Updated July 15, 2023
Hello, my name is Roberto Fernandez Larsson and I created Discussing WordPress to write and blog about all matters related to WordPress, the premier content management system. See What is WordPress and what can you do with it?
WordPress, which began as a blogging platform, has evolved into a complete website solution. WordPress now has 64% of the content management systems (CMS) market. Other well-known CMS such as Joomla (2.5%) and Drupal (1.8%) are not even close.
I have been playing with and designing websites for over 25 years. Even though I do not have a formal technology background, I have a Ph.D. in microbiology and was a bench scientist and university faculty for many years. I had the opportunity to be exposed to the internet when it was the dominion of universities and the military only. So I was using the internet before it became available to the general public, and long before Al Gore said he created it.
My first experience working with websites was in the very early 1990s. In those days, there was nothing much to it except putting text, pictures, and hyperlinks in some orderly fashion. My first web browser was a text-based browser (no graphical user interface). Text-based browsers did not show pictures but had a hyperlink to download them to your computer. You then needed some kind of graphical software to see them. You had to do that for each picture! I quickly switched to the Mosaic browser and, viola! Mosaic showed pictures and text in the same window.
HTML, allowing information to be displayed in a web browser was created around this time. Throughout the 1990s I took it as a hobby to learn as much as I could on how websites work, and the different web scripting and database technologies developing at the time.
Late in 1999, I took a position as an editor for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, publisher of the famous Science magazine. AAAS had been developing several standalone websites on several science niches. My job was to develop a web portal/magazine on HIV/AIDS prevention (AIDScience, now defunct). For this purpose, we received a contract from the National Institutes of Health.
We hired a web development company from Boston to develop and maintain our website. They were using Microsoft’s active server pages (ASP), which is a server-side scripting language. My job was to provide content. As the weeks went by, it started to become apparent that the website was nowhere ready to launch. The test server was full of errors, slow performance, and crashed often. Since I was pretty familiar with ASP (now ASP.NET) and SQL Server, the database it runs on, I set up a demonstration website to help the developer know what we wanted.
My boss came to see me one day and in effect said: we have a developer that can’t get the website running and you have a test server that works like a charm; could we use it? I couldn’t believe that I was going to become the ad hoc developer of our website. Through the weekend I tinkered with the website to iron out details. The week after I talked to the IT people to move it to an in-house live server connected to the internet on a T-1 line.
In 2003 I went to work for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative in New York (IAVI), as an editor of its web magazine, the IAVI Report. They already had a prestigious bimonthly print magazine, and a website that archived the PDFs. They wanted a web magazine that could carry content and news of the day relating to AIDS vaccine development.
Again, I ran into a similar problem. IAVI hired a website developing company, this time a much more expensive web developer based in Northern Virginia, before I started working for them. They were unable to get the website up and running in time and with our specifications no matter what we did.
By now you have probably guessed what happened. I fired the developer and developed the website myself, using my experience with AAAS and with ASP. Myonly regret is that I did not get much credit for developing websites for these companies. Almost nobody in a company knows how a website works. How are they going to give you credit, especially if you are doing it ad hoc?
Since that time, I have continued to develop websites for people I know or for other people or companies. For the past decade, I have been using WordPress. The popularity of WordPress has increased exponentially and as a result. More frameworks, themes, and plugins have been written and developed.
I am back working as a scientific editor for the Office of AIDS Research, National Institutes of Health. This time through a contracting company, The Scientific Consulting Group. They are a great group of people. Check their website; they are always hiring!