In 2004 I was a recent art school graduate desperately trying to get a job in my field, and I decided that I should dive into learning web standards to try to gain a skill that would set me apart from my competition. I’d had a very low-paying, part-time job since high school updating the web site for the local school board, but since they were paying a college student about $100 a week to keep it updated, it clearly wasn’t a priority for them and as such there wasn’t much to it. I got to work learning the basics of how to build a site. I was looking for something I could teach myself, and first tried Movable Type, finding it to be impossible to learn. I was a fan of Dean Allen’s Textism, so I decided to give Textpattern a shot. I set up my old Power Mac G4 Cube to run it and rapidly was able to figure out what the hell I was doing, quickly enough that I learned that my “server” connected to my mom’s DSL connection wasn’t going to work for much.
I learned about TextDrive’s launch because I was spending a ton of time around the Textpattern forums at the time. I absolutely did not have $200, but I convinced my parents that I was pre-paying for a hosting plan from a reputable business, something I’d have to have to get a job as a web designer. I left out the fact that I was using their money to help fund a startup (five years before Kickstarter was born). But it worked, holy shit did it work; my handbuilt personal site turned into a proper blog with an installation of Textpattern and a real server to host it on. I started hosting sites for friends and small businesses I conned into hiring me as a freelance designer. And along the way, I even did some design work for TextDrive — I had stars in my eyes doing work for a web startup way back in those days. That gig, like signing up for TextDrive in the first place, turned out to be a great idea — it led to the recommendation that got me my job at Automattic. And while I obviously switched to WordPress.com, I’ll always be fond of the Textpattern & TextDrive communities for what I learned from them.
I know the story of TextDrive had many ups and downs, and its ending was less than sweet. I understand why many customers are unhappy with the way things ended. But I’m grateful to Dean, Jason, and all the “VCs” who got TextDrive off the ground. It came along at a crucial time for me, helped teach me how to be a web developer, and helped me launch my career. A lot of where I’ve come in the past 10 years has to do with the opportunities that arose from those early days. So as unlikely as it is that he’ll see this — thank you Dean, for everything, and I hope that you are well.
I don’t have good records from that far back, so I’m not sure about the dates. But based on my rough calculations, as best as I can figure, I spent around $3.50 per month for the life of my TextDrive account. I got almost 10 years of hosting and my dream job, but I never did get the t-shirt.