My 2023 round-up
Happy very belated new year! For the most part I had a really good 2023, I hope you did also. This is a month or so later than I meant to, as I had a pretty rough late December and very busy January dealing with the fallout. Enough of my complaining though, what was my year like? Well...
I started a new job at the beginning of 2023, taking on the position of Lead Developer at Series Eight. It's been a really interesting and challenging year, going from being mostly focused on code to instead people and processes. Although I haven't yet achieved everything I set out to, I'm happy with the work I've done and the impact I've had. There's still a lot for me to work on, particularly my stress levels! This year I'm making my goal to be more relaxed and rely on the team more.
Some of the this I'm proud of myself for at work:
- A major focus on accessibility, training the team from little accessibility knowledge to consistently close to WCAG AA conformance;
- Improving consistency in builds with starter projects;
- Overhauling our hosting setup for much better performance with a CDN;
- Being involved in some pretty cool and tricky websites including Smile Makers, Pruden & Smith The Wood Veneer Hub and Viatu
I spoke at one conference this year and attended a couple further. I intended to speak at and attend more this year, but focusing on my new job and life got in the way of that.
If you're involved in a conference or meetup for 2024 then please get in touch! I'm updating my current conference talk "Creative Web: Building dynamic websites for work and play" with some exciting new CSS functionality, and also working on a web performance talk called "Making websites fly with web performance for all" for this and next year.
- In early May I was once again attending All Day Hey! which was fantastic as always. Alongside a couple colleagues I wrote about my thoughts on the Series Eight blog.
- State of the Browser in September is one of the highlights of my year. The talks are always top quality, the event is fantastically organised (❤️ Dave), and I see so many friends each time! As with Hey, I wrote a little about each talk on the S8 blog.
- In November I spoke at Halfstack Conf London, giving my Creative Web talk. It went really well and I'm really happy with how smooth and natural it felt, definitely the best I've felt speaking. It was a different crowd from what I'm used to and really nice to meet lots of new people.
Async Alpine has done well this year and really taken off into something of it's own! There's been a couple of small releases, including contributions from others, inclusion as a dependency for bigger projects, and had almost 20,000 downloads from npm over 2023.
I experimented a bit with "AI" earlier this year and made Wacky Horoscopes, a site that gives silly daily horoscopes that were generated by an LLM. I'm not entirely comfortable with a project using an LLM to be honest, as is extremely obvious from my writing on the "About" page! I really like the concept, find the result funny, and am extremely happy with the frontend and 11ty build, but in hindsight my current stance on LLMs makes me regret it. That said, the horoscopes have been generated now and there's no further LLM involved so it would be a shame to take it down I think? I'm still not sure.
Near the end of the year I wrote Ridge Map, a node library to generate cool visualisations of elevation data in SVG. I thought it would take a couple hours and it ended up taking me 4 days — it was so much harder than I expected! Check out my "Arts and Crafts" section below for more photos of the results.
2023 was a huge year for writing for me, with two articles published somewhere that wasn't my blog (or my work's), and went through an editor who really knew their stuff!
Getting started with Web Performance 🚀 was published by Manuel Matuzovic in the HTMHell Advent Calendar and I am thrilled with it. My goal was something that any web developer of any level can use to familiarise themselves with the motive, concepts, jargon, and tools of web performance, and also include some suggestions of things to check first to get started. I feel like I managed to deliver that pretty well, the reception was great, and I'm also working on turning it into a conference talk. A huge thank you to Manuel and the other reviewers for helping me out with it.
I also wrote Ten optimisation tips for an initial web performance audit for the Web Performance Calendar which slightly blew my mind to be honest. I've followed the calendar for a while and I still can't really believe I am of the standard to have an article published there! This and the HTMHell articles are based on the same initial plan but focused on different audiences. If you want to go in-depth into those suggestions this article has more research, details and references.
I've also written quite a bit this year on my own blog:
- GrapheneOS as my daily-driver mobile OS
- Displaying Hillwalking routes on the web with GPX files and Leaflet
- Searching for a Mastodon app for Android
- Simple, cheap GeoIP API using Vercel Edge functions
- Simple, cheap GeoIP API using Netlify Edge functions
- Bone conduction earphones revolution — Aftershokz Aeropex review
- Alternative text for "I'm a Luddite (and So Can You!)"
- Interop Priority Game 2024
And a handful of posts on the Series Eight blog:
- Our biggest takeaways from Hey! All Day 2023
- Shopify’s Winter ‘23 release in action
- Shopify Summer ‘23 Editions: first impressions and best additions
- What we learned at State of the Browser 2023
Travel and holidays
I had a few holidays this year, mostly pretty domestic. I went on a group holiday with university friends to the Peak District, England in June, and to Bridlington, England in December (which has a wonderful zoo with ducks in it turns out).
My dad moved from the Isle of Skye down to south Wales so I went for a final easy visit to Skye and visited his new house in Wales. I've only been to north Wales a couple of times so I'm keen to explore it a bit more! When we visited was a heatwave so the temperature, lovely golden beaches, surfing and non-English street signs made it feel like the Mediterranean!
In October I went to Prague with work for a short get-together and socialise. It's a beautiful city and it was fantastic to meet up with the team in person again, even if I don't yet forgive my boss Mario for the amount of Absinthe I drank on the final night.
Arts and crafts
I'll remember this year for the fact that after about 5 years my design burnout has faded enough for me to finally enjoy designing again! In the summer I started to get into sticker making, and ended up buying myself a Silhouette Cameo 4 cutting machine to more easily produce stickers. I've designed and printed a handful of stickers related to Scotland, development and silly stickers for friends.
It's been good fun to experiment with and make things!
What has really inspired me however is using the cutting machine instead as a pen plotter. You buy an adaptor and some nice pens, and you can have the Cameo draw out the SVG you've designed onto paper. This is right up my alley because it makes art more accessible to me — I can design and draw digital art using code or a graphics program and have the machine put it right onto paper at really nice quality!
Contour prints were where I got started with this but I then wrote Ridge Map in order to generate 3D elevation visualisations to plot. They were my go-to Christmas gift this year, and I even did some of Mars landmarks with watercolour highlights.
I'm keen to keep making things! I'm not sure how 'professionally' I'll do it, on one hand it could be nice to sell art to people who like it online or at local design stores, on the other hand I don't want yet another full-on job! If you do want any of my stickers, prints or want a commission however let me know and I'd love to do so for internet pals!
I didn't play, watch, read or listen to as much this year, instead focusing on blog posts, side projects and arts & crafts. Because of that I'll do short paragraphs about the media I don't have many things to note for, but proper sections for Games and Music.
Getting movies and TV out the way, the only release worth mentioning for me is Barbie — obviously I adored it! I did also go see Rocky Horror Picture Show for a late screening on the day of Edinburgh Pride with free wine and I tell you what that was amazing.
This year I saw more at the Edinburgh fringe than normal, my favourite show was The Tragedy That Befalls the Dastardly Crew of the Kakapo, a perfect example of a Fringe farce with no budget that was side-splittingly hilarious. On live theatre, I also saw Sunshine on Leith at Pitlochry Theatre in November which was fantastic and made me feel extremely patriotic of Scotland, Edinburgh and Leith.
I don't read a lot, but if you're interested in my reading then check out my Literal account (similar to Goodreads). Highlights are The Theory of Everything Else by Dan Schreiber, and Sistersong by Lucy Holland.
I didn't play much but there were a few games worth noting! This list is specifically the games I started in 2023, you can instead check out my favourite games ever.
- The Case of the Golden Idol DLC: The Spider of Lanka is a fantastic DLC to one of my favourite games of all time. It's a genuinely tricky detective mystery set in a weird and beautiful pixel world. It's similar to the original in feel, but unique enough to pull it off.
- Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a relaxing open-world game where you explore, Craft, do quests and farm. Really nice chill gaming that I really enjoyed! Also one of the collectibles is cute cats.
- In Terra Nil you use machines to restore nature to a dead world and then clean up after yourself and leave. A short but lovely strategy builder game I'd highly recommend.
- Shadows of Doubt is a randomly-generated open-world detective game that is really cool. Murders happen in a dystopian sci-fi voxel-based city and you have to work out who dunnit. I really enjoyed it but found it pretty buggy so will be coming back to it in a year or two when they've polished it a little more.
- Borderlands 3 is pretty fun action shooter with silly mechanics and writing. It's not the best in the world. but good fun, particularly with friends.
Due to the increased number of calls I'm in at work now, the amount of music I listen to has decreased a fair bit but it's still a lot. Working from home I guess! I listened to a lot of artists and albums from the past few years rather than 2023 releases, so these are artists and albums that I particularly enjoyed in 2023.
- MUNA's self-titled album came out in 2022 but I really got into it this year. That album was 5 of my top ten songs this year. I love Silk Chiffon and Kind of Girl.
- Until this year Portobello had only five songs and one was my favourite ever. This year they released two new singles, Dance (In the City) and Lose My Mind which are both bops I played the shit out of.
- I got into Claud this year, particularly enjoying their 2021 Super Monster but also this year's Supermodels.
- Wild Party has a nice new album with Get Up satisfied my confusing but undeniable taste for very indie bands from southern US that no one has heard of.