I was one of those kids at school, the class Joker, never got any work done, always outside class, in the head teacher's office, all the teachers knew me and quite probably hated me, a no hoper!
Please give us a bio of yourself.
I left school at 15 with 8 G.C.S.E'S grades A-C, with a keen interest in computers and art. I was one of those kids at school, the class Joker, never got any work done, always outside class, in the head teacher's office, all the teachers knew me and quite probably hated me, a no hoper!
I hated my head teacher so much that when he told me "You're going to be a nobody", I made it one of my goals in life to prove his ass wrong and make my family proud.
When I left school the only experience I had with using the internet was when I would go to my friend's house and use his AOL connected CPU, to search for viruses and hacking information because as a web savvy, stuff like that is so fascinating.
I wanted to know more about this "internet thingy", so I decided to start looking into it reading up on it, buying magazines and books. At this time I still didn't have a home CPU that was anywhere near capable of connecting to the web, a BBC and a Commodore 64, so I would just read, learn and become more and more fascinated and excited with the whole idea of the WWW.
I would bug my parents day in day out to buy me a home computer, to no avail, too expensive, if they were going to buy me one, they would have to buy my brothers and sisters one as well.
One day, sometime later, a guy on our street was selling off PCs on the cheap, he just happened to mention it to my parents and they were intrigued, so was I. My parents bought me my first AMD k5 233mhz box with the then brand new "Windows 95" and one for my brother. For the next 6 months, I just explored, played, installed programs from trial disks on the magazines I would buy and had bought.
I became very accustomed to Windows, knew it like the back of my hand. All the CPU's at school were Apple Macs, so I never had really much first hand experience with a PC or Windows before.
It was now time to go one stage further, the internet, I needed to get connected. There was still a lot of doubt in my parents' minds about the internet, they didn't understand it and to me, it seemed, they didn't want to either, so they would do anything to avoid the topic of discussion - "The Internet". I decided to go down another route, if I can't get connected at home, then I'll go to the Library.
Unfortunately at this time, the internet was expensive to use in the library and me having no job and therefore no income, the idea of getting connected in the library didn't last very long.
One day, out of the blue, I went to meet my buddy at the college gates, at the end of the day. As we walked through town to the bus station, I noticed an advertisement in the window of the local careers centre, WANTED - APPRENTICE: WEB DESIGNER. This was it, my break, this was how I could get connected. I rushed in, asked for an application form, filled it in there and then and handed it in.
I had no confidence with regards to the computer related skills I had learnt while playing around at home on my CPU, so I had every doubt in my mind that I wasn't going to get this apprenticeship.
To my surprise the next morning, 9am on the dot, I got a phone call asking me to come in at 11am the same day for an interview. I obliged, I attended, I succeeded.
The apprenticeship was mine, I was over the moon.
VOILA! The start of my web career.
The first day, they got me playing with Flash 2(Future Splash) a trial version from some internet magazine they had got a subscription for as well as some other bits & bobs.
For days, I would just go into work at 9am, play with the programs they had given me to learn, browse the web, write emails, download little novelties like screensavers, desktop themes, icons, sounds etc...
Making animated gifs and web page banners was the first thing I conquered, but I wanted more flexibility, so I turned to Future Splash.
The first project I ever completed with Future Splash, was an animated vector version of the Future Media logo (The company I was working for).
From there, I would make all my banners, all my web page buttons, everything with Future Splash. Around this time I started to look for help with Flash, I wanted to excel and see what more this program could do, what better place to look, than the internet.
I soon became a regular visitor to Flashpad and would visit sites like Matinee, Gabocorp, Quintus Flash Index on a daily basis.
While at Future Media, I experimented and used every web design related piece of software available, all the Adobe products, pagemaker, indesign, streamline imagestyler, all the Macromedia Products, Flash, Dreamweaver, Director, Drumbeat, 3D Studio Max, Maya, Rhino, Cinema 4d Go, the works.
I was just a general do everything web designer.
Sadly, around a year later, just after the release of Flash 4, Future Media, ran into troubles and that was it, I was made redundant, one word, DEVASTATED. My first job, gone.
I wasn't going to let this be the end. Within a week, I was looking around, attending job interviews, distributing my resume. I decided to get in touch with a job agency who were very helpful and within three weeks, I had the job I wanted.
Two interviews on the same day, both good wages, both local, both good prospects, but one stood out and seemed to be the right choice, a position in the R&D department with an ISP - Force9.
I joined, settled in, got cracking once again, with Flash 4 and most of the software I was now familiar with.
Again I decided to look for help and share the knowledge I had achieved with the community on the web forums at Flashkit and FlashMove. Distributing tutorials source-files and just helping people in general.
It's amazing how much you learn by helping others. If somebody has a question, you don't know the answer, you just go and experiment, read, download source-files, answer the question and that's some more knowledge under your belt.
With me working for an ISP, they had one big fat pipe connected to the internet, an OC3 or something like that.
So I would use it to my advantage and download mp3s, flash source-files, tutorials, flash apps, even full flash websites, my hard drive was overcome with such files.
My role at Force9, become more and more focused towards Flash, flash games, flash presentations, flash banners, flash chatrooms, everything and anything that flash could do.
The main chunk of the Force9 office was taken up by PHP programmers, which I envied, I wanted to know how they did all this cool stuff, how they made web pages so dynamic, but at the time, it just seemed too complex compared to Flash 4 Actionscript.
I finally persuaded my parents to allow me to get an internet connection at home, and so I now had a Windows 95 box internet enabled at home. I was loving it.
After around 13 months at Force9, the company split into two companies, an ASP(Application Service Provider) and the ISP, known as Force9.
Our side of the bargain was more shares and a brand spanking new office.
The first ever Flash Forward Conference was approaching, I had to go and I persuaded the company to send me there. An all expenses paid trip to San Francisco, on my own, long flights, scary airports and a complete stranger to most of the people and this huge city.
The conference was so popular, and it was so inspiring, it made me want to be a FlashGuru, I wanted to know everything and anything there was to know about Flash, I wanted to be able to help everybody and anybody with their flash problems.
I wanted to be speaking in front of all those people, and that's what I set out to achieve after the conference had ended.
From here, I arrived back at work, decided to quit because I wasn't happy with the people there, nor with some of the stupid rules they made official.
Now being a regular member of Flashkit, I was made a moderator there under the name of FlashGuru. I got to know some of the other flash celebs, one of which was my best flash buddy, Pope De Flash.
As the next flash conference was nearing, FlashForward in NYC, I was offered free tickets to the conference courtesy of Flashkit and Pope.
Again, I travelled to New York, alone, scary airports, and a complete stranger to this huge crazy city. Luckily this time around, I knew people, throughout the whole conference I was hanging around with Pope, Mark Fennel - Flashkit Webmaster and some other flash geezas. I was now Flashkit Team, so I had Flashkit on my name badge. Flashkit was such a huge resource by this time, everybody would be coming up to me saying hello, starting conversation etc.
I had some interesting and inspiring conversations with people such as Mano1, Zincroe, Flashkit members, Flashmove Webmaster, Flashmove members, and other flash celebs. It was wicked, that is the beauty of the Flash Conferences, connecting with people and putting names to faces.
During the conference, a London based company, that was also attending, had heard of me, or been told about me and my Flash skills and they approached me with regards to a new project they were working on, a Flash Search Engine, that's all I was told, I was intrigued. They took my details and that was that.
I returned home, carried on helping people and was promoted to Senior Moderator on the Flashkit forums. I then got a Flashkit email address firstname.lastname@example.org and I would receive somewhere in the region of 100-200 emails a day with flash questions, I was swamped.
I decided to start my own website, where I could share source files, tutorials and flash news which I regularly came upon so www.flashguru.co.uk was born, some spiteful member of the Flashkit forums, had bought the .com version of the domain name and wasn't prepared to sell it.
I contacted the guys in London, telling them I was looking for a job and they invited me to come down to London, two hours on the train, up the country for an all expenses paid trip and a look around, and an insight into the project.
I accepted the invitation, jumped on the train to London the following day and it was weird, London is so different to anything I have ever experienced, traffic jams at 4am in the morning, so many people everywhere, total and utter madness, but I loved it. The project and the idea was so new and would push Flash to the limits.
I was also set to be working with one of my main inspirations from my early Flash days,
Andy Foulds. I was offered a job, a nice big fat wage packet for a 17 year old and a great new opportunity and experience.
I set to work on R&D for the project, developing dynamic interfaces, 3d engines, the works. Then it was time to employ another Flash Programmer to help me with the development. I was offered a choice, Jason Ross of JZWAY or Jamie MacDonald of Nooflat. Both of which had cool sites, wicked experiments, but Jamie's appeared to me, at least, more interesting, unique and complex. I chose Jamie and not long after Jamie joined us full-time.
Every bit of work we did was secret and out of the public eye for around 4 months, then we decided to build the Relevare company website.
Jamie and me went through around 100-150 different versions and ideas for the Relevare website, all with different enhancements, features, colours, effects, until we finally decided on one, the Relevare website that exists today, the Relevare zoom. Nice, clean, simple, intuitive and so easy to use.
We won so many awards, got so much recognition from that site it was amazing. We were featured on all of the big sites, three-oh, k10k, flashkit, ultrashock, flashmove, actionscripts, flashforward, lynda, flazoom and hundreds more. Traffic was coming in left, right and centre.
Not long ago, in fact, around a month ago, I left Relevare behind, after a great two years, one huge experience, leaving lots behind.
I wanted something new, different and exciting.
Here I am today still with my personal website running, still an active member of the community forums, were-here, flashkit, ultrashock, actionscripts.org, moderating most of them.
I'm friends with the Flash Celebs, Flash MX Beta tester, widely recognised as an inspiration and a Flash Celebrity, still attending the FlashForward conferences, and waiting upon confirmation for my first speaking position at the next FlashFoward conference.
The moral of the story is:
"If you want something bad, and you are prepared to work for it, you can achieve it!"
I have proved my teachers at school wrong, turned my "no hoper" life around in three years and made myself, my parents, my friends and family proud.
What do you do for inspiration?
I get a lot of websites sent to me, usually I browser through those, check out sites such as www.ThreeOh.com, www.K10k.net, www.Linkdup.com and the community forums. I also gather inspiration from the things around me in everyday life.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
I have made one big achievement in life and that is becoming independent, learning to think for myself, look after myself and live my own life. With regards to Flash, I have a lot of achievements. Firstly being asked to author so many flash books. Secondly, winning so many awards for the Relevare website. Thirdly becoming a Moderator on the main flash community forums.
What software couldn't you live without?
I could not live without a copy of Flash, whether it be Flash 5 or Flash MX, I can still use Flash 4, but it's so tedious to achieve certain goals. I also rely a lot on Dreamweaver, although I can hand code HTML, I hate doing it, I like to be able to see what I am designing and then clean up the HTML afterwards.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
I have so many projects I am trying to complete at once, two of which are under NDA, so no speaking about those, but besides that, I am currently working on the new version of my site, two separate versions in fact, an HTML version and a Flash MX version.
I have never trusted Flash enough to run my website for me, I don't see Flash as a tool to build portals with, but now with the release of Flash MX, I have a lot of confidence in its ability to handle my portal.
I am also working on re-documenting Flash MX Actionscript for the community, including all the 3rd party classes and components. Much like an online actionscript dictionary such as the very well received PHP documentation at php.net, where people can contribute notes, submit their own prototype methods, classes, components and notes.
It's like a community effort to document Flash MX Actionscript, how we want it documenting.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
Personally, I respect the work of www.Preloaded.com, I love their style and all their projects seem to be so fun and lively and colourful. I also have a lot of respect for Fourm, Natzke, Craig and JD. All great designers and flash coders, each of their personal sites has a form of simplicity and style that I love in a site.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
With regards to my personal site, I get a steady flow of traffic, now peaking on a Monday, and usually my visitors appear in the mornings in their own time zones.
On average I receive around 40k visitors a week, and serve around 8gb of data transfer a week.
With regards to Relevare, I am no longer obliged to share their traffic stats with you all, but let's just say that when it was first released, traffic went through the roof, so many featured sites and awards as I mentioned earlier, visitors were coming from everywhere.
Who is your target audience?
The target audience of my personal website, is quite obviously Flash Developers, as opposed to Flash Designers, I see them as two separate things, one uses Flash for animation and sound and developers use Flash for coding and making things dynamic and interactive.
Relevare had to be made accessible to every person on the web, it had to cater for a huge audience, lots of different levels of web experience, from the first time web users to the high end web developers/programmers, so it had to be as easy to use and read as possible.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
The very first website I made was back in the first four months of being at Future Media, who I mentioned earlier. I had a huge desire for shiny chrome and black and orange at that time, the site is online and I'm embarrassed to share the url, but... here it is anyway:
www.future-media.co.uk (no longer online)
The very first version of my own personal website was a basic grey page with black text, it had two frames, one on the left for navigation and one on the right which held the content.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
Surprisingly, like I said before, one of my achievements was being offered the chance to write so many books. I was supposed to be an author in Flash 5 Dynamic Content Studio, Flash Math Creativity, New Masters of Flash, The Annual, Flash Super Samurai, Flash MX Upgrade Essentials and a few others.
All of which I started chapters for, but never got around to completing them on time.
I shall make it my new goal to author complete chapters for at least two Flash MX Books.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
The toughest thing I conquered with Flash, was making a Flash 4 Dynamic Version of one of the Relevare Interfaces for the PDA.
Developing for the PDA was and still is, but not for long, the biggest pain in the bum, everything has to be so small yet usable, and you have to squeeze things into such a small space.
Flash 4 Actionscript is so limited, most things are possible with it but you have to go the long way around to make things work. Something as simple as making a bit of code that you use regularly, there are no functions in Flash 4, so you have to create a frame with the code on and call that frame whenever you need that bit of code, so tedious.
Plus the PDA has a very low frame rate with its little 233mhz processor, so you have to be careful with scaling things and alphas and bitmaps.
It's not online, and never has been, it's a standalone application that Relevare sell to companies.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Flash is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Flash is so widely supported and recognised that it is going to be very hard for any other such technology to catch up or take the place of the flash player.
However, as broadband becomes more readily available, expect to see a lot more video on the web.
As we should all know the Flash MX Player, can now stream Video embedded in a flash movie, thanks to the sorenson codec, so I don't think that broadband is going to push flash out of the market.
I see wireless as the thing for the future, and Macromedia are already pushing the flash player onto most of, if not all, the wireless devices. So, if anything Flash is going to be more popular than it is now. Flash Developers have no need to worry now and anytime soon.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
I guess it all comes down to wanting to succeed. The way I learn new things, is by reading, implementing, experimenting over and over again until something is firmly in my head and ready to be used without the aid of any books or other reference material.
I am not the kind of person that can be taught, I teach myself in my own little ways.
Newbies should join one of the big community forums, personally I would recommend
were-here, everybody is so willing to help you out and if you have a problem just ask your questions there.
When you get an answer, implement it, experiment with it and see if you can make it do something different.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
I'm your typical sporty guy, tracksuit bottoms, trainers and tracksuit tops, I am a labels guy, but not your Armani's and Gucci, I'm more of a Nike, Adidas, Reebok person myself.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
There's no better way to learn than helping others.
It's been a privilege, Guy, thanks very much!
Cheers Bud, been a pleasure, nice questions too:)