Pullo—Member of the Month, December 2012

One really cool thing about these forums is that brilliant people choose to hang around and help others by sharing their knowledge and expertise.

This month, we’d like to highlight the efforts of Pullo, who is our Member of the Month for December. Pullo has been giving amazing help and advice across a wide range of disciplines of late.

Here’s an interview I conducted with him recently.

Congratulations on being awarded the MoTM badge for December, Pullo. Were you surprised?

Absolutely. It came quite out of the blue. That’s not to say that I’m not pleased, though :slight_smile:

Well, it’s certainly deserved. :slight_smile:

There are lots of things I’d like to ask you, but firstly, can you say something about your username? It’s often intriguing to know what led to someone’s choice of username (unless you have a boring one like mine!)

Sure. I love watching HBO series in my spare time (Sopranos, Deadwood etc.). When I signed up for the SP forums, I was half way through watching Rome, and Pullo is one of the main characters in this series. At the beginning he’s a centurion, but later on he ends up as a gladiator, so if there are any aspiring graphic designers out there that want to make me a trident as my avatar, I’d be well pleased.

Now, I’ve got to ask: your profile page features a mug shot of the gangster Jack Zelig. What’s up with that?

Well spotted. I guess you used TinEye, right? Or are you up on your gangsters from the early 1900s?

Heh heh, I used Google image search, actually. :slight_smile:

Anyway, to answer the question, I read about Big Jack in a book called Gangster City, which documents the New York underworld from 1900–35. I’m quite fascinated with this period in history and found Jack to be a lot more interesting than your average mobster.

You post knowledgably in a lot of areas of these forums—from JavaScript, PHP and databases to CSS and HTML, and I gather you are also proficient in other areas such as Ruby, Rails, WordPress and network administration. Could you tell us a bit about your background in these areas and how you became such a polymath?

Polymath, there’s a word! It’s certainly better than “Jack of all trades”, I guess :slight_smile:

Well, I got into computers in about 2004 when I volunteered to make the web page for a club I was involved in. However, I didn’t have a shred of computer knowledge and volunteering was one thing, but actually making it was another.

There was quite a steep learning curve involved at first, but from the moment I started, I was hooked. I then spent ALL of my spare time learning about web technologies and about PCs in general.

At some point I noticed that friends and family were starting to ask me for advice, both with their computers and with web projects. This gave me the confidence to apply for a part-time job as a network administrator (which, suffice to say, I got).

Since then I haven’t looked back once. I have never stopped learning and in the course of this job, have been lucky enough to work with a variety of technologies, some of which you allude to in your question.

I am also continuously looking for ways to apply what I Iearn. For example, our secretary wanted to make minor changes to two or three pages of our website, so I built her a mini CMS using Ruby.

I gather that you haven’t always made your living from web development, and that you have a rather interesting life story. Do you mind telling us a little about that?

Not at all.

As my profile states, I live in Germany. I am, however, not German, but rather a misplaced Brit.

I came to Germany whilst studying, but loved it so much I ended up moving back when I had finished.

I originally worked as an English trainer, but as soon as I realised I could make money from working in IT, I took the plunge and became a freelancer.

That’s not to say that I don’t teach any more, I do. I currently teach a team of engineers at a local company. It’s great fun and gets me away from the computer, but has left me with a ridiculously in-depth knowledge of a production line, that I’ll almost certainly never need again.

These forums attract a lot of people who are having specific issues with their web work, but it’s really nice when people choose to stick around to help others and share their expertise. What brought you to these forums, and what inspires you to help others?

What brought me to the forums was simple. I was having a PHP problem (the problem being that I couldn’t write PHP) and a Google search brought me to SitePoint. I asked a couple of questions and was impressed by the friendly nature of the people who answered, as well as their levels of expertise.

What’s lead me to help others? At some point I noticed “Oh, I could answer that question”, so I did. And then I answered another, and another, and the whole thing just snowballed.

I enjoy helping people, and sometimes, when I get positive feedback from someone I helped, it makes my day.

You also have a really cool blog site that provides lots of tips for web designers at https://hibbard.eu/. What inspired you to start that up?

Thanks. I was in the habit of documenting problems I had solved in the course of my work anyway.

It was only a short jump from writing things up in a text file on my PC, to writing them up in WordPress for the world to see. WordPress is great like that—the ease with which it lets you publish content is almost unparalleled.

Times have been pretty tough economically of late, especially in Europe. How have you weathered the storm as a freelancer? Do you have any tips for making a living as a web developer?

Despite the global financial crisis, Germany has been booming, so I don’t know if I’m really in a position to answer that.

What has worked for me, though, is to plan ahead and when I do find myself “between jobs”, I use the time to learn or to practise something that will strengthen my résumé.

What is your outlook on web development in the foreseeable future? Are there any technologies you are especially gearing up for, or do you have plans to branch out in any particular direction?

In a word—mobile.

I’ve just finished redesigning my blog. Not only did I make my new design responsive, but I designed for mobile first.

This was a very interesting experience and was inspired by the amount of clients perceiving the relevance of a website that is accessible to mobile users.

On a separate note, I’m also looking forward to the release of Ruby 2.0 next year. That’ll be fun to play with.

Can you tell us a bit about your interests outside of web development? I gather you are into fantasy books, running and even diving!

Indeed. I am an avid diver and have been diving all over the world. But, I’ve not visited the Barrier Reef yet. Are you located near there, Ralph? Do you fancy a house guest or two? :slight_smile:

I’m actually a long way from there, way down in Melbourne, but I can highly recommend the Barrier Reef as a place to visit. It’s awesome. (Don’t wait too long, though, as it seems global warming is killing off the reef at an alarming rate. :frowning: )

I also love books of any kind, from technical to sci-fi/fantasy. I am currently reading a book on C++, as well as Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy, which I can heartily recommend.

And, when I’m not doing that, I try to keep fit and do quite a bit of running. Now that it is winter over here, this is more or less restricted to the treadmill in the gym, but in summer I enjoy running outdoors (there is quite a lot of nice countryside where I live).

If you had superpowers, what items would top the list of things you’d want to change—about web development or the world in general?

I’d want to maintain the chaos that is the Internet as we know it today. I think that Microsoft and Apple getting to decide what we can install on our machines is a dangerous and slippery slope (think Windows Store or iTunes) and that Microsoft’s Secure Boot, while a good idea in principle, could easily be used for nefarious purposes.

So, I’d use my superpowers to put an end to all that. I’m not quite sure how this would work in practice, though. Maybe with some cosmic rays, or something … :slight_smile:

I’ve just slipped a sedative into the drinks of the other moderators, so while they’re asleep, are there any websites or other causes that you’d like to promote here?

Not without getting all political (which is probably not the best thing to do, even if the other mods are drugged up) … Aw, but heck, why not? Check out these guys, they do great work: https://fsfe.org/

Finally (and this is a bit of a long shot, but I’ll ask just in case): can you shed any light on the meaning of life?

Not without several bottles of strong German beer.

Get those shipped over to me, then I’ll be sure to let you know the path to true enlightenment shortly after consuming them :slight_smile:

That sounds great, Pullo. I’m off to get some of that German beer now!

In the meantime, everyone, please congratulate Pullo on his award!


Sorry Pullo, I drank all the beer. But I think I’ve found the answer now anyway. Thanks for the tip! :slight_smile:

Fantastic interview Guys… I laughed at many of the questions and answers. You are a really interesting guy (er Pullo not ralph.m … kidding :wink: ) I’m glad that you let this interview out of the cage.

Way to go @Pullo ;!


Congratulations Pullo, a very well deserved award. It’s great to see another Ruby dev on the forums too :slight_smile:

And a great interview Ralph.

Congratulations Pullo, you deserved it :slight_smile:
And a great interview, well done to the both of you.

[FONT=Verdana]Congratulations, Pullo. :slight_smile: And well done to both of you for a very interesting interview.

(BTW, I’m married to a marathon runner, and according to him, the secret of outdoor winter running is Icebreaker merino running gear. ;))[/FONT]

Congratulations Pullo! I’ve only visited Germany (for a few days), and I’m with you, I could have moved there.

Congratulations Pullo :slight_smile: Your varied skills are certainly an asset to the community. Well done.

…and a great interview Ralph;)

Great interview Ralph! I’m going to steal some of your questions for my next one! :stuck_out_tongue:

And Pullo… I loved your answers. It’s always nice to meet up with someone who has a ready comeback for Ralph M. Just add that to your list of many skills! :smiley:

Thanks everyone!!
When I first came to SitePoint forums looking for help, I certainly wouldn’t have thought I’d have ended up here …
Nonetheless here we are and I look forward to wearing my MotM badge with pride.

Err talking of which, where is it by the way?
What’s going on @ralph_m ; ??

@TechnoBear ; - Thanks for the tip on the running gear. It’s just that a heated gym with a 42 inch flat-screen TV somehow seems more appealing than a dark, cold, slippery forest :slight_smile:

@cpradio ; - Germany sure is cool. The beer is great, the people are friendly, if I can just get my head around the language, I’ll have it made :slight_smile:


Oh really - where’s your sense of adventure? If we’d known you were such a wimp, we’d never have made you MotM. :stuck_out_tongue:

I visited Bavaria twice on school exchange visits, many years ago, and I loved it. Hopefully I’ll get back there one day. (The beer’s of no interest, as I don’t drink - despite living on an island with eight whisky distilleries. :lol:)


Don’t call me a wimp. I’ve been diving with sharks, you know!

Ok, they were less than a metre long and probably more scared of me than I was of them.

I’ll stop talking now. Do you want the badge back? :slight_smile:


Ah … but bears are another matter. :wink:

Hmm, tempting - but as it’s nearly Christmas, I expect we’ll let you keep it (if you ever get it). :slight_smile:

Unfortunately, the badge is like Tolkien’s ring, and corrupts the wearer. So before we can give you your badge, the old one has to be prized from the previous winner, while he is asleep, and then a hobbit has to travel to New Zealand and overcome many ordeals—fighting off orcs and the like—finally to climb Mount Doom and cast the old badge into the fiery volcano. Then he has to travel back home and bow at the feet of the Galactic Overlord, who, if and when she pleaseth, awards a new one. So sorry for the delay. :slight_smile:

Sorry, it’s Xmas Sale time so I’m a bit slow off the mark. It’s there now. Congratulations. :slight_smile:

Congratulations to both @ralph_m; and @Pullo; for a great interview.

I have to say that I’ve been in Germany ages ago and I really liked it… but nothing is better than Spain (although right now I wouldn’t move. Spain is not doing well financially and it depends how it goes in these few months I may be moving myself… don’t know yet)

This has been a fun read. Thank you :smiley:

@Pullo;, you’ve helped me a lot, particularly with jQuery, so if anybody would get this member of the month I am so glad it’s you! You really deserved it!

You’re an inspiration, initially I though you were German, but it looks like your from good óld England. Stick around, and keep up the excellent posts.

Congrats! You really deserve this one :slight_smile:

Thanks for the kind words everyone. I really appreciate it!

@molona ; Spain is pretty nice, too. When I was visiting many years ago, I attempted to withdraw some cash form a cash machine. Everything was in Pesetas back then and I didn’t know the exchange rate, so I chose the amount in the top left hand corner of the display, thinking it would be a tenner or at the most twenty quid. Anyway, I was pleasantly shocked at how little everything cost and we partied well into the night. It wasn’t until the next day that I found out I’d blown over one hundred pounds (a lot of money back then) on ciggies and beer. One hell of a night though … :slight_smile:

@Sega ; That’s good to know. Thanks! Quite a few people thought I was German, actually. I guess I could change my signature to “Your friendly neighbourhood ex-pat polymath” or something, so as to give people a clue :slight_smile:


If you’re in Germany, why do you need German beers shipped to you??

Aha, you must live in Frankfurt! They don’t know beer there. Just #1 apfelwein. ^_O

More Ruby guys, eh? Y’all need to find some Pythonistas for MotM to even it out. For great power.

Erm, cuz you can never have enough :slight_smile:

Never tried Apfelwein, but am partial to an odd Glühwein now that the Christmas Markets are all in full swing.
Makes shopping for presents that much more interesting …