In praise of routine

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For the first time since October 2008, I’ve been in one place for more than 6 months. Long enough to get into a routine and start to feel like I’m living a normal’ish life. Long enough to feel like I can start building something more than airmiles.

The simple benefits to this is that I’ve now got a stable personal cashflow, and consistent expenses which I can budget against and plan for. I know I’m playing hockey each week, know that I can go to gym and do exercise regularly, I know I’m going to see key people in my life often enough to engage with them more than superficially,

As an aside, this happily coincides with being in London for 10 years. Thinking back, I’ve been in London for longer than any other city, since I was 13, so think that affords me the privilege of saying I’m a Londoner. More importantly, I no longer feel transient here. I’ve got a plan, I’m on a mission, and I’m comfortable with that.

I thought I’d never say this, but I’m really enjoying having a routine, and through living the routine for long enough, I’m starting to see the benefits of optimising that routine, and getting into daily habits which make life better, faster, easier, more fulfilling.

More and more, I’m drawn to the conclusion that despite what our modern society preaches about the always connected lifestyle we lead, there are some simple fundamentals which are absolutely essential to making personal progress, and good daily habits are one of them.

What are your daily habits?

Front End Developer job in London, at Kublax

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Location: London, UK

Description:
Do you believe in user-focused, web standard design and development, driven by simplicity?
Kublax is a financial services SaaS start-up based in London, looking for a motivated UI person to help deliver a compelling product for a venture-backed project.

This is an opportunity to play a significant role in a forthcoming site relaunch, using page layouts, storyboards, site grids and interface demos to create a compelling site experience. You’ll be working with the product manager and visual designer to create a user experience with a high wow-factor, so your background should include a blend of creative and technical competencies.

Your technical proficiency and real-world experience should show in your portfolio. You should also have 3+ years experience developing frontend interfaces, be able to create mockups, and be a great communicator.

In return, you’ll have the opportunity to work on a visible web product with a talented team in London.

Responsibilites:
• Interface design
• Helping to finesse storyboards, page layouts, site grids and interface demos, prototyping.
• Knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of modern front-end technologies & approaches (XHTML/CSS, ActionScript, JavaScript, AJAX, DHTML, etc.) and the curiosity to tinker and play.

Required experience:
• 3+ years experience in front-end web development
• Experience translating comps and wireframes into flexible and usable code templates
• Strong working knowledge developing cross platform/browser compatibility (IE, Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc.) for dynamic web applications
• Hand coded (X)HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Please provide evidence of progressive techniques, separation of markup, presentation and behaviour layers in your front-end code including use of unobtrusive JavaScript
• Experience in developing web applications with rich client interfaces using AJAX, drag and drop, and other DOM Scripting techniques
• Familiarity with JavaScript frameworks and animation libraries like Prototype, Scriptaculous and JQuery
• Knowledge of SEO best practices
• Experience with SVN and Java
• Excellent verbal, writing, visualization, and presentation skills

Desirable:
• Experience of Google Web Toolkit

To Apply:
E-mail your cover letter and resume to sridhar AT kublax DOT com
Subject header must have UI WEB DEVELOPER-LNDN.

Absolutely no recruiters or offshore development teams please.

Spread the word: South Africans abroad can vote overseas

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Just in case you didn’t know:
The Constitutional Court ruled this morning that expatriate South Africans have the right to vote!

Only those already registered will be eligible to vote, and must notify the chief electoral officer of their intention to vote by March 27. The London Voting Station will be South Africa House/ SA High Commission.

To check if you are eligible to vote, visit:
https://www.elections.org.za/AmRegister/amregister.aspx.

Hat tip: SA Business Club newsletter

* Update – from the SA LegalBrief Today newsletter *

Constitutional: Registered expats cleared to vote
The Constitutional Court yesterday ruled unanimously that South Africans living abroad had the right to vote if they were registered. The court ruled that section 33 of the 1998 Electoral Act unfairly restricted the right to cast special votes while abroad to a very narrow class of citizens. It declared this section to be unconstitutional. As a result, all citizens who are registered voters, and who will be out of the country on 22 April, will be allowed to vote in the national (not provincial) elections ‘provided they give notice of their intention to do so, in terms of the Election Regulations, on or before 27 March to the Chief Electoral Officer and identify the embassy, high commission or consulate where they intend to apply for the special vote’. Handing down the first of two separate judgments, Justice Kate O’Regan said the right to vote had a symbolic and democratic value and those who were registered should not be limited by unconstitutional and invalid limitations in the Electoral Act. However, notes a report in The Times, a second judgment by Justice Sandile Ngcobo found that unregistered voters overseas could not vote. The limitations had been in effect since 2003 and the applicants had not explained why they had left the challenge so late. This follows an application by the Freedom Front Plus on behalf of a Pretoria school teacher working in the UK, as well as representation by the IFP, the DA, the A-Party, a lobby group, and an independent group of South Africans living overseas.

Political parties across the board have welcomed the ruling, according to an SABC News report. The Freedom Front Plus says it is a victory for democracy. Party leader Pieter Mulder said it was difficult to say whether the ruling would have an impact on the outcome of the elections, but that was not the point. DA chairperson James Selfe predicted that the ruling would improve the party’s performance in the elections: ‘We will benefit differentially from this decision,’ he said. The DA would in coming days decide whether to launch a separate legal bid to secure voters abroad the right to cast ballots for provincial governments as well. ‘It is a matter that we need to think through thoroughly.’ Figures had shown that most registered voters lived in the UK and the DA might extend its campaign to reach the large expatriate community there. According to a Mail & Guardian Online report, Selfe also said the DA was planning to bring forward new legislative proposals to clean up the whole business of the rights of South Africans abroad to vote. ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte is quoted as saying the ruling was in line with the ANC’s view that every effort should be made to ensure all South Africans, including those temporarily living abroad, be given an opportunity to cast their votes in elections.

The Independent Electoral Commission has no idea how many expatriates might vote, says a report in The Times. It notes more than 5 000 South Africans living abroad have already applied for a special vote, but the final number is anyone’s guess, the IEC’s chief electoral officer, Pansy Tlakula, has conceded.

Although the decision will not have a major impact on the elections, it is significant – both for the message it conveys to South Africans living abroad, and for what it says about the current state of our country today, writes political commentator James Myburgh on the Politicsweb site. He says the decision to disenfranchise overseas South Africans was a thoroughly mean-spirited one. The old ruling clique of the ANC clearly felt their departure to be some kind of rebuke – and so sought to punish them. In his affidavit to the Constitutional Court, IFP leader and former Minister of Home Affairs, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, wrote that a senior official had explained the ANC’s rationale as follows: ‘They left us in the lurch and do not deserve to vote.’ This petty and vindictive attitude was carried over until recently. By contrast, writes Myburgh, Judge Kate O’Regan’s reasoning in the judgment is broadminded and generous. She noted that SA is now part of a global economy which allows citizens of this country to study and work abroad: ‘The experience that they gain will enrich our society when they return…. The evidence before us, too, shows that many South African citizens abroad make remittances to family members in SA while they are abroad, or save money to buy a house. To the extent that citizens engaged in such pursuits want to take the trouble to participate in elections while abroad, it is an expression both of their continued commitment to our country and their civic-mindedness from which our democracy will benefit.’ Hopefully, writes Myburgh, extending the right to vote to citizens abroad will foster a continued sense of belonging, and help keep alive the desire to return.

It’s not about being the most frugal

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Henrik comments on my Building a Startup You Love (is Hard) pdf / ebook
_ Henrik Torstensson’s Weblog: It is not about being the most frugal

Indeed, frugality is a great trait to have, in my humble opinion, when building a startup. You go and buy fruit and nuts instead of getting food delivered from the Ritz, you use online services with a cheap monthly subscription instead of buying in hardware / software, you start with interns and grow them into superstars instead of hiring FTE MBA grads… there are many examples.

However, I think being sustainable is more important. If frugality is living beneath your means, then sustainability is the bar you set to decide what your means are…. Does that make sense?

Would we be seeing the proliferation of services / apps everywhere, if they all had to make cash from Day 1? Probably not.

We’d be the poorer for it, and have less gimmicks to play with during lunch, but I also think we’d get better quality, and more attention to what is actually useful, as ultimately that is what people will pay for. Anyways, that’s another rant.

Henrik – thanks for the plug ;-)

Shake and bake baby – MyHeritage buys Kindo

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A few years ago, I think it was October 2005 to be exact, I was leaving Open Box Software, and had decided to go it on my own, for the second time. If someone had asked me then if today was where I was going to be now (start to acquisition in just over a year), I think I would have been hopeful but would probably have laughed.

After all, I had no money, knew few people, and although I was certainly competent technically I was never going to be a Larry Page. Breaking new ground and creating awesomeness is not easy for me, I tried being an artist but didn’t get very far. I’m a zoologist you see, I analyse and optimise, always within the constraints of an ecosystem which has rules and flows. I don’t regret not being a proper zoologist yet, there will be time for that one day.

So here I am 3 years later and what a rush it’s been
Kindo loves MyHeritage
Kindo loves MyHeritage

Full story on the Kindo blog.
Seen on Techrunch UK, VentureBeat, Techcrunch US, paidContent and PHP Kitchen to mention a few of the 130 odd posts thus far.
Here is the official press release.

Along the way, I’ve managed to learn many new things, grow with some fine people, evolve as a person, adapt to changing situations, and almost break myself in the process. Looking back it was brute force until recently. Now I get by on smarts. Hopefully it’ll stay that way.

The chair it all started on
This is the chair it all started on, back in my bedroom.

I’ve been wondering what this post should be about for a while now, as so much blood, sweat and many tears are tied to this, but I’m pretty sure that getting too personal is not really interesting to most people. Those that know me know what I’ve been through and why it’s something I could get emotional about. Instead I think I’m going to thank the people that have been involved along the way, and leave it at that.

Malcolm – thanks for believing in me right at the beginning, truly, truly appreciated.

Joseph – thanks for all the time we’ve spent discussing things dude, you’re a legend.

Rachel – thanks for all the work you did with me, it’s made a massive difference. I’ll be grateful to you for as long as I live…

Fraser and Cliff – thanks for the first lessons you imparted, your support, and the opportunities you’ve given me.

Debora, Georgie, Andrew, Katherine, Leo – thanks for being so good at what you do, being human, and letting me grow in my own lunchbox.

Alistair, Nick, Tom, Tim and Ido – thanks for taking a chance, I hope you guys are realising the benefits of the stuff we did for you.

Ryan, Gill, John, Dustin, Erin, Peter, Ed, Andy, Hash, Dave, Chris – you guys have given so much support and understanding when I couldn’t find that anywhere else.  More than anything, you understand.  We’re all older and wiser now, lets do some cool stuff, shall we ;-)

Stephen – I don’t know what you were thinking when you carried on past the first weeks of working with me back in the Summer of 2006, but I think we’ve come a long way since then. Thanks for being so reliable. Thanks for your sense of humour. Most of all, thanks to the Hoff. Looking forward to company 3… ;-)

Andrew – like Stephen, you’ve stuck around through thick and thin, which for me is both a compliment and a wonder. Thanks for your calm head, and experienced hand. Looking forward to company 4… ;-)

Demian – I’ve learnt much from you, and have enjoyed the benefit of your experience, it’s almost unbelievable we made it through that cold office and into 38k profiles a day ;-)

Stan, Dmitri, Julien, Thomas, Ali, James, Damon – You’re all great hackers, it’s been a pleasure working with you, even when the office felt like a pressure cooker at times.

Ryan, Adam, Andy – You guys gave us the designs that made us stand out and look the business. You’re all great to work with, and it’s been awesome. Hope we can work together more in the future.

Nils – I was doubtful at first, ‘cos I couldn’t see through your calmness, but now I’m a believer. It is a pleasure, and I’m looking forward to the next chapters. Onwards and upwards.

Mario, Martin, Julia, Alberto, Fabien, Sophiane – Guys, we couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it without you. So many startups forget that the human (read: marketing / pr) side of things is actually what makes progress in the real world. All the code in the world doesn’t matter if people can’t find you. So, thanks for the long hours, dedication and hard work, I hope you guys become giants when you’re grown up ;-)

The day of the announcement
An awesome bunch of people, would go with you anywhere.

Saul, Robin, Stefan, Taavet, Eileen, Peter – Thanks for believing in us, the help and guidance you’ve given, and ultimately what’s rubbed off onto us. I/we couldn’t have asked for a better group of people for backing.

Sarah – thanks for being there when things got tough, I’m gutted you’re not around now ;-(

Marisha – your honesty, perspective and values are appreciated more than you know or will admit to… Thanks!

Tina – thanks for your hard work in the sale process, enough said ;-)

Siobhan
– thanks for the advice, even though we didn’t work with you guys…

Morgs – thanks for being so patient, and for putting up with so much of me being unavailable as a brother, and for not throwing my laptop out the window when it would have been expected to do so. You’re the best, almost like a Gillette razor ;-)

Mom and Dad – where do I start? How do I begin? Everything I call a virtue has been instilled by you, so what else can I say?

Michelle
– I’ve only known you a relatively short while, but it’s been great. Thanks for your insight, wisdom, and for hitting me on the head a few times – looking forward to the next few years!

Gilad, Sueli, Uri and Nir – great job on MyHeritage so far, lets build something significant to families around the world!

And last but certainly not least, the good guys that have kept my feet planted firmly on the ground, in no particular order:
Anne, Scurry, Wazza, Georgie, Wagon, Sean, Snorkes, Biff, Cone, Dunners, Tim, Penguin, Pete Z, Worville, Strola, Hobbo, Steel, Deano, Brettie, Mark, Phil, Lazza, Irish, Miles, Richy, Frances, Russ, Hollster, Matt, Trish, George, Brett, Lisa, Jen, Shev, Debsk, Benno, Edge, Jon, Tina, Stoner, Charlie “Heart like fire, Mind like Ice” Reville, Charlie “Richard” Charlesworth, Cookie, Jim “The Legend” Sayer, Badman, B Hanlon, Charlie “Yeah!” Howard, Charlie “C-F” Theux… and more to come as I think of them ;-)

Tips for landing a php job in London

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OK, so I’ve not got long so will be brief and to the point with this one, in the hope that it will help some of the people that read this blog, and maybe even some of the folks that are looking for devs to join their teams.

I’ve had to run through a lot of agencies and candidates in the last month or so, recruiting for Kindo, and these are some thoughts in no particular order:

As a candidate

DO:

  • accept there is lots of good competition; you have to stand out to be noticed
  • research on the company you’re interviewing at – it’s polite and will help you with 3, 4 and 5
  • send a cv that is relevant to the job spec – java experience won’t interest someone looking for a php person
  • learn how to sell yourself and articulate your experience – enough said
  • accept you’re going to have to send code to show what you can do – send your best relevant code
  • describe what your code is supposed to be doing to there is context – don’t just send a bunch of methods
  • comment more than you think you should – esp if you’re going to work in a team or be contracting
  • write documentation in the code for something like phpDocumentor – that makes people happy

As a general rule (unless you’re a superstar), your work environment, the people you work with, and the work you’ll be doing, should all supersede remuneration unless you have a specific reason (like a mortgage for example).

As someone recruiting

DO:
Read this first:
http://www.nickhalstead.com/2008/07/01/10-reasons-why-i-hate-recruitment-agents/

  • accept that it is going to take up a lot of your time
  • have a clear job spec and role description in place to send around
  • use your personal network first
  • get your agencies to send some cv’s to assess the kind of candidates they have
  • ask for source code if you like the cv – you’ll do less unnecessary face to face’s
  • expect them to do some filtering and work for you; if not, bin them
  • turn your phone off if you want quiet time to work
  • agree on terms first, or re-confirm them if circumstances change on your end

Hope that helps!! ;-)