Chris J. Davis
9 comments | Posted: 23 January 06 in Interviews, by Nathan Smith
It’s funny that despite being in the same small town for over a year, and also both being in 9rules, Chris and I never actually met in person. Well, I caught up with him via IM last week, and was able to pick his brain a bit. Chris is the webmaster of Asbury College in Wilmore, KY where I was an assistant at Asbury Seminary. He blogs regularly at Sillyness Spelled Wrong Intentionally.
Having graduated from Asbury, you’re now back as their webmaster. How does someone with an art + English background wind up in web development? In other words, what’s a guy gotta do for a trip to speak at ApacheCon in Europe?
Funny story that. I started out life studying the human form in classical western art. Always though there was a love for computers, specifically how they empower the individual. One day I noticed that the Art department was offering Digital Design as an elective and I thought “Hey, computers and art, two things that taste great, and probably taste great together!” In that class I was introduced to Photoshop and Illustrator. After that it was a fairly quick jump from Graphic Design to Web Design.
You’re ranked top 50 in the world on Technorati, no doubt due to your fantastic writing, and contributions to the WordPress project. How has your experience been in working with greats such as Matt Mullenweg?
Methinks it has more to do with the open source themes I am involved in, but hey fame is fame! Working with the community that brings you WordPress has been one of the most frustrating, and rewarding things I have ever done. The core developers are dedicated to the project, and the community for the most part is one of the most welcoming ones I have found.
Matt specifically is a trip to work with. I have had a blast watching him make mistakes and mature over the years. It hasn’t always been fun, but it has always been rewarding.
You have recently co-authored a book entitled Blog Design Solutions, published by Friends of ED. Some of the other authors include several big names from the UK, and I don’t mean Kentucky. Was it a difficult process collaborating across time-zones and geographical boundaries?
The hardest part of writing BDS was working with editors. I had not had someone really critiquing my writing before, so that was a new and wholly irritating experience. As for collaborating with those Brits and Danes, that was the most rewarding part of writing the book honestly. Michael Heilemann and I have become pretty good friends through this experience and working together on K2, while being able to shoot email and IM’s back and forth with greats like John Oxton made it a chance I just couldn’t pass up. Even if those IM’s are waaay to late at night.
I know from experience that wearing a webmaster hat can be stressful at times, trying to manage all that data. How do you cope at Asbury.edu, and are there any productivity tips or tricks that you can share with the rest of us?
Wow, yeah. Managing a university or collegiate site is serious business, especially in todays environment where the web has become the new saviour. More and more higher education is looking at the web and web technologies to drive enrollment, retention and fund raising. That is a lot to put on the shoulders of a team of people, more so when that team consists of one or two people as it does in all but the larger institutions.
The worst words you can hear going into a job like that are “Coming in here right now, you have a real chance to be seen as the hero.” No sir, not me. I want to do my job the best I can and then go home. The hero’s are the ones that are thrown to the wolves first.
As for tips and tricks, we have found that using a ticket tracking system like Request Tracker works wonders. When you are working with a site that has 3,000+ unique pages you can be overwhelmed quite quickly. Using a ticket tracking system could save your sanity… trust me. Also having clear, realistic goals for each week is great. You break down the overwhelming pile of stuff to do into smaller chunks so that you can feel like you accomplished something at the end of the day/week. When you are webmastering for salary it is a marathon, not a race.
Would you please share how you came to faith in Christ, and describe your own spiritual journey / testimony?
The death of my older brother and only sibling when I was 13 really sent me into the search mode. My brother had been 8 years my senior and an invincible mountain of a man. Having that illusion destroyed meant that I had to see the world as it was, full of pain, loss and regret. But even at my most hate-filled, self pity filled moments it was impossible for me to look at the world around me and not see the beauty that had been given to us.
In the end being born an artist saved my life. Beauty such as we are surrounded with cannot be chalked up to mere chance and it cannot be denied; it must be recognized as an expression of love and creativity – the essence of who God really is – given for all time to continually remind you and I that God is sovereign, God is Love and God is good.
I couldn’t deny that, and once confronted with that truth there was only one course left to me: to seek out God and to reconcile a world of beauty and wonder with one that contains death and sorrow. That path lead me to faith, love and life in an abundance that I never thought possible, but also it forced me to enter into that “Bright Sadness” that comes with following the God of Jacob.
Wow, I wish I could say “I know how you feel,” but that would just be trite. It is reassuring to know though, that we serve a God so amazing that even through our tragedies and heartache, he can guide us through. I agree too, that there is far too much beauty in the world for it to be happenstance. God truely is an intelligent designer. Well, I suppose I’m all out of thought-provoking questions. Would you like to add anything before wrap this thing up?
Not really other than to thank you for taking the time to do this good work. It is wonderful have these stories shared, to see the tapestry of the body more clearly through our stories. I look forward to more in the future.
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