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All about me

It’s the about me page!

I make web stuff. I mostly build web applications, mostly in JavaScript, and mostly in React. But not always.

I’ve been making web tech for what seems like a really long time, at least by the measure of how long anyone has been making web tech. I built my first website back in 1997 when home pages were a thing and people still “surfed the web”. It was a simpler time when all you needed to know was a few HTML tags and how to use an FTP application.

My first site was terrible, obviously, but it sparked what has so far been a life-long interest in trying to get page views. Sadly the Archive has let me down so no record of that first page is available. Maybe that’s for the best.

Under Construction

From those early days I learnt some more HTML tags, some CSS, and how to write “proper code”, and went out to build websites for businesses and organisations for the years that followed. Most of the sites I built were still terrible though.

After bouncing around a few web development companies and picking up different languages from each (Perl, ASP, ColdFusion) I settled in at a small business making big sites using PHP. It was a good fit so I stuck around for about 10 years. That job cemented my preference for open source languages. There’s something comforting, accessible and friendly about a community that coaleses around a well-designed language, but it happened for PHP as well so that’s good.

Fun story - I got my first PHP job without knowing any PHP.

I built PHP websites for about 10 years. I wrote an image manipulation library (php-image) that got a tiny bit of traction in the community. I contributed to a few now-long-dead projects. All in all I enjoyed my time with the language.

Expensive notepad and a laptop? Now we're freelancing!

After 10 years and a handful of triumphs I moved on again.

The next step was freelancing and consulting. I was terrible at it. I made the classic mistake of believing being good at the tech was enough. I completely failed to understand that the number one skill for a freelancer is the ability to market yourself and “network”. I am no good at that sort of thing at all, but fortunately an opportunity popped up after a couple of years to join in with a startup.

I really enjoy startups. I like the dynamism, the innovation, and the freedom of working on something new and exciting. I like being able to make a real difference on a project. So I joined in with Usable writing frontend code to make requirements management software. We did an accelerator, and raised a round of money from some VCs, and spent 18 months trying to “make projects better”. We ran out of money and failed. It was only a failure in terms of money and business and sales and returning the thousands of pounds people trusted us with though. We had fun and I think I learned a lot about myself along the way. I still think the application we were trying to build has potential even now. Projects fail because people don’t do a good enough job of tracking how they’re developing and evolving that that needs to be fixed. One day I might try again.

After failing to topple Atlassian I went back to writing code for software companies, doing the thing I’m pretty good at. Today I’m a React, Redux, nodeJS, and other JavaScript tech developer working in Newcastle Upon Tyne, and leading a team of devs to make JavaScript apps for startups.

It’s all been a lot of fun on the past couple of decades and I hope I get to do it for a long time yet to come.