Web designInterview

Jonathan Ginn on hackdays, digital hubs and John Hurt

Jonathan Ginn on giving back to the web community

net Awards nominee Jonathan Ginn discusses the joys of giving back to the community and making a "stupid website" about Doctor Who.

Jonathan Ginn is the co-founder of HACKBMTH, he helps to run the world's largest Open Device Lab and he's a STEM Ambassador. He's also one of 10 nominees in the Young Developer of the Year category at this year's net awards. We chatted with him about what he gets out of giving back...

What are your main areas of expertise?

Front-end dev across the board. I like to think I'm a dab hand at CSS and I'm always looking for new ways to make my SCSS better and do clever things, while making the sites I work on faster and faster. Events management and organising is also something I consume my life with.

Give us a summary of your career so far.

I spent four years at Bournemouth Uni, moving from a Computing course to Interactive Media Production.

One of my first real tastes of the industry was in my placement at 3 Sided Cube. Back then they were a handful of people and it was a fantastic education, and without that I wouldn't be on the path I am now.

In 2012 I graduated from Bournemouth Uni, and I decided I didn't want to chase the big lights up in London and prefer the laid-back life on the coast. Although my life is far from laid-back.

HACKBMTH brings together creative and tech talent across industries such as web design, games design, and engineering

I co-founded HACKBMTH in 2012, a local hackday initiative that's making big waves. I co-founded it with Adam Howard, another nomination in this category. HACKBMTH is something I'm massively proud of - it's amazing to see people coming from far away to come together to create crazy and wonderful projects, forging friendships and learning new skills, and 2014 is going to be great.

In the world of work, I've moved onto my third job since Uni, through choice. I've learnt a lot through my journey and managed to work with a lot of amazing people.

Back to base

Now I work at a wonderful company called Base, where I manage the world's largest Open Device Lab and work on opening up big data and making large-scale infrastructure websites for transport companies across the country. My projects take months to see fruition and it's a long slog, but I love getting the best out of a site and seeing a team work together. I also love working on smaller arty projects, and we've got a lot of those coming up this year.

Aside from those, I work heavily in Bournemouth to make events happen and support and promote tech/web events any way I can. I'm always trying to get back to Uni and do talks for students.

What have you been working on over the last year?

Aside from HACKBMTH and the Bournemouth Open Device Lab, I worked on the front-end on Nottingham City Transport's website. It might not sound exciting, but I just love helping to get people from A to B in their day-to-day life, and we're breaking ground in that regard. And once you're dealing with tons of data and visualising that data, it gets really exciting.

I love going to hackdays and playing around with crazy things - I get a kick out of making people laugh at how ridiculous something can be, like making balloon animals with Leap Motion or leading unsuspecting people on to an adventure game on their phone line.

What have been the particular high points of your career?

It's really hard to pick just one thing. The last two years have been a blur. Turning the Open Device Lab from a 24-device collection to the world's largest was a crazy experience and the response has been amazing. It helps everyone to make their work better and it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. Plus it's totally cool.

Introducing John Hurt got 30K hits on the first day

The maddest thing I've made in 2013 was Introducing John Hurt. I was so amused by the ending of the last season of Doctor Who that I decided to create a stupid website that dramatically spins John Hurt's face. It got 30,000 hits in the first day, and spread across Twitter like a wildfire. It was amazing to witness and took me by surprise. It was an opportunity to make something mad and I took it.

What are you excited about at the moment?

I'm excited about where Bournemouth is going as a hub of digital activity. It's growing every month on month and I'm excited just to be in amongst it. We've got a massive variety of regular events and a massive amount of digital agencies down here. I'm glad I stayed down here, and I'm really proud that 2 of the 10 nominees are from Bournemouth.

In terms of development, the stuff coming in CSS4 really excites me as to what I can do to improve a user's experience no matter where or when they're viewing a site.

Tell us about an important lesson you've learned in your career.

Teamwork is key. You can't do everything alone. I'm thankful for the back-end devs who do the work I can't, for example. We're all in this together, really, and we can all learn a lot from each other.

I believe you've always got to learn and grow. Challenge yourself every day. Hackdays are a great way to push you out of your comfort zone and meet new people.

Name an 'unsung hero', someone you admire who deserves more recognition for their work.

There's so many people I'd love to mention. For me, it has to be Andy Touch - while he doesn't technically work in web these days, he's massively passionate about everything he does. He's a developer evangelist at Unity Technologies and brings tremendous passion to a hard job - I couldn't do it.

I'd also like to mention Ian Davenport. He's a designer, and an amazing one. I learnt so much from him in my first year of work and he continues to be an inspiration to me. Very much an unsung hero.

Vote in the net Awards!

Celebrating the best in web design and development, the 15th net Awards is open for public voting until 24 March. With a record breaking number of nominations this year, it's set to be the biggest and best yet. Have your say by casting your votes here.

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