The Artisan Files / updated: January 22, 2015

The Artisan Files: Philip Brown

Philip Brown

This week I’m happy to introduce you to Philip Brown who owns and runs culttt.com which has a great series of posts on building an entire Open Source application.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? How’d you get into development?

Hey Eric, my name is Philip Brown, I’m 26 years old and I come from Durham, a small town in the North East of England. If you’ve seen the Harry Potter films, a lot of the outdoors bits were filmed in the area.

I first got in to development when I stumbled upon Geocities (R.I.P). It blew my mind that I could make a page and then anyone in the world could see it. I was pretty much hooked from then on. Once I outgrew the Geocities WYSIWYG editor I discovered that websites were made in HTML and CSS. I’ve basically just been stumbling along trying to pick up what I can ever since.

What do you find most interesting about development?

The thing I find the most interesting about development is just the fact that I can write stuff into a text editor and then make it do whatever I want. Honestly that still blows my mind even to this day.

I’m really thankful that I live in a time where I can write a website, make it available to anyone in the world and then make a living from it without asking anyone’s permission.

I also think it’s pretty amazing that you could spend every day of your entire life learning about development and still not learn everything. I kinda love the fact that every single day I oscillate between thinking I’ve mastered something, to feeling like I know nothing at all.

Culttt has become a great resource. Can you tell us more about the site?

I decided I wanted to start writing a blog after reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Crush It!” a couple of years ago. That book is like a total kick up the arse for making the most of the opportunity of the Internet.

For about 2 years I would write a post once every couple of months whenever I felt inspired. Some of the early posts are really cringingly bad and it pretty much got zero traffic.

Then for some reason I decided I would start taking it seriously. I was really inspired by what Chris Coyier and Chris Spooner had built with their blogs so I decided to set myself a schedule of posting three times a week.

Things really started to pick up when I started writing about Laravel. At the time I was struggling to think of topics to write about on a Monday. It’s easier to write consistently when one post leads logically to the next so I decided I would just document the process of building an entire open source application.

I had been using Laravel v3 for quite a while, but I was actually going to start creating the application in Rails or Meteor. However everyone and their dog has written tutorials for Rails, and Meteor felt like it was a little too bleeding edge to really pick up traction.

I knew Laravel was the right choice when I heard Phil Sturgeon being wax lyrical about it on his blog and the early videos Taylor was putting on Vimeo of version 4. It felt like a breath of fresh air compared to what I was used to with CodeIgniter and Zend 1.*. It was also an opportunity to jump in during the beta period so I could write a few posts before it officially launched. Fortunately the interest in Laravel has felt like it has skyrocketed since then, so I’m pretty happy I choose the right framework!

Is Culttt a full time job for you?

No I still work full time, Culttt is just my side hustle. One of the things that Gary talks about in “Crush It!” is working on side projects such as a blog. It takes a lot of time to write the content and reply to emails and comments, but I think it will be all worth it in the end.

Ultimately I want Culttt to be a place where you can learn online business and development skills to turn your project idea into a real business opportunity. I think Jeffery Way’s Laracasts and the people at Treehouse and Code School do an amazing job with teaching new technologies, so I want to focus more on the skills needed to build an online business, rather than the technical intricacies of it all.

At the minute Culttt is in WordPress. I want to overhaul it and write my own content/community application at some point. I’ve definitely got big plans for the future for Culttt, but it’s just a blog at the minute.

What is your typical daily schedule?

I usually get up at around 6:30am, have breakfast and get ready for work. Before leaving the house for work I’ll catch up on Twitter and the RSS feeds I subscribe to for an hour. I usually get back in the house at around 5:30pm. I’ll have something to eat and then do work on Culttt or something else until around 9:00pm. I then usually read for an hour or two. I use Instapaper and Reeder for iOS, so I’ve always got a huge queue of things to read.

Can you tell us about your local environment? What apps do you use everyday?

Philip Brown Desktop

I’ve got a 15″ Retina MacBook Pro running Mavericks. I use Chrome as my web browser, iTerm2 as my terminal, Vim as my editor, and iA Writer for my writing.

I usually save everything straight into DropBox and I’ve got all my random blog post ideas in Evernote. I also use Tweetbot as my Twitter client and I use Photoshop all the time too.
As you can see in the screenshot I’m pretty OCD about having a clean desktop and the bare minimum in the dock.

Do you have any hobbies outside of the computer?

During University I was adamant that I was going to be a professional poker player. For pretty much the full three years I was at University I played poker every single day. I still play occasionally now, but nowhere near as much as I used to.

I guess it was my destiny to be sat down for long periods of time under artificial light!

Last one. If tomorrow you could only visit one website, which one would you pick and why?

Hmm, I’d probably pick Twitter. I feel like Twitter is such an amazing way to be exposed to new stuff, find out what’s going on in the world and keep up to date with the very specific things you are interested in.

And if I could bring back a website from the dead it would have to be Geocities. I would love to look back through all the websites I made when I was first starting out.

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