Long ago I wrote this bit about myself. It stops rather abruptly in February 2001. I don't think I'll ever finish it.
My name is Peter-Paul Koch. I was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 1970 and have lived there all my life.
Way back in 1988 my roommate introduced me to MUDding.
We sneaked into the Psychology faculty of the University (then one of the few faculties boasting
computers connected to the mysterious 'Internet'), typed in the magical fomula
Telnet: 194.xxx.xxx.xxx and were instantly connected to the realm of Mizar, which, as I
learned, was based on the incredible possibilities of the Unix operating system and the fantasy
of its human inhabitants.
At the same time I was eagerly working on the
Commodore 64 of this same roommate, learning
Basic and even a little bit of 6502 machine language. I programmed a text-based adventure but when
I was ready to add the interesting bits (mainly interaction with the other characters in the game)
the huge 64K memory (65.536 bytes!) turned out to be full.
Later on my interest in computers dwindled a bit. I began to study seriously and eventually, in 1994, got my degree in Ancient History (Greeks and Romans). Sorting through political/military fractions in the 5th century Roman Empire (the days of the Wandering of the Nations, Attila the Hun and other colourful characters) turned out to be every bit as fascinating as 6502 machine language.
Afterwards I went into teacher training and today I still am a qualified teacher of history. However, no jobs were to be found. No problem, I got money from the welfare department and found a new research subject in the Thidrekssaga, a 13th century Old-Norse book that may contain accurate historical information about far earlier times, the 5th century I had already studied. Sorting through the contradictory theories and abstruse writings on Redactor B and Interpolator M kept me busy for another two years.
During this time I also worked for Gallery Carla Koch, my mother's gallery that specializes in glass and ceramics. As a result I'm quite knowledgeable about modern glass and ceramic art. I also learned to sell art and to write press releases in Dutch and English.
I got my first own computer with Internet access early in 1997, a Windows 3.1 machine with the finest browser of its day: Netscape 3. First I eagerly searched for information pertaining to my studies, but when I found out these sites weren't much updated I became less interested.
All sites I made during the course are online as parts of my homepage:
I wasn't quite content with my career, so I decided to switch. The Internet hype had started, Internet was supposed to radically change the world. When late in 1997 my mother showed me a newspaper ad that promised a course perfectly suited to enter this magical world, I eagerly subscribed. Even better, it turned out that the welfare department would continue to support me during this course.
The course was pretty bad. Although some individual teachers were excellent, the organization sucked. The very first day of the course the teacher didn't turn up because he hadn't been told he was supposed to be teaching. To make up for this failure of communication, the next day two teachers turned up and were quite surprised to see each other. You get the picture.
Later on it turned out that the organizing company was one of the many that abused European Union subsidies. Although they did try to help us to get a new job, and rightly got money for that, they also demanded money from the companies they placed us in, something which wasn't allowed. I once remarked on this to their 'outplacement manager' and he became very angry with me. Fun!
A disadvantage was that the course was given in Rotterdam, so I spent 2.5 hours a day commuting. Although to some this may seem little time, for Dutch circumstances it's quite a lot so I didn't always feel up to it. When I also decided that the best way I could spend my time was teaching myself the tricks of the trade, I attended less and less.
I also discovered mailing lists. I became a member of two HWG mailing lists (still am) and eagerly fought in the great Validation Wars that rocked the web development community in 1998. Are sites required to validate according to the rules and regulations of W3C? My answer was no and I spent an inordinate amount of time on defending this idea.
But flames were more common than good arguments and I became bored with the subject. Then I was asked to become a member of the new WDF mailing list, founded by HWG members who were sick and tired of the bickering. I eagerly subscribed, inadvertently caused the only flame war in its history and today this is still my favourite mailing list.
Only when the final assignment came I spent some more time on my course. It was fun to do: create part of a community website with a solid marketing and sales perspective. I left the boring commercial bits to others and concentrated on making the site work in both browsers (Netscape 4 and Explorer 4).
Meanwhile I had found myself an internship and when the course had finally finished (ending with stupidity from the organizers when they inadvertently broke their contract with me) I started working.
All of the websites I made for Inízio have meanwhile been redesigned.
When I started working, I was a bit disoriented by the lack of classical guidance. How did Plato view the WWW? What did Cicero think of its communications value? No answers were to be found, so I decided to search them for myself.
I vividly remember that once I had the brilliant idea of putting
in the BODY tag of a page to eliminate the margin in Netscape 4. Maybe I'd read about this trick
earlier, I can't remember, but anyway it dazzled the socks off my collegaues and was a good solution to a
When working on my very first assignment I surprised myself by writing a standard mouseover script that was a lot simpler than other scripts I found on the WWW.It was nice, it was clean and it worked.
That was the beginning of this site. I first announced it on 30 October 1998 to the WDF mailing list. On the whole the reactions were positive and in the years to follow I've had lots of support from the other WDF members.
The time I spent with Inízio was fun and since there wasn't a whole lot of work to do I had ample time for studying the obscure new techniques called Cascading Style Sheets and DHTML. When after six months the time came to say goodbye, I'd learned a whole lot of useful stuff and I was sorry to go.
Most of the sites I created in 1999 have gone offline or were redesigned by other agencies. The World Press Photo site was redesigned and recoded by Netlinq Framfab, as will be related later on.
Anyta, a woman I knew from the course had done her intership at NetlinQ as a project manager. She introduced me to this company and I had two succesful conversations with the founders. I was hired as a Client Side Programmer and started on the first working day of 1999. This meant I finally earned my own money, and I was very proud of myself.
The site was to go online at the very moment the World Press Photo of the Year 1998 was announced. so I was quite stressed. A Perl programmer was supposed to be present for last-minute help in a little poll script, the technical director was supposed to be present for general support. As it turned out, both overslept horribly and entered the building only when I had just put the site online all by myself, something I'd never done before.
And it worked. I'd proven to myself, to NetlinQ and to the world at large that I was a client side programmer ready for the stresses and problems that are normal in web development.
None of the projects I did in 1999 were quite so spectacular as World Press Photo, but they were OK. I dabbled in Perl and wrote texts for a small lexicon of Internet terminology.
At the end of my first year I had a long talk with my bosses in which I deplored the fact that client side programming was seen as a low-status simple job, while picking your way through the mazes of browser compatibility is anything but simple. It turned out that this coincided with an idea they'd had themselves: every technical 'discipline' should have its leader, someone who was technically very advanced and could also perform some administrative functions (mainly planning). They asked me to become Head of Client Side Programming, which I have been ever since.
The best part was that the function was as yet ill-defined so that I could do pretty much as I pleased. It was with this bright prospect that I entered my second year at NetlinQ.
For my writings during this time, see the Publications page.
2000 was the heyday of Internet business, as you know. We were very busy, expanded NetlinQ to eventually include 4 branches with 200 employees, three in Amsterdam and one in Rotterdam. At the very apogee I headed 22 client side programmers. I was increasingly distracted by administrative work and research, so I created less and less actual web sites. The only two sites I made were those of NetEvents and my mother's gallery. I also assisted in putting the new World Press Photo's online, but that was a minor job.
Writing has always been a hobby of mine and I decided to port it to the Web. I approached Jeffrey Zeldman of A List Apart with an idea for an article about the practical implementation of CSS, a technique I've become a passionate defender of. It was speedily accepted and published. Later in the year I also wrote an article about XHTML.
Then NetlinQ, with full support of the founders/directors, was taken over by Swedish Framfab. The idea was to connect NetlinQ to a wordwide network of Internet companies. I wasn't very happy with it, but such is life.
Only a few days after the takeover most of the company flew to Swedish Malmö where a general meeting of all Framfab employees was taking place. It was fun, especially since one of our project managers managed to jump out of the window of his hotel room and somehow fall through the window of the ground floor room below it. I still wonder what the Swedes thought of us.
Later in the year I taught client side programming in a course organized by NetPeople, one of the many NetlinQ spin-offs. My experience with web development courses served to make it a moderate success, at any rate we weren't plagued by the lack of organization I'd witnessed earlier.
But reality interfered. At the beginning of the course everyone was quite certain that the pupils would quickly find a job in the ever expanded web industry. Not so. All of a sudden, companies were reluctant to put money into sites of questionable use and profit. The whole web world noticed this, no need to elaborate, it meant that the heydays were over and that my pupils were slower to find a job than everyone had expected.
The course had cost me far more energy than I'd expected and the bleak prospects of the web development industry weren't comforting either. So I retreated into pure research, deciding to find out all I could find about the W3C DOM. This resulted in the W3C DOM Compatibility Table, the most popular resource on this site.
Rather to my surprise it turned out to be the best resource on the Internet for this subject and I was soon overwhelmed with mails from developers requesting information about obscure techniques and methods. Usually I didn't know, I'd only tested isolated methods and properties in the various browsers.
So I founded the WDF-DOM mailing list entirely devoted to this tricky
subject. It has proved to be a success, many developers from over the world are members of this
list and new facts and workarounds are constantly being found.
Table and list also had some interesting spin-offs for myself, as I'll relate later on.
So for me the year 2000 ended on a cautiously positive note.
2001 began very well with the redesign of the World Press Photo site. I was taking a very active role in this, being the only old hand of the previous WPPh site in the team. We decided to experimentally use the Java-based MMBase content management system. Bridging the gap between creation and 'hard' code, I took part in both the interaction and the data modeling for the site, besides writing my usual client side code.
The task was hard but very rewarding. I clearly saw that this site was far better designed than its predecessor and easier to navigate, too. Of course there ware some snags, especially the server the site was to run on was difficult to get, despite promises of WPPh sponsors.
Of course the site was to go online at the same time the World Press Photo of the Year 2000 was
being announced. The day before, the designer, the server side programmer, the WPPh head of communications and I
worked a heroic 17 hours to get everything in shape for the next day.
Thinking it safe to leave everything in the hands of our server side programmer, on the day itself I joined the project manager and the designer for the official announcement. (Of course I already knew who the winner was, one of the nice extras of this project is knowing who won 18 hours in advance of the rest of the world).
When the ceremony was over we heard from the server side programmer that there was 'trouble'. We hurried back to office but could do little more than conclude that 'the server was slow'. Other programmers were hurrying to his aid and it was concluded that the database was misbehaving. When I saw five of our top programmers staring intently at one very short regular expression I took this for a good sign.
Meanwhile World Press Photo was getting understandably nervous, one photographer in Sarajevo was sitting behind a computer in the public library trying to contact the site to find out if he'd won a prize (he had), while we made one last desperate attempt to get the server to behave, using the regular expression to modify a key file. It worked, the database started behaving and the site was finally running. Fortunately the visitors thought the site was slow due to worldwide interest in the WPPh contest, so no one complained.
That evening, a Friday, I went home with the glowing, satisfactory feeling of a job well done. When I returned to office next Monday I heard that we were going to have to fire people.
Will never be continued.