraFirma WordPress plugin is still to be seen, but that is the way the “message in a bottle” gift economy works. 🙂 Michel Valdrighi threw a GPL “b2 cafelog” message in a bottle onto the web, and then Matt Mullenweg found it and threw it back onto the web with additions, and Mike Little found it, and so on and so on. Now look what has happened as a result, with the growth of the terrific WordPress community that makes the web a much better place to be. Thanks Michel! Thanks Matt! Thanks Mike! And thanks as well to everyone else who has contributed to making the WordPress community the wonderful place it is.