Nick Charlton

Annual Review 2013

Introduction

For at least the past three years, I’ve been reading Chris Guillebeau’s Annual Review series. He publishes a set of blog posts in December each year running through what he (and his business) did, what he thought of it and what he’d like to do in the upcoming year.

I’ve been doing something similar myself for about the same time (I also used to come up with a plan for summers back when I had long expanses of free-time; usually a collection of things I wished to learn), but I never published them. Much of the concept of the “Annual Review” is in doing it, but without publishing, it’s all too easy to forget you did it and there’s a certain feeling of accountability when you’ve published a block of self-criticism and plans for the year ahead. Especially when they all seem to pass by so quickly.

This year was my final year of University, so that’s a general trend throughout. The final push after several years of studying seems to throw out much of the other things you want to do, and so the latter few months are much more interesting.

But anyway, let’s begin…

Projects

Nearly all of my projects (big and small) are something to do with programming, most recently these seem to have refocused on Ruby. But for much of University, I spent my time using Python (especially when graphs where involved), but after some niggling annoyances (no closing of blocks, pip, time and date handling) I found myself being pushed me back over to Ruby.

Outside of Ruby, I’ve been spending it working with iOS, with a little bit of Mac development interspersed. The introduction of iOS 7 has made for some interesting new challenges.

I continue to maintain several projects which are hosted on GitHub and of these I’ve been able to impart a stronger focus on automated tests. Several of them have been configured with Travis CI, but so far many of them have poor coverage, especially the ones with a web component, or the needs of a complex environment. Next year, I expect to keep going down this path.

There’s still a hardware project or two which I’ve not gotten around to thinking much about since the end of University. The new year may (or may not) bring me to coming back to them.

I’m quite pleased with all of these smaller projects and I get quite a lot of satisfaction out of building small well-tested libraries (before going away for Christmas, I also released keypath-ruby –– an approach for accessing nested Ruby collections).

One of the things I’ve been less pleased with is the amount of time I’ve spent working with servers and infrastructure. Whilst the work I’ve done with Packer has been going rather well (this bought about boxes), automating infrastructure using Chef has been a slow and quite painful process. I find it to be a frustrating tool to work with, but I’m also not hugely convinced by the alternatives.

Sadly, this has kept me from working on some of the things I’ve really wanted to like Predict the Sky, and a few others.

But overall, this is probably the most pleasing section. I’m pleased with both the odds and ends I’ve spent my time working on, and the bigger ones too.

Writing

This year, I published 16 blog posts, most of them in August. I also added a link/commentry section to the site and published 23 links to (mostly long) articles I’ve come across. Over the year, the amount of visitors to this site have gone up quite markedly. It’s nice to be read.

After August, I seem to have come to a bit of a halt as I took on a much bigger project. But I do wish I’d been writing along the way; instead I seem to have lots of drafts.

So, as a plan, I aim to write and publish more. I’m already quite good with keeping a journal.

Reading

Books. I love them. But I don’t read as many as I’d like. I’ve set myself a plan to read 50 of them in 2014 and I’ll be interested to see how well I do.

I’m currently reading Morrissey’s Autobiography, which turned out to be a surprisingly gripping dive into his mind, from his early days in school, to a discovery of music and poetry to the Smiths, legal battles and his solo career. It’s a bit unfocused, but interesting. I’m most of the way through now.

I’ve also ended up with subscriptions to the New Statesman, GQ and The New Yorker, which regularly fill me with lots of different (and notably offline) things to read.

Travel

With my final year of University, I didn’t travel much at all this year (apart from between Plymouth and Surrey[^mum] which doesn’t really count). I hope to fix this next year, with at least a trip or two to mainland Europe.

Studying

Graduating is a curious thing. Suddenly you are propelled forth into the world, expected to have some sort of plan. For most of us, this certainly isn’t the case.

But after four years of University (one was on placement), I’m now the owner of a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science.

Work

After taking a few months off to recover from University, I started freelancing in June. First with some smaller projects, but then from a lucky bit of timing picking up something much larger.

Next year I look forward to expanding the client base, and mixing up the projects a little. Some of this is already in motion.

Health & Fitness

University seemed to put this into quite a sharp decline. I used to cycle daily when I was on placement, but I stopped on moving back to Plymouth. Now, I don’t do anywhere near what I’d like to be doing.

I intend to start running in 2014. But I’ve said this (mostly to people) before. I’ll see how I go in a year.

Into 2014

2013 was interesting, and 2014 will mark my first complete year out of some sort of education system. I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m still seem to be on an academic calendar, so what most would consider some sort of “new years resolution” or some such has been in progress since September. Be it balancing work with other projects, learning German through Duolingo or one of a few other things.

But in 2014, I want to finish learning to drive and acquire a car, get running regularly (I would like to be capable of running a 5k), keep going on my desire to dress much better, and chipping away at all of those other things that I do which irritate me.

It’s going to be a fun year.

[^mum]: My Mum’s.