Twenty Eighteen was a good year for me, but not so good for the UK, USA or politics, but we won't talk too much about that here!
I made it point of avoiding politics in 2018 and will continue to do so in 2019 - be it on social media or in real life. I can't change what politicians want to do and I don't know enough about it, so it just infuriates me.
Social media, in general, had an interesting year - most people now know how much data Facebook has on them and what they can do (and did) with it. Lots of people have left Facebook and even Twitter - there's even a hashtag - #DeleteFacebook.
I've been wanting to leave Facebook way before all of this happened - but the one thing that stopped me is that my mum is on there and she calls/messages me on Messenger (Turns out you can use Messenger even if you have deactivated your Facebook account). I've also recently joined a couple of very good groups - I had left the majority of groups I was in and also unliked/unfollowed a LOT of pages. Update: I finally deactivated my Facebook and Instagram accounts on New Year's Eve!
Mastodon came along and loads of people left Twitter for it but for a social network to work - it needs people and people didn't stick around long enough - oh well. In an attempt to make Twitter better for me I have unfollowed a lot of people and companies and have also started using the mute words to clean up my timeline. It has improved a lot.
The year had a great start with me getting a contract to start in February - which ended up being my longest contract to date (7 months).
Anyway, following on from last years theme and my second 'year in review' post, I'm going to look at went well and what didn't.
What went well
I was hired as a front-end developer to work with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) in Corby, Northamptonshire, originally on a three-month contract. I joined the digital team to help them clear their backlog of day to day jobs that had accrued over the last few months due to the team of three losing two team members.
I had to learn how to use a CMS I'd never used before - Sitecore - and unfortunately, it wasn't a recent version - it was a very old version. I wasn't able to use any of the modern development tools I've gotten accustomed to in the last few years - like Sass, Grunt/Gulp etc.
My contract was extended twice - first to six months, then to nine, but it was cut 7 months due to a company restructure.
I really enjoyed this contract - it was different to my previous contracts as I'm normally hired to work on a specific project. But at CMI - it was 'day to day' to start off with - but then it progressed into working on smaller projects on the CMI website.
I don't usually do long contracts and I still feel the same about them - I don't like them, they start to feel a lot like a permanent role. But I stayed because I made really good friends there and its good to have a long contract under your belt, so I'm told.
Thanks go out to Lee (my manager) and Harry (Junior Dev) for a great few months and for putting up with my nagging about code standards and design systems.
Update: I finished this contract mid way throuch October as I had four weeks off during the contract, it was already booked before I started the initial 3 month contract. After being away for 7 months, I decided to take the rest of the year off to spend it with my family, recharge my batteries (they're old and don't charge as quickly as they used to!) and did some DIY work around the house and garden.
On the freelance side of things - I finished one project. At the end of 2017, I was approached by the Graham Hughes International Charity (GHIC) to build them a website.
This was an interesting project for sure and a first for me. The charity had originally hired a London based design agency to design and build them a Wordpress website but they had some issues working together - the agency only delivered a static website, at which point the charity decided to stop working with them.
I was hired to take the static website, which wasn't live, build some extra functionality and add a CMS to it as well so that the charity could add their own content. For this, I chose to use Perch, as its what I know and love using for smaller projects, plus it's easy for the clients to learn and use.
They required a lot of changes and also a few new features - including a blog and a members area.
The biggest hurdle with this project was the quality of the code I had to work with - I was only being paid for the agreed changes and new features so I had a hard time stopping myself from refactoring the entire codebase. But that was definitely not in the budget, where ever I was adding to an existing section I would refactor code - as I couldn't work with it how it was.
Anyway, I finished the project on time, the client is happy and now I am still working with GHIC as we continue to update (and refactor) the website and add new features.
This year I didn't build any web-based side projects - being away from home a 7-month contract (away Mon-Fri, back for weekends) meant I just wanted to do non-screen based projects.
So I finished my kids' treehouse!
This project started as a proper treehouse - we finally had the perfect tree for it - but my neighbour decided to change his mind about allowing me to build it in line with the property line, I did speak to him before I started it - but let's not dwell on this as it's still a sore point.
But I'm glad I have pretty much finished it - just need to cut in 2 porthole windows and add some perplex. I will do write up of this project - essentially a photo progress post.
I also repurposed an old kids playhouse shed that we hadn't even put back together since we moved to Suffolk 4 years ago.
I needed to build a new chicken coop as the old one that came with the house was starting to fall apart so I decided rather than bin the playhouse I'd turn it into a new chicken coop!
I plan on getting some more chickens soon and now there is plenty of room for them.
I've been doing a basic version of bullet journaling for a few years now. But towards the end of the year, I started following the bullet journaling methodology properly. I plan on expanding this further in 2019 and get a bit creative with it as well - being inspired by AmandaRachLee on Youtube.
My health and fitness have continued to improve throughout the year. During most of my 7-month contract, I was going to the gym two to three times a week and eating healthy food prepared from scratch, rather than living off microwave meals, staying away from sweets and cake also helped (this wasn't easy in an open office).
At the of the year I signed up to do The Body Coach's 90-day plan (I'm now on month 2 of 3). This is a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) program and a healthy eating regime - but it's not a diet - the portions are huge! What I want to get from this is to be fitter - which I am now starting to see a change.
I plan on continuing with the gym while I'm away on contract - this is easier when I'm away from home - but not sure how easy it will be if my next contract is in London - as its a 2hr commute each way - which will mean I'll be very tired. So we'll see what how that goes.
In 2018 we had a family holiday of a lifetime - the five of us went to Orlando, Florida and spent three weeks going to all the Disneyland and Universal parks. That's three weeks of walking - a LOT of walking - some days I did over 25k steps.
But we loved this holiday - my wife and I preferred Universal - but the kids loved all of it. We've been planning for this holiday for a while - we had to time it right so that our youngest (6) would remember it but also our eldest (10) would still find it magical.
This holiday was also the first time I have ever been on a rollercoaster! My eldest (also her first time) was the only one that was tall enough to ride but, of course, she needed to go with an adult and I was happy to step up!
I wasn't sure whether I should mention some of these personal things for fear of it coming across as a bit of a show-off - that's not what I want.
This year I treated myself to a few nice things - I've worked hard and I believe I deserve these things.
Firstly, I got my self a new laptop, a MacBook Pro - the last laptop I had was a £400 Toshiba that I bought five years ago - it has served me very well, but it was starting to show its age. I've been wanting to get an MBP for a while - especially since there is some Mac-only software I've wanted to use to for a while (I gave up waiting for them to release a Linux version).
Secondly, since I do a lot of driving when I am on contract - I got myself a newish car - a Mercedes A-Class 2017 plate - this is the nicest, most expensive car I have ever owned - my previous car was a 10-year-old Ford Fiesta - which rattled a lot on the motorways and almost killed me in this year when it spun out and I ended up off road - luckily it stopped just before a massive 20ft drop.
Update: When I say I bought, I don't mean outright - it's a lease, I'll have it for 4 years and then I can choose to keep it or give it back, or trade it for another.
Lastly, I got myself a motorbike - it is a 125cc custom cruiser - I don't have my CBT yet, that's happening in 2019 - but for my birthday I got a jacket and helmet, just need boots, gloves and trousers and I'll be set.
My wife says I'm having a mid-life crisis!
I think if you can, you should treat yourself, especially if it makes getting to your job that little bit nicer!
What didn't go so well
I didn't do much writing on my blog in 2018 - I only managed 2 posts, three if you count the one that I should have published but didn't quite get to it. I was hoping to have posted a lot more as I had a great start in 2017.
But I blame this on being away for a long contract and where I was staying, I didn't have a proper desk, so couldn't do much work. Plus, after a days work, going to the gym and cooking my dinner, I didn't have much time to spend on the computer.
I wanted to have read ten books this year but I only managed two! I'm still reading Stephen King's The Dark Tower series - which have quite a few big books.
I managed to finish a book that I struggled to get into - "You're my favourite client" - it's not my usual sort of book. I do need to read a lot more non-fiction books, not just fiction and web design.
I only managed to read 74 articles in 2018 - which can be seen as a good thing because I feel as though I've done a lot of reading of technical articles but then I don't put anything I read into practice.
No personal digital projects this year. I have many ideas on paper - but lacked focus this year. Something I will do better in 2019.
A side project I started in 2018 - I started tinkering around with Home Automation - not sure if this is something will ever be finished. It has been an interesting and frustrating delve into this - I plan on writing about it. But let's just say, if you want to do it properly, it's not yet ready for the mainstream - it's getting there though.
I started to redo my website to use Eleventy - a static site generator but I didn't get it finished!
Sometime after designing and building my current website, I added the Perch CMS so that I could use it as a testbed for new plugins and functionality. But since I'm not doing many freelance projects that require a CMS these days and I've been wanting to dive into static site generators for a while now - I decided to give Eleventy a go.
Something I wanted to get into was streaming. I've done a few gaming let's play videos and have streamed a few times (to an audience of zero!) but I've been wanting to stream web design content - what I think stopped me was lack of focus on 'what' the streams should be about and lack of confidence.
It wasn't a great year for our pets - we lost a few, but the one that hurt me the most was losing our dog, Zack.
We had him since he was a puppy - before we had our children - he watched our children grow up and they watched him grow old and frail.
We said goodbye to him in the summer and he now rests peacefully in our garden.
Our cat had to have an operation on his right leg bone - where they had to cut off the top of his leg bone - this procedure is done instead of a hip replacement - it was a tough decision to make, but a hip replacement is not as common as the other procedure plus the recovery time is much longer. It was hard enough to keep him under house arrest for two months as it was - if you have a Bengal, you'll know how much they love the outdoors.
We also lost loads of our rabbits - we were on holiday when it happened (we had someone looking after them, but it wasn't their fault - rabbits die pretty quickly if they get sick), we're down to 1 rabbit from 12. One of our chickens also died - so we only have 1 chicken and a cockerel left.
At the beginning of the year I also lost my pet lizard - a bearded dragon named Bernie - she was with us for a good 7 years, but she became ill and the vets didn't know what was wrong with her and we eventually lost her.
Looking ahead to Twenty Nineteen
I am attending the New Adventures conference in January - its the first conference I've been to in a few years. I've heard so many good things about the past conferences - I'm so glad its back as it's already looking like its going to be a great conference. Fingers crossed I get to meet a few people in real life.
Last year I went with a theme word for the year which was 'focus' and that didn't work for me. Maybe if I'd had the word printed out in large text and stuck to the wall it would have been a constant reminder - but in 2019 I'm just going to set monthly goals instead.
These are the main things I want to focus on in 2019.
I want to get my first fully remote contract job in 2019. I've had contracts that have allowed 1 or 2 days of remote work after I've been there for a month or so. But I really want a contract that will be fully remote, I'm happy to go to the office 1 or 2 days per week for meetings.
I'm in the middle - I'm not a JS developer or a UX Designer, but I am somewhere in the middle. I believe I'm more developer than a designer, so this is why I'm going to focus on learning JS.
I also want to dive into Vue and Gatsby - there has been so much love for both that you can't help wanting to get stuck in. Plus I also read that learning Gatsby will help with learning React, which I've tried but found too difficult because I don't know vanilla JS.
There's a whole bunch of other stuff I want to learn too - like CSS Grid!
I think the main issue with me learning JS is that I do a lot of reading and video tutorials but I don't do anything with it. Sometimes I will use vanilla JS instead of jQuery, but if I'm busy - then I don't have time to figure out JS, so will just default to what I know.
I need to build stuff and use JS so I can learn it, spend time making mistakes and figuring things out and I believe I can do this with side projects. What will I build I don't know yet, but whatever it is, it will be something for me and it may never see the light of day.
I also plan on streaming as much as possible and hopefully actually get people to 'tune' in - I want to stream so that I can practice speaking to an audience, learn to speak clearly while showing/doing demos/presentations etc.
Gah. I really need to make this a habit. I like doing it and it helps with the learning side of things - if I write about something I've learnt, it helps commit it to long-term memory - so I want to do at least 1 blog post a month - I know it doesn't sound like a lot, but when I only managed 2 in twenty eighteen - 12 will be a milestone!
After many many years of neglecting my health, fitness and well being - I am making a conscious effort to fix this. It won't be easy, but then you can't expect to fix years of damage in one quick HIIT session, can you?
I'm going to finish The Body Coach's 90-day plan and then create my own plan to keep the exercise and healthy eating going. I'm also going to try very hard not to have any sugar - which won't be easy - it means giving up things like chocolate, cookies and cakes! I have already replaced sugar in my coffee with a plant-based alternative.
Well, I think that's all I have to say for this year in review post (sorry it's a long one) - I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed looking back. Let me know if you did and if you also wrote your own - I love reading these.
Here are the ones I've read so far: