Meet Alex Denning, 16 Year Old Geek

My name’s Alex Denning. I live just outside of London, England. I’m 16 years old. For the last year and a bit, I’ve been writing this site and just avoded/not mentioned age.Β Ideally, now I’ve told you, nothing changes.

I’ve not mentioned it before because I thought nobody would take me seriously. I thought I’d just be labelled as “some pretentious kid who doesn’t know what he’s talking about”. Just like Michael Martin, I aired on the side of caution as it just seemed like a better idea not to mention it.

It’s only in the last month or so I’ve started telling more and more people, largely down to Alex Fraiser‘s persuasion skills πŸ˜‰ After seeking out lots of advice, I came to the conclusion that the vast majority of readers wouldn’t have a problem and would “appreciate the honesty”, to quote Leland.

In the last year I’ve met and worked with some awesome people and slowly I started telling some of the awesome people my age and the usual response was “oh that’s cool. What were you saying about the options panel?” It’s this sort of reaction that made me realise I could probably tell everyone, so now I am.

Here’s the obligatory awkward headshot, again, inspired by Alex Fraiser.

What follows are a series of PFAQs (potentially frequently asked questions). If you’ve got any yourself, do ask.

Shouldn’t you be at school?

Yes, I am. Quite a good one too.

How do you balance your time?

I don’t have nearly enough time. Obviously stuff comes first, which doesn’t leave much time for interwebs stuff. Annoyingly, this means there’ll be the odd fortnight when you won’t see anything from me appear here.

So how did it all start?

Well, it was around November, 2007. Along with a couple of friends, I wanted to start reviewing video games. I installed myself as “the tech guy” and so set up this blog, using this “WordPress” thing. I had no idea how to use it and I stretched my abilities by… changing the colour of the header to green! This was Kubrick, so there was a colour picker, but that’s irrelevant.

I had no idea really how to use WordPress or how to change the design, so I promptly gave up on it.

Thankfully, I returned in March the next year. Without even realising it, I’d recognised that I needed a good CMS and that WordPress was the best option (I remember trying out all the other blogging platforms in Fantastico as well as Joomla and Drupal, deciding that Joomla and Drupal were too complicated and WordPress was the best option because of the community!), even then.

As a result, the WordPress powered Nometet.com was born and still lives to this day.

Meet your new friend, WordPress

That summer I hacked together my first WordPress theme and came across this website called HackWordPress.com (now WPHacks). I was amazed by the wealth of material available and in a masterstroke, introduced into the world of blogging.

In the next couple of months I saw, and was fascinated by how Jean-Baptiste Jung was able to launch a blog and find a readership so quickly, bouncing off the success of WordPressHacks. At this point I was still fairly new to WordPress, but this didn’t stop me getting stuck into blogging and late 2008, I had my first post published, on Jean’s blog, CatsWhoCode.

The post was called “Make Full Use of WordPress [lowercase p ;)] with the_excerpt_reloaded“. It was absolutely horrendous, and, in retrospect and I really had no idea what I was talking about. But that didn’t matter. Real people had actually read my post! Wow!

I published a couple more CatsWhoCode tutorials in early 2009, but in April launched Nometech, a spin off from Nometet. It was meant to be about web development, in a similar vain to CatsWhoCode, but it quickly became clear that the main focus was going to be WordPress and so in the summer changed the name of the site to WPShout.

Even at this point, I wasn’t great with WordPress. It was only over the summer I started to become more knowledgeable about WordPress and could really write with any authority about it. After this, WPShout sprang into life and by November, writing came up to the standard you read today.

It was also around that time I started work, along with Alex Cragg, on WPShift, a project we thought would revolutionise WordPress themes. We were wrong, but the concept remains a solid one and we’ll be back with that. Even as I write this, I’m working on an awesome backbone to all future themesΒ πŸ™‚

Into 2010, early on I decided I wanted to take WPShout to the next level and so approached Smashing Magazine about writing for them. My article idea was accepted and so I wrote and wrote, adding bits, taking out bits until the guys there were happy with my submission. The whole process took a good few months but was well worth it in the end πŸ™‚

Onto now. I’m currently freelancing, as you may know and looking forward to continuing to make lovely content for you all to read.

If you’ve got any questions, do ask. I’d be very happy to answer.


47 Responses

Comments

  • Glad to see a pic, I wondered how you looked like πŸ˜‰
    Keep up the good work my friend.

    • Alex Denning says:

      Heh, it’s a horrible one. I spent half an hour taking them earlier but quickly realised I was too tired to get a decent one!

      Cheers Jean, much appreciated πŸ™‚

  • Congrats on making the leap and putting it all out there Alex! I take it that it was nerve-wracking for you too once you hit that publish button??

    It’s good to have done it I think though, most people are nothing but friendly, and it’s nice to see the person behind the screen sometimes, so well done! πŸ™‚

    • Alex Denning says:

      Yeah, I wrote it two weekends ago! I had it ready all last week but just didn’t fancy publishing πŸ˜‰

  • On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. (or a 16 year old πŸ˜‰ )

  • Iva says:

    WOW! I seriously thought you were about ten years older than me (and JBJ, who appears to be my age?!). I think I’m supporting you even more from now on. πŸ™‚

    In fact, if I ever am responsible enough to start a design/social media blog (see, this is what people who go to school and work full time have…responsibility) I’ll definitely write a post about people born in the mid 90s who do it better than us early 80s ol’ f**ts. πŸ™‚

    Glad to put a name to the face and glad to have been learning some PHP/WP bits from you all along.

    • Alex Denning says:

      Thanks Iva πŸ™‚ As I tried to explain, it was out out of necessity that I started learning about WordPress and even this time last year didn’t have too much of a clue; I dare say was I your age I wouldn’t have ended up doing this!

  • quicoto says:

    Well done here Alex πŸ˜›

    Age? Nothing to be worried about πŸ™‚

    Regards

  • Sumesh says:

    Whoa, good to know you’re only 16. Am happy, actually. I’m only 18 myself, started with WP when I was 15. But like you, I’ve never encountered anyone insulting me with a “only 15, just a kid” comments. Nevertheless, I don’t really promote myself with my age (except here in this, maybe!). I believe such sensationalism is only for people who have nothing else to offer.

    People know kids grow up quickly and are sometimes more knowledgeable than adults in tech, so you don’t really have to conceal your age.

    • Alex Denning says:

      Ta Sumesh πŸ™‚ I’ll never know if I’m right in thinking this, but I still get the idea I’d have been dismissed if, at the start of all this, I had been open about it. People don’t mean to, but if they see “some kid” writing garbage, they will be dismissive.

    • Jared says:

      It seems like more and more teenagers have gotten into this area of work, and seen less as a cliche that they’re just dumb kids or whatever for the fact that the internet has become so integrated into everyday life, where most if not all teens have computers. It is a prime period of time to be young. Its much easier and just about anyone any age could pick up a computer and do stuff even I may not know.

      Like my 8 yr old nephew who has before haha.

  • Eugen R. says:

    There is no age on the internet. :3

  • That’s really brave. I’m 15. I deal with WordPress a lot too πŸ™‚

  • Jared says:

    Great post, and wow, just didn’t see that coming, or did I? Seems there are many kids these days that do webdev/design stuff. You are after all growing up in the age of the internet and computers and gadgets etc.

    I am so happy for you that you’ve found something that you want to do (and quite well) which you enjoy doing. When I was you’re age (28 now) just using a computer for me was very rare, and the hell if I had any clue what I wanted to do in life.

    It was a much different life for kids just 10 years ago. I think back on it now whenever I meet a teenager who does the same work I do now, and just wish I could go back and start learning it back then, and kind of regret not. I can only think of how much more I would know and be able to do at my age now. I sstarted when I was 22 and took me 5 years to even gain any real solid grasp on things.

    Keep it up, I’m sure great things happen for you later in life. Always enjoy reading you’re posts. πŸ™‚

    • Alex Denning says:

      To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised it you had guessed; I had all the telltale signs: avoid any questions about age, dismissive gravatar etc etc

      I’m quite lucky to be able to do this: when I was 12 I started saving for a laptop which I finally got when I was 13ish and since it’s powered my interwebs knowledge. Heck, I’m still on it now, just it’s connected to a 22″ LCD with Apple keyboard and a mouse πŸ˜‰

      • Jared says:

        I thought you’re gravatar was a pic of you golfing, as many old people do. tho not me.

        Another reason it’s not surprising to me is I have a graphics forum, and just one or two members on it is older than 20. The other 100+ are teenagers.

        I feel like now with this, and ^ that fact, I may just assume that all people are teens unless it’s otherwise somehow obvious of their age.

  • Steve says:

    Nice one, always good to see more transparency on the internet!
    Age shouldn’t make any difference when it comes to this sort of thing, as long as a young age is never used to excuse a mistake, it’s no problem at all!

    Now, about that options panel… πŸ™‚

    • Alex Denning says:

      Very good, Steve! And true, too. It doesn’t really make a difference, so shouldn’t make a difference, if that makes sense.

  • Amor says:

    Wow Alex, finally! πŸ™‚ Glad to know more about you. I’ve asked you so many questions before but I’ll ask again, hehe. Are you going to replace your avatar now or just leave it as it is?

    Keep up the good work! πŸ™‚

    • Alex Denning says:

      I think you do win the prize for being the first person to work it out!

      I’m not sure. I think I’ll leave it for the time being, I’ll see in a couple of weeks.

  • Nice to meet you! Age is not the relevant detail here, your ability to add to the WordPress community far out-weighs it.

    Content is king … let the jesters play on the side.

  • Hi Alex,
    I think it’s great that you’re “intruducing” yourself here!

    I’m 14 years old and this is kind of a huge inspiration, as I recently started my own web design blog. I think it’s also pretty inspiring that you just jumped into writing without really being qualified to teach WP, as that’s pretty much what I’m trying to do.

    Thanks,
    Max Luzuriaga

    • Alex Denning says:

      Good luck Max. Half the time you’ll think you’re not going anywhere, just at somepoint it’ll all click and you’ll start expanding like there’s no tomorrow!

  • Siku says:

    Hello Alex πŸ™‚

  • Congrats Alex. I’m 16 years old too, and that doesn’t stop me to help people out with things about WordPress (maybe I don’t have even half of your knowledge about WordPress, but I’m approaching daily! ) πŸ™‚

  • Bonnie says:

    Tell you what – I won’t hold your age against you if you won’t hold mine (yours + 40) against me! But there was a time when looking younger than I am was a challenge in the workplace. Please note that I have no problem with that now! But I do not blame you one bit for not announcing your age. As far as I’m concerned, that’s irrelevant. I commend you for taking the risk to reveal it.

    You obviously have a very bright future ahead of you. My best to you, Alex!

    • Alex Denning says:

      Thanks very much for the kind words, Bonnie πŸ™‚

      Initially I was tempted just to leave after the first paragraph, but felt I’d better expand on it to explain the decision a bit more; I’m very relieved to see everyone not minding πŸ˜€

  • Lynda says:

    Awesome work Alex, it makes what you do all the more impressive. Wait till I show this post to my 14 year old son who I am just starting to teach how to use WP. This will spur him on. And isn’t this an awesome statement about the power of the internet, you have been able to be judged on your merit rather than people making judgements based on your age (or other factors). Very, very cool..

  • Bonnie says:

    Good instincts. That opened the door for an ordinary piece of information to become the backbone of a great post.

  • I had wondered, too, but had somehow decided you were a few years older than me (i’m 18). Regardless, keep up the great work on the site and shoot me an email if you happen to be driving through Iowa looking for a tennis match πŸ˜‰

  • Dude, only 16? You rock my friend!
    Keep up the good work, cheers!

  • Awesome post man, sorry to be late to the party. πŸ˜€

    It feels good to know people still support you doesn’t it? There was never anything to worry about haha.

    Glad you finally got around to this and I appreciate the mention! Chat with you soon bud.

    • Alex Denning says:

      Perhaps you were right after all πŸ˜‰ The support has been overwhelming and you’re the one who persuaded me to do it!

      I think I owe you one πŸ™‚

  • Jeffrey says:

    Hi Alex,
    I’m 52, so I guess I’m the world’s worst “I don’t have time for kids” type of guy.
    At 16 I was bumming! At 22 I was bumming. At 24 I finally got the show on the road! So I guess I’m just shy of young people.
    However, I have your site on RSS and check in every couple of days and have used your resources as they are very good.
    You have the whole world before you my man! Grab it and growl.
    If I had been in your position when I was your age, I would be ruling the world this very moment. Instead you may be the one that does that ……… and top it all off with a great education and you will be unstoppable. Do good things with your life Alex!!!

  • Still wondering. It is a great piece of inspiration for me to see you running this great blog. I wish I had started at 16.

  • Hey Alex,

    Wow, I could’ve never taught you would be only 17 years old. I have been reading your blog for a while and clearly thought you were a lot older. Glad that Alex Frasier inspired you to do this writeup. I have been in the web industry since age 12 and I did get the treatment from people (where they didn’t take me seriously, but it all changed well since I was 16). You have earned a great deal of respect in my eyes for the quality work you have done with WPShout.

    • Alex Denning says:

      Cheers Syed. Interesting you got given the short shrift; everyone else I’ve spoken to says they’ve not had a problem with it.

      • Attitude on the web was much different 8 years ago compared to how it was 4 years ago. Also it really depends on who you interact with. I was big in the domaining industry, and I was very active on some forums (therefore I got in numerous heated debates). But it is definitely a pleasure knowing your age and the work you have done. We should connect sometime via chat. Are you coming to Blog World this year?

  • Sixteen or not, I don’t take homework assignments from my consultants unless I have the highest regard for them. Alex has my full confidence–and I did read up on CSS as he suggested!

  • You and Michael are the brave ones, Alex. As I wrote him at the time of his coming out, I’d have never guessed. Not that I’d have tried to guess. Is the finished product — you and your work are thoroughly professional. That’s what matters.

    I’m sensitive to this age thing, because I’m at the other end. Lemme put it like this. I was a graduate student and 1973 when I started using an IBM/360 mainframe. So I’ve seen it all: hearing a real harddrive crash (sickening sound; the thing was a couple of feet across), getting punch cards interpreted. And so forth. I don’t say a whole lot about it because…

    What we’d both agree on from our ends of the spectrum is people can write us off because of our ages.

    %%robert
    (your ShiftWP customer, aka chopin_slut from twitter)