About

This is the personal blog of Ian Gilfillan – the one who lives in Cape Town, South Africa, not the Australian politician, nor the Canadian member of the British Columbia Marijuana Party. Once it was just the three of us; now, thanks to Facebook, there are lots of us online.

Stuff I do:

  • Work for the MariaDB Foundation, mostly working on their Knowledge Base.
  • Helped get Wikimedia South Africa set up as a chapter, served on the first board, and have been serving again on the board since 2016.
  • Contribute to Wikipedia, mainly the English version, but occasionally I bumble around in the Afrikaans version with the help of a dictionary.
  • Wander across the mountains. Living in Cape Town, there are hundreds of routes within minutes of my home.
  • Help develop h-node, the Free Software Foundation hardware database.
  • I’m a moderate chessplayer, who once wrote a chess program that could beat me, which I found shocking, and figured I better learn how to play chess properly. I played club chess for a few years, and still have dreams of becoming a Grandmaster, International Master, FIDE Master, reaching a rating of 2000, and try to play the odd tournament. In April 2009 I launched a chess website, Chesstape, but closed it down in 2014, perhaps partly due to my son discovering Pokemon instead. I confess to entering a Pokemon tournament with him once (and came last)… Now he thrashes me at DOTA2 instead.
  • Practice tai chi (along with of course levitating, breaking bricks by looking at them etc).
  • Meditate. I mainly practice insight meditation, although I’ve learnt numerous other meditation techniques, mostly Buddhist/Taoist and Transcendental Meditation.

Stuff I’ve done

  • Had a son, Dorje, born in October 2003.
  • Developed and was a director of the Ethical Co-op from 2005 to 2014. This was an initiative to deliver organic products. As happens in small, cash-strapped businesses, what started off as developing the software and maintaining the servers also turned into packing boxes, driving the trucks, doing the finance, sourcing the products, HR, marketing…
  • Was IT Manager, and previously Lead Developer, at IOL until 2005. I consulted to them, mainly about IOL Technology (now merged in the main site). I honestly think the systems were far better back then, but the Irish owners got slashing, and the newspapers also aren’t looking so good any more either.
  • Bought and sold lots of property in Observatory, thanks to the prompting of a friend. I made enough money to do more interesting things, and, tired of slumlord jokes, sold most of them. He now owns 13, at last count 🙂
  • Wrote Sunfoods, the first online grocery store in South Africa, while working at Krypto Plus, a small ahead-of-its time startup that introduced me to Free Software, Digital Democracy, crypto-currencies and other crazy concepts. They even tried to sell Linux desktops (in 1998)! K+ no longer exists.
  • Taught web development, database programming and other fun stuff at both K+ and for Unisa courses. One of the courses I had to teach was based on a mind-numbing and soul-destroying book written by the course co-ordinator full of drivel aimed at teaching accountants IT. I hope the accountancy module was better.
  • Wrote the book Mastering MySQL 4, and a whole lot of other stuff.
  • Worked on translation software to help populate, in particular, the smaller Wikipedias with enough content to help them become self-sustainable.
  • Travelled for a month wandering around Madagascar, spending Christmas Eve blissfully hungry in a forest surrounded by lemurs, and preparing myself for a similar solitary New Year’s Eve, found myself in another world on the wild east coast dancing the night away.
  • Experienced the insights of ayuahuasca in the Amazon jungle of Peru (and closer to home).
  • Studied Clinical Nutrition in my ‘spare time’ through the IICN. OK, so I made a bad choice, and the IICN folded while I was studying. I’m still studying though, just not without a piece of paper as a goal.
  • Enjoyed a regularly two-hour walk to work through the beautiful forests of the English Lake District (and two hours back, in the 1am darkness), only to be fired without warning for cleaning dishes too slowly.
  • Experienced the joys of working as illegal labour picking strawberries on a farm in England in the days when South African’s couldn’t work in the UK legally, and the bliss of forgetting about it all blowing the days wages at the pub.
  • Noticed through the dense mists of French Calais that the sun is the same relative size as the moon.
  • Led the first bid for Cape Town to host the 2008 Wikimania Conference. We lost out to Alexandria, coming a close second, and I remember being very grateful I didn’t have to organise anything more.
  • Spent way too long formally studying, first IT, with majors in Information Systems and Commercial Programming (the wonders of Cobol), then more interestingly a degree majoring in English and Philosophy at the University of Cape Town.

I write here:

I wrote here:

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