After I graduated from high school, I did what ever honor roll student did. I went to college. I enrolled in a local university and began my computer science studies.
The curriculum was pretty typical for a CS degree. We learned object oriented programming in Java, data structures and algorithms in C++ and basic networking (we had a lot of fun sending shutdown signals to classmates’ computers). We learned some HTML and built server-side applications in Perl. I took a few database classes along the way too, building inventory programs in PL/SQL.
Admittedly, I wasn’t a great student. I had a 3.0GPA, but didn’t take it seriously. I rested on my laurels and skated through classes without much effort. I did well in high school without trying. My bad study habits carried forward into my collegiate career. I was not proactive. I was not studious. I was not diligent. I was a little shit.
Instead of dedicating myself to studies, I focused on side projects. I, with some friends, administered a few forums dedicated to the tuner car subculture. As mentioned in part 1, I grew to appreciate the culture and community. As a broke college kid, I couldn’t afford my own race car. Instead, I moderated, administered, and ran messages boards to connect the community. It was the equivalent of my dad’ BBS. It was my contribution to the scene.
When I started running forums, I had a naive “if you build it, they will come” attitude. At the time (circa 2006), content was king and surreptitious “SEO” strategies were everywhere. I spent minimal time marketing my product. I didn’t want to run a professional forum; I just wanted a sandbox to play in.
Through the course of forum administration, I found gaps in the product offerings. I contributed to the open source community (in a world before GitHub) by writing plugins for Invision Power Board. I even won a “Mod of the Month” award for one of my contributions. It was a cloud photo sharing modification, before “the cloud” was commonplace. I basically invented the cloud.
After a while, I began experimenting with building my own social networks. I rolled my own Facebook knock-off in PHP, offering profiles, statuses and photo sharing. The product was niche, also catering to the car subculture. The code never left my local development environment. Never-the-less, it was a good opportunity to really learn the ins and outs of software engineering.
Ultimately, I dropped out of college. The 2008 recession rolled around and I was just not proactive enough to finish. I still regret this, as it set my career back by about 5 years. Maybe it’s for the best though, considering the chain of events it kicked off. We’ll talk more about that in the next installment.