This year was a little more exciting than 2021! I’ve been promoted, taken a sabbatical and moved to a different company.
I gave up my entreprenerial dream
Looking back at my 2021 wrap-up I was excited at how I’d develop Reciprocal.dev further after a successful MVP but unfortunately in January my day job project had a pivot and became very time consuming (to make matters worse, this pivot happened on my birthday!).
Pivoting essentially meant I had to make a call on if I wanted to ‘silent quit’ and continue to try and make Reciprocal.dev successful or put those dreams on the back-burner and focus on something that I could be certain to get a monetary ROI from.
After delivering the day job project I looked to pick up Reciprocal.dev again but the landscape had moved a lot since 2021 — tldraw, an open-source whiteboard app/framework had launched and this meant I could take advantage of a lot of the boiler plate UI work being done. This would have required a refactor though and wouldn’t help validate the product and it’s market fit.
Additionally my understanding of how interactive user journey maps grew and I started to feel that maybe teams don’t have a need for them just yet. The reporting and collaboration aspect of the teams I spoke to were very focused on Jira tasks and couldn’t view the applications they were building via user journeys and maps.
So in October when I went on sabbatical I asked my co-founder to shut our company down so I could free myself up to explore something else.
I got really into self-hosting
As a continuation of a privacy push that I started in 2021 I looked to remove my dependency on big tech’s cloud infrastructure and self-host services that I needed within my home network.
I bought a NAS solution (technically I bought two — a QNAP that I returned because of privacy reasons and a Synology that I’ve stuck with) and through a mixture of docker containers, Synology’s photo, video & drive apps and a static IP from my ISP so I can VPN into the home network I’ve managed to the extent to self-host as much as I think I can.
My current set-up isn’t perfect but it does the job well enough. There are some apps I’ve yet to be able to find good self-hostable replacements for:
- Notion — I use bookstack for general note taking which is working well but layout-wise I still can’t find a ‘notion-like’ tool that allows for rows and columns of bullet points which is what I use for my todo list (this may be the next app I build)
- Figma — I tried Penpot out but it’s got some UX flaws that made it hard to be productive so I had to go back to Figma
- Spotify — I could use a combination of sonarrr and jellyfin but I haven’t got round to trying to set that up yet
I went back to Apple
At the start of the year I made an effort to ditch my iPhone for a One Plus 6T running LineageOS and my Macbook for a Framework laptop running Linux and while I made the move I have ended up buying a new iPhone and Macbook towards the end of the year.
On the phone front there were two issues that were bugging me — The size of the phone and the camera.
I hate large phones, I don’t know if I have small hands or not but pretty much every phone these days is too big for me to comfortably tap the top or bottom left corners without doing some weird balancing act when using it one handed. I ended up buying an iPhone 14 Pro which has similar issues but I can use the camera bump as an anchor at least.
The camera gripe mostly came about when I compared shots taken on my old iPhone 11 Pro and the One Plus 6T. The shots on the One Plus were often blurry as if there was a delay between me pressing the shutter button and it capturing the image. This meant that pictures I’d taken and then quickly put my phone away came out an absolute mess.
I had thought about buying a separate camera (maybe a nice new compact system to replace my old DSLR) but the cost to do this and the inconvenience of carrying it around put the iPhone 14 Pro at only £100 or so more. I decided as I was going on a month long holiday that it would be a good investment.
The Macbook purchase was similarly linked to the holiday as the Framework’s battery life was crap, managing around 3–4 hours under Ubuntu (even with the firmware update that was meant to help with sleep mode draining the battery). Having used a M1 Macbook Pro at work I was astounded by the battery life of it so decided to buy a base model (which was on a sale at the time) so I had something to do work on while out and about.
I upgraded my home theater setup
I’m not sure what brought it on but this year I decided I really wanted to enjoy Lord of the Rings in 4K and surround sound and realised that my 6 years old setup was outdated and clumbersome.
It started with me buying an Xbox Series X as it allowed me to get into the new generation of consoles (cos let’s face it buying a PS5 was out of the question) and it could play UHD blu-ray with Dolby Atmos (another reason for buying the Xbox was that it has games in Atmos).
I bought a Sonos soundbar to go with it to replace my old 5.1 setup and on plugging everything in realised that my 4K LG TV didn’t have the approproate HDMI port (it had ARC not eARC (HDMI 2.1)) so I bought a Samsung TV that had that.
It’s a great little setup though, with the Samsung remote controlling both the Apple TV and the Sonos, although due to Samsung’s privacy practices on their TVs most things on that remote don’t work because I’ve not accepted their T&Cs for the ‘smart’ part of the TV.
I got back into the social side of things
It feels weird to say it but this year I actually went out and met people. Unfortunately the first trip did result in me catching COVID after avoiding it (like the plague) by staying indoors all through 2020 and 2021. But since then I’ve been enjoying going into the office, having in-person meetings and most importantly going down the pub after work.
I had a bit of a shock when I went to my first conference though, as after three years of not going to them I had to remember all the details of the people I used to mingle with in ‘the before times’.
I had a sabbatical from work
The biggest event of the year for me has been the sabbatical I arranged to take from work towards the end of the year. I had timed it to happen with the wrapping up of the project I was working on and it was meant to give me the time to build Reciprocal.dev into a proper offering.
However with Reciprocal.dev shutting down I decided instead to use it to do some decluttering across all aspects of my life as since the pandemic I’ve been working flat out and neglecting a lot of organisation.
I’ve probably chucked away 25% of the stuff in my flat so far and have driven my girlfriend crazy with how ruthless I’ve been in doing so. I’ve also organised a lot of my digital things as well as addressing some mental and physical health issues I wasn’t really actioning. There’s still a lot of work to do but I feel less stressed having a cleaner, well organised environment.
Other than cleaning, I spent a month away on holiday visiting Denmark, Sweden and Norway in November which was really fun. Similar to how I had to remember how to socialise at a conference I had to remember how to travel but once the initial panic wore off I was able to enjoy the trip.
I got promoted at work and found a new job
In August I was given the role of ‘JS and UI Capability Lead’ which basically meant that I was responsible for building a community within the development capability around all things UI and JS as well as managing training and recruitment in that area. I was working at a consultancy so it was important to have a pool of developers who understand front-end development and a path to help those who don’t get up to speed quickly.
However with my sabbatical starting in October I didn’t have long to action the plan I had prepared and then during the first week of that sabbatical I met someone who said they were looking for an Engineering Manager at a product company and as I really wanted to go back to product work I decided to apply and got offered the job.
Handing your notice in while technically off work is a weird experience as you essentially work your notice period while on holiday and your leaving do is hard to plan because you’re disconnected from what’s happening in the office.