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Standing at the cusp of 2011... WTF?

I'm not sure where this post is going to go in terms of content. I'm thinking a bit of full disclosure might be quite cathartic but at the same time do you really want to know the ins and out of my somewhat awful 2011? Compromise - I'll keep it short. Possibly.

2011 (The Bad Parts)

2011 was a pretty terrible year if I'm honest. It was the year my wife suffered two miscarriages, I got into my first car accident, stuff kept breaking and I totally dropped the ball in work when I burnt out (I'm certain I'm still feeling the effects of that). Oh and yes on top of all that I was diagnosed with severe depression for which I am now fully medicated. But you know what? I'm not alone - I know a ton of people for whom (look at me I said whom - how posh) 2011 was grim.

So lets cast aside all the personal stuff, we've all had our problems, and let me talk about the burn out. Long and short of it was that I took too much work on and eventually delivered unacceptable results for them all. I have something akin to ADD when it comes to work and unless I am suitably challenged or stimulated my productivity drops to pretty much nil. 2011 was full of time consuming mundane boring work for me and as I tried desperately to pull personal value from the work (or hobbies) I started making mistakes, over committing and generally under achieving. Lesson learned - I need to learn to say no and sometimes I just need to suck up the fact that we can't all be doing the best part of our jobs ALL THE TIME. Sometimes we need to just knuckle down and get on with it. Just not for a full year...

Anyway I became somewhat disillusioned with my employer and, truthfully, Northern Ireland. I like other people to be excited about the stuff I preach but I felt there was a lot of disinterest and empty words. This annoyed me and I guess I just started pushing harder, which I guess made me look quite angry and pushy. This obviously wouldn't help. When I looked outside of my company - Northern Ireland didn't seem that much better. So I felt a bit out of place and I had 2 choices ahead of me.

  1. Up sticks and go somewhere that I felt would be more receptive to my extreme nerdyness and desire to share it.
  2. Stick around, my company and Northern Ireland and try and make a difference.

I chose the second, not being to be hero or anything but for more pragmatic reasons,

  • My wife got pregnant again (due soon yay!), the economy is terrible and it would be too much of a risk right now
  • If I stayed in Northern Ireland, or even Ireland, I don't believe there is any other company that would support me (aka let me get away with) the things I do. I'm not the most predictable of sorts. I work weird hours and do strange things. Kainos have always been there for me and supported me. Having done interviews with people from various levels from various other companies the state of other IT firms makes me seethe with anger.

It is better to invest in people and risk them leaving than to not invest in them and risk them staying

So I start 2012 with a big challenge set for myself. That sounds about right. The more I think about Kainos, my employer, deserves more credit than I give it. We have been in a space thats been all about big business types with big enterprisey solutions and delivered well. It's not an area that exactly screams enthusiasm and I think it will take a while to draw people out of that kind of insular thinking. Kainos certainly seems to be better than most in this area. Now enough gushing about Kainos (who are hiring BTW)

2011 (The Good Parts)

OK OK 2011 wasn't all sob stories and dullness some really cool things happened.

  • My CodeSlice initiative in work (meet at least once a month, talk nerdy things, get Kainos to pay for free pizza) didn't die. In fact in the hands of one of my colleagues, Jonny Holmes, it flourished. Attendence was never HUGE but it was consistent and varied. May long this tradition continue and hopefully we can expand it..
  • I organised and participated in not one but two hackathons (internally). Once again Kainos covered the costs for our weekend long hack sessions. Turnout was decent (about 8-12 people) with all types turning up - managers, placement students, technical architects etc. The experience was enough for me - which is a clever way of saying the end products weren't as good as envisaged. But we drew so many valuable lessons that the second one was infinitely more successful that the first - live and learn! And, oh lord, the plans I have for the first half of 2012 around hackathons are going to be legendary!
  • I talked, and not just to myself but to real people, real people who were not paid to be there! I talked, outside of work, a total of three times. I know the number isn't huge but it was late on in the year before I decided to get out there. Already topped that number for 2012 and the year hasn't started. Double figures would be good next year thank you.
  • I attended GOTO Amsterdam were I got to meet a lot of people I have deemed awesome (because they are). Being in rooms with like minded people (who are generally much smarter than me) saying things that make you realise you are not insane for thinking things could be better really strengthens your beliefs!
  • Shared more. All the stuff above I did because I wanted to get my thoughts out there - I wanted to be educated as well as educate. I was happy to look like a fool if it meant I didn't look like a fool later. Thats hard for an introvert but damn it I gave it my best shot. I know people, the one who only know me through my writing on Yammer or half-read blog post, think I am a purist (I'm not - perfect is the enemy of better), or angry (not me, frustrated at times but never angry), or opinionated (openly opinionated perhaps) or even annoyed that everyone isn't dancing the happy geek dance like myself (as long as I'm not dancing alone on the dance floor like a sleazy old man stalking girls half his age I'm happy). Thats fine. People reckon I risk detracting from the message I am trying to communicate. Fair enough. Perhaps I need to tone it down sometimes - but I can't see that happening - it's no in my nature. I think it's better that people see me as a purist and take some of my ideas away rather than being half-assed and them not taking anything on board! It's inevitable that when I try and challenge peoples conceptions of technical things, especially in the open, it's going to leave a sour taste in some peoples mouths. But thats how I roll and thats how it should be. Sorry but there is more on the way. But I take as good as I give so come at me bros!
  • Won a years to subscription to Tekpub on Christmas Day thanks Rob 'Santa Clause' Conrey.
  • Put my foot in it a few times. Yeah sounds odd I am classing this as a good thing but Scott Hanselman gave me permission, and I quote

Chris Sells told me once, If you're not getting in trouble with your boss at least twice a year, you're likely not pushing the envelope hard enough. Two slaps a year might be the cost for 10 successes. If you're not moving forward, well, you're not moving forward.

2012 (More like 20AWESOME! AMIRITE!)

So enough dwelling in the past - how am I going to make 2012 be the awesomest? Well thats easy - set some real fecking goals. I failed to do that last year (outside of my typical career goals during my annual reviews of course) and ended up coasting in parts. Not next year - hells no. I got me a bucket list (stuff to do before the year dies - not me - unless that comes first - oh god I never thought of that). TO THE LIST!

2012 Bucket List (In No Particular Order)

  • Release a screencast
  • Release a game
  • Appalachian Trail
  • GiveCamp NI
  • Talk/Present as often as possible
  • Learn a new language
  • Contribute more to OSS

So let me explain some of these, as I am sure they mean sweet FA to some of you.

Release a Screencast

A lot of my blog posts last year were a kind of "Introduction to Technology X" and I think that sort of knowledge can be better shared via video and real coding. Coupled with my desire to go a bit deeper in my technical posts but always getting distracted with other blog posts I think 2012 is the year I try my hand at producing a real life proper screencast (or perhaps a series). With decent production values and what not. The topic? Well I am currently thinking Nancy but I need to really get my head around it a lot than I already do - but thats fine. Time will tell on that one.

Release a Game

Game programming is an area I've failed to venture into and I feel it is about time. I wan't to do something really simple, something mobiley possibly using ImpactJS because it interests me. I'd like to release said game into an app store as well - just to watch it get flamed and to say "I've done it"

Appalachian Trail

This is a codename for a current unfunded project of mine. The goal is to get a more fuller understanding of the spectrum of mobile development approaches, platforms and technologies. So simply put generate a bunch of super simple (though still useful) app ideas and using every conceivable type of technology from native to web and all in-between deliver decent quality apps across all the major platforms through hackathons, team challenges, school and university outreach, app camps etc..

Sounds awesome doesn't it?

GiveCamp NI

GiveCamp was founded by Microsoft Developer Evangelist, Chris Koenig, in Dallas, Texas in 2007. His vision was to bring together passionate developers and local charitable organisations for an entire weekend, and see what would happen.

In late 2012 GiveCamp is coming to Northern Ireland.

Thats what the official site says (I should know I put it there). So late next year we will run GiveCamp for the first time in Northern Ireland. A weekend long charity focused public hackathon. It's going to be a belter!

Talk/Present as often as possible

I enjoy talking about nerdy things. I got a taste for it last year when I went public (having been talking internally to Kainos staff for years) and in 2012 I really want to get out there as much as possible. I find it an amazing way for me to learn as well as understand whats going on in the industry. So far I am speaking in Dublin in January, Devweek in London and a few other un-announced venues.

BTW if anyone can recommend conferences I should pitch for, or want me to come over and talk about anything in the .NET/JavaScript/Mobie world(s) (see my blog for the kind of thing I know about) - let me know!

Learn a new language

Everyone says this one right? Yeah so I spent last year looking at node.js and Ruby and I think it's time to get out of my safe - I'm thinking F# - yeah that sounds sweet!

Contribute more to OSS

I head-dived into OSS .NET last year and loved it. Many people see .NET as a very restricted, Microsoft led platform were every modern web-app is MVC3 with Entity Framework and WCF rules the web service world. Thats total bull. .NET has a very vibrant, very active OSS community. There is almost no need to use any MS technology ever. But lets not forget MS have really started to embrace and support OSS in a big way. Lets hope that trend continues!

In Summary

Boooo to 2011, Yay to 2012. See you around the same time next year when I have another failful year and promising myself a better one in 2013 :-P

Published in Random on December 30, 2011