Don’t ever let yourself be put down because other people say it can’t be done.
This is a simple story of how leveraging open source technologies can bring you to heights and depths you thought you could never reach.
Around 2002, November, I was asked by one of our ministry head to think of a way to make a new website geared for students. When I think of now, it was really like a social network on a much much smaller scale.
The situation here on the student network’s proposed site was this: they had already searched for a software development firm in Manila and asked for a quotation and timeframe of the work. They said it would take 3 months, and about a six digit amount to get it done. Since that was way too much, they decided to look into the outreach here in Cebu and ask around if there were any people somehow knowledgeable enough to take the challenge.
A few months before, where I was working, I had started studying and implementing some LAMP architecture on the corporate website. Mind you, my skills then were not so mature yet. PHP was still version 4.x and there were even some 3.x versions around. You can even call me a greenhorn (newbie) during this time – on the company I was in, all I had was Dreamweaver 4 to work upon the website, and some tutorials from the web on how to set up and program in php.
To make the long story short, I and two other people from the community (serving in ministry work), were tasked to do what one would have thought to be impossible to do during that time – make the student network site, complete with interactive forums and one login registrations to be part of the site, and with ALL content in less than one month. Yes, that’s right, the site was going to be launched a little bit after Christmas.
Since I was working then, we had to take turns in programming and developing the site. I was the head then of the 3 person team in Cebu. The two were not working yet, so I tasked them to make the different sections of the site. We were working at my home (no problems, I was single then ). Some people from our main branch in Manila were sending designs for us to cut and slice and place in the site.
After of almost a month of non-stop work on the site. It was done, and uploaded to a shared server through dialup (it would take 3-4 hours to update the whole site).
What’s the lesson of this experience? If I were to use proprietary software and languages it would be a whole lot more expensive (I knew there was asp, and coldfusion, but hosting for that was expensive). We had to use the one available on most cheap servers at that time, and that was a LAMP based server. We leveraged free forum software and modified it and integrated it into the site’s one login and registration. If we had started from scratch we wouldn’t have had finished the site on time. Open Source is all about collaboration, and this experience has taught me a lot about coordinating remotely too.
Looking back, I was to lead the original web team here for about 2 more years, before moving on (by then they had grown to more than 5) – after which, I was still assigned to the original website which we made, and helped worked on two more sites and administered the ministry’s server (which was now a dedicated server). The site which we first started won the Catholic Mass Media Awards for Best Website for 3 straight years before becoming a Hall of Fame Awardee. I was incidentally there using a borrowed suit during the first time we won (it was held in Ateneo and televised nationwide, hosted by some guy and Donita Rose), and that by itself was an experience I’ll never forget. You can get the list of winners during the first time the site won at the cmma foundation website here.
Dream Big. It can be done.