2011 in review

This year, I finally made the transition from student to a real, contributing (tax paying) member of society. It’s been a year of firsts. I got my first (and last) degree. I got my own place to live. Lally and I celebrated our first year together. I drove a car for the first time. I visited Ikea for the first (and last) time. I won a hackday, and I launched a product.

Personal

One of the best decisions I made this year was to buy a 13″ Macbook Air in January. It’s my first Mac and I love it. If I had to save one thing from a fire, this would be it. It’s just so light that I can take it everywhere without really feeling like it’s getting in my way.

While I was at university, I worked part time as a developer at Max Software in Doncaster, and hoped that when I graduated there would be a job for me there. Fortunately, there was. In June, Wayne (the company owner) offered me a full time position as the development team manager. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve been forced to do a lot of new learning to accomplish what we needed to do. More on that later though.

I graduated in June with a first class degree after 6 months of procrastinating and 2 weeks of seriously hard work on my dissertation. It’s nice to have a piece of paper to show that I spent 4 years of my life attaining a degree, but I’m glad it’s over. The 4 years for me were more about having the freedom to spend my time learning new things outside of uni and getting to events organised by the tech community.

July marked the 12 month anniversary of Lally and I becoming a couple. We’ve all heard the saying that behind every great man is a great woman. I may not be a great man yet, but Lally’s definitely a great woman. She pushes me to be better in every way – as a developer, as a manager, as a cake baker, as a person.

Work

We launched our first product at work with me as the development team lead in October. I think it was a pretty big achievement personally, from conception to launch in less than 6 weeks. It’s even more of an achievement when I consider than I also had to learn NodeJS to work with the Sitestreams component of it (the rest was written in PHP using the Codeigniter framework). It didn’t scale as well as planned when launched, but it was a good learning experience.

Two weeks after launch, I managed to convince Wayne that we should rewrite it from the ground up, and that we should do it properly. That meant planning, it meant test driven development, it meant a modular system architecture. It meant that we were about to do a lot of stuff that we’d never done before. Long story short, our new stack consists of:

  • PHP (FuelPHP) w/ PHPUnit (and soon Behat)
  • NodeJS (Tests to be added [Whoops!])
  • Redis
  • Backbone / Underscore.js / jQuery / Handlebars.js

Of those, I knew jQuery before we started working on the project. It’s very much a seat of your pants development effort, but it’s a lot of fun! I’m really enjoying the Javascript side of things, and am looking forward to working with it more in the future (possible with some iOS development thrown in via Titanium)

Barcamps

Lally and I attended a lot of Barcamps/Hackdays this year. Starting with Barcamp Bournemouth in February, then Barcamp Nottingham in July, Leeds Hack in August (which we won!), Barcamp Mediacity in September, Barcamp Blackpool and Barcamp London in October. As well as those, I also managed to get myself along to New Adventures Conf in January, DIBI in June and the P0wer0f1 in November.

I especially enjoyed Barcamp Nottingham and Barcamp London this year.

Nottingham was just awesome. It was a fantastic venue (featuring arcade cabinets, a 3D printer and far too many powertools), a good mix of familiar and new faces and just a generally fun weekend.

London, I enjoyed for a completely different reason. The Geeks of London always organise top notch events, but what really made it stand out for me was seeing Natalie and Simon Willison talk about founding Lanyrd, almost by accident. Lally came to the talk with me, and afterwards she told me that she understood why I spend almost every waking hour thinking about work, and what we’re doing tomorrow and how to make what we did today more efficient. Working at a startup isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life.

So, 2012?

My first and foremost aim for 2012 is to make Tweetdig profitable. We’ve invested a lot of time and money as we believe in the idea, and I’d quite like it to validate itself sometime soon.

Next up, is to go to less events in 2012. I learned a lot and met a lot of people in 2011, but it did take it’s toll. In 2012, I’m planning to only go to a few Barcamps in the northwest. I don’t have any “proper” conferences booked in yet, but we’ll see what happens as the year progresses.

Finally, I’d like to spend more time working on my own personal projects in 2012. I own loads of domains that I have the idea for then never get around to building them because I want to try out a new framework or language to do it and just never find the time. In 2012, I’m going to stick with what I know and just get them launched. There’s plenty of time to refactor them later.

Away from tech, I’m planning to get fit. I live on my own and am always complaining that I get bored so I’m going to spend that time in the gym. I’ve never been a member of a gym before, so I’m not too sure what to expect. What’s the worst that could happen, right?

Happy New Year!

Last but not least, Happy New Year! I wish you all the best of luck for 2012, and hopefully see you all at the next Barcamp/Geekup/Codejo/Conference we all end up at.

Michael is a polyglot software engineer, committed to reducing complexity in systems and making them more predictable. Working with a variety of languages and tools, he shares his technical expertise to audiences all around the world at user groups and conferences. You can follow @mheap on Twitter

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