miles burke

Miles BurkeI was this week voted on to the Committee of the Australian Web Industry Association (AWIA), as part of a process that will see the Web Industry Professionals Association (WIPA) unite with AWIA to form a single national industry body.

At the same AWIA AGM, outgoing Chair Miles Burke was made a life member, and I was invited to write a few words describing Miles’ contributions to the web industry in Australia.

Miles Burke is one of the people who defined how to join the words ‘web’ and ‘professional’.

I first met Miles at – no, wait for it … OK, you were right – a web industry conference.

It was 2005, the second and (as it turned out) final Web Essentials event in Sydney, to be replaced the following year and thereafter by the increasingly global conference juggernaut that is Web Directions.

That was the year the fire alarm went off at the UTS venue, causing an evacuation of some of the globe’s greatest web talent onto an Ultimo street. Back in the auditorium, I started chatting to the chap next to me who was, of course, Miles.

The great thing about these kinds of conferences is that you’re pretty well assured that anyone you talk to will be interested in at least some of the things you’re interested in. Miles and I clicked, as we talked about web standards, design, freelancing, and his company. We exchanged business cards – with a wry smile, as not many web professionals yet handed out business cards.

And that’s the thing about Miles. He is the consummate professional. Like many of our vintage he had a life before the web, and what he learned in publishing, advertising, marketing and graphic design gave him a great platform for building a web career. What turned that into a very successful career, however, were his business skills.

In 2007, I had to call on Bam’s services to help out on a large scale international project that was in danger of collapsing under the weight of high expectations not being met. I brought in Miles and Bam as troubleshooters. At short notice, working off very scratchy specs, they handrolled a completely tailored CMS and implemented a complex and demanding design inside 10 weeks.

I gained an even better understanding of Miles’ business nous when I became an editor at SitePoint, where my tasks included editing a fortnightly column Miles wrote on business and the web, which appeared as blog posts on a website that gets 100,000 pageviews a day and in an email newsletter sent to a quarter of a million people around the world.

It’s all still there now on, this collection of articulate, personal and communicative gems about what it is to run a web-based and web-focused business. You could pull it all together into a book. And, of course, he did: The Principles of Successful Freelancing was published in 2008.

Which is pretty funny, because Miles has more recently become the poster boy for the freelancer-come-good, having moved on to not just form an award-winning company but go on to open up its ownership to staff.

Also in 2008, I joined the Committee of the Web Industry Professionals Association (WIPA), while Miles was a founding and active Committee member of the Australian Web Industry Association (AWIA). By the following year, while Miles was still Chair of AWIA, I was President of WIPA. We got our heads together and wrote a letter to both organisations telling them (and ourselves) that we really should work this out so there is just one truly national body for the web industry.

It’s taken three years, but as Miles steps down as Chairperson of AWIA (again!) he does so knowing that he has finally seen it through. Which is just like him, really.

I couldn’t think of a better person to be the first life member of AWIA than Miles Burke.


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