Rick Hurst Web Developer in Bristol, UK


Category: web design

So what is it that I do, exactly?

different stuff that Rick Hurst does - freelance web developer, olivewood, kudos, lightplanet, foundry

If you ask any of my family or friends what it is that I do for a living, you will most likely get, at worst, a blank look, or, at best, maybe “web designer?”, “computer programmer?”, or maybe just “something to do with computers?”. It doesn’t help that my linked in profile has me claiming to be doing at least three different jobs at a time, and that I seemed to be involved with a number of different companies. I think possibly even those that work with me aren’t entirely sure what it is that I do most of the time! I thought i’d clarify what i’m up to at the moment, and how things have evolved over the last few years.

I am a freelance web developer

Primarily I make my living as a freelance web developer. This means that I spend most of my time building websites. By “building” a website I mean taking it from an idea to a finished website – planning, designing, templating, coding and uploading to a web server so that it is live on the internet. As well as web “sites”, I build web “applications”. These are computer programs that people interact with through a web browser. A web browser is the computer program that you use to look at websites e.g. internet explorer (the blue E), firefox (the fox wrapped around the world) or maybe safari (the compass). As well as looking at websites on the internet, you may be using a web browser to use web applications in your workplace.

But am I a designer?

I occasionally design websites, but it isn’t my specialism. If budget allows I prefer to hire a really good designer to come up with the design concepts. I know lots of good designers. I take their design concepts and run with it to put all the technical stuff in place to take it from an idea to an actual website. When I work for a design agency, I am hired always for my technical skills, never for my design skills – let’s face facts, I think there’s a reason for that! Most of the work on my “portfolio” wasn’t designed by me – I usually just did the technical bits.

Do I do any computer programming that isn’t related to web sites or web applications?

Increasingly more. I seem to be doing more and more data crunching these days, involving writing scripts that move files around on servers and extracting data from different places and putting things in databases. I would call that programming. Most of this type of programming is actually using skills I learned while building web sites and web applications, but some of the things i’ve built aren’t web sites or web applications at all.

So am I actually freelance, or do I work for a company?

By freelance, I mean that I work for myself, but companies and organisations employ me on a freelance basis. Therefore sometimes I may appear to be working for several companies at once. Sometimes I work directly for my own clients, other times transparently as an additional resource for a design or digital media agency. Either way, I invoice for the work I do on either a fixed price or a “time and materials” basis, and this is how I make a living.

What is Olivewood then?

In 2007 I co-formed a company called Olivewood Data Technologies Ltd, and all my freelance work is invoiced through Olivewood. Olivewood is co-owned by a client and friend, and we set it up primarily as a vehicle for consulting and development services, but also as a legal entity to own the IP for a number of niche eCommerce web applications that we plan to sell to other companies. At one point we thought Olivewood might be a digital media agency, but now we are pretty sure it is a software consultancy. [Update 2014 – Olivewood is now a supplier of high power LED lighting specialising in lighting for cold storage warehouses – how things change!]

And what about Foundry?

In May 2010 I sat on the watershed balcony with fellow freelancers Dan Fairs and Dan Hilton and talked about teaming up to be able to take on and pitch for projects bigger than we could handle as individual freelancers. We came up with the name Foundry, and shortly after collaborated on a successful project together. We all still work as freelancers, but hope to spend more time working together under the Foundry banner in 2011 and beyond. The challenge is moving the focus from looking after our own interests and incomes to working together, and to do that we need a big project that would keep us all too busy to take on other freelance work.

Will I fix your computer?

No I flippin’ wont! Have you tried switching it off and on again?

Architen Landrell site launched

arhciten landrell website screengrab

Netsight have been so busy recently that we haven’t updated our portfolio for a while, but I wanted to mention this site, as it gave us an excuse to experiment with some nice visual features such as scriptaculous effects, flash galleries etc. The site has a plone back end for Content Management, but the front end was built from the ground up, so is a nice example of a “non-ploney” plone-based site. It helps that Architen had some excellent photography to use on the site – all maintained by themselves via plone including image resizing and cropping for the portfolio pages.

For more details on the project see the write-up here

Plone Skinning SkillSwap was a success!

Plone skinning Workshop by Rick Hurst at the Watershed in Bristol

I am really pleased to say that the Plone Skinning presentation last night was a success! About 30 local web designers/developers and people interested in using Plone turned up – a much higher attendance than my previous “Plone Demo” talk. I used the Plone S5 product to create a simple set of slides with a few bullet points to keep me from jumping around too much, but it was mostly a hands on presentation demonstrating a bit of basic customisation via the ZMI, then the process for creating a filesystem based skin.

I ran plone locally and used dreamweaver (in code view with large fonts) to do ZPT editing to keep things familiar for those designers who may be scared by the idea of terminals and Emacs!

I also tried to dispell the “all plone sites look the same” myth by taking a random design I had knocked up as a static html page and inserting the minimum possible ZPT markup to make it function as a front end plone main template rendering the body content and portlets (with none of the plone CSS).

The Q&A was really good – it ranged from basic questions about templating to “can plone do….?” type questions. I think I managed to field them all fairly well – i’ll have to wait to see the video (coming soon) to listen back for any clangers I may have made. I was disappointed however that all the free beer had gone by the end of the Q&A – a conspiracy maybe? “psstt… keep Rick talking while we drink all the beer – ask him if there is a cow-milking module available…”.

The event was sponsored by Knowledge West (room/projector hire/buffet) and beer kindly provided by Team Rubber.

archived comments

Any chance you could make the hacked main_template.pt available to look at?

Shane Graber 2007-01-17 13:35:33

Congratulations for this successfull event. Is there any Screencast available for the Plone comunity ?

Norbert M Haigermoser 2007-01-17 12:01:07

Yes the presentation was videoed and will be put online in the near future – I will post a link on my blog when it is ready.

Rick 2007-01-17 12:06:58

sure – http://www.rickhurst.co.uk/code/minimal_main_template.pt.txt

in fact the doctype slot and top slot aren’t strictly necessary here, but this shows the basics of rendering the body content and portlets (just cut and pasted from plone default main_template.

word of warning though, as this doesn’t render any links to places like the prefs_portalskin_form or the ZMI, inexperienced users may lock themselves out if not careful! Having a minimal template like this is only intended for where you use a seperate skin (i.e. usually Plone Default) for editing.

Rick 2007-01-17 14:48:17

Looking forward to seeing the screencast of this event when its ready, especially after recently watching the video on the first Plone event which was great – any idea when this might be up? 🙂

David 2007-02-25 11:03:02

I’ve been nagging the guy who is sorting the video – he is trying to get it sorted but has a genuine lack of editing time available at the moment i’m afraid 🙁

Rick 2007-02-25 19:54:59

It’s look something interesting. May I know where i should get the detail of Plone Skinning Information

Ritz 2007-12-27 02:24:30

unix command to delete the .svn folders

This command will delete all those pesky .svn directories that have been left by subversion:-

find ./ -name ".svn" | xargs rm -Rf
(obviously you will want to keep the .svn folders if you are still using subversion!)

archived comments

Or a slightly safer version:

find . -name “.svn” -print0 | xargs -0 rm -Rf

(those are zeros, not ohs, if your font shows them ambigiously)

This is slightly safer as is used a null byte () as the delimiter between entries, rather than a space. This means that if I happen to have a folder called “foo” and one with spaces in called “foo bar”, you might find a .svn dir present in “foo bar” will cause the whole of the “foo” directory to be deleted.


Matt 2006-10-17 15:16:24

Thanks a bunch for this… Looking for an easy way to remove the .svn dirs without having to go to each directory. Saved me some serious time.

Craig 2007-01-09 14:57:16

Thanks a thousand. You too, Matt.

Braden 2007-03-06 22:18:23

I use this to delete temp mac osx files

find . -name “._*” -print0 | xargs -0 rm -Rf

handy to run before uploading a project via ftp.

Tim 2009-02-28 04:53:01

Depending on the situation, you might be able to just use the ‘svn export’ to check out a clean tree?

Tom 2010-03-06 10:54:19

Mobile web and AJAX

I tried out a friends pocket pc (or is it windows mobile now?) smartphone recently – a cool little device with a slide out QWERTY keyboard (I think it was a variation of this htc device). It also had wifi support so I thought I would try to blog from it. However, he hadn’t got opera installed and the wordpress gui completely failed to work in pocket internet explorer. I’m sure there is a solution to this, but I was disappointed that the wordpress online admin didn’t gracefully degrade.

This is something to consider when designing web apps – whilst AJAX could potentially be used to provide huge usability enhancements to people using mobile web devices with small screens – the majority of people are going to be using windows mobile with pocket internet explorer – your app should work with no javascript support at all. and then be progressively enhanced with AJAX as a seperate consideration.

watch that page

i’ve just set up an account with watchthatpage.com in attempt to find an easier way to keep track of sites that have not yet joined the RSS revolution. There are plenty of sites still out there that do not provide an RSS feed for their news pages and blogs. As Robert Scoble pointed out a while back – 98% of people don’t use RSS, but that means 2% of users do – which is a hell of a lot of traffic, reading the web via an RSS aggregator rather than actually visiting the site. It seems backwards not to have an RSS feed for frequently (or infrequently) updated news/blog content. I’ve used this analogy before, but i’ll use it again – expecting people to visit your web site just to see if anything has changed is a bit like standing on someones doorstep and not knocking or ringing the bell, but hoping that someone will come and open the door occasionally just to see if anyone is a standing there.

I don’t actually use my RSS aggregator (bloglines.com – an online service, so I can keep track of news and blogs from any web device, including my mobile phone) to read all the sites I visit – some sites (scobelizer, register etc) are updated so frequently that I know thay will have updated since I last looked, so I just have them bookmarked (via foxylicious firefox extension – my bookmarks are maintained from my del.icio.us tags), otherwise my aggregator gets full of unread content and this reduces the value of it, as I tend to skim read and dismiss stuff.

archived comments

I arrived at this website from Yahoo after seeking out an alternate to WatchThatPage since Watch That Page has become unavailable. I wound up registering with ChangeDetect. This is a great service, but in contrast to claims on their web-site is not really cost-free. But at least the site is most effective for watching web content changes.

Mark Nagode 2010-10-07 15:36:23

IE7 plays peekaboo to a new level

The first site i’ve had to fix for Internet Explorer 7 is our very own www.netsightmcc.co.uk (Netsight Metropolitan Colocation Centre – the website for our Bristol datacentre). It appeared that in IE7 RC1, none of the content of anything other than the homepage was visible. We were only alerted to this by a potential customer phoning up for more information, which the site seemed to be lacking.

The reason for this appeared to be an even more aggressive version of the so-called peekaboo bug found in IE6, although this site works fine in IE6. By applying a (hack) of a 1% height to a div that contained the missing content, it now appears to be working OK in IE7 RC1. I haven’t filtered this hack out into an IE7 specific stylesheet yet, but will if I spot any undesired side effects. Maybe there’s a better way of fixing this? Time will tell, or maybe a stranger will.

JSON – JavaScript Object Notation

Another abbreviation(?)/buzzword that i’ve been hearing for months but I have only just understood what it is. From All in the Head (Drew Mclellan’s blog):-

if you’re not familiar, JavaScript Object Notation is a method of describing data structures such as arrays and objects and their contents in plain text. On receiving a chunk of JSON you can eval() it to recreate the data structure within your script

Read more about JSON here