2020 Year In Review

1st January 2021

2020 Year In Review

This is my first ever year in review blog post, and I've sure picked an interesting year to start. Life as we knew it changed thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, but despite that I feel that I had a pretty good year from both a work and personal point of view.

This is actually my second attempt at writing this - the first one was FAR too long, so here is the slimmed down version;

💼 Work

It was a very busy year for work and Covid-19 meant having to get used to home working pretty quickly. Daily Zoom calls are great, but the in-person social side of office life can never be replaced. Long term, I think a mix of home & office working is the future.

It has been the most enjoyable year for a while for me. I spent most of my time working on 3 large, exciting projects;

  • An online learning platform for children. Unusually for me I only built the front-end, which is a large Vue.js SPA - this greatly improved my Vue.js knowledge and general JS skills. I also got to use some tech new to me including WebRTC (for browser based webcam streaming) and WebSockets (via SignalR from Microsoft).
  • An online training platform. Built on Laravel as a multi-tenant application, it has a flexible content hierarchy for delivering video based courses and a comprehensive assessment engine. Other tech used on the project includes Laravel Livewire, TailwindCSS and Alpine.js.
  • A large geo-spatial web application. Split into two Laravel based applications - one to manage the importing and processing of 20+ large datasets (some consisting of hundreds of millions of rows) and the other being the public facing application. There was a lot of spatial theory to learn, and just some of the tech used includes PostGIS, Puppeteer & headless Chrome, Laravel Horizon, Inertia.js, Vue.js, Tailwind CSS, Mapbox GL JS. I hope to be able to reveal the project and share more of the technical details in the near future.

There was also the usual maintenance work on existing projects to be done, including a Laravel version upgrade on a large business critical application, which luckily went smoothly. I also spent time working within AWS ecosystem a lot more this year, so my knowledge of that has greatly improved.

🌏 Travel

If you already know me, you know I love to travel - and that was obviously a challenge this year. Still, I manage to squeeze in 3 trips within the rules;

  • I spent a week in Singapore in late February just as Covid-19 pandemic was starting, but it didn't affect my trip too much. I spent my time eating the most delicious food at as many hawker centres as I could find. Singaporean food is mainly a combination of Chinese, Malay and Indian - but I also had some of the best Korean and Thai dishes I've ever tasted. Food aside, I explored the green spaces across the city state and took in the usual tourist sights. Singapore is definitely not just a 1-2 day layover destination as some people may believe - I ran out of time to fit in everything I wanted to see & do - so I'll definitely be heading back.
  • Wanting to see more of the UK, particularly the north, I spent a few days in York with my partner in mid August. As well as exploring the city centre and eating some great food, we ventured out into the villages of the Yorkshire Moors and took the steam train up to Whitby for an afternoon. I'd love to go back again, taking my bike and spend time cycling in the area.
  • Despite all the restrictions, we managed to have a small stag-do for a close friend by spending a long weekend camping as a small group in Cornwall. We went surfing at Croyde beach, enjoyed some socially distanced beers in a few Cornish pubs, consumed a huge BBQ on the campsite and rounded the weekend off with a go karting grand prix.

👱‍♂️ Personal / Other

  • Early in the Covid-19 pandemic I got back into cycling to ensure I exercised reguarly. According to my Strava profile I managed to cover over 1,700 miles. To start, I spent most of my time on road using my single speed, but my took my mountain bike out more as the year progressed for gravel adventures in the New Forest.
  • As I was spending more time at home, I made some modest upgrades to my "home office" with a new monitor (Dell U2520D) and keyboard (Logitech MX Keys for Mac). For a desk companion, I "adopted" my first ElePHPant which I received from @GeeH in return for a donation to Phil Sturgeon's charity, Protect Earth.
  • For side projects this year, I've built a multi-location uptime monitoring service (seemingly a popular choice recently), a data analysis / visualisation project and a personal recipe manager. I haven't launched or open-sourced any of them, but they were useful for learning. I also made some updates to my home network monitoring system though.
  • I made a small number of open source contributions this year, mainly documentation changes, but also bringing Laravel 8 support to the mstaack/laravel-postgis package.
  • Although I only managed to publish 4 new blog posts this year, that is my best year to date. My "What's new in Laravel 8?" post was the most popular, with over 7k views.
  • I've been cooking more new dishes than ever before, especially after discovering a local Thai supermarket. I think my favourite home cooked meal this year was this Kkanpunggi (Korean spicy garlic fried chicken).
  • Sadly it's not been the same for everyone, so I feel incredibly lucky that I and those close to me haven't caught Covid-19 nor have been heavily impacted by it, other than the inconveniences of the "new normal" for day-to-day life.

👀 Looking forward to 2021

I'm not usually one for making new year resolutions, but I do have some general goals for next year;

  • Continue learning and using more technologies for web development, I especially need to get to grips with Docker more.
  • Keep looking for that opportunity to work a SaaS product of my own - be that developing one of my own ideas, or partnering with someone.
  • Improve my health & fitness - that will mean better eating and more cycling - I want to cover longer distances & much higher elevation.
  • Travel more - foreign travel is looking unlikely for the foreseeable future, so this will mean I've have a chance to see more of the UK - maybe cycle touring?
  • Be more active in the Laravel community - writing blog posts, making open source contributions, being active in online discussions.