So 2015 has been one hell of a year for me, a rollercoaster for sure.
Throughout, the Apple Admin community has been there. Either helping to make light of the various incidents that have befallen me during the year, some words of encouragement & also somethings to look forward too.
As such, it seemed a pertinent time to collate some various thoughts on why I blog, help out on JAMFNation, give talks & setup London Apple Admins.
The why’s can’t really be explained without some back story.
2016 marks the 14th year of me working in IT, a job (like so many of you) I fell into from music.
After my GCSE’s I went to a music college focusing more on the performance side, after which I went to another music college that focused on “Computer Music Technology”
It was then that I got my 1st computer, a G3 iBook Dual USB.
Less of a beast of a Mac, more of a sleepy kitten.
But on the iBook I used to run Reason, & Logic 5. I remember OS9, & I think the 1st stable OS X it might have run was 10.2.
I had a 2 hour commute to college, the train would pass through London’s financial heart so I’d often be writing tracks next to people working on spreadsheets, & at the time it was rare to see a Mac on the Tube.
Even at music college though, the technical side drew me in. Mic placement, sample rates, bit depth etc..
I’ve worked since my teens, started with the obligatory paper round at about 13/14. I then moved to working in a local newsagents.
Below is a rough rundown of some of the other jobs I have had up to my current role, this shows the journey from nerdy rock star wannabe to nerdy admin.
Whilst attending my music colleges I was a security guard/bouncer at a Progressive Synagogue. Which was amusing as at the time I was 6′ 2″ & about 14 stone!
The Synagogue would be hired by the local Asian community for events. I’d be there on a Saturday from 1pm – 3am to setup the hall for the event, make sure no fights or fires broke out, clear the hall down & set it up for the follow days ceremonies.
There were periods of downtime, which meant I could work on my college work on the iBook.
After finishing my music colleges, I became the barman at Brownsea Castle.
It was lovely living on an island, but I was the only member of staff on my shift pattern so after 6 weeks I came back home.
During my time on Brownsea Island I was still writing music on the iBook & soon after returning home I became an engineer at a studio in Camden.
That was an interesting time. But towards the end I spent more time fixing Macs running OS9 & tweaking extensions to load as small an OS as possible than actually recording music.
There are many stories but not many to commit to this blog!
The King Stag
Sadly, the music thing didn’t work out & I then started working behind at a local pub.
Working at the King Stag was great, many friends made & that was where I met my wife.
After a time I then took a role at a local care home, working out of the kitchens as a sort of waiter.
I was there for a few months before a friends brother whom was in recruitment got me a role working in a local outsourced call centre. The role was dialup support for some UK ISP’s, (virgin.net & ntl freedom).
It was there that my Mac experience started to show, & towards the end of my time there I was given all the Mac calls. Even from the company that had outsourced the work.
My next role was another step into IT, this time working for Renault, providing support for dealers & mechanics via the renault.net Single Access Portal that required a certificate installed in NetScape Navigator. As the diagnostic machines were running OS9, I also had some more exposure to supporting Macs.
Motor Bike Accident
Then in 2004, I had a motorbike accident on the way to work. This lead to 4 weeks in hospital, & over the next 5 years I would have various operations, leading to around 3 of those 5 years being on crutches. These operations were in an attempt to resolve the foot drop from the common peroneal nerve palsy inflicted during the accident.
It was about a year after the accident before I could work again, & I started to help out at a local reseller. During which time I passed the exam for “10.4 Help Desk Specialist”
Tower Hamlets Council
Once able, I started looking for IT & Mac jobs within London & managed to get a role working as a contractor for Tower Hamlets Council.
Part of the role focused on supporting the Mac team behind the East End Life paper, as well as some other creative teams within the business.
There was also a Novell & Domino migration to Active Directory & Exchange happening. At which time, the “Magic Triangle” was somewhat of a standard but a massive leap for someone whom had just discovered ARD!
But, the boss was an awesome guy & saw promise in me.
As a contractor I was able to work from home whilst recovering from an operation, & even had a little test rig containing a couple of Dell towers to work as a Active Directory Domain Controller, Exchange Sever, File & Print Server as well as collection of Macs to run OD & as clients.
However, it was the “Magic Triangle” that lead me to the Apple Admin community, & at this time it was both the MacEnterprise Mailing List & AFP548.com.
After Tower Hamlets Council, I took on various contract roles that greatly expanded my Mac knowledge.
This included a brief stint working for a London Apple reseller & service provider, Colyer. It was there that I found out that I’m terrible at hardware repairs & a little about the Casper Suite.
6 years in & I finally take a permanent role. Grey London was based up the road from Colyer. This was my 1st hands-on exposure to the Casper Suite.
This was when I realised that my toolkit of ARD & a collection of Apple OS’s Media was a bit old fashioned.
Over the 3 years I spent at Grey, I heavily leaned on the JAMFNation Mailing List & colleagues. During which time I was allowed to rebuild the JSS & manage Macs across multiple offices using various new to me techniques via the Casper Suite.
I attained a CCA for JSS 7.2 under Miles Leacy, & other this was the second professional certification I had attained.
It was also my exposure to the JAMFNation Mailing List that urged me to start this blog.
In March 2016 I’ll have been at Pentland for 5 years. It’s been a great experience, with 10.7-10.10 ACTC certifications passed, AirWatch Mobile Associate & Casper Certified Expert.
Pentland have been supportive in this blog, the tools i’ve released, the talks I’ve given & (as shown above) my personal development.
Whilst at Pentland I also received JAMFNation Deanships for the past 3 years, joined ##osx-server IRC & the MacAdmins.org Slack as well as becoming an admin for both.
So, the above shows my employment history & touches on some of the community resources used. These are many of the things that I still used today.
Frantic Googling when at Tower Hamlets Council lead me to stumble across AFP548.com.
The site has changed much since I used to ask all sorts of “Magic Triangle” questions, I remember it looking more like the below:
The help & advice I received from people like “mactroll” or “macshome” was invaluable, as was the articles written on that site.
Incidentally, visiting AFP548.com through the internet way back machine & scanning some articles & posts, has been really illuminating. There’s a heap more names & contributors than I remembered, & am now fortunate enough to say I’ve hung out with.
Often the roles above would be myself as the sole Mac guy, the MacEnterprise Mailing List was another great introduction to the community.
Even now you’ll see a few “you’re not alone” posts.
Whilst the above really helped me to gather concepts & ideas, the JAMFNation Mailing List is really where I learnt a massive amount.
Before joining, my scripting knowledge was largely those “Send UNIX Commands” present within ARD. Also, imaging for me was via OS Media.
With the help of the JAMFNation Mailing List, these (new to me) concepts started to make sense & I had many moments like:
As my confidence grew, I started replying to issues & offering solutions.
This is also about when I had more exposure to others blogs, & the realisation that people were blogging stuff to later offer as a solution.
It soon became apparent that I needed to blog the stuff I was doing, for those very same reasons. Hence starting this blog.
As a Casper admin, I’ve found the more focused discussions on how to approach things within the suite to be massively helpful.
Internet chat is not something I’ve really done, I might have had an MSN Messenger account at some point, but as all the people I hang out with generally are not IT people at all.. It wasn’t something I got into.
However, I think I joined ##osx-server IRC in 2013 & have really bought into the whole “chat” thing.
IRC was a massive help when building AutoCasperNBI as being able to have some quick back & forth with people for more complicated concepts greatly helped.
Any group based internet chat can seem a bit like having a conversation in a crowded bar at times. However, give yourself some time & you’ll get into the flow.
The MacAdmins.org Slack started around May of this year. Since then some 2825 people have signed up for it.
It’s incredible growth, has been somewhat to the detriment of IRC. But at the heart of it they are similar mediums.
It’s a great thing to be apart of & even vendors are now joining & seeing the value.
But, if IRC can can seem a bit like having a conversation in a crowded bar at times, Slack can as well. However, this is mitigated by the numerous rooms allowing for more focused conversations.
For instance, Munki question? ask in #munki. JAMF question? Ask in #jamfnation.
Another great thing about IRC & Slack is the more social side of things. There is something about group based internet chat that is less serious. Leading to banter between collaborative bursts, the humour can really come through.
There are so very many excellent blogs out there that will really aid you, Googling should lead you to them. But if you’re on Slack i’d urge you to also join the #blog-feed channel & add your own blog if you have one.
Conferences & Meetups
JNUC2013 was my first conference & also the first time I flew solo.
Taking the step to fly to a foreign country to hangout with a group of people, some of which you’ve only met virtually, can be a bit daunting.
Getting dragged up on stage & awarded a Deanship even more so. I had no idea of my impact. But throughout JNUC2013 I met so many great people. It’s hard to not have an experience like that & it not leave a mark.
I’ve since attended JNUC twice more, PSU once & am very privileged to be taking part in the inaugural macad.uk.
Since JNUC2013, I’ve also founded London Apple Admins with Graham Gilbert & that’s been running now for a year with us hoping for the next meet up to be in January 2016.
The only regret with this is that I didn’t attending conferences or meet ups sooner, it’s really something I urge you to do. Meeting those in person whom you converse with online is a great experience.
If there’s not a meet up local to you, set one up! They can be anything as long as you have a more than one person attending. A conversation over food, a few drinks or even the whole streamed event. It matters not.
So the above is my journey, & hopefully something you can draw some parallels with.
However, I’ve also some other things I’d also like to address.
The collaborative spirit of the Apple Admin Community should hopefully have come through some with my experiences above, but I’m not alone in experiencing this.
The below summarises things better than I can, & was posted to my FaceBook shortly after the author made a $500 donation to the gofundme campaign that took me to JNUC2015.
An incredibly generous offer, from a truly lovely guy.
Following Brian’s wishes (ish), I setup a mini event at Grumpy’s (sans the mugging). Receipt is below, (there was a tip added afterwards).
Around some 20 or so thirsty admins & 80 minutes later, the tab was gone. 🙂
The collaborative nature of this community really is a phenomenon.
The community is really like a family. All sorts of people involved, with differing personalities & views.
That might lead to the odd bit of conflict, the odd heated debate. However, it’s worth mentioning that the community with it’s diversity will always have differences of opinion.
Debate is fine, but at some point drop it. Or at least agree to not see eye to eye.
No one is being paid to assist you, it’s all done out of their own generous spirit. So please be mindful, & listen.
Likewise, there is also going to be someone with more experience than you & others with less. Don’t be afraid to put ideas forward.
Not many people will slap your ideas down for being RONG without at least following up with why, & those why’s may not be applicable to your environment.
So don’t be fearful.
This is an oddity that I’ve recently come across, At some events people have been worried about approaching me because of my perceived celebrity.
There is no rank, no celebrity. Merely some whom are more vocal than others.
I hope the above story of how I found myself here helps to dispel any myths, & this is the same for anyone in the community.
If someone has helped you out somewhere down the line, let them know! Reach out via Slack, Twitter, their blog etc.. if you get to meet them in person maybe thank them, shake their hand or buy them a pint? (Or in Rich Trouton’s case a diet coke).
To wrap up, I’ve put down some more of my experiences & thoughts down as well as answered some questions I get asked quite a bit.
2015 was a hard year for me personally. My various breakages & the passing of my Grandad took it’s toll.
But the response from the community, with things from tweets like:
To the madness that was the gofundme campaign, really lifted my spirits.
I’m extremely thankful for to all of you for those as they really helped keep my chin up.
Even when being accused of having a “fake accent”
Incidentally, I tried to repay those whom helped me through 2015 in my own fashion during my JNUC Talk. (I’m not 100% certain that is what people were expecting).
Why do I blog?
In truth, I take as much from the community if not more than what I put out there.
So it seems only reasonable to give back, especially with all of the support from the community across various places over the years.
It’s great to see so many people reading the blog, it’s also somewhat unnerving. I guess i’m doing something right & people have found value in my ramblings (despite numerous grammatical & spelling errors!).
How do you have time?
I’m sure that the time I’ve invested in this blog has been repaid many times over from the things I’ve drawn from the community.
Also, an understanding partner helps!
Do you make any money from the blog or projects?
Nope. However, I’ve toyed with the idea of ads to finance the small cost for hosting a blog etc.
Do you take donations?
Nope. But find me in person & I’ll take a drink & a chat 🙂
How can you present?
As I went to music college, the idea of standing in front of a crowd of people does not worry me.
When giving a talk, it’s more akin to playing in a covers band. People have an idea of what the talk might be about, & most will be there to learn.
Why be so involved in the community with being a Slack Admin & setting up London Apple Admins?
Truth is, i’d be on Slack anyways & as I’m UK based it’s handy as i’ll be on at a differing time to most of the other admins.
People in Slack are mostly harmless, the Code Of Conduct spells out the kind of behaviour expected & I think most people can follow it without thinking.
London Apple Admins, whilst a bit of a pain to arrange the meets at times, is a heap of fun. We’ll keep doing it till myself & Graham Gilbert are the only attendees.
Again, I learn a lot from others & really enjoy giving people the opportunity to give a talk. Some organisations might not offer that opportunity internally, so to present to a group of friends can be a great way to get someone started.
Hopefully, this can lead them to speaking at a conference somewhere.
Lastly, what does 2016 hold?
I hope to not break any bones 2016, I’m still healing from the incident in January & would like to not be hobbling on crutches for a long time.
I’ll continue here, I have some cool projects I’m working with others on Slack that I’d like to release & will be speaking at macad.uk.
Not sure what else it holds in store, I’d be happy to hang out in Slack & have a quiet one though!
Again, thanks for 2015 & I hope we all have a successful 2016 & hope to see you in the MacAdmins.org Slack.
4 thoughts on “Because Community”
Until we’re the only attendees? Surely you mean even if!
As always insightful, funny and honest! Long may you mule Ben. The community salutes you.
Great post, really enjoyed learning about your experience and history. It resonated with me in a lot of ways, especially as I’m a bit out of the loop in the Mac Admin world as I traverse a stepping stone in my career that will hopefully get me back in!
The one thing that reassures me is that the community will be waiting (and I’m still lurking). London Apple Admins is awesome and I’m sure it will continue to go from strength to strength over the coming months and years. Thank you for all your support and friendship! Liam still talks about the day we went to visit you (especially the swimming pool).
I wish you all the very best for next year – fingers crossed things will settle down for you a bit.
This is the kind of post I love. Thank you so much for being here for the community.
In French, there’s two expressions about Mule:
– être un âne (being stupid)
– être une tête de mule (being stubborn)
I believe you’re the latter, in the best possible way.