Congratulations to @Mikl, who has been awarded Member of the Month for March 2012. Although a relative newcomer to the forums, Mikl has got straight in and quickly become an active and very well-respected contributor. Choosing a MOTM is never easy, as there are so many members making top quality contributions, but this time round Mikl stood out among the crowd and the staff are delighted to make this award.
(You don't need to say anything here Mikl, just bask in glory ... we'll get to the questions in just a second)
You describe yourself as a "former journalist, now working as a software developer, technical writer and occasional website designer". What attracted you to this field of work, and what do you consider your real area of expertise?
I started life as a programmer, back in mainframe days. When the so-called microcomputer revolution started, I was asked to review some accounting packages for one of the PC magazines that was springing up at that time. That led to more work with the same magazine, and from there it was an easy move into mainstream journalism, writing feature articles for newspapers and magazines in the USA and UK.
I love writing, and I greatly enjoyed my years in journalism, but it's not the best paid of professions. So about ten years ago, I decided to supplement my income with some freelance programming. By then, the programming languages and development tools had changed enormously, so it was quite a challenge to get back up to speed.
Today, I consider myself first and foremost a programmer, although I still write in my spare time. Maybe one day I'll go back to full-time journalism, but for now I have plenty of other interests to keep me busy.
Can you remember what first brought you to Sitepoint? What made you stay?
I took one of Sitepoint's web design courses (and very useful it was too). At the end of each session, I would peruse the Sitepoint blog and the forum. After a some months of lurking in the forum, I decided to do the decent thing and become a member.
You've been active in a whole range of sections, from marketing to PHP to business and legal to content. How important do you think it is for people to have a broad understanding of a range of internet-related issues?
The internet has now reached the point that computing in general reached about 30 years ago: it's no longer possible for one person to be an expert on the whole thing. As with so many professions, you need to specialise. But that doesn't mean that the technician can ignore the business issues, or vice versa.
We're pleased to see you've been cutting through some of the mythology and misunderstandings that surround SEO. What do you think is the most important thing for people to consider when looking to perform well in search engines?
I think this is something people should stop obsessing about. Of course, it's important to rank well in Google, but that shouldn't be your ultimate goal. What matters is the quality of your traffic and your success in converting your visitors. By "converting", I mean selling your product, getting the visitor to sign up for your service, persuading them of your point of view, or whatever else is the reason for your site's existence.
Rather than putting all your efforts into getting that little bit higher in the search results, focus on providing the best possible experience for your visitors. If you achieve that, you're likely to get the conversions, which is ultimately what you want.
It's your chance to change one thing about the internet ... what would you change?
I would try to knock heads together on the vexed issue of copyright. But I admit I've no idea where to start. Nobody wants a heavy-handed SOPA-style approach, but I wish more could be done to protect the interests of ordinary website developers, bloggers, and the like. If you've ever spent long hours developing your blog content, writing articles or producing artwork, only to have it ripped off by copyright thieves, you'll know what I mean.
I suspect that, if there is a solution, it won't come from government legislation but from within the industry itself. Unfortunately, we're a long way from that at present.
It's your chance to change one thing about SitePoint Forums ... what would you change?
My only problem with Sitepoint - and it's not a big one - is that there is simply so much of it. I would like some way of hiding those forum sections that are of no interest to me, so that I can focus on the ones that are. I know I can do that in the main forum page (by collapsing or expanding the section headers), but it would be nice to also be able to do it on other pages, such as Today's Post and Unanswered Threads.
As you know, we don't normally allow people to plug their own websites, projects or services, but here's a unique opportunity for you ... plug away!
Thanks. The technologies that I know best are SQL Server, Visual FoxPro, Crystal Reports, and PHP. I market my skills in those areas through my main corporate site (www.ml-consult.co.uk).
I'm currently also helping out with a new site called Hex Central (www.hexcentral.com), which aims to share developers' experiences with various tools and techniques. This is still in its early days, but I'd welcome any feedback from Sitepoint members on the articles we've published so far.
And finally ... anything else you would like to add?
I'm honoured at being chosen Member of the Month. I've already learned a lot during my few months of Sitepoint membership, and it's a pleasure to be able to give something back by helping others.
So that just leaves it for me to say ... congratulations Mikl, our Member of the Month for March 2012! :award: