I’ve been getting this question rather a lot lately, may as well jump in. Warning, tons of tangents in bound.
Growing up, I was always into the geeky things – when Grade 6 rolled around I had this fascination with having my very own website up on this abstract thing we call the internet.
My curiosity started back when I just got into videography and content creation back in Grade 6. I’d learn something, and then make a YouTube tutorial about it – some are up to this day on my super old channel – like this one “Tutorial: Track an email & the Location” from 2006 @ 14k views. It was both super funny and super surprising to see those videos gather views the way they did…like this one getting 31k, that one getting 11k – you get the point. This positive validation later paved the road to running a couple larger channels later on – perhaps a post for another day.
What really got me into web stuff back in the day were forums. I was super active in some fairly tight-knit gaming communities back in the day. A close friend I met in this community and I loved finding glitches in video games – I incentivized the gaming community to register on my site by providing explanations on how to do certain game breaking glitches by posting them in ‘Member Only’ sections. It was kinda hilarious. This was the point where a couple of us launched our first gaming forum using phpBB. During time time my friend got into hosting his own private servers, and the traffic from them were absolutely nuts (at the peak – 50,000 views a week). That’s when I learned about Google Adsense’s ‘invalid click activity’ policy and suddenly I was no longer making $50-100/day from ads (feelsbadman).
Lesson learned, don’t tell your members to click on your ads.
A bunch of time passed, we weren’t very content so we kept switching to other technologies such as SMF, IBB, and eventually fell in love with vBulletin(v2-3 were all the hype). A competitors vBulletin forum was configured absolutely incredibly, the developer community surrounding vBulletin was second to none in terms of quality. You had companies like DragonByteTech creating some really top notch plugins like their shoutbox plugin, achievement system, and much more. Shortly after vBulletin’s move to v4, word on the street was that there was some corporate drama resulting in their lead developers(Kier Darby and Mike Sullivan) exiting to found their own forum software called XenForo. I’ve been loosely following the development of XF since around 2011 – beautifully executed. I actually had the pleasure to implement a XF forum fairly recently – highly recommend it.
Forums slowly declined in use after Facebook groups started to really take off. Along with this, a time came where better content management was needed on various sites… so we ran a couple sites using Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress…to name a few. The concept here was that these applications were meant to actually house a ‘classical’ site – not a forum. Forums are generally fairly identifiable, Reddit is one, basically with forums – the way information is laid out is you have posts(threads) created by members that fall under certain forum categories. Members can then interact with posts and comments. Meanwhile CMS applications like Joomla and Drupal were more so meant to create a site where you can have a homepage with individual pages displaying data that isn’t purely community driven.
But wait there’s more!
Building on this, the water gets a bit murky considering CMS applications had community extensions built to either bridge their database with various forum applications, while other extensions like BuddyPress brought forum functionality into the CMS(in this case WordPress).
Tangent aside, there were a couple dozen CMS’s and application types I setup in between. Throwback to Grade 9 where a friend and I teamed up to create a coupon search engine site using Sphider – plot twist we couldn’t compete with Google. There were some really obscure ones too like back in Grade 10 when a community member and I ran a DDL site serving over 750,000 http download links. There were literally countless use-cases, “Oh no! My highschool blocked Miniclip? Let’s just set up my own private proxy site”.
See your kid getting bullied in school? Teach them web dev, he’ll soon be the coolest kid on the block.
Basically the feeling I had when it came to web was limitless, you didn’t need to know how to truly program – you just needed to know how to piece everything together – properly of course.
Things never got old.
The web is fascinating, and so are the many different software systems that manipulate, organize, and showcase information the way you envision them to. After my Bachelors in Computer Engineering, I was humbled. Turns out there was a lot more to software than my ‘script-kiddie’ days foreshadowed (actual term – look it up). After graduation, myself along with a long time friend and business partner saw an opportunity in creating our own web application to solve a specific problem.
Fast forward to today – not much has changed – I still love using many of those technologies mentioned above. I still create websites, and have been doing so commercially for the past year. But now I also have the immense pleasure of creating our very own fully featured web application from the ground up.
The featured image is a shot of our application. Isn’t she beautiful?
Unlike building a site using a pre-made application as listed above, this one was being been built from the ground up. From early wire-framing, database architecture, all the way to actually implementing both the frontend and backend – the journey has been incredible(might go more into this another time).
Building web applications from the absolute ground zero is fairly time consuming, but very freeing. You suddenly have the power to control every single thing in your application. The first day (or in this context the first commit), is always very humbling. You’re adding functionality little by little, you start appreciating the simplest of features you normally take for granted – like responsiveness, authentication, datatables, speed, and much much more. The best part, mastery is almost impossible – learning never stop – it teaches you to always re-evaluate your work – it humbles you.
It’s worth it.
That being said, after a while the application you develop will take more and more shape and that’s when you realize that coding IS in fact a creative outlet. You’re effectively making something from nothing – line by line.
It makes the entire process something that becomes indescribable.
…and that’s how I got into web.