Interview with TINA CLARKE – MVP (Microsoft Most Valueable Professional)

TINA CLARKE – Microsoft MVPs (Most Valuable Professional) are acknowledged by peers and also by Microsoft for their active participation in Microsoft technical communities around the globe. They are active technical community leaders sharing their experience with peers. On their hunt for the next MVP, Microsoft found an undisputed FrontPage expert in the form of Dot Com Woman TINA CLARKE.

Tina Clarke is the owner of the AccessFP Web site and the active Microsoft FrontPage e-mail forum, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/frontpage/ Her AccessFP, http://accessfp.net, is a long established reference resource for users of Microsoft FrontPage of any version. The FrontPage Tutorials, Help and resources there have become a staple of the FrontPage community.

Tina writes articles and tips for other FrontPage resource sites, such as “ABC ~All ‘Bout Computers”, and works closely with many add-on and add-in developers for FrontPage in Beta Testing (and has no hesitation in asking for software to make our lives easier). She extends herself to provide helpful and expert advice to our entire FrontPage community. Author of FrontPage E-books, Tina strives to always include the “Newbies”, those who are beginning in web design, in every project.  

Fav. Color(s) – Green (to match my red hair)

Fav. Book – Robert Heinlein – Friday

Fav. Author – Robert Heinlein

Fav. Movie – Dune

Fav. Quote – “Logic is a feeble reed, friend. “Logic” proved that aeroplanes can’t fly and that H-bombs don’t work and that stones don’t fall out of the sky. Logic is a way of saying that anything which didn’t happen yesterday won’t happen tomorrow.” — R.A. Heinlein, ‘Glory Road’

Fav. Passtime – Reading SF

If given a chance, I would love to travel to – America, Alaska and Sweden

Most influential person in my life – My brother Dale Cass

Best thing that happened to me was – Meeting my husband.  We will have been married 25 years this coming St Pat’s day.

Despite her long association with her computer and FrontPage, Tina is still an artist at heart. Her first venture http://artdoodle.com still remains close to her heart and she wishes nothing more than drawing, reading and being a simple Brit housewife that she is.

You are actually interviewing a simple housewife in the UK – and that’s pretty much where my heart and head are ” – Tina Clarke, MVP

1. Tell us about your life before the computer stormed into it? Pretty much as it is now – Home and family are my priorities and the computer still ‘feels’ like a hobby.  The computer has enriched my life with the friends I’ve made.2. And how did the date with your computer come about? The first computer I used was an Amstrad, which belonged to my father, and I had to use it at his house. I wanted to do genealogy on it.  This was the inspiration to learn. I obtained an Atari for my sons, so they could play games and did further work on that.  Both were difficult for me to use. I started college and began using PC’s and one day my brother, who is a computer engineer, said would you like a PC with windows 3.1 and WordPerfect? Oh, yes.  Windows was much easier to understand. I took more and more courses for ‘fun’.  Learning was addictive and still is. I found I also liked teaching or helping people.3. What led to the launch of ‘AccessFP’ and ‘AnyBackpage’? When I went to college, I could use the Internet there, so I decided once I’d finished my latest course (gnvq intermediate IT). I would try making a site about that, and get connected.  In the course of working with the site, I discovered that I liked more and more the section about FrontPage where I put tips and links that I had discovered. I started another site (free host) just about FrontPage, to put more information. Eventually I got my own domain using the name I had been using for my free site, accessfp. I had observed other ezines and did lots of research on what is best to use etc, and decided to launch a new ezine called “AccessFP Ezine – The bit in the Middle”. I decided it would be good if the ezine had its own site, and came up with anyfrontpage.com.  It was pretty hard going and I decided I would like some partners.  First Alex Tushinsky http://frontpagedevices.com helped me out with the forum section I had wanted.  Then I got talking to Tiffany Edmonds again, and she brought along Fran Stewart.  At first, the four of us worked on the ezine, but Alex decided, programming was more his style and it was just the three of us working on the site and ezine. We decided to form a company, but since you can’t use the word ‘FrontPage’ we decided to rename our site and so http://anybackpage.com was born and AnyBackPage LLC was launched.4. Your association with FrontPage? How did it being, How long and How has it been so far? I needed something to make a site. I asked my brother what programs Microsoft had for this as I was used to using their programs like Word etc., so why not use one of theirs? He told me about the lite version FrontPage Express, and I started using that.  Because I like to experiment, I soon realised it needed some help and I got Arachnophilia, the free html editor. Then my brother bought me FrontPage 98.  I did not use it for a while as I found it hard to figure out. But one day I decided I had to learn how to use it, and just kept playing with it.  Then the next version came out, and so on.  I just kept learning how to use it, what it could do, and I interacted with groups, forums and lists. Creative people are fun and I find I gravitate to the developers.  I tell them what I want FrontPage to do that it doesn’t seem to be doing – and most of the time they will come up with an add-in or add-on. The whole FrontPage scene is interesting, as it is a real community.5. And now, we would all like to hear about this rare honor from Microsoft – being named an MVP. How it was like and how it has contributed to your life? Well, I was not sure about accepting at first. I am not as good as the other MVP’s technically and I certainly don’t know as much. I was worried people would expect me to know everything, and think I was stupid when I don’t. However I usually know where to send people for an answer so that will have to suffice. I mainly accepted because my family and friends would have been upset if I had not. It’s contributed to more mail in my inbox (groan).  I’ve gotten some neat software, and I don’t have to bat my eyelashes quite so hard (lol).  Apart from that, not really much change. It actually doesn’t seem real so far.  I was at first all wrapped up in plans for a trip to the Microsoft Summit back in the old country (born there, brought up here in the UK) but it just doesn’t seem practical this year with my family.  Maybe next year though. The responsibility of being a representative is a bit crushing though.  I think I shall specialize in helping Newbies and just do what I’ve always done. Actually I have been answering more questions, and visiting the newsgroups more often, but another mvp is usually there before me.  However, there are only a few of us in the lists and forums and I actually prefer them, as you get to ‘know’ the people posting and it’s more ‘family like’. It’s also easier to keep track of people.6. How was the experience of working with two other talented and successful women like? We butt heads a lot!  LOL It is a great liberation to find women that you can argue with.  Although we fill in for each other at the drop of a hat, we are very different – Tiffany leads the way technically, Fran is marketing, and I am best in the research and networking.  My personal relationships with many of the developers have given us many a scoop in the latest and greatest FP news.  Fran won’t even surf for a FP link – she just says “Tina….!!”    LOL I’ve learnt a lot from Tiffany and Fran, and we work well together as a team.  Our talents all mesh together well and I know I can rely on them when I need them. We do our separate things, but are always there for each other. I just wish I lived closer; we have never met in the flesh.7. What were your experiences as a WOMAN in the Online business? Well, I found that helping people out with fear or favour usually brings things back to you.  Making strong connections with the people in your field works best I find. I don’t treat anything I do as business on the net, I treat it as my hobby, and I talk to everyone that way, as though we were talking over the garden fence. I’m not a businesswoman and have no desire to be.  When this stuff starts being work, I change tactics and go do something else I enjoy. I like helping people; I like teaching. Earning money is a by-product.  Unfortunately, I’ve had to put more emphasis on it to help out at home. I’d rather be selling my artwork as a business than use my skills with FrontPage to make money.8. Did Lady Luck smile on you almost immediately or you had to struggle for it? Well it’s not really a matter of that; I just do what I do. If you mean when did I start making any money … It was a couple of years before I started making anything, and I only make it from my affiliates. (Though I sold around 12 pictures this Christmas which was a really good feeling. <grin>)9. Who are/were the people who are/were instrumental in your success? Success in FrontPage? People who have influenced me and helped me learn along the way, not only with FrontPage but other aspects of web design and working on the internet, are Peter De Pradines, who I used to help on his critique site which is now defunct; Tom Price, who galvanised me into starting my ezine, and supported me with feedback help and brainstorming; certainly, Tiffany Edmonds and Fran Stewart, without which AnyBackPage would not exist, who are both true friends. For my drawing, it’s got to be my very wise friend Cheryl Wild, who after I’ d stopped drawing for the first time in my life for two years after I had tried an art course. When I met her and she discovered I did this usual art form, persuaded me to start drawing again by badgering me for a commission and has supported me ever since. It was for her I did a 5ft rendering of an Indian god, my computer had broken and in the five weeks it took to get things working again I worked several hours a day on her piece and managed to finish it, her home is filled with my drawings and is somewhat of a gallery for the many people she as to visit. Without Cheryl I don’t think I would have taken up drawing again seriously, of course I’d do a few scribbles now and again when my hands started to ‘itch’ it never goes away completely once you start drawing:). The person, who got me started along this path though, was my typing teacher, Jean Simmons, who persuaded me to talk to her on the college open evening, instead of the history teacher I wanted to start a course with who had not turned up. I ended up doing a RSA exam which I passed, and that started me along the path to today. My Dad, Gene Cass, and brother, Dale Cass, have supported me throughout, both emotionally and technically, as they are both whizzes at this computer lark – that reminds me: I’m still waiting for you to fix my router Dale <smile>.10. What is the real ‘Tina’ like when she is not a ‘business woman’ and is with her family? Pretty boring really, I like reading and drawing and using the computer. I like doing ‘girly’ stuff with my daughter and spending quiet time with my husband Kevin. My boys are all quite grown up, lead their own lives, apart from the bits where they say “Mom can I have……” LOL.11. Any advice for women trying to make it big Online? Make friends in your field. It does not always help you, but you can connect with other people and that helps you in other ways. Research, research, research!  Find out what you need to know.  It can all be done on the net, you just have to find out where and how.  If you find you can’t cope with the demands, take in partners that can, but who can’t do what you can.  Make a team.  It’s better with someone than not doing it at all. Do your best, be ethical, and start as you mean to go on. But most of all make sure you’re having FUN.12. May we have Tina’s final word on ‘Women’ and ‘Business’? This is hard for me to answer as I am not really a ‘businesswoman’.  I have a small site artdoodle.com where I sell my art drawings. I have affiliate links on the AccessFP and the AnyBackPage site – which more-or-less pay for the hosting and other web expenses; but you are actually interviewing a simple housewife in the UK – and that’s pretty much where my heart and head are.