Remembering Dean Allen

Dean Allen’s vision for Textpattern and his code influenced WordPress at a critical time in its development.

A year has passed since the death of Dean Allen, web pioneer and “magnificent bastard.” Matt Mullenweg shared his memories of Dean at the time, noting how he was a seminal figure for WordPress at a critical moment in its development. Dean created Textpattern “without which WordPress wouldn’t exist” and later Textdrive “without which WordPress wouldn’t have found an early business model or had a home on the web.”

John Gruber based Markdown on Dean's Textile, which also influenced WordPress 0.70’s wptexturize function.

One of Dean's disciples, Patrick Tanguay, dubs 1998-2006 “the golden age of the indie web” and reminisces how “[b]efore the echoes and algorithms of social networks,” there was “the organic diversity and human connection of blogs.” Now Justin E. H. Smith tells us “the moneyballing of human existence” has arrived.

Jay Hoffman's latest post for The History of the Web is a tribute to that lost era and two of its blogging pioneers — Heather Anne Halpert with LemonYellow and Dean with Textism. Dean's passion for beautiful typography, semantic markup, and clean, writing-focused design came out of his talent, instincts, and ego as a writer. Writing alone is essential. Everything else is justified only if it supports writing.

Long after Dean quit the internet, returned, and quit again, people still talk about his voice as a writer, and for those who knew him personally, his outsize personality.

What I remember most are the tools he created and shared. Jay writes:

There’s this cliche that’s sometimes passed around. No one’s quite sure if it was Brian Eno or Lou Reed that first said it. It goes something like: the Velvet Underground didn’t sell many records, but everyone who bought one started a band. Textism is a bit like that.

Textpattern was a bit like that too.

Here's to people starting bands — and to people whose work and personality not only makes you want to start a band but gives you a model and some tools.