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My DNN Road Movie. Part 1: The Early Years.

It’s been over 10 years that I’ve been “on DNN” and 7 years that I’m on the so-called Core Team of the platform. I’ve been awarded MVP (Most Valuable Person) by DNN Corp. Time to look back at our history together. Warning: I set out to write a paragraph or two about becoming DNN MVP, but it has grown into somewhat of a complete retrospective of the last decade. It was roughly 10 years ago I discovered DotNetNuke. In this first part I look at how I discovered DNN and my introduction into the community.

Sometime late 2002 I made the switch from ASP to ASP.NET. I was really curious about where web development was heading. I had just given up my job in Holland to move in with my wife in Switzerland. So with too much time on my hands and an insatiable appetite for some programming, I went head first into .net. Through my own network I had some odd jobs that involved intranets and the like. So I could really put some of this to the test. Then in 2003 I had an opportunity to bid for a complete intranet solution for a larger company in the region. We’re talking 300+ people. I’d never done something like that before so I headed off to the interwebs to do research. And that’s when I stumbled on DotNetNuke. It had just formed out of what was the IBuySpy Portal solution that I had looked into previously. Wow. Now my bid became just all that much more concrete. All I needed to do is to establish the delta, i.e. that which wasn’t there that this company had asked for. And the great things was: even if it wasn’t there to begin with, you could add it later without disrupting the existing solution. The whole idea of ‘extensibility’ became the hallmark of my approach to the bid. I used an analogy with Lego. I basically told the committee that they were getting a ‘base plate’ and we could add and remove blocks (i.e. modules) at will, adapting to the organization over time. BTW, I was demoing DNN 2. So much had already improved by the time DNN 3 launched, it’d have been a different presentation altogether.

My office and assistant
Late 2003: my office and my assistant

Long story short: the project was cancelled by their holding company that had their own intranet project. But I had seen the light. From my debriefing with one of the committee members I had come to understand that the IT manager really, really dug my storyline. The idea of extensibility coupled with the Open Source mantra, meant he wasn’t buying into a monolithic proprietary solution, but into an open framework that could adapt to his needs as time progressed. You see: customers rarely know exactly what they want at the outset of such a project. It needs actually interaction with the product to begin to understand what it can do for you and how you’d like it different/extended. So not having the solution cast in concrete has a huge benefit. And it appeared my approach hit the mark. So logically, if it worked for this company it must work for others. Encouraged by the result (and not getting discouraged by the cancellation of the project), I began to look more closely at what I’d found was missing. One of the checkboxes left to tick was document management. So I set about creating that hiatus and Document Exchange was born.

By late 2004 I had found my niche. Document exchange looked to hit the mark and I realized I was now self-employed in an industry that still had to blossom. Talk about getting to the party on time. This was a very exciting time (and it still is, albeit for different reasons). Pretty soon I nestled into the top tier of Snowcovered vendors and began to develop a healthy customer base. And this customer base was global, meaning I was beginning to get acquainted to the rhythm of the world (Australia in the morning, the US in the afternoon and evening). I also began to be more vocal in the DNN forums. After all, I had some newfound knowledge to share.

My first “In Real Life” encounter with other DNN’ers was in 2005. Microsoft organised a tour to promote Windows-based hosting and for the event in Holland they flew in Shaun. I can’t remember if I made the trip especially for it, but I made sure I was there. The auditorium was pretty full and there was definitely this buzz feeling that it was good to be on this train. In the front row were a number of faces I recognized from the DNN site as core team members. Leigh Pointer and Geert Veenstra among others. People who played an important part at this time and who have since ventured elsewhere. I got to meet all these guys (yeah, no girls, I know), and meet Shaun. I remember he slipped me a business card that he’d just received from someone looking for DNN expertise. That became a good client of mine for a couple of years.

I was definitely interested to become part of this group. As a module developer you often see bits of the framework that could be improved upon. Or you see something that should be added to the API. And as I grew more vocal in the community a desire grew to “step up to the plate”. But the core team was somewhat of a closed shop. It was not easy to get in. You have to know the right people. And so I stayed on the side-lines for the time being.

To be continued …


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Gifford Watkins
Gifford Watkins  Great post Peter... thanks for continuing to share your story. One of the things I noticed when I started with DNN was a certain isolation. It's good folks like you that breath life into the community, a community I have learned to love as well :) ack!
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