17 December 2016

Advent of Code

I've long been aware of Code Katas - programming exercises you can do as practice, to improve problem-solving and coding skills. Much like a kata in karate, they're a set of individual "moves" brought together for a fixed purpose, that you can practice with and improve on.

Only trouble is, I don't find them particularly satisfying. They're too unstructured, usually without a known answer you're trying to calculate.

Recently, I was made aware of the "Advent of Code", an annual advent calendar of daily programming challenges. I wasn't too sure how it'd be any different to Code Katas, but then I got started.

It's a lot of fun! So, how is it different to Code Katas then?

9 December 2016

First thoughts on Ruby on Rails

As mentioned in my previous post, I recently did some front-end work for a Shopify development agency, and they asked me if I could potentially help with upcoming Rails-based projects. As I've heard a lot about Rails, many websites use it, and a freelancing friend of mine specialises in it, it was high time I looked into it to see what all the fuss was about.

And it can never hurt to learn a new technology, as it broadens the mind to new approaches for solving problems.

23 November 2016

Shopify Agency Job

When I first considered going freelance, my mind was suddenly opened to a world of technologies and possibilities, and I started to research things that it might be useful to know more about. I knew that my experience with e-commerce platforms was limited, so that was certainly an area of interest.

Shopify was one of the first platforms I looked into, albeit briefly. But then I put it on the back-burner, as I felt I needed to prioritise general freelancing preparations. Also, as it's built using Ruby on Rails, I wanted to initially concentrate on Java-based (or general) technology.

Why am I mentioning this now?

11 November 2016

Blogger Integration

Soon after launching this website, it became clear to me that this blog wasn't visible enough on the homepage. It was very easy to miss it entirely, hiding behind a solitary grey button in the navigation.

My original knee-jerk response was to consider just placing a bigger central button on the home page: "Come read my blog! Please!" Certainly, this would be an easy thing to do, but visitors to the home page still can't know of any new blog posts I've published, and that I'm still active. It's just a static page.

What I needed was a way to list the latest blog posts on the home page. Then I thought it'd be cool if I could highlight newly added posts the visitor hadn't yet seen. How would I go about doing this?

7 November 2016

My Plan

Everyone's got to have a plan. And when you're self-employed, this is even more important.

It's hard to pick my top reason for going freelance, but I can distill them down to four, in no particular order other than the order I thought of them: a wider variety of projects and people, more control over how I implement things, more opportunity for learning, and more control over my time.

Of course, while I do hope to have a steady stream of work (eventually!), I hold no illusions that there will often be times where I have little to no paid work to do. Especially at the start when I'm still finding my feet. And my clients.

So while I'm metaphorically (and sometimes even literally) "getting out there" trying to find clients, this is also where this blog comes in.

Ever since I started entertaining the idea of going freelance, I've been noting down technologies, practices, and processes that caught my eye. Things I've never heard of that sounded interesting, as well as areas I feel I could improve on. I now have a healthy Trello board full of cool stuff I'm eager to learn about, still growing almost daily.

So, my plan is to blog about what I'm learning. Share cool technologies and insights, maybe even write little tutorials or example projects to explain concepts. By doing this, I also have to actually understand enough of what I'm learning, so I can blog with some confidence. It's all too easy otherwise to read a web page and think "Yep, I've got that now", and not really think it through.

I can't guarantee how often I'll publish a new post, but I'm aiming for about weekly. It of course entirely depends on how busy I am with paid work. I've already got a number of posts almost finished, so I'll polish those up and publish them in a logical order.

I'm sure that there will be times where, despite my best efforts, I'm simply wrong about something. If that's the case, please let me know - and if I discover I made a mistake later, I'll be sure to correct it. After all, much of what I'll be blogging about is new to me, that's kinda the point!

I'm quite excited about getting started!

3 November 2016

Jagex Projects

I could've written a huge post of the many, many projects I was involved with over the 9.5 years I worked at Jagex, but nobody would've read it! So, here are my recent highlights.

2 November 2016

About me

Thanks for dropping by!

My name's Mark, and for the last 9.5 years, I've worked at Jagex as a Java Web Systems Developer, rising through the ranks to a Senior, then a Lead with additional line-management responsibilities. I became one of the main go-to guys of the department for the entire business, helping people from other developers, to marketing, to support teams, and everyone in-between.

I've been heavily involved in designing and implementing countless projects over the years, ranging from small bugfixes, to creating an entirely new Accounts system from scratch. Take a look at some of the highlights here!