Who is the frugal developer?

The Frugal Developer - Brent Ritchie

What’s your origin story?

My name is Brent Ritchie, and I live in Hanmer, Ontario, Canada.

I have been a professional Software Developer since the Summer of 2005. Before that, I was a two (2) time college student.

Not that I went back to further my studies, but I went back to finish my diploma in Software Development.

I went to college for the first time in Barrie, Ontario, at Georgian College. I didn’t take care of my finances, and after about a year, I had no choice but to move back home.

I got a job at a local wholesale distribution company to save money for a year. Then the day finally came for redeeming myself at a new college in Sudbury, Ontario.

This time, I kept my finances in check, and I graduated on the honour roll!

Right out of college (my second try), a small software services company hired me.

We developed applications within the mining sector for a large mining company. I rose to the challenges and became a junior data warehouse manager.

My job was to oversee all requests to store or change data within the warehouse. Often, I was also the one to put in place these changes.

The company started to lose focus, though (they actually used XNA and made an Xbox Live game), I felt it was time to move on.

My next position exposed me to the wonderful world of retail Webhosting. Our company sold turn-key websites to furniture retailers.

They charged them a monthly fee to keep the product listings up-to-date. I had no idea how competitive this industry was.

Back in 2008, we were scraping every furniture manufacturer in North America at least once a week. This was a very manual job back then. We did it all by building custom PHP scripts.

I found myself promoted to the Manager of Data Logistics. I was the one in charge of getting the data on the websites at an ever-increasing rate.

I did this until 2011 when the company moved to Scottsdale, Arizona. I decided I wanted to stay in Canada.

In 2011 a local environmental testing laboratory hired me as the “IT” department.

I was in charge of printers, websites, networking, telephones, and even analytical instruments. It was a different environment and one that I am glad I found.

This is where I met my beautiful wife! For three (3) years, I was the go-to guy for anything IT related.

My responsibilities included creating reports and integrating analytical instruments.

Soon after my future wife and I started dating, I found a new, better paying job at a new company. It was a new beginning, but also a return to my roots.

This company was so new that I was its second employee. It was another software services company for the mining sector.

This time, we were doing a lot of contracting for a different mining company that was one of the world’s largest. (Sudbury, Ontario has quite a few large mining companies that have offices in the area).

I have had a multitude of experiences here, all centred around mining.

I have created an application that will OCR and index old documents. The design helps to help find new mining opportunities.

I have even helped build an underground safety system for data sharing in real-time.

I also created a mission-critical system for tracking maintenance and crew work items. This last application has been running for five years, with only about 6 hours of downtime.

Recently, I have been extending and maintaining the corporate LIMS system. My laboratory experience has served me well, as I have been quite successful at this for the last five years.

2017 was quite a big year as well for me.

In May, my son Sawyer was born. He was a bundle of joy that didn’t stop being cute.

Later that year, my wife and I finally got married at a lighthouse in Bruce Mines, Ontario. It was my wife, my son, and our dog. Making it one of the happiest days of our lives.

In the fall of 2019, I was looking for more.

I applied for the position of a part-time professor at a local college.

I teach an introductory course in web applications with only CSS, HTML, and JavaScript. As well as an introductory course to PHP.

This was one of the best decisions I made. It made a world of difference in how I view my craft. What I thought was going to be straightforward, ended up being quite tricky.

I thought I knew web development, but after having to teach it, I realized at how lacking I was. The hardest pills to swallow though was that I was not considered a good teacher.

Every semester I am evaluated by my students in an anonymous questionnaire. I learned that I completely lost them a lot because of my inability to talk at an appropriate level.

Most of these students have never even seen HTML before. Without realizing, I was trying to speak to them as if they were industry veterans.

Since then, the reviews got better a little at a time. I continue to learn as I teach and always try to improve.

Why did you start a blog?

My reasons for starting this blog are a bit selfish.

I don’t have a good outlet for creative programming or good technical discussion in my other jobs. I deal with a lot of non-technical business people that only have a general sense of what they want.

I do work on a team, but most of the projects that we work on are solo. So even when talking amongst teammates, things need to be high level.

I want people to understand the impact that their decisions have on the software they create. Because something is free to use, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a cost associated with it in other ways.

These hidden costs can open our customers to risk profiles that they may not be willing to take on. It is these hidden costs that I am interested in and want to have more discussion on.

I want to share my experiences in a fun and natural way.

I have seen a lot of different applications and have a unique view of the market. I wanted to offer one more perspective for you to consider.

What will you be blogging about?

I will be blogging about the JamStack, static websites, and how to use free services to build them.

The free usage phenomenon has gotten big, and we can capitalize.

We can build powerful applications using many of the free tier services. With free hosting, free databases, and free error reporting, we have a lot of power.

We will also do an in-depth analysis of how to re-create some of these free services ourselves, for free. Either start your own competitor or use them for your own projects, it’s up to you!

The JamStack method makes this possible, which I will be referring to quite often. It boils down to creating a static site and calling APIs for everything.

Who are you writing for?

I am writing for myself. I want this blog to push me to keep learning and experimenting with what I am given to do the best job possible.

I have a hard time committing time and energy to my projects, so I hope this will keep me more accountable.

I am also writing for people like me that want to experiment with this stuff but can’t find the time.

It’s hard to balance work, home, hobbies, and other obligations. Quite often, people that have busy lives lack the free time to practice skills.

Some people can find it helpful to read different experiences to form their own opinions.

I also want to spread the word about the JamStack. People should know what it is and how to apply it when it makes sense.

I have seen that this approach has the potential to keep costs small. It can also make things complicated in some situations.

It takes time and practice to know when we should apply these principles like any other concept.

Finally, I am writing for people like me, those who want to see an idea explored and taken to its extreme end.

I plan on using this blog as an outlet to do some of the crazier mashups, that wouldn’t make much sense in real life.

What are your goals

I want to show how to assess the trade-offs that people will face and show how they will affect the project.

Many will choose a free or low-cost service but not understand the full extent of these decisions.

I want to introduce new ways of structuring and writing applications. They may not have the experience or time to use these techniques.

As I am doing this, I want to keep it fun, light, and low-pressure.

Finally, I want to explore and examine outside the box thinking.

We will be coming up with these solutions that are not designed for reality. They will push the limits of what we can do on an extreme budget of $0 per month.

How can I get involved?

There are many ways to get involved! The easiest way is to send an email to hello@thefrugaldeveloper.life. Although pretty direct, it doesn’t lend itself to great community discussions.

Another effortless way is to comment on my posts! Ask a question, point out a mistake, offer your own counterpoints. The sky is the limit, and the discussions are public so that everyone can join in.

You can look for @thefrugaldeveloper to spark a debate on various social media sites. If you want to show people something they might enjoy, use the share buttons on my posts.