The Six Month Milestone

Today I celebrate six months of self employment as I work towards setting up a coding school for kids and young teens here in Salisbury. I can honestly say that each pupil that’s come through First Coding has been so creatively brilliant, it’s such a shame that they struggle to find an outlet. This is why the business has adapted quickly to meet this need and as a result has led me down some fun and interesting routes: creating online resources, giving talks in schools and training teachers to name just a few. The hugest of thanks to everyone who has helped me get here, I’ll be raising a drink to you all later.

First Coding - Salisbury's first coding school for kids and young teens

Now I’m no expert, trust me but I’ve been asked if I could detail some points that the last six months have taught me about running a business. So in no particular order…

1. Summarise your business benefits in three points. This will keep you focused.
2. No matter how hard you prepare before you take the bold step into the world of self employment, cashflow will always be a problem to start with.
3. A service is easier to sell than a product.
4. There is never enough money available for marketing.
5. Word of mouth referrals are invaluable to building a sustainable client base.
6. The quality of your work will speak for itself.
7. Say yes to any opportunity that presents itself but remain focused.
8. A favour done for the right reasons will pay dividends down the line.
9. Write a daily to-do list and tackle the worst task of the day first.
10. There is a huge amount of inspirational quotes for every problem you will face. Just remember one – Be the most positive person in the room at all times.
11. Never forget the impact a new business will have on your family. The work-life balance is something that will never be achieved but consider what the change will have on others around you.
12. There is always going to be competition. Remember to tackle it logically and not emotionally.

Now where’s that bottle opener?



New YouTube ad requirements mean my channel doesn’t have enough subscribers to qualify for ads anymore. It’s a shame really as I was running an experiment with one of my most popular videos, my hacked Furby that reads out emails. It’s made me £11.45. Not bad for a 19 second video

Hacked Furby Reading Emails

Secret Code Adventures

As well as all the spy themed projects I put together last month for the First Coding Facebook page, I also set myself a personal task of developing an unbreakable cipher with the minimal amount of code. It’s hard, really hard but have learnt so much and so took it along to the Secret Army Exhibition. Conclusion, my cipher is moderately secure but came away with some great ideas including a message authentication flag to prevent tampering during transmission. I love projects that lead on to people and places like this. Every project tells a story.

Secret Cipher App

Spy Month

December has been a very busy month for me as I gear up for the big launch of my coding classes for children in January as part of First Coding. I’ll be picking a theme each month over on our Facebook page and building and sharing projects based on said theme for all to enjoy.

December’s theme is Spies and I’m working on the final project before I post it shortly. It’s based on the Caesar cipher, a project I built in Scratch at the start of the month but this time it’s in the form of an Android app with a couple of added extras.

Codes have always interested me ever since I was a boy and this month has been a great deal of fun building various projects.

Hop of over to my Facebook page and hit the Like button to have projects delivered to your feed:

First Coding - Spy Month Projects

Droid Chat Android App

The chatbot I’ve been working on for some time now is in need of people to install and use it in order for it to learn from as many conversations as possible.

Droid Chat is a chatbot but with a few nice added extras. Its main function is the ability to hold a conversation and should it not know how to respond to a statement, the app will ask you to provide a suitable reply. This then gets added to Droid Chat’s centralised database to allow all instances of the application to use your suggested response. This means that the more people using the app, the more intelligent Droid Chat becomes.

As well as the ability to hold conversations, Droid Chat has a few Easter eggs. Here are a few of the commands you can ask it:

  • “8 ball [YOUR YES/NO QUESTION]”
  • “Calculate the probability of [YOUR SCENARIO]”
  • “How are you feeling?””
  • “Tell me a story”
  • “Tell me a joke”
  • “Turn the radio on” Streams radio feeds so be careful of your data if not on wifi
  • “Change radio station”
  • “Turn radio off”
  • “Scan for frequencies” – Will try and pick up streamed Ham radio broadcasts
  • “Question [YOUR QUESTION]”

The app is not in the app store yet as it’s still an ongoing project but I can send you the file for you to save and install on your phone. Thank you for helping to contribute to the project, it’s greatly appreciated. The only limiting factor now are the ideas it can be applied to.

Digital Drinks

The week saw The Old Fire Station here in Salisbury host another Digital Drinks event. Here digital curious people of all ages, abilities and interests get to meet up and discuss ideas over drinks. This was also the perfect venue to showcase my coding courses that start in January.

As a way to draw people in I brought along the arcade cabinet that I made and loved talking to visitors to my table about providing the younger generations with the building blocks to create their own ideas using Raspberry Pis.

Digital Drinks Salisbury

Dot Dot Dot

We recently attended an event at Salisbury Cathedral in which there was an activity tent run by the Royal Signals Museum. I am a huge fan of old forms of communication, especially Morse and so myself and the boy sat down and used the telegraph keys to relay messages to one another. Mine were calling him smelly whilst his messages comprised of instructions to go buy chocolate. I am impressed with how Charlie’s Morse skills are coming along. He’s never forgotten the lesson he got from the kind radio operators on board HMS Belfast a couple of years ago and I think the interest has stuck with him ever since.

Morse Code at the Royal Signals tent at Salisbury Cathedral

To keep the momentum going when we returned home, we started looking online for any interesting Morse projects and found this one by Make Magazine here. Surprisingly when I Looked around the workshop I found I had all the components to make this project, including a spare arcade button so I’ve slowly been piecing it together.

Internet Telegraph Make Magazine Project

I downloaded the complete image and booted it up. Whilst I’m always appreciative of complete image downloads for Pi projects, I always find it’s more difficult to debug compared with if you built your project from the ground up. Not to worry though, a few checks and I found my issues, Make’s article on it is extremely helpful when it comes to that sort of thing. You can see it fired up here, though I think the communal lobby is a little empty most of the time as I’ve only had one exchange. After a quick scout around online I can’t see that many people have made this project. If you have, drop me a line and we’ll chat.

New Adventures in Coding

I have news! This is me enjoying a drink in May 2016 after having my after school coding club confirmed. I still remember the buzz I got knowing that someone else loved my ideas.

Coding Celebration

Despite a rocky start my club has since evolved over the year and it’s through the support of some really great people that my code has seen me tutor some amazing kids and meet some great parents… It even got me into shows where I sat next to two of my childhood heroes. I can’t thank them enough.

Meeting Simon at Bitterne Con

I now have the chance to do this as a job. I’m nervous about leaving a job of ten years but a chance like this is not going to come along again and I’m really attracted by the new challenge. I hit the ground running in January so wish me luck.

First Coding Classes - Creation Coding for Kids in Salisbury

Whatever you make or do, step outside your comfort zone once in a while and show it off to the world. You never know where it may lead!