About

Summary

I’m just a developer who has nothing better to do but to make things better for my customers. I love finding and solving problems in systems, frameworks and sites in general. I’m not afraid of any task.. big or small. Want a small issue fixing on your site.. that’s me, want a new SAAS application writing… that’s me too. Any challenge that I can solve using PHP I’ll take it. I love WordPress… I’ve made a career out of it and more recently love Divi by Elegant Themes. Whether this is what I’m doing in ten years I don’t know but who cares.. there are plugins to be written, sites to be written and fixed.

I write plugins half of the time and sites the other half. Sometimes I get some sleep or spend time with my partner and 4 beautiful children.. life is good!

Plugins

I first got into plugin development when an acquaintance from university contacted me out of the blue to ask if I knew anything about WordPress and if I’d like to get paid to learn. He was more into SEO/Marketing and so needed a Developer to work with. At the time I was working at the Visium Group around about 2007 so had plenty of time available in the evenings and weekends. I agreed to get stuck in..

We started working on a plugin which had been abandoned by some Greek chaps. They sold a load of copies to people but it was riddled with authentication and license checking code. Their server then mysteriously went down meaning that people’s sites did too. This plugin was called Paybox, a basic membership system for an early version of WordPress. I was given this plugin, told to get rid of the bottlenecks and improve the functionality. We then distributed it to those afflicted users and a community was built around that. The plugin then became ‘Your Members’. I spent every evening I could extending it, listening to customer feedback on our support forums and releasing update after update.. we were the market leader in Membership plugins at the time.

After a year of two of this my colleague disappeared without a trace and the business floundered a bit. I did all the support still and updates but without the benefit of getting paid to do it I had to go and find other evening work. I handed the plugin over to my colleague once he returned from what turned out to be illness and a new developer was appointed whilst I did my own thing.

I’ve written custom plugins for nearly every site that I have developed for myself or for my clients. I’ve always been able to throw them together quickly and effectively so had always preferred to use my own code rather than using ‘donate button’ riddled code from third party developers. However, selling these plugins has always been something I’ve hadn’t ever attempted since my first foray into the industry in 2007.

Roll forward to early 2016 when a good friend of mine tells me about a theme called Divi. Apparently there is a huge following around it and loads of plugins to write for people to use. Since then I have written 20+ plugins, some free, some premium (18 at the time of writing), and make myself busy by writing more, supporting the community and getting stuck in to any project I can. I have been working for myself for a long time now and absolutely love it!

I have recently become part of a business called Divi United and it’s set to change the way that we develop websites using Divi. It’s exciting and fast paced.. watch this space!

Spare Time

When I was at school I used to be a keen rower (sculling & rowing). I competed in and around the North West with Queens Park High School Rowing Club in both a coxed quad and a double. I later moved from sculling to rowing in an eight with Royals in Chester. When I was at university I took up running and going to the gym in my spare time.

These days I enjoy Mountain Biking and go whenever I get chance. I have built and ride my bike which I have cobbled together from a number of performance parts. I generally ride the Coed LLandegla trails when I get time and take my trusty/rusty racer out now and again although this hasn’t happened for a looooong time!

I have recently taken up Sailing (again), something which I have been meaning to do for years. I did my RYA level 2 dinghy course at Bala Lake in September 2009 and then a few days later bought a Laser 2. The boat saga is, however, on another page on this site. It’s an interesting story though if you like sailing (or tinkering with boats). It’s now 2017 and I’ve just re-taken by RYA Level 2 because since 2009 I have sailed maybe ten times. The Laser is gone and I have just bought a GP14 to train in and to teach my children.

Generally I enjoy anything which involves engines, speed, outdoors or getting wet. Typical bloke stuff really! I am in the middle of writing my own boating website (and have been for a good five years!). The idea is to give people a little more insight into Narrowboats and the canals than I had when I first started out. I had to learn everything from the general operation of the machine to its maintenance and everyday life without any help. My plan is to offer some advice and even some sort of help network so people can find out what does what and what goes where before paying someone at a marina or similar to do it for them. The domain is http://letsboat.co.uk. I have written some content but its largely placeholders for now. Thoughts welcome!

In November 2016 my eldest Son joined the local Sea Cadets unit in Crewe. I also signed up as an adult instructor and I have to say that I’m having a whale of a time. It’s been a steep learning curve having not come from a military family but the waterborne activity and rope-work I enjoy a great deal.

Biography

I was originally from a village called Littleport in Cambridgeshire but I was brought up in Chester in the North West after a family move in the early 90’s. There I spent my childhood attending the local schools, ending up at Queens Park High School. I left for West Cheshire College at 16 to start my focussed computing education via a BTEC National Diploma in Computing. It went into every aspect of computing from theory, building them, supporting Windows and it’s applications. Programming, ironically, I hated. At the time I thought arrays were the most difficult thing in the world. Thankfully I got the hang of them 🙂 I received a Distinction at college which was the equivalent to a few A’s at A level and enough to get me into University, the first in my family to do so.

I decided to go back down south for university and went to Anglia Ruskin University to do a BSc (Hons). I achieved a 1st class Degree in Cambridge. My Dissertation was focussed on Active Badges and a designed a small PHP based mapping/tracking system and a data entry bot to create fake information to prove my points in the accompanying report.

Whilst at university I decided to invest in some property but couldn’t afford it. So, prompted by yet another property program that featured boats, I decided that I should do the same. I read up on it and then decided to go looking at a few Narrowboats around the country.

Later that week I had bought one and was happily chugging it home from Gayton Marina in Northampton to Orchard Marina in Northwich. It took three or four weekends and, albeit a few mishaps, we got it back in one piece. The boat was a bit of a mess and very dated (hence the price) so I decided to completely refit it over one of my summers from university. It was never entirely finished but nothing DIY related ever is.. I made a good job of it though considering I did the whole thing using hand tools around shifts working at the local pub.

After a while and once the refit was complete I decided to move out of the marina and get a new ‘inline’ mooring in Barbridge outside of Crewe. By this time I was working in or around Crewe so it was a good move. I stayed there for a year or so and then decided to get a newer bigger boat.

I got one and, luckily, sold the old one about the same time although the marina I was in didn’t have any large enough moorings. I moved to another inline mooring near Northwich just outside Weaverham on the Trent and Mersey canal. This boat was large enough for pets so I decided to get two rabbits which lived in the saloon area (although sometimes escaped and started demolishing the rest of the boat!).

In 2007 I decided that both the commute from Northwich and an inadequate level of heat from the diesel stove were too much so I bought a house in Crewe. That was a few years ago now… oh how the time flies! Now in my second house in Crewe, a family home and with my 4 delightful children. Everything falls into place in the end doesn’t it!

I have picked up quite a few things over the years in woodwork, plumbing, 12 volt electronics and general DIY skills. I am now a bit of a boat fanatic and enjoy to Sail when I have some time for it. I happily bore people to tears with our exploits at any and all gatherings whether they like it or not!

I started my own business in late 2009 and went Ltd establishing Tortoise IT in 2011. Now life is good and I look to the next challenge in life. Bring it on..

Work History

I graduated from Anglia Ruskin University with a first class degree in Enterprise Computing (Computer Science re-branded) in 2006. Since then I’ve gained experience and diversity programming a wide range of systems in PHP for various sources.

I started work after university as a one man IT Department for a company selling batteries via their OSCommerce website. This taught me how to deal with frameworks that others have contributed to and better debug broken code. OSCommerce, as you may well know is a rabbit warren of files and making changes to a shop behind installing the odd plugin is no small task! this job taught me a great deal about troubleshooting, being resourceful and vastly improved my communication and negotiation skills.

I left my job to work for the Visium Group (http://www.propertysecrets.net) in 2007 as a PHP Programmer. I spent most of my day extending and maintaining a bespoke PHP framework although with a shrinking team (Credit Crunch) my responsibilities stretched out a bit into server administration (Windows and Unix) and designing the systems before writing them. Although bad for the company, I considered this to be a good opportunity for me because my skills were being extended somewhat. I enjoyed my job at Visium solely because myself and the team had some say in the way the site worked. This developed a passion for improving sites and their usability. Some might call the things I suggest a little anal but for the most part I consider myself to be a creative mind for site improvement and ongoing administration.

Sadly on the 10th August 2009 the Visium Group commenced liquidation procedures. This left me jobless however rather helpfully I had already handed in my notice to leave. I now work as a freelance PHP Programmer whilst looking after my two children at home. I work with a regular number of clients who use me for anything from a sounding board for new site ideas to full implementation of sites. Thus far this has been enjoyable and fruitful!

I am now fully fledged and self employed as a website developer/consultant. I like to work with all sorts of people on all sorts of jobs. I find myself working with different systems these days and the challenge is a good one. I often spend my time clearing up after other coders before moving onto optimise sites for Usability. I mainly work with WordPress at the moment (for everything if I can get away with it!) because it’s incredibly powerful, has a fantastic theme and plugin API and is very user friendly for both me as a programmer and for the clients/end users.

One of my pet hates is being paid to write a site for which the clients will have no further control. This assumed system whereby a site is written and then remains static until someone like myself is, again, paid to make changes is obsolete and wastes a lot of money and time for everyone. I generally recommend WordPress or to my clients so that I can design a theme, set it up and train them in it’s usage. They can then edit the content to their hearts content therefore releasing any blocks on creativity and spurring their site/business forward (sounds tacky I know but it’s the truth)!

Otherwise I run this site (when I get time) and write/maintain a number of WordPress plugins to be freely released to the internet community (check out my downloads page or scan through my blog posts… plenty of freebees in there up for grabs. I often get questions and queries for a number of different and exciting projects sent to me and enjoy the challenge of solving them!

Tortoise IT

I used to have two tortoises who quite happily spent their lives either sleeping or eating but not really doing a great deal very quickly. Tortoise IT is my company name which I have decided to use for my site and business.

I shall say right away that it’s not because I share the lazy lifestyle of a tortoise (I wish I had that sort of time!) and work slowly… A tortoise, despite being slow, has many hidden qualities which people don’t appreciate… for instance a hard back… never afraid to do some heavy lifting, a pleasant demeanour… no arguments there then, and finally patience and commitment. I rely a lot on repeat custom and therefore it’s in my interest to be popular and good to deal with (and cheap, I imagine, comes into it). I will work with you to achieve the end result, whether it means me uploading a few files for you, making some copy changes or helping you create the website or brand of your dreams (cheesy I know).

I have already built up good relationships with local graphic designers and design agencies to help you with the look and feel of your project if that’s what you want/need. I also have contacts in Search Engine Optimisation to get you noticed by Google and other search engines. I, myself, am a programmer, I will get your site looking how you want and working in such a way you will never want to go back to a desktop application again. I am a WordPress specialist so don’t be surprised if it’s my first suggestion for a platform however I have extensive experience in writing standalone and hugely scalable systems as well.

If you want to get in touch with me to work or just to ask something then please fill out the following form and I shall get back to you asap.

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