Hi Lee. With all of us at LaravelUK and our friends across the world looking forward to the next LaraHack event on 26th May, its a perfect time to get to know more about you and also about LaraHack itself.
Obviously, you are busy with the preparations, so thank you for making the time for this interview.
Lets begin with LaraHack. Can you tell us how the idea came about?
Hi Barry, Thanks for the opportunity to discuss LaraHack with you. It all came about around December 2017 when I joined the LaravelUK community, in search of other Laravel enthusiasts and coding challenges.
I think it might have been you that actually hinted that a Hackathon could be something I could organise, so about a week later, LaraHack.com was born!
How did the LaraHack relationship with LaravelUK come about?
I've probably answered that in question above, however I can say for sure that LaraHack would be nothing without the LaravelUK community. We really have a great group of people on both sites, and it's nice to still be in contact with most of them nearly every day.
How does a LaraHack event work? What is the format of the weekend?
The basic premise is that on the morning of the event (usually 8am) we announce a theme, LaraHackers then have a set amount of time; about 48 hours, to code something that incorporates Laravel into that particular theme.
After the event closes, there is then a voting stage for around a week, followed by the leaderboard announcement and prize distribution.
We are due to have the second event in a few days time, but what do you think were some of the highlights of the first LaraHack in February?
The theme was 'Make a game with Laravel', so one particular highlight for me was that so many people came together to discuss, help and play the games that people made.
I myself took part (you can still play it at https://larahack1.leecrosdale.com ) I actually learnt a lot about VueJS and some more intricate parts of the Laravel framework.
What were you hoping for from that event?
Honestly, with it being the first event, I was hoping that people were going to actually turn up and take part. I was so pleased when so many people did. It was great for the LaravelUK community too, and as it was close to Laracon Online, and it certainly boosted the traffic we got to the LaravelUK Slack channel.
Did it match your expectations?
Yes, I had the bar set pretty low to begin with. We have a lot more people signed up now, so I'm hoping the next event will attract even more people.
To be honest though, I'd be happy if just a single person took part and learnt something or improved themselves somehow.
Tell us about something that happened that you hadn’t predicted before the event?
Time. Time moves way too fast. I don't think I anticipated just how much stuff I needed to do to get the event ready in terms of coding the site, keeping it running and taking part myself.
I was pretty much coding solid from the start of the event until about 3am of the last day. Although I would love to go back and refactor some of the code for the LaraHack website, I think next time I'll
certainly plan the changes and the timescales a bit better.
So have you changed anything for the Second event?
No, but for a couple of reasons. The first is that it worked so well the first time, it was pretty simple to understand, and whether you were a pro or a beginner you could take part.
The second reason is that I really wanted this event to take part in a physical location along with the online event, however I have now moved that plan for the next LaraHack. If anyone knows some good spaces for hosting Hackathons, please let me know!
OK Cool. We would also love to get to know a bit more about you now, and then we can come back and talk about what people need to do to get involved in the next LaraHack
We should probably start at the beginning. Could you introduce yourself? Tell us a bit about your family, your interests, and your childhood. (Delete as appropriate)
So my name is Lee, I'm 29 years old and I'm a Senior Web Developer for a relatively small business (about 7 employees) from Essex, England. Most of my day to day work is on a website named ParcelBroker (https://parcelbroker.co.uk) (Shameless plug).
I've been coding since I was young, around 7 or 8 years old. When I was about 13 I coded my schools intranet homepage and also built an online text rpg named Infinite-Evolution that had around 400 active users; Unfortunately I eventually had to close the site, since it was too expensive to run, unlike today where you can get DigitalOcean and Linode boxes for less than £10 a month!
Around 2007 I started as a temp in a warehouse moving pallets around etc, I then started working my way up, and eventually I started coding as a profession in about 2009 for the same company, where I helped integrate an email marketing platform and write some tools to help with that subject.
The large majority of my career has been as a Software Developer working on Microsoft Dynamics AX. Coding X++ and C#.net with PHP as the backbone to some of the web applications that I made.
I've also got a fair amount of experience with Android , Joomla! and CodeIgniter.
After leaving the company I'd been at for nearly 10 years, I joined where I am today, I've been at that job for nearly 2 years now, where my main focus has been to bring a legacy application into the world of Laravel, as well as support the IT infrastructure and other services.
I have a lovely family, I live with my girlfriend of nearly 2 years and 2 step children who I'm hoping will be avid programmers one day!
I'm a big video game fan (PC MASTER RACE), I have way too many favourites to list; Deus Ex, Age Of Empires, Total Annihilation to name a few, I'm currently playing a lot of PUBG, where I ended up in the top 0.3% in the EU rankings (a couple of seasons ago).
How and when did you get started with programming and/or tech in general? If you worked in another industry first, tell us a bit about that as well.
I answered a lot of that above, however before I started working I went to College to study Media and Music, I was also a Golf Course GreenKeeper for about 8 months (It was cold but it kept me fit!)
What Languages are you comfortable with, or class yourself as an expert in?
I would say that I'm most comfortable with PHP since that was one of the first languages I learnt, but I'm pretty comfortable with Java, C#.net, X++ and a few others.
Are there other languages you wish you knew how to write, or write better?
Yes. Although I love PHP and web development, I wish that I started learning a better structured programming language from the beginning like C++, not to hate on PHP obviously, but I feel like for the first few years of learning it was difficult to adapt to the strictness and structure of better formed languages and it made me a bit of a lazy coder. To be honest though, this was a lot of years ago and PHP has come a long way since then.
What has been the free tool/hardware/software that has helped you the most, and what purchase has helped you the most in your career?
Ooo that is a good question. When I first started programming, I had Windows Notepad. One day I was coding for about 5 hours and accidentally deleted the code and saved a file I was working on (you couldn't undo more than once in Notepad so it was screwed).
I discovered Notepad++ (which is free) and I used that for a LONG time before I discovered other tools. I used Eclipse (also free) for a while, but I'm pretty much in love with PHPStorm now (my work pays for that, YAY!).
Other notable tools are certainly GIT, SQLYog Community Edition and Putty, I also feel like I should give a shout out to Spotify here because I'm not sure what I'd do without that now.
What is a less well known coding "trick" that you think a lot of other people might not know but you find useful?
I can only provide a quote for this, 'Hire a lazy person to do a difficult job' - Bill Gates. I think it is so important to remember that there are so many ways to approach programming, sometimes the trick is to stop over complicating it, and try to accomplish something in 10% of the lines you've already written.
Do you have a product or service that you have created? What made you create that particular product or service? And please tell us about how it works, and how it benefits your customers.
Most of my career has been behind corporate walls so there is nothing really that I can discuss. I'm currently working on a service named socialstat (https://socialstat.co.uk) which will provide real time follower counts for anyone who wants to place them on their site.
An example of someone who is using it in it's early alpha (and also helping with the frontend development is https://bennnn.co.uk/)
Are you looking to expand it further in the future?
Yes, I'm actively building it, there will be a free version plus all the plugins for Wordpress etc will be free. I'm planning to make the extra super secret features super cheap.
If you were going to tutor somebody starting to learn development from scratch now, knowing what you know, what would you do that was different to your learning path? What would your training plan look for them to follow and why?
When I started coding, resources were so rare. I remember I met a guy from Canada on MSN Messenger who helped me out a tonne, I don't even remember his name, but he owned an awesome website named coolm8.com (or something similar), if you see this, contact me, I'd love to thank you for all the help you gave me.
If I had to give advice to someone who is starting to learn development, it's to get as many resources as you can, and just start coding and breaking stuff.
The first thing I ever coded was a 'profile' page for a text based PHP game I got for free from the internet.
Ask yourself questions, ask other people questions, there are so many resources now, it's impossible to not achieve at least a basic understanding of programming today..
Don't try to make something too big too fast. Start small, "hello world", calculator, color picker, and move onto more complex things that already exist, twitter clones, profile pages etc etc.
Do not worry about building the next big thing, just focus on learning to code for now, the ideas will eventually come and you'll be able to visualise how to achieve your goals a lot easier.
If you get stuck, don't stop, ask for help, we have ALL been there. If I get stuck usually a good nights sleep is all I need to be able to turn up and fix the issue the next day.
How do you organise your life? How do you keep motivated? How do you minimise procrastination?
I would say that I am a semi-organised person, e.g I'm always at work on time, I'm pretty good at hitting targets. I'm not so good with remembering to do housework on time, or remembering birthdays.
I try to keep my day to day life structured and planned.
One way I avoid procrastination at home is that I have two seperate user accounts on my computer, one for gaming and one for coding. It really seems to work (as it's a pain switching back and forth).
Setting goals and targets are definitely important to my motivation, I don't think I'd get anything done if I knew I just had all the time in the world.
Is there something that you hear discussed as "common knowledge" which you do not agree with?
I think there are a lot of 'fake news' / alternative facts that happen that simply don't make sense when you look at the science. The worst kind is when it affects real lives, like the conspiracy that vaccines cause Autism, when the Science really doesn't show that to be the case. It causes people who really need protection from diseases and illnesses to be a lot more vulnerable.
What are your favourite forms of (non-coding) entertainment?
Video Games, movies, anything to do with technology really :)
If you had to live your life by one rule you weren’t allowed to break, what would it be?
I think that rule would be to always stay true to logic and morality, to not let opinions, bias or hate get in the way of the facts when making an important decision.
Coding certainly forces you to view things in a much more logical / critical thoughtout way which is probably why I chose that, the whole World is just a tonne of if/else statements right? :)
Before we finish, lets go back to LaraHack. What should people do next if they want to get involved?
Ah, an easy question to answer, simply goto https://larahack.com and register, after you do that, join the LaravelUK slack channel (https://laravelphp.uk) and join the #larahack room, make sure you say hi!
I also know that you are one of the core team on the LaravelUK website, and that some of the LaravelUK members will be spending the LaraHack weekend working on that. What can you tell us about that project?
Yeah, I've done a few PRs for the LaravelUK website now, I think it's really important to have a platform that discusses the topics and news of your field, the laravelphp.uk website does that with it's blogs, posts and Slack channel.
Our laracelebs page is pretty cool too!
How can people get involved?
If you want to make a code contribution goto the github (https://github.com/laraveluk/website) and fork it!
We also have a trello board and a slack room (#website) where you can talk to us about changes we might need.
If you want to make a post, let us know and someone will help you out.
Lee, thanks for your time. It was great to chat to you and good luck for LaraHack on the 26th May
Thanks Barry, it's been a pleasure.
If you want more information about Larahack or the LaravelUK website project, or have further questions for Lee, here are the links you need:
22nd May 2018 14:06