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Starting a blog

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Inspired by the big names in the Laravel and wider development community I have always wanted to start a blog. Mostly, I will write mostly about things I learn and practices I follow while maintaining several large applications at my work and in personal projects. I also hope it will help others to learn and try new things when developing their own applications. The posts will mostly be about Laravel but I also do a lot of frontend work with React.js and always trying out the new kids on the block where possible.

The plan to expand this site from just a blog to having documentation for some of my open source projects and to host some applications, courses or other projects so that I can manage everything in one place.

Who am I?

I live in Wolverhampton (England), my main interests outside of software development are football , games and collecting pop culture memorabilia.

My football club is Wolverhampton Wanderers FC who currently play in the top league in England, and we are probably in our best era since I was born. I have a season ticket along with my brother and Dad. We would go to every home match together before the pandemic. At the moment fans are not allowed into games so going into the new season we don't know what is going to happen.

When it comes to gaming I mainly play Rocket League on PC talk to me in Twitter if you want to team up. Bear in mind that I am pretty average and will probably just bring you down to my level. I tend to find one other game I get obsessed with for a short while before moving on and at the moment that game is Hearthstone.

Where do I work?

At the time of writing, I currently work at Spendology which is a startup that sells foreign travel money online and delivers it to customers in the UK. This is through a website or Android/iOS app. Additionally, we also find companies who want to sell travel cash to their customers, and we provide the website, native apps and customer support in exchange for a maintenance fee or some other mutually beneficial agreement.

The backend is a white-label product using Laravel and the frontend using React. The native apps are built using cordova, and we just give it the same React code we use for the website. For those who don't know a white-label application is where the same code base is shared across our own travel money selling business and all of our client companies so that we don't have to develop or maintain a separate codebase each time we sign up a new company.

As you might imagine, supporting all these different businesses, and their different requirements means that almost every part of both the backend and frontend is configurable in some way from the exchange rates we sell the money for to the themes and colors of the customer facing application. We developed most of the application in a year from when the company started and are now just mainly refactoring and adding more unit tests so that it is much easier to upgrade and maintain in the future.

The pandemic has affected the company quite a bit since no one was travelling it meant that no one was buying travel money so the company shutdown from March. We turned everything back on in June. All through lockdown and still now we are on a government provided salary scheme which gives part of our salary so that the company can provide a reduced amount on top. At the moment I am on 80% salary but also only have to work part-time 2 days a week plus any out of hour emergencies. We hope to get back to full time and pay in October after the next round of investment.

Static or non-static?

When I was researching what software to use for my blog I immediately knew I wanted to have a static, and the main reason beyond the obvious benefits is to reduce costs initially until I need a more robust solution. I regularly read the Tailwind CSS blog, and I remembered that they wrote about using Next.js for their blog in Building the Tailwind Blog with Next.js.

I have heard a lot about Next on Twitter and really wanted to give it a try and Tailwind have generously open sourced their blog so was a great starting point to get something up quickly. The creators of Next have their own hosting service specifically created for Next applications called Vercel so after only making few tweaks within a few hours I had written this post and deployed it. We live in the future.

I am great at bad design

As you can tell if you compare this blog to the original Tailwind blog you can see I haven't made drastic changes at this point. I do plan to make it my own over time, but I just wanted to get the blog out quickly as I have lots of things I want to write about.

However, creative web design seems beyond me whenever it comes to a new project or development I can immediately picture the code and where I am going to start. Whenever I have to start messing around with CSS and styles I struggle to be inspired and find the right solution. I am trying to improve this, but it seems like a losing battle at the moment.

I have found that Tailwind CSS is great for tinkering with colors and elements and that has helped me in many design choices already, so I hope to eventually make this site something unique and special.

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