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OpenLampTech - Developer Interview with Will Earp
Veteran professional web software developer Will Earp is making the web a safer place. Learn about this inspiring work and more here in OpenLampTech.
Welcome to this OpenLampTech text-based developer interview.
In the recent past, I shared in a Reddit post that I was searching for developers who were interested in participating in a text-based interview for the OpenLampTech publication.
I am super-excited that Will Earp agreed to participate in this developer interview for the OpenLampTech readers.
And now without any further adieu, on to the interview.
Q: Please introduce yourself and tell us what you currently do for a living.
I’m Will Earp, professional web software developer since 1998. I am the Digital Experience Manager at a charity called SWGfL, the charity helps people benefit from technology, free from harm.
We do this through a number of projects and products, we are ⅓ of the UK Safer Internet Centre, we run the Revenge Porn Helpline, we connect governments and industry helping raise awareness and develop online safety policy, and we develop tools to help improve online safety within schools.
We also run a platform we developed with Meta called StopNCII that prevents intimate images from being shared on social media platforms.
In my spare time, I have developed some PHP minification tools, a user agent parser, and an ES6 jQuery clone.
Q: What PHP framework(s) and/or CMS(s) are you interested in the most or currently using and why?
I started doing PHP when there were no frameworks, so I have always developed everything I need myself. Over my career, I have developed a number of frameworks and CMS’s. At SWGfL all our systems are built using an in-house developed framework.
It is surprising how little core code you need to build a dynamic website, an autoloader, a database class, and a template renderer. CMS’s are more complex, they need forms management, and of course the CMS program.
Q: Do you think it is important for developers to know some SQL and not rely solely on an ORM? Why or why not?
Databases are the powerhouse behind every dynamic website, I have always written or generated my SQL for fetching and managing that data. So for me, a solid knowledge of SQL is essential.
Q: What is one piece of software that you just cannot live without and why?
Browser. It is the window to the web and the target of most of my code.
My flavour is Firefox Developer Edition, apart from the fact it is a superb piece of software, their motivation for building it is to make the Web a better place, which sits well with my ethos.
Q: You type all of your code in which IDE/Text Editor/Software?
Every IDE I pick seems to end up being discontinued! I started with Allaire HomeSite, they stopped making that because it got bought by Macromedia. I then moved on to Dreamweaver, until they got bought by Adobe. Then it was a PHP-specific version of Eclipse (can’t remember the name), they stopped making that because there was a plugin called PDT. I tried that but didn’t get on with it. So I started using Atom, and of course, when Microsoft acquired GitHub, they stopped making that too.
So now I use VSCodium. It is basically VSCode, but it is built from the open-source repository and doesn’t have any of the Microsoft-specific stuff in it.
Q: How has working as a web developer/designer/professional benefited you other than the obvious paycheck and monetary value?
I just love being creative with computers, I would probably do it whether I was getting paid or not! I am very lucky that I have spent my career building my own frameworks and software, really I am just getting paid to do my hobby.
Building open-source software has definitely made me a better developer, it taught me how to write better documentation, how to write unit tests, setup CI/CD pipelines, and improve code and delivery performance. With no deadlines or outside influence you can perfect your passion projects, and make it the best it can be.
In my work life, I am proud of what my team and I have built, especially when it helps people. We built a chatbot that helps victims of harmful content and intimate image abuse get support and report their content so we can get it taken down for them. We also built a platform called ProjectEVOLVE to help teachers teach online safety resilience to children and track their progression, which is now used by around half the schools in the UK.
Q: Do you have a book, newsletter, blog, podcast or other resource you would recommend to other developers?
Q: What hobbies or activities do you do for fun?
Mostly programming, but I also cycle, play with my kids, and follow Formula 1.
Q: Where can readers go to learn more about you and any projects you may have going?
You can find out all about my work on my portfolio https://hexydec.com/.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add or share with the OpenLampTech readers?
Building open-source software is a great way to become a better developer, and may reignite your passion for development if your job has been getting you down.
You don’t have to build something revolutionary, just find something you need, where perhaps what you are using currently isn’t quite up to scratch. Perhaps you could do a better job? I guarantee you will learn a whole lot, and you will be a better developer for it.
Thank you, Will Earp, for sharing your knowledge and insights with the OpenLampTech newsletter readers and community!
Thank you for reading. I hope you have a great rest of your week.
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