Six Years Later

I joined NET-A-PORTER on 6th November 2006. A lot has occurred in the time since I joined the company and I’d like to share with you some of the things I remember from my time here.

This doesn’t reflect the full history of the last six years, and only represents my thoughts on some of the amazing things I’ve seen since I joined.

The Early Days

When I first joined, there were three other permanent Perl developers, and one contractor. In my time at the company, the number of Perl developers has grown to over two dozen. To me, it feels that every time we grow the team to meet the business’s needs and wishes, they come up with even more needs and wishes. I’m not saying this is a bad thing — if they ever run out of wishes, I need to start looking for a new job!

The technology stack wasn’t too shocking for its time, and definitely no shocks for a Perl application:

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Web Technologies

Amazon EC2 for Small Development Teams

In the Labs team here at Net-A-Porter, we have been using Amazon EC2 to run small proof-of-concept web applications, and we have enjoyed working with it. In under a minute, you can fire up a new server in the cloud and SSH in. That is incredibly useful when you want to get something up-and-running quickly.

We have learnt a few lessons along the way which I’d like to share in this post. Just to reiterate: we have been using EC2 for small prototypes, so the suggestions below are targeted at small dev teams who don’t have backgrounds in system admininstration. The suggestions are going to be less relevant if you are running large-scale production systems in EC2.

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Unicode Perl Best Practices

The following are notes I took during a Unicode tech talk by Dave Cross.

What’s the problem?

ASCII has 128 characters. Extended ASCII character sets can have 256 characters, e.g. ISO-8859-1. This is the limit of one byte.

Unicode has 110,000 characters; we need more bytes!


UCS (Universal Character Set) Transformation Format – 8 bit; represents Unicode characters as 1 – 4 bytes and is the de facto standard encoding on the web. It also has excellent support in Perl (as of 5.14).

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