A birthday is just another day, but it’s a good opportunity to stop, reflect on the past year, and plan for the next year.
Looking Back on 35Excluding the covid doldrums we’re all familiar with, 35 was a good year for me, both professionally and personally.
- I (helped) launch two major (different) versions of some factory automation software at work.
- I wrote an article in Japanese that was published in a real-life magazine.
- Interviewed and got a dream job that'll let me have a meaningful impact on climate change.
- Built and released my first project in years (Tanzawa).
- Paid off my car note (6 year loan, paid off in 1.4).
- Fully embraced that I'm an early riser and began prioritizing health.
- Running more months of this year than previous years (though there's still been some big gaps, I'm hopeful).
- Hit over 1 year of weekly The Week posts.
- Dodged 'rona and got us vaccinated very early for our age group (less than a week after eligibility), which gave us full vaccination during delta.
- Took two small overnight stays in Japan (Saitama last November, Yokohama less than a week ago)
Looking Forward on 36Looking forward to 36, I'm not quite sure what to expect.
Work-wise, since I'll be joining a new company in a few days I can't really list any specific goals. There's too many unknowns. But what I do hope is that I integrate to the team quickly, can share what I know, learn what I don't, and have a smooth work life while having an impact on climate change.
- Go on a couple small family trips in Japan (covid allowing). I'd love to ride the Shinkansen with Leo.
- Continue running and or cycling, but on a more regular basis, rain or shine. Ideally I want to do a couple of 5ks during the week and a longer run/ride on the weekend.
- Reduce my non renewable energy usage (put solar panels on the house).
- Build and release an electricity related side project.
- Reduce my plastic usage / trash (this is difficult as it seems no matter what you buy in Japan, it's wrapped in at least one plastic bag). We throw out about 1 40L bag per week today, which seems like way too much. I'd love to get that down to 1 40L bag per every two weeks, or even per month.
- Introduce Leo to his grandparents. Leo has only met my mom on my side of the family when she came to visit shortly after he was born. I'd like him to meet the rest of the family, so maybe a trip to the US once borders open up a bit more?
I have no idea how many of these I'll be able to accomplish this year, but maybe writing them down like I have here will give me a fighting chance to remember and make progress these goals this year.
I saw this tweet of what Dallas, Texas used to look like and I love it. Compared to what this same spot looks like now, the difference is startling. US cities (even in Texas) used to not be too different from their European counterparts. Maybe this pandemic will allow Americans to start building cities for humans, rather than cars... again.
I really enjoyed Make Your Life Better by Doing Less by Scott Young. People tend to focus on a better life by adding things to our lives. But adding things spreads us thin, guaranteeing that we don't improve in where it really matters. Rather, we should subtract and focus on those things that really matter to us.
I think about my morning running habit. Or more accurately, my lack of running habit., You see, I used to run a few times a week, but I kept adding more to my plate. First it was a habit of reading Twitter for 5 minutes. Then I added Slack for 10 minutes. Oh and Hackernews. One cup of coffee. No, make that two.
Beyond filling my head with noise when I first wake up, it pushed my morning schedule and spread me thin. Sleeping in five minutes breaks my entire schedule and it's much easier to skip a run when I tell myself "I don't have the time".
Previously, I’ve asserted that the hard way is often the easy way. Committing to doing something you know will be hard, paradoxically, often results in an easier time than opting for something that seems easy.
This passage reminded me of when I decided to build Tanzawa instead of making a custom theme for Wordpress for my IndieWeb-ified blog. It's much harder to build your own CMS than to just point and click – but getting it the way I want is much easier.
Instead of clarifying our pursuits into the few, difficult obstacles they represent and deliberately crafting strategies for dealing with them, we’ve opted for a myriad of seemingly easy problems. Except the easy problems end up filling up our lives, leaving little room for what really matters.
I couldn't say it better myself.
Took my bike to the cafe to work a bit this afternoon. It’s so much fun. I can’t but feel like my parents and peers were sold a lie that driving brings freedom.
Posting with Wordpress feels so clunky. So many buttons and check boxes when all I want is to just click a button and type. I'm really looking forward to getting my blog over to my own system so I can move from a generic cms/blogging system to something streamlined specifically for blogging, and most importantly, how I want to blog.
I'm already full of ideas for fun pages I'll able to make once my data is in a proper relational format and in a database that supports geographic queries. But first I need to finish porting my data. So close I can taste it.
The magic of web 2.0 were the open apis. Developers could use these apis to mashup services how they wanted. Sometimes these developer's tools and mashups became so popular that they would come to define the entire service of which they were building atop. Both hashtags and the term "tweet" originated outside of Twitter, Inc.
But when these services grew they morphed into platforms. Their apis were closed off and the developers that helped these companies find their success either kicked off or severely limited in what they could do. This became a pattern, not just with Twitter, but many services that found success in thanks part to their open api followed the same playbook.
Existing players making unpopular changes to their policies is usually a boon for the upstart. Each time this happens a vocal group of users becomes dissatisfied with the platform who then attempt to migrate to an alternative. However each migration causes some kind of loss. Data doesn't transfer or communities fracture because not everybody moves. Not to mention the energy that could have been spent doing something else.
Contrast this with something like email. You can email anyone you'd like, even if they don't use the same provider as you. If your mail provider changes a policy you don't like, you're free to change providers without losing your identity on the internet. People can still contact you the way they always had and you can still contact them. Your data can move from platform-to-platform seamlessly. There's nothing re-organizing or hiding emails from your inbox unless you setup the rules (or use gmail).
The difference in experience between twitter and email is night and day. One keeps you locked in and subject to their whims, while the other gives you the choice to use it however you see fit. The difference is that twitter is a platform and email is a protocol. Pick protocols.
As part of of the "team UX" at work we're doing a bookclub to make sure we all have good foundations in UX before making it a company offering. We're starting with two books: The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, and UXデザインの教科書 (The UX Design Textbook) by Masaya Andou.
While I work reading and writing Japanese all day (when I'm not slinging code), I haven't read a book in Japanese in ages. This is mostly because what I'm interested in ( technology, the web etc...) is usually written about in English well before Japanese. And since I can read English natively, it's natural for me to pick those books.
Starting to read UXデザインの教科書 yesterday and the first thing that hit me is how much my Japanese has improved in the last 4 years. I used to struggle reading texts written for native-speakers as I had large gaps in my kanji recognition abilities. Gaps still exist. But now they're small enough that reading a single page doesn't take 20 minutes as I look up every 5th word. Only taken me...20 years(!) to come the far.
Inspired by Seth's Chasing the cool kids, I've made a short list of things that are cooler than Clubhouse.
- Not caring what the "cool" kids are doing and doing your own thing.
- Building and learning about the systems that make the world go around.
- Not uploading your entire contact list to some random company so you can eavesdrop on the "cool" kids.
- Fighting for an open web so that you and future generations can access the world without gatekeepers.
- Owning your content.
The urgent advice usually ends with “blogs are dead"
If you always have to mention that "blogs are dead", perhaps they aren't actually dead. They never were dead. They're just not "cool" anymore. The people who made blogging cool and fun? They're mostly still blogging.
Publish. Consistently. With patience. Own your assets. Don’t let a middleman be your landlord. Yell at Google for blocking your emails and hope it’ll work eventually. Continually push for RSS and an open web. With patience.
You should start a blog today by Juhis struck a cord with me and I thought I'd pile on. You should start a blog today.
Like many I blogged a lot in the early 2000's. Those early blogs captured my frame of mind for that period, but they're long gone. Also like many, I stopped blogging sometime after Twitter and Facebook became popular.
Over the years I tried to start back up again. "I should blog more", I'd tell myself. I'd always try to focus on writing "evergreen" content or writing "professional" content and after a short burst, stop.
Discovering the IndieWeb helped remind me that I'm writing for me on my blog. It doesn't have to always be professional all the time. This past year or two regularly blogging again has helped me remember just how magical the internet is. That I can write something in Japan and people find it and respond to it from all over the world – all using open-standards – brings a smile to my face.
Why should you start a blog today?
- Develop better ideas. Many people develop their ideas by writing. They sit down with idea A and as the write about it, they gain some further insight and get idea B, which leads to idea C and so on. None of this would have been possible without sitting down to write. And you're not going to write unless you have a place to do so.
- Be your own reference. When you're debugging a problem at work, chances are you're not the first person to run into that issue. Writing it down on your blog will not only help you gain a better understanding of the problem and help others solve the issue, but also in a year when you run into the same issue, you've got a refresher waiting for you on your blog.
- Honest record of the past. Our memories aren't the best. Having a blog will help you remember just what you thought and felt, for better or for worse, when those events weren't so near.
- Own your data. Twitter is a micro blog. Instagram is a photoblog. But these blogs aren't yours. Yes, you provide the photos. And yes, you provide the witty content. But all of it disappear in an instant at some company's discretion. Putting your data on your own blog protects you and your memories.
It doesn't matter where you start your blog, or how cool your domain is, or how many people read it, or what programming language it's written in. What matters is that you start.
I'm not sure how much of it was "father of a toddler" and how much of it was "global pandemic", but 2020 felt hard.
While I've been fortunate enough that work hasn't changed for me – instead of going in to the office once a week (by choice), I just don't go in to the office and I haven't been to Tokyo since mid-February. We already communicated entirely with Slack with the only change being that people now hop into voice/video calls more readily than before. BeProud continues to be a fun place sling Python.
I started running regularly midway through the year with small gaps here and there. Thus far I've managed 64 runs totaling 317.6km. There's still a week left and I'm 15km away from my 50km distance goal this month, so those numbers will increase a bit.
This year I started on a path for digital independence and to control my own data. I moved my email from a gmail account made a couple of months they opened to my own domain hosted with Fastmail. If Google were to lock me out of my account for whatever reason, I should be mostly unaffected.
After many years of having no blog and no home on the internet, last year I began experimenting with blogging/tweeting with micro.blog. I slowly remembered how much fun it is to have a home on the internet – somewhere that you can call your own. And this year I moved to a self-hosted Wordpress (for now) blog. The community on micro.blog is great, so I still post there with my blog's RSS feed.
I also started to try working in public more. I haven't release anything yet, but I began collecting my notes, thoughts, and learnings here and in my notebook.
2020 also marks when I became aware of the impact of digital waste. As a web developer I've known that websites have been bloated for a while and it frustrates me to no end. But until this year (and thanks to Gerry McGovern I hadn't connected was the link between data transfer and energy consumption. This led to me writing two articles: Designing Sustainable Digital Products and a guide for migrating your Digital Ocean droplets to sustainable regions powered by renewable energy.
This new awareness also led me to try and reduce the data-transfer and requirements from my own website. I made a custom theme that uses system fonts and minimal css (though there's still too much).
Looking forward to the new year I'd like to double-down on low-energy blogging and websites. Not just for my own blog, but potentially as a service. I've started collecting my thoughts about how such a system could work to maximize privacy and minimize energy consumption in my blogging engine notebook.
Blogging makes the internet fun again and in 2021 I'd like to help people re-discover and remember that fun.