January 7, 2020

Year in Review 2019

This is my first "year in review" and is mostly for my own benefit, to keep track of what I accomplished and experienced in the year. So here we go:

I quit my job

In early January I quit my job of nearly four years to focus on myself and my own projects. I didn't have anything new lined up, but that was the point. Aside from the hit to my savings account, it has turned out to be a fantastic decision and I can't imagine going back to full-time employment.

Towards the end of the year I had to start taking on some freelance work in order to pay the bills, but I'm hoping to keep it to a minimum. I've really started to value my time and freedom far more than money - even if it means buying second hand devices and going without the latest "stuff". I'm not sure how long it will last - I can imagine the financial uncertainty and the non-coding parts of freelancing might eventually get the best of me, but for the time being I am enjoying it.

I started blogging

I re-built my personal website and wrote my first blog post (well, my first "real" post that's still online anyway). I haven't really kept at it much, mostly because of how long I can spend writing and editing, but I would like to do more and share some of the challenges and solutions I've come across in software development.

I started working on my first serious product - GiftyDuck

Together with my friend Jay Allen, we started building GiftyDuck (originally called Wisha). It is a free social wish list and gift reminder service, supported by affiliate links. I had wanted to build a Vue SPA with a Laravel backend and put what I had learned from Refactoring UI into practice, and this was perfect for it!

I contributed to open source, including Laravel

Throughout the year I submitted several PRs to various open source projects, and got almost all of them merged. Mostly bug fixes, small developer experience improvements, documentation, and a security fix. It felt amazing to be able to contribute and was much easier once I got started.

I started a podcast with JMac

In the Black Friday sales of 2018 I picked up a copy of the BaseCode Field Guide by JMac. After several interactions on Twitter, he reached out to me to see if I'd be interested in co-hosting a podcast. Together we started the BaseCode Field Guide Podcast and released our first episode on May 21st. The first episode is a little cringy and awkward for me to listen to, but we've now got 17 episodes under our belts and I feel really good about them! I've learned a lot about podcasting and editing, and had a great response from our listeners!

I went to Laracon US in New York City

At the start of the year, when I still had a job and money, I impulse bought tickets to Laracon US. I had found my first Laracon AU to be such an inspiring and life-changing experience, so I knew Laracon US would be amazing, and I was right. I had an incredible time in New York, meeting so many wonderful people from the Laravel community and visiting so many places I've heard of throughout my life. Here are some of my favourite memories:

  • Having coffee and lunch with Michael Dyrynda, Justin Jackson, and a few others
  • Exploring Manhattan with Adrian Brown and TJ McKenzie
  • Riding the New York Subway
  • Visiting Central Park
  • Visiting Grand Central Station (and doing the "Whispering Gallery" with Adrian)
  • Walking the "High Line" with TJ
  • Seeing Times Square, especially at night
  • Finally meeting JMac in person and spending some time with him and his partner
  • Ten pin bowling with Freek Van der Herten, Marcel Pociot, Dries Vints, and others
  • Meeting the Otwell family, Adam Wathan, Steve Schoger, Matt Stauffer, David Hemphill, Eric Barnes, Jason Beggs, Jack McDade, TJ Miller, and many more!
  • Getting to go backstage at the PlayStation theatre (Thanks JMac!)
  • Having a New York bagel with JMac
  • Spending a bunch of time exploring Manhattan on my own
  • Visiting the WTC Memorial
  • Visiting the Statue of Liberty
  • Visiting the "I Heart NY" mural and carpark from Mr Robot
  • Eating a Pastrami Sandwich from Katz's Deli
  • Eating several New York hotdogs
  • Visiting the Stonewall Inn (site of the Stonewall Riots)
  • Seeing the facade of the apartment building from Friends
  • Seeing the diner from Seinfeld
  • Having soup from the place that inspired the "Soup Nazi"

I really loved the city and find myself missing it every time I see it in TV and movies. I hope to go back one day!

I launched GiftyDuck

In August, Jay and I launched GiftyDuck. Our hope was that the social nature of the app would mean that people would spread it to their friends and it would go "viral". The reality so far is that most users aren't inviting friends and family though, outside of a small group of active users. We are continuing to improve and fine-tune things to see if we can get a bigger adoption, but it's no longer my main focus. I've learnt an incredible amount from the project so far, not only technically, but also about business and marketing.

I've written a bit more about this journey on Indie Hackers.

I spoke at Laracon AU in Sydney

After chatting with Michael Dyrynda a few times in New York, he convinced me to submit a talk for Laracon AU that he the organiser of. I decided to submit a talk that I wish existed when I built GiftyDuck, which I titled "The Laravel Developer's Guide to Vue SPAs".

I spent a ridiculous amount of time preparing and practicing - probably a month full-time - but the talk was a huge success and I got heaps of great feedback from it. I also got to spend a bunch of time with the other speakers, including JMac, Freek, Marcel, and Tim McDonald.

I reached 1,000 Twitter followers - including most of the people I look up to!

It's probably really uncool to talk about who follows you on Twitter, but this was my first full year on the platform and I can't help being excited!

I was guest on the Happy Dev Podcast

I was honoured to be invited as a guest on the Happy Dev Podcast with James Brooks to talk about mental health in the software development industry.

All in all, it has been an amazing year, and it really helps to be able to reflect on it all in this post. I'm looking forward to an exciting 2020!