My Anywhere Working Tips

Since going freelance I have had the opportunity to work in all manner of places, from in small coffee shops to multi million pound agency premises.

During this time I have learn a lot about working from anywhere, so here are my top 5 tips. Hope they help you as much as they help me.

  1. Plan location times in advance. If you know that you have a long day ahead of you – find somewhere that won’t kick you out in the middle of a complex tax. Nothing worse than being 30 minutes from finishing a project and Starbucks closes in ten minutes. Use a natural break to move early and find an alternative.
  2. Keep a spare. Of EVERYTHING business critical. I have 2 Macs, my old one I could have sold, but I have kept it and it serves as a back up machine. If my day to day machine dies at 9pm, with a deadline to hit, it isn’t the end of the world.
  3. Use CVS/Back up everything. I use Git. In tandem with the last post, make sure that all your code is backed up, versioned and always safe. And commit every change. Even if it only serves to remind you how you did something in a month or three.
  4. Talk to people. There is far too much value in talking to people, learning from them and just generally relaxing from your focussed task fro a few minutes. You may find advice, opinion and driection from the most unlikely sources.
  5. Don’t work. Just because you can work remotely, doesn’t mean you always have to be on the clock. Set your own hours by all means, but if you spend all your time being available and ready to work, you’re not living your life. Remember, my favourite saying: “Work to live, don’t live to work.”

Now – I better get back to work! Or pop into my kitchen for a snack and a coffee. Life is good.

Stop complaining and make a list

Right Web Dev Community, shut your moaning bitching mouth. People disagree all the time, there is not a time I haven’t disagreed with people over a talk, someone’s methodology, or their attitude. But what I will say is that moaning and saying “I’m leaving this industry, you’re all bullies” is bullshit, you should grow a set. All I want to say is the good far out weighs the bad.

And to prove this, here is a list of random acts of kindness I have experienced, both for me personally and things I have been involved in for the community. And a list of just awesome people all over.

UPDATE: Because I have constantly been reminded of people that have been so kind to me and the community, I shall try and keep maintaining this list for the unforeseeable future, although you might not all agree with the names on the list – I really have taken something for nothing from every single person named. Keep it up!

  1. Before I even knew what PHP was, Douglas Gresham taught me how to submit a form using PHP despite we’d met only once at a totally unconnected to web event.
  2. Edd for turning into a cycle nerd friend as well as geeky event mate.
  3. Everyone on Stack Overflow, for answering people’s questions.
  4. Ross Bruniges, for generally being an excellent beer hound (add Ben and everyone from @pubstandards to this item, as a matter of fact)
  5. Paul Stanton and Ryan Taylor for being extra friendly fellow northerners whenever we happen to be in the same place
  6. Paul Stanton and Ryan Taylor (yes, AGAIN!) and Anna Debenham for volunteering on the BoagWorld podcast, helping me out quite a bit in the early days.
  7. Kris Noble for being a random traveling buddy (or is he actually stalking me?) and general friendly face at all manner of events. And for not whinging after accidentally stealing his idea.
  8. Gareth Thompson for offering business advice in running your own web stuff. And being a bloody good bloke to boot.
  9. Dave Smith for feeding work and excellent advice constantly. And letting me loose on his RackSpace hosting.
  10. Jake Archibald for agreeing with my views on homeopathy (and providing good web advice!). He does bloody good talks too. And is sometimes funny.
  11. AlunR for organising Geek Karting (although the £1.70 profit on the last event may mean he’s not as kind hearted as I though – PS, that’s a joke…)
  12. John O’Nolan for being thoroughly offensive and wrong (read as challenging my HTML structure and semantics, which is good!)
  13. Rob Hawkes for Rawkets, and that book and sound advice.
  14. Syd Lawrence for letting me bug him in his own house while he showed me some HTML5 Mobile App stuff.
  15. Dan Knell and Kornel for always being available to drink while teaching me clever stuff.
  16. Paul Adam Davis for reminding me of something I already knew, then virtually apologising for the good point he made!!
  17. Antony Killeen, who organises Croydon Creatives. PS – I can’t believe he isn’t even a full time web dude yet!
  18. Katskii for being everything I would expect from a Geordie lass! That *is* a good thing, honest.
  19. Luke and uBelly for pointing me at interesting things that I should do and always being willing to pay for my beer!
  20. Drew and Rachel for 24ways.org and providing just awesome advice and support for Perch. Rachel also posted a much more coherent post on this topic than I ever will on her own blog.
  21. Chris David Mills for not only being very metal and introducing me to Steel Panther, but also giving up his time to speak at the awesome Speak the Web
  22. Dan Donald and Rich Clark gave up their valuable time to organise the aforementioned Speak the Web, so they definitely need a mention.
  23. Myself (!!) for volunteering at some events, manning doors and setting up chairs etc. And buying a wooden spoon prize to try and make Geek Karters smile. I know, I am too humble…
  24. A thousand (literally) other people who have all become friends, colleagues or complete strangers that have helped me on my way in the web world. And long may it continue.

and finally, thanks to @arranrp, who for his sins does organise a lot of events and through him I have met many interesting and good people (some included in the above list). And he’s a mate.

So why focus on the bad. What I would like to see is a similar list for each and everyone that is currently unhappy with the industry – you never know, it might restore some faith in your friends, colleagues and complete strangers.

Feel free to ping me – I’ll always help wherever I can, and why don’t we all try it, I actually enjoy being nice. Unless you’re Julia Hartley-Brewer, of course.

 

Today I Should…

…start a company.

That’s what I though a few months ago and I have.  I am now full blown freelancing and contracting and generally working 15 hours a day until I get settled into a regular schedule.  Today I Should Ltd should see me good for a while. Unless other things come along (not that a pretty damn good company/start up site has been in touch to see if I am interested, well, one has which boosted my ego quite a bit last night) I see this suiting me quite well once I get evenings back to myself.

So far its going very well, aside from working far too hard and not seeing enough of anyone that I should be spending time with – but its all going to work out in the long run!

Anyway – as soon as I get the branding and such started, I’ll get a web development blog started on todayishould.com where I can keep professional head on and open this blog up to blatant whinging and bitching!

London HTML5 User Group – Extreme WebSockets

Last night was pretty enjoyable, had a nice London HTML5 User Group talk, entitled “EXTREME WEBSOCKETS TAKING YOUR WEB APPS INTO NEW, UNCHARTED TERRITORY” (couldn’t be arsed to fix the capitalisation, sorry!).

The talk focussed on what WebSockets are, how they work, and some real life cases for use. Replacing technologies like COMET and long-polling and streaming is the goal. Examples of real life use that Peter Lubbers (@peterlubbers) highlighted were things such as stock tickers, news feeds, games and many more. Some of the demos are on the Kaazing website at kaazing.me.

Then some real demos showed the possibilities of WebSockets, who knew that using HTML5 Canvas and WebSockets (plus a couple VNC servers) remotely controlling another machine would be possible. Github has given me some example code, but not tested or used this. There was of course one of my favourite canvas and WebSockets examples, Rawkets, the asteroids style massively multiplayer game. Which I am getting quite good at.

While a lot of the technologies people asked about, and some of the technical details of server stuff, were well over my head, I definitely think I can and will use websockets eventually. Probably going to continue on my learn JavaScript properly first, but looking forward to WebSockets and Canvas after that!

An open letter to Middlesbrough Football Club Official Direct Store

After visiting the Middlesbrough Football Club site and MFC Official Direct shop (http://www.mfcofficialdirect.co.uk) today, I was left embarrassed as a Boro fan at the state of both web sites. Below are open letters which I hope representatives of both will see and respond to.

Dear MFC Official Direct

When seeing an advert for the 30% off sale and Boro replica kits for only £15 I was very happy and ran straight over to the store to get myself a replica home kit.

However the experience I had left me shocked, disappointed and embarrassed. Now let me say that I am a Boro fan and a front end developer (so I can understand when things aren’t perfect), but still feel the need to expose the pitfalls of this site in public.

My first issue was when I tried to update my delivery address, having moved jobs and so I couldn’t have the parcel delivered to my old place of work. However it appears I am not allowed to move companies, the company name could not be edited. ANYWHERE. Not on that form, not on my account page, not on mange addresses through my account page, nowhere. The company isn’t even called Gyro International anymore!

Following that annoyance, I thought “Fine, I’ll just add a new address. But then I couldn’t add a company name to go with that, and being in a shared building with many other companies and nowhere to add a company name and few form fields for address I thought I would have it delivered home.

Delivery details on MFC Official Direct Store

I thought that would be fine, but alas no. Following selection of delivery type in step 2 I was thrown to the confirm order page. Step 4. Hold on. That’s missed step 3, and I haven’t entered my payment details yet? But I’m on the last step? Oh well. I guess this really is a good shop! That was confirmed by a nice page telling my my order has been successfully placed! Excellent, I don’t have to pay it seems. Maybe now Mido is back he is funding a shirt giveaway to try and make someone love him!

Alas no, after a second or two I was delivered and Sage Pay (formerly Protx) payment page. Now this possibly isn’t MFC Official Direct’s fault, however it is still part of a flawed process. And anyone that spends £12.7m on Alfonso Alves must have some cash somewhere to invest in a seamless checkout process. Or at least one that allows the checkout page to be on brand, not hideous and at least not be included as step 5 of 4.

The hideous Sage Pay checkout screen.

So after all that and finally getting my payment details in, I notice that Sage Pay have thankfully printed my delivery address so I know its right:

Flat E
London

(They printed my postcode too, but that’s private!)

Now I know the postcode will probably mean that as a delivery address might just make it, and maybe the full address has been stored, but why print only part of the address. Thinking about it, there are quite a few flats in my area so Flat E, Putney might not make it. My address is a required 2 lines before the town and postcode so why not just show me the details so I don’t think you’ve lost half my address along the way. Same goes for invoice address. Just show it all or people (including myself) might not be confident you have managed to pass the correct delivery information and that we may never see our goods, many of which are quite expensive on the MFC Official Direct store.

Anyway, after this traumatic experience it’ll be a while before I use the MFC Official Direct store again, however I also have some gripes with the Middlesbrough Football Club website itself, so this probably isn’t the last you’ll hear from me. Thankfully however, at least the agency that built the site are linked to in the footer, so it can act as a reminder to never, ever recommend Black Magic Digital of Glasgow as a digital agency. They apparently missed out on the user experience chapter of every book they ever picked up.

Yours,

Matt Bee

Boro Fan and Front End Developer