Who am I?

In view of the LotusUserGroup.org blog award, I thought it might be useful to actually tell folks who I am, and what I do. So here's a little potted history:

  • I grew up in a fishing town in North East Scotland called Fraserburgh . My father was a Trawlerman there, one of a long line of fisherman in our family, and summer holidays were sometimes spent helping him out on the boat - initially a 60 foot stern trawler called the Constellation, and latterly a 80 foot trawler called the Constellation II, launched when I was 12 and costing some £250,000. Not an inexpensive boat, this one. However, fishing is *hard* and when I was 14 or 15, my father kicked me up the backside and stated that fishing was dead. Granted, some fishing folks make extraordinary money, but only a lucky few. My few experiences onboard helped me decide very quickly that a Fisherman's life was not for me. The usual growing up stuff - working in a local supermarket stacking baked beans for a few years - and I met my wife - She Who Must Be Obeyed - there.

  • I ran off to Edinburgh University, initially to study engineering, and then when that proved too difficult (I didn't have the necessary maths qualifications), Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. Again, thanks to the lack of maths, I didn't complete the course, but did get a huge grounding in computing, enjoying (perhaps too much) every minute.

  • I then left, and joined a small computer services company in Edinburgh called Granite Chips, where I was equipped with a small ford escort estate car, a screwdriver and a whole bunch of optimism. I did computer repairs, upgrades and lots of assembler and Turbo Pascal work. Bear in mind that IBM PC AT's were just being released at this time. I remember with some fond memories acquiring access to a 300 baud modem, and discovering things like FidoNet (Ask your grandparents).

  • A year there, and then onto a financial house as a C programmer (just in time for Big Bang), then after a year, onto a newspaper distribution company based in Rose Street in Edinburgh. Fantastic folk. I installed my first Novell Network there. eMail ? What was eMail ? ;-)

  • After another year there - my daughter - Squid - was born, and crippled our finances - we had just purchased our flat in Edinburgh. So it was another job change - to Sky TV. Part of News International - it was a job as a analyst in the subscription collection centre. And - as most folk who may have worked there would attest - it was a Satanic Mill. Fantastic experience, and lots of cool coding in a system called Magic - a sort of RAD GUI based multi-database tool. After a couple of years I landed a IT Services manager job at an up-and-coming Oil Services company called Stena Offshore back in Aberdeen (And a house move..). The Job I'd been waiting my life for. Imagine - just as Novell 3.11 and cc:Mail was making an impact, just as Windows 3.1 was becoming mainstream - being able to implement and direct IT for a huge company. In the end I helped merge them with another £200m company in France, and left to become a consultant. Management was just not my thing, as my (long suffering) staff at Stena would confirm. During this time, I helped set up the European Lotus cc:Mail user group, which was a hoot. I also met Ed Brill at Interchange sometime in 93 or 94 in San Francisco. What a small world we live in.

  • Contracting and consulting. I worked with Les Adams at Mica in London for five or six years, mostly for Lotus Consulting (or LPS as it was then known. I think this year it might be called ISSL). In the end, I spent a long time at a single large customer site in Eindhoven, Holland...

  • HADSL_Logo-50-transparent.gifAround 2000, Roy Holder, Richard Sampson and myself decided to build FirM - the Federated Identity and Resource Management tool. You can check it out over at the HADSL web site.

  • Around 1998, I started doing web site work, public and intranets. I think around this time I registered BillBuchan.com, and started coming up with a home-brew Blog template design. Of course, it wasnt called Blogging then - it was 'talking rubbish on the internet', and it mostly just talked about stuff for a small group of people. I started collecting bizarre links of the day at that stage, and have over 10k of them lurking in a database somewhere. Thank god Steve Castledine , Declan Lynch and others started constructing proper Blog templates - my homebrew effort was 'clunky' (to say the least)..

  • Since then, its been a case of consulting (for a whole different lot of people) all over Europe (The Hague, Copenhagen, London, and so forth) and meeting a whole bunch of new people. Around this time, I decided I was sick of listening to exceptionally bright chaps who just couldn't communicate. I decided that me as a not-very-bright person but with good storytelling skills, could do this 'public speaking' malarkey.

  • I was consulting in the City of London for a boutique investment house when 9/11 happened. Our manhattan office was thankfully not affected, but the staff still had to evacuate. I then spent the next 14 hours pulling replicas off of the New York servers so that our staff could work for home. I cant think of another platform that would allow you to do that under those conditions...

  • It all really came to a head last year. I hit 40 years old and some very good friends - Paul Mooney being the ringleader - organised a birthday party for me at Lotusphere. Carnage, drinking, mini-bar thefts and various scares when I found an electric buggy parked outside my room. I wouldn't say that I was the life and soul of a party - but i think I might have that persons cellphone number.. After all, there's no point in hitting a conference and being bored, is there ?

So I've been around the block a few times, burnt out a few times, and treaded where angels fear to tread. Being told 'Thats impossible' just seems to bring out the stubborn person in me. ;-)

Workwise, I get really excited when doing something horribly complicated and love that feeling when a design proves itself time and time again. During 1998-2001 I did a course at the Open University, finally getting some accreditation, and focusing on Java and Object Orientated programming. Coming back to LotusScript, and seeing the huge amount of work involved within FirM, I designed the framework and OO methodology's that we use today, which gives me a happy glow. The only proof that your design has worked is it continuing to work, despite constant addition, year after year.

Our daughter - Squid - is all grown up now, and has an apartment, car, Macbook, boyfriend and life in another city, meaning that She Who Must Be Obeyed now nags me all the time, which is fun. And I have resolved to stop trying to do quite so much all the time. I'm just a guy who cant say no, in some cases. Last Summer onwards, for instance, I was averaging 14 hour days, seven days a week for five months. Stupid.

As I sit here in my office, watching the snow come down here in Scotland I think - so where am I going in life ? I still think Lotus Notes and Domino is an amazing platform, and I'm deeply interested in where BlackBerry is going at the moment. There's a real value in being able to put databases onto mobile handsets, and some people out there are now using Blackberries in ways that no-one ever anticipated. Now *that's* fun.