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I am a London-based PHP developer, with a large amount of commercial eCommerce experience from both an agency side, and from a client side, mostly concentrated on the Magento eCommerce platform, currently employed by Warner Music Group in Londons delightful Kensington. For a more detailed (and drier) breakdown of my professional qualifications, head on over to my CV or Portfolio to have a look.

Who are you?

Well that’s pretty much answered above, but here’s some more trivia about me.

  • I was born in Belfast and spent my formative years there – no-one believes me after hearing my accent though
  • I’ve completely over-engineered a server for my own development needs
  • I play guitar and ukulele
  • My favourite band is Barenaked Ladies
  • My favourite movie (at the moment) is Dredd - it’s just utterly surprising
  • I wear a hat at all times
  • I’m a bit of a Warhammer 40,000 nerd, but only the lore of it, but I’m not sure if that’s better or worse. Having a Games Workshop next to the office is a bit of a danger to my wallet…
  • I’m teetotal – but if you met me you’d know I don’t need fewer inhibitions.
  • I once attempted to do a wheelie on my bike and ended up upside down in a bush without my t-shirt, and ruined bike

What does the Internet mean to you?

I first got into the internet around 1997, when things were just starting to warm up. Back then, whilst I was still a nipper, the internet was a simpler place: ICQ was the IM king and everyone had their own GeoCities website, splayed with low resolution adverts and under construction animated gifs. Creativity was being redefined; rather than content being created mostly by publishers and professionals, it was being generated by everyone in their own rooms. Suddenly the strongly defined lines within which creativity had been colouring petered out and anyone could come in with their proverbial crayon of ideas and scrawl over the woodwork. Yes, this did result in what can only be called “hideous” examples of usability and travesties of design, but it exposed an entire generation to the promise of more input to come.

I entered this particular gold-rush on FortuneCity, and proceeded to build my very first website. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did know that Microsoft Word ‘97 had a “web-page” template, so I started there. Looking back on it now that website was terrible, but it was my first taste of the technologies and terminologies underlying the internet.

Thanks to all this I got heavily into the more nerdy side of things – Dreamcast homebrew development and hacking — not so much dipping my toes gingerly into the Visual Basic shallow end, more barrel rolling off the high diving board into the very deep end of C++. I started working with libraries such as KOS with GCC to build very simple, and very buggy, applications for the Dreamcast. I became active in the community on sites dedicated to homebrew console development, such as DCEmulation and ConsoleVision (now sadly defunct), becoming senior staff on ConsoleVision, and building simple tools to help the community do the repetitive tasks involved in creating bootable discs for consoles.

I got my first taste of PHP development when I was asked to run the Xbox subsite of ConsoleVision. I took a simple txt file driven CMS and amped it up, making it far too complicated for anyone to be able to work on again. Despite these faltering steps into the world of web development, I soon came to love working in PHP, and the ease at which one can prototype an idea and the associated logic, before building it for real in a compiled language.

I built my first full CMS off my own back in 2002, the architecture of which was loosely based off PHP-Nuke. I continued to develop that CMS for several years, working up to a complete procedural CMS. Whilst in university I then proceeded to rebuild it using Object Oriented design principles.

Social Internet?

With the advent of the social networks, popularised with the rise of sites such as MySpace, we’ve seen the focus of the internet switch from an information repository to a social activity. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have grown to be inhumanly popular, initially limiting the personality that one could convey in one’s online space into predefined fields, but now enhancing it by providing a framework to link their online lives together. The Facebook wall, the Twitter API, and the 1001 applications that use both to fill everyone in the world in on your Farmville status.

The internet today is a different beast to what it was in 1997: everyone has access to it, Wikipedia and Google make information easier to access than a Parisian sewer, and every single business worth its salt (and some not worth it) has a website with all the bells and whistles. There is so much commercialism on the web now; some would lament this as a bad thing, saying it’s no longer a user driven innovation since big business got its hands on it. I disagree: in a market with every stall-keeper shouting his or her head off, you need to have a truly amazing sell to stay afloat. So innovation is driving forward with the user at its heart, and so long as there are places such as MySpace, DeviantArt, Flickr, Twitter and FortuneCity, there’ll still a place for the user to go and scrawl on the woodwork.

Today is an exciting time to be in the field: with eCommerce moving onto the social networks and entire storefronts (from catalogue through to purchase) on Facebook, the amount of innovation around is astonishing, and having the opportunity to be a part of that is something I wouldn’t miss for the world.

What’s with the hat?

It’s comfy, what of it?