Category: Freelancing

Taking back ownership of the word ‘freelancer’

PHPSouthAfrica

Based on some prompting by Hugh I applied as a speaker at PHPSouthAfrica this year. Apparently they still don’t know how little I actually know as they accepted my talk submission 😉

I’ll be talking just after afternoon tea about a topic that has been on my mind since 2010, that of the common perception of the freelancer, specifically when it comes to developers.

A freelancer or freelance worker is defined as a person who is self-employed and is not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term. Since becoming a freelance developer in 2010 I’ve discovered that there is a stigma attached to the word. I don’t know if it is developer specific, but every time I meet or take on a new client the fact that I am ‘freelance’ tends to inspire visions of horror, usually of poor deliverables, bad client support and just a general lack of responsibility. In my talk, I would like to unpack this problem and provide some solutions to it.

Here are the slides for this talk.

Filed under: Development, Experiences, FreelancingTagged with:

Gutenberg day 8 – Contributing to Core

I’m attempting my first shot at contributing to WordPress core with ticket that was opened 8 years ago!

I feel like it’s small enough that I can get something done by the time the next release rolls around but useful enough that it will make peoples lives easier.

Feel free to follow the ticket to see how it pans out.

In other news, using Gutenberg today was a bit of a pain. Because I use Jetpack’s publicise functionality to share my content socially and Jetpack does not yet support Gutenberg (for obvious reasons) I have to write up the post in Gutenberg but not publish it and then edit the Post in the usual way and publish it. Today this lead to me loosing all my content and merely switching to the regular post editor. Fun times.

Filed under: Development, Experiences, Freelancing, WordPress

Gutenberg day 7 – New things

WP HackerCast
Today I'm especially excited to blog as I have a little news to share. The first episode of my new podcast has officially been published.
WP Hacker Cast is my way of talking to and learning from all the great WordPress developers I know and communicate with. I've got some great interviews coming up, but the first is always the most special. I hope you enjoy it.
Filed under: Development, Experiences, Freelancing, WordPress

Gutenberg day 4 – New things

New_Office_Space
Today was a my first day in my new office space. Since becoming fully self employed at the beginning of 2016 I've been working mostly from home on a day to day basis. This has led to a few frustrating moments, although based on what I've seen I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this.
In order to try and find better focus on my work and more of a separation of work and home life, I'm sharing an office space about 10 minutes from where I stay. It works out pretty well, except for a minor hiccup today which meant I lost about an hour of my day. The upside however is that I am less inclined to take my laptop out when I get home and I'm therefore less inclined to work after hours. Part of me still feels like I haven't done enough today but I'm hopeful that as I get used to the new setup I'll become more productive with the time that I do have for work. 
Filed under: Experiences, Freelancing

2017 WordPress resolutions – mid year check in.

Late last year I wrote down my 2017 WordPress resolutions. These were the goals I set myself (for better or worse) that I would like to achieve this year.

As we’re just over halfway through the year I thought it might be interesting to take a look back and see if I’ve made any headway on any of these items and whether I need to make some drastic changes for the next six months.

A more stable work environment.

If I think about it I have not yet quite achieved the ratio I had set out to, but there is some good news. I can’t remember when last I worked past 23:00 and I’ve even had some weeks where I didn’t have to catch up in the evenings at all. I have not yet been able to carve out time for plugin development though, so that is something I want to work on more. I can still be doing better with my project estimation so I’m constantly evolving that process.

5 for the future.

To be honest this has worked out, but in ways that I never could have imagined. Due to an unexpected set of circumstances I am the lead organiser for WordCamp Cape Town this year. I am enjoying this tremendously as I am really looking forward to putting together an even that could change someone else’s life as it did mine in 2015. I also recently joined the WordPress community team as a Community Deputy, meaning that currently I assist with vetting new WordPress meetup groups as well as hold Meetup orientations.

I still want to start contributing to WordPress Core as well as Calypso, the WordPress.com product, so I am looking forward to the the newly announced New Contributors meeting. I’ve also started learning React in order to look at contributing to Calypso.

REST API powered plugin

This one is still coming, as I’ve decided to build it using React for the admin sections (similar to Jetpack) so I need to finish my React fundamentals course first.

Twenty Seventeen theme

Sadly this won’t be happening this year, but I am getting a lot of experience using Twenty Seventeen on the WordCamp Cape Town site, so perhaps that counts?

WPHackerCast

This will also not be happening, however another podcast idea has revealed itself which is a much more exciting idea and one that will benefit way more people, so watch this space.

So, not to bad as far as I can see. I think I’m pretty close to completing at least 4 out of the 5 before the end of the year. I’ll check back in December and see how it went. How’s your year going? Any goals you’ve set that you’ve either achieved or are on your way to do so?

Filed under: Experiences, Freelancing, WordPressTagged with: ,

What’s your Git Strategy?

As a freelance WordPress developer/consultant I rarely work in a team environment. So my usage of Git is mostly for my own purposes of being able to have my code backed up somewhere and the ability to create branches to try out new pieces of functionality without affecting the ‘master’ code base.

Recently I was chatting to Simon Dowdles, another Cape Town based WordPress developer, about this. He is, in his own words, very strict about a Git workflow. We agreed that it would be a good idea to implement a better system, so we put his workflow into place.

  1. Development branch is where all UP TO DATE and approved code lives
  2. Master branch is the truth and is ALWAYS what is on production
  3. Feature/hotfix branches are branched off of develop and only come back into develop with a Pull Request
  4. Release branches are made off of develop for releases, the release is done, merged back into master and tagged with the appropriate version tag (ie 1.2.0)
  5. Release branch is deleted, and there is only ever one

On the surface this all seems very obvious but it is often something that one tends to dismiss when working alone on the code base. After working with it for a few days however I can already see the benefits.

Lets first look at a real work example of how this would work in practice.

Setup

Firstly the repository is going to need a develop branch. So inside the root of my project folder I’ll create the develop branch from the master branch.

git checkout -b develop

And then push the branch

git push -u origin develop

If the develop branch already exists I can just switch to it

git checkout develop

Now I will need to create my feature branch, to make my code changes. So while still on the develop branch, create a a feature branch

git checkout -b feature/my-cool-feature

Usage

I can now starting coding my changes, committing frequently. I tend to commit every time I complete a chunk of functionality. So if I fix a bug, I commit. If I add a function and its more or less complete I commit.

git commit -a

At the end of every day, or if I am going to leave my workstation for a period of time, I push all current commits to the feature branch.

git push -u origin feature/my-cool-feature

When I am convinced it is good to go, I will submit a pull request or PR. When I create my PR I will request that it is merged into the develop branch, NOT master.

As we are using GitHub for this project I prefer to use the web based tools to create a PR, but most of the other cloud based Git services provide similar tools.

The rest of the team will review this PR, which will involve testing. They will scrutinise my code and provide feedback and I will fix or alter things to suit the team/project coding style(s).

Each time I commit the above changes, the team in the PR is notified and will see the changes in the PR.

When everyone is happy, they approve the PR and I merge my PR into the develop branch. At the same time I can choose to delete my feature branch (which I typically do)

The develop branch now has more (stable) code in it, and part of my PR should have been a version bump. (for example let’s say to 1.0.1)

Release

The team decides it is time to release version 1.0.1

First I need to make sure all my code is up to date

git pull

And then make sure I am in the develop branch. This is the branch that has all the approved code for the next release (1.0.1).

git checkout develop

I create a release branch called release/1.0.1 off of develop

git checkout -b release/1.0.1

The code gets deployed ( in this case its a WordPress plugin, so it means pushing all the code to the wordpress.org plugin repository, more on that another day 😉 )

 

I then merge the release/1.0.1 branch back into the master branch and tag it as release 1.0.1, again using all the GitHub PR, merging and tagging tools.

And we’re done, release 1.0.1 is in the wild and by following this approach, master is ALWAYS the truth. If for example release 1.0.2 were to fail, we simply roll everything back to master.

Wrap up

I’ve been working like this for three releases of the project so far and I have to say, once I had all the steps in my head, it did make developing, merging and releasing a lot smoother and more controlled.

Are you using Git as part of a team? If so I’d love to hear your comments on the idea of having a Git Workflow/Strategy.

Filed under: Development, Freelancing, WordPressTagged with: , ,

My 2017 WordPress resolutions.

Horizon

Last year I caught the State of the Word on WordPress.tv after the event. This was mainly because a) I was fairly new to all things WordPress and b) I didn’t actually even know it was a thing. This year I knew about WCUS well in advance so I registered for the live stream and planned my life to be able to watch Matt’s talk. I am so glad I did.

The new things planned for WordPress in 2017 are really going to shake things up. I’m not here to report on those changes, I’ve leave that up to people way better than me, Brian  from PostStatus and Sarah from WPTavern.

My take away from Matt’s talk was a deep introspection into what areas of WordPress I want to grow into next year. My goals this year were a) become fully self employed b) focus on WordPress as a platform c) speak at WordCamp. I’ve managed to achieve those goals, so it’s time to push myself a little harder in 2017.

As Matt put it so well (quoting Krista Tippet)

“We only learn to walk when we risk falling down, and this equation holds — with commensurately more complex dynamics — our whole lives long.”

It’s time for me to fall down a bit (again).

A more stable work environment

This past year has had it’s ups and downs (in more areas than one). For 2017 I want to focus on doing three things better.

1) A better work/life balance
2) A 25%/70% split on client work and plugin development
3) Project estimation

That last one is pretty important. One thing I have learned is that I still (after 12 years of doing this) tend to under estimate my time when it comes to project work. For 2017 I want to manage this better, not only when it comes to how long I think something will take, but also to value my experience more. This in in turn will allow me to split my development time in a way that I control (not the projects I’m working on) and be able to spend more time with my family

5 for the future.

You’re probably wondering about that 25%/70% split above, and where the other 5% is. That 5% of my development time I want to use in contributing better to WordPress. Some of the areas I want to become more involved in next year include:

WordPress Core, Calypso

Two areas that fall under the 5 for the future banner above are core and Calypso. By the end of 2017 I want to have contributed at least one patch to WordPress core and one patch to the Calypso project. This will help me become both a better WordPress developer and force me to learn React and Redux, two areas I have wanted to look into for some time now.

WordPress theme review

The WordPress theme review team is extremely under supported so I want to try and learn how to review a theme with the goal of being able to actually do one theme review once a month. I don’ know how long it will take me to get up to speed, but I need to start somewhere.

PolyGlots

This year saw the inclusion of a new locale for South Africa (Xhosa) and two new locales soon to be submitted. While I do not speak these languages I am excited to assist the new Global Translation Editors in getting these languages up and running for WordPress.

WordCamp

This year I spoke, next year I plan to be a part of it, either as a volunteer or a member of the organising team. Watch this space…

REST API powered plugin

Next year I want to either build a new plugin or rewrite an existing plugin that uses the REST API for at least some part of it’s functionality. I already have an idea for which plugin I will be doing this with and I hope to get started on it very early in the new year.

Twenty Seventeen theme

Another thing I would like to do is have my personal blog run the Twenty Seventeen theme. I’ll probably need to spend a bit of time learning all the new stuff that has been released, but I am hoping this will lead to a continuing trend of my blog always running the official WordPress theme.

WPHackerCast

This is a personal project of mine, a podcast by developers aimed for developers. I have a specific idea in mind here and it’s really a passion project that I know I will enjoy and I hope you all do to.

 

That’s a whole list of things I want to achieve. I’m not fooled into thinking I’ll be able to do all of them, but at least I can try.

What are your resolutions for the new year?

Filed under: FreelancingTagged with: , ,

Remembering Why – Part 2

Horizon

Some time ago I wrote a blog post on remembering why I got into developing web applications in the first place. At the time I was struggling to find my focus as a developer. I’m happy to report that since then I have (more or less) figured that out.

I’ve since realised that one of my problems is that when I started out, I didn’t have a vision, mission statement or personal creed for why I wanted to do what I am doing. I just knew that I wanted to do it. Being on my own I didn’t think of such things, I tend to just rush in where angels fear to tread and then figure it out as I go along.

Today I was introduced to the Automattic creed and I was blown out of my socks. It really resonated with me, as every point in the creed is something that I believe in, a reason why I became a web developer and why I support and believe in open source as more than just a decision on software licensing. So, going into 2017 I am going to remind myself of this as much as possible.

Here is the Automattic creed:

I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

That’s pretty powerful stuff!

Filed under: Development, Freelancing, WordPressTagged with: , ,