Category Archives: Working Life

Pluralsight Review

Since discovering Pluralsight just over a year ago, I’ve been bowled over by its quality, value and ever increasing range of instructional videos.

I first became aware of the site when I watched a free ASP.NET MVC 3 video course, which is still available. This gave me a taste of the professionalism of the content, and having a browse around, found that there were literally hundreds of hours of videos on subjects ranging from C# to WF.

Some ten or so years ago, my source of learning was books and newsgroups. The current speed and breadth of software development evolution has made it somewhat difficult for traditional book publishers to produce books at the same pace. Pluralsight’s library is expanding at a rapid rate, and for subjects such as Knockout and Orchard, the content is of a much larger scope than for the comparable printed equivalent.

I subscribe to a monthly $29 subscription model, which entitles me to watch the library of videos on a computer or mobile device. The ‘monthly plus’ option adds in exercise files, certificates and offline viewing. Yearly options are also available and offer a typical discount over the monthly charge. Videos load quickly, and Android and iOS apps have the option of increasing playback speed up to twice the normal rate, useful in many situations.

Whilst the library is largely Microsoft-based, this emphasis is changing, as recent additions of PhoneGap, MySQL and Java exemplify. Despite this, the range of material is most likely to benefit developers who are developing with a Microsoft stack of technologies.

I should say that I’m not associated with Pluralsight in any form. You can watch the free MVC video series, and sign up for a free trial, so you can draw your own conclusion.

I love books as much as anyone, but I feel that Pluralsight is the most effective developer training resource available.

Happy learning!

Using the wayback machine to go down memory lane

Almost ten years ago, I started work at a small software company developing web based software for WAP-enabled phones. It was an exciting time, and when the technical director asked me to design and develop a website to support the company’s mobile content catalogue and delivery network, I wasn’t particularly enthused. It didn’t take long, however, to relish my new task, and really love my job. I’d always liked server-side stuff, but here I was, caring about the organisation and presentation of information.

Unfortunately, the company suffered financial problems, and I left in 2004, shortly before the site was taken down. The internet archive’s wayback machine has allowed me to go down memory lane and see the site that I made all those years ago.


The wayback machine has archived over 150 billion pages, dating back to 1996, so there’s a good chance there will be an old version of a site of your choosing. Simply type in the URL in the input and click ‘Take me Back’.

Incidentally, the site used tables for layout, some CSS for typography, colours and element widths, Flash and the Windows Media Player plaugin for previewing polyphonic ringtones. Funny to think how far both websites and mobile phone technology has progressed in the last few years. Technically, the site served ASP pages, with content generated largely from a custom content management system using XML and COM objects.

Saying goodbye to 2009.

A new year is on the horizon, and so it’s natural to look back on the previous 12 months, take stock, and plan for the future. So what kind of year has it been?

Overall, it’s been a good year. My background as a software developer is with Microsoft-based technologies such as Visual C++, and since 2003, .NET and C#. Although my technical mainstay is still .NET, this year has seen me work more and more with open-source, PHP-based solutions such as CodeIgniter and ExpressionEngine. I’ve continued to work with WordPress, and in the second quarter, completed Biking for Bones, a site for my mother-in-law, who rode over 3500 miles in aid of the Arthritis Research Council.

In April, I also had the opportunity to do a project using Adobe Flex. Whilst I’d had a little experience with ActionScript and Flash, this was the first time I did any significant work with Flex, and found it to be an interesting platform. I used WebORB for .NET for back end communication. Although I enjoyed the work, I missed working with good old HTML and CSS, and although some things are undoubtedly easier to achieve with an RIA platform such as Flex, I would argue that javascript libraries such as jQuery make many behavioural paradigms almost effortless.

The latter part of this year has seen me working on a company logo for Fresh Click Media. The aim is to integrate this into a new design for the site, and use the new logo as a focus for business cards that I’m also currently designing. I’ve been toying with the idea of ExpressionEngine for the site, but I’m very fond of WordPress, and it does what I need; I don’t share the opinion that WordPress is a CMS, though it’s a bloody amazing bit of software.

For many people, 2009 will be associated with financial instability and job insecurity. I’ve been fortunate enough to have escaped the downturn this year, but despite many positive predictions for 2010, feel that we’re not out of the worst of it yet. Fingers crossed.

I haven’t achieved everything I wanted in the past year, but I’m okay with that. You can’t plan for everything, and this year has brought some unexpected events that have had an effect on my professional plans. Despite this variation, one thing remains unchanged – I am passionate about what I do, and consider myself very lucky to be doing something I love. If I were religious, I’d be thanking god.

I’m looking forward to 2010. In the short term, I’m going to be working on a redesign for this site and producing those business cards. The longer term aim is to develop Fresh Click Media as a business and win more client work and contracts.

Happy new year to you all!

Email help for Recruitment Consultants

Having registered with various job boards and spoken to various recruitment consultants in the past, it’s no surprise that I get a few ‘job’ emails from time to time.

The vast majority of these emails are essentially spam. Despite me entering details about preferred location, experience and daily rate requirements on job websites, I often get mails that are for the wrong end of the country, junior jobs and low rates.

I just got a mail from a recruiter that contained the following text:

Dear Shane


PUT PARAGRAPH TWO HERE (Or delete if unneccessary)

Put PARAGRAPH THREE HERE (Or delete if unneccessary)

{Name of person removed}
Microsoft .net Consultant
{Name of agency removed}

I didn’t feel the urge to deal with somebody who needed reminding that an email can be separated into separate paragraphs, and that if it contained less than 3 paragraphs, the unneccessary (sic) paragraph helper text should be removed.

Unbelievable. Still, at least they got my name right.