20 YEARS!

It’s 20 years to the day since I started my web career (and indeed my first full-time job). 16th November 1999. 

Last millennia. 

Woh. 

I started as a ‘Web Development Assistant’ (and something about Sales) at Macmillan Publishers in London. 

Here’s the first website I’ve worked on.

I had no idea what I was doing, but rather fortunately it was still relatively early days for the web, so easier to get a job in it through enthusiasm and willingness to learn. 

We had Internet Explorer 4. Netscape Navigator 4.7. No mobile. Google wasn’t something people had really heard of yet. Wayyy pre-social networks. Many people still thought it (the web) was a fad. 

See what it was like, it was wild. http://oldweb.today/

This was a typical day for me back in 1999 (on a giant beige Dell desktop with CRT monitor)

  • Processing online orders  – our e-commerce platform went like this – a form sent an email to me, I would phone the person up, take the credit card number enter the details into a Word form, print it out then through internal post send it to Basingstoke to be processed by another person using a system built in the 1970s.
  • Tech support for some of our online products (online encyclopaedias, lol). Including a memorable time when I spent the best part of an hour a day training an 80 year old on the fundamentals of computing and the internet (he expected the online encyclopaedia to appear when he turned on the computer)
  • Updating the website, via FrontPage 98. Editing files LIVE on the server. 
  • Creating GIFs for new products / menu items in full 216 dithered GIF Technicolor. And 640 pixel wide monitors
  • Learning HTML/CSS from my boss, who was awesome and very patient. 
  • The day I started work as a Web Development Assistant is also the day I sent my first ever email.

Things have changed somewhat, although some of it hasn’t, I still try and keep learning, I still update the live server 😉

I didn’t even know what my profession really was until I started looking for a new job after 8.5 years in Publishing. Turned out front-end developer was closest to what I enjoyed.

Since then I’ve worked on many many many websites, I left publishing and worked in an exciting and forward thinking agency for 4.5 years, with some of the smartest, most creative people in the industry, and learned a ton. 

I’ve travelled round the world helping people understand their needs and translating them into working sites. 

I then created my own company, Dogwonder Ltd. in 2012 and have spent the time since then working directly with awesome companies, people and collaborators. 

I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to connect with people though building websites. Clients big and small, colleagues of all kinds, family, friends, communities and my wife. The internet connects us all. 

I am still building websites. I really didn’t think from that point 20 years ago that I would or even could still be building websites. And I still love it. It’s a constant journey of learning and understanding and  I feel very privileged to be able to be able to do it. 

Job title now – no idea. I build websites. 

We went from static websites (remember Movable Type) to database driven (WordPress) / restful API (Ruby on Rails) back through to static sites again. We went from static designs to responsive websites, with the advent of mobile. 

Lots has changed but also lots hasn’t. Building websites that work for the user, allowing them to get done what they need to get done, whilst making sure that the widest number of people, devices and browsers can access them have been core all the way through 20 years. As I was starting web standards was becoming a thing, it still seems very very relevant today, sure things can be improved, but we should never forget the fundamentals, build good stuff that works well for as many people as possible.

I think now one of my biggest concerns is someone starting their journey today. I see an industry where some of the players have put up barriers, making the learning curve and steps massive before you can even render ‘hello world’ in a browser. It isn’t as accessible as it should be and that makes me sad. It’s an amazing job, and we shouldn’t be making it harder to start.

But I digress. It’s been a great 20 years, and feel very privileged to have been able to work in this industry.

15 years!

Today marks the anniversary of the day I launched this site. 15 years ago! That’s like a century in internet time, maybe an epoch or two.

2004 preceded YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and well, pretty much everything that we understand of the web today. I didn’t post here for many years indeed preferring those platforms and the communities that went with them.

But I am glad I kept this space, with the social networks’ nut-jobs, trolls, privacy issues and overall forced curation, I am increasingly happy I still have my own space to express my thoughts.

Even if no-one reads any of it, I have 15 years of my stuff safely stashed away and no internet giant can decide to ‘retire that functionality’.

This is my house.

JS Week(ish)notes 1.3

So this is not exactly weekly now, and isn’t likely to be, project work and life means can’t always spend ages learning. But nearly got to the end of Vanilla JavaScript Pocket Guides and it’s excellent, really like the course tutor’s approach Chris Ferdinandi. He also has an excellent newsletter with really handy tips and a superb helper library and reference section. It covers a lot of groups as my first course. But I feel I need to run through this a few times to really get the fundamentals.

Functions are methods are functions! At last!! One of the things I always got confused with JS was the inoperability of the terms, so confusing. But sort of getting that everything is an object and just going with it has helped me.

At the end of each course there is a little project to work along with, which has been fun. We built a little lazy loader, a little JSON parser, and a extendable plugin using the Constructor pattern (always with a capital letter!). Overall I am really getting the way things should be structured, and the Constructor pattern seems to be really powerful. So for example:

<script>
	//Because the plugin uses a constructor pattern, capitalise the plugin name, too, for consistency.
    var TableOfContents = (function () {

        'use strict';

    	// To improve the performance of your plugin, you should only include things that are unique to each instance in the constructor, and move everything that can be shared across instances outside of it. 
    			
        // Public Variables
    			
        // Default settings - same of every instance
    	var defaults = {
    	
    	}
    			
    	// Public Methods
    	var getID = function (elem) {

    	};


    	// Setup the constructor - uppercase first letter - 
        var Constructor = function () {
    					
    		//
    		// Variables
    		//
    		var publicAPIs = {};
    		var headings, toc, settings;

    		// All the rest of the code...

    		//
    		// Return the Public APIs
    		//

    		return publicAPIs;	

        };

        // Return the constructor
        return Constructor;

    })();

    // Run the script and initiate with the new operator
    var toc = new TableOfContents();
    toc.init();

    //instantiating a second table of contents
    var secondaryTOC = new TableOfContents(); 						
    secondaryTOC.init({ 
		target: '#secondary-toc' 
	});
</script>

And finally I am starting to get scope. Starting.

Overall it’s been great, but a lot of theory (with practical applications), and we at the end of the course we touched on state, routing and reactivity, so a nice primer for my overall aim of moving towards something like React.

I am starting to use some of this in real world projects but it’s really slow going, as I hit barriers and don’t know how to get around/over/smash through them outside of a nicely ring-fenced tutorial. But my next course is going to be 30 day coding challenge as I feel I need to really dive into actual use-cases now.

JS Weeknotes 1.2

I finished my first course! JavaScript: Understanding the Weird Parts Actually think I am starting to get this 🙂

This week I learned about Function constructors (and the ‘new’ keyword), Prototypal inheritance, Method chaining, Libraries (specifically jQuery). It was pretty hardcore, I have to keep googling Prototypal inheritance and have struggled to get my head around it, also the two prototypes have totally spun me out, why use the same word!

I *think* I sort of get it, an objects prototype is like a template for the object (and another object) [so many objects], which we can then create new objects from that inherit those properties and methods.

I find the word soup a bit of a problem generally with learning (I’ve failed most coding tests I’ve done), I am starting to realise I am much more of a practical / visual learner, using the specific terms just jumbles my head.

var dogwonder = new Website( // );

We also had a few lectures on jQuery which was really interesting, looking at the unminified code and seeing how it actually works with what we learned so far was fascinating. And also understanding why jQuery is so important, it fixes and has refined so many things and has been perfected over many years so you know that there are certain functions that work across a huge range of devices and browsers. Also there is a library in jQuery! Sizzle! Which does most of the class selection stuff, who knew?! We even wrote a mini-framework call ‘greetr’. See the pen here.

g.greet().setLang('es').greet(true).log();

Now onto my next course! Vanilla JavaScript Pocket Guides

JS Weeknotes 1.1

So this week I learnt mostly about closures, execution contexts, callbacks and functional programming. Returning functions from my functions, giving my functions functions, accessing function variables outside the function. All in all it was a bit of a recursive captain my captain moment. I am really starting to see the raw power of JS. 

BRRAAARWRRRMRMRMMRMRMM!!! 

Also how libraries like underscore.js can help us supercharge our code and give us functions and helper sprinkles. Although part of my journey was about going back to fundamentals before launching into react so it’s interesting to how quickly I am back to dependencies. Like yeah I get it why build out a ton of helpers which I might get wrong when I can type 

 .each([1, 2, 3], alert);

All for a payload of 6.5kb in minified code. 

But as mentioned in the course, all of underscore.js is available as annotated source code so we can understand what’s going on at a fundamental level and indeed learn along with it. 

My head is hurting this week and some of the concepts we learned were quite overwhelming. But already when looking at my own code I seem to be reading it clearer understanding the structure better rather than a string of letters and punctuation. 

2019 2017 2016 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004