image by Steven VanDesande Jr
Year in Review 2018
Reflection time again. Seems I travelled a lot.
Spent most of this part of the year sick as a dog. Had a flu that just wouldn’t shift. Sadly this same soft of long-running sickness also marred December this year.
Didn’t stop me heading to Ruby on Ice in Germany in late January. I should’ve pulled out really, but it would’ve been really late notice. I did not partake in as much of the conference as I normally like to, but I managed my energy enough to give a decent version of the talk.
Deployed a major change to the infrastructure of CoverageBook. An entire new data-collection platform we call “The Vault”, we migrated the main application away from it’s haphazard collation of metrics and page data into it’s own well-organised, scalable, service.
I might attempt to derive a talk out of the approaches we’ve taken with this new app, given how well it has scaled this year without us really noticing.
It became clear that a lot of the new habits I was trying to build were actually going to stick.
I’ve been trying to meditate, do yoga, read for ten minutes and write a quick journal entry every working day. I’m using an app called Streaks: it does one thing well.
The yoga (even if it is just a few stretches in the morning) has helped enormously with my continuing attempts to play football and do some running without injuring myself.
The meditation (via Headspace) has done wonders for my levels of calm. In moments of stress I’m calmer and I’m also feeling more able to step back and analyse myself and others after the fact. In a healthy way. Not a creepy one.
The overall impact I have felt with these habits are as a result of the regularity not the volume. The benefits are cumulative over time.
March also saw another outing for “Impermanence of Software” but this time at Bath Ruby. Simon put together another excellent group of speakers.
The whole CoverageBook team moved into a new floor in the building, finally the 8 of us could stop sharing a single noisy office.
The result has been a lot more time working in person together. Turns out when you have a pleasant working environment and enough space, you tend to use it.
We’re still very remote working friendly, but I’ve very much found I’m in the office much more. Particularly as Raffa (my dog) can join me.
Answer The Public
We also turned a side-project into a paid product in three weeks. AnswerThePublic has been a free tool we’ve been running for a few years and has a massive audience and leads to a bunch of trials on our main app.
We wanted to see if we could start charging for it, so we did the least we could do to get it live. Manual subscription creation in Stripe, no account tools, no automatic cancel. The real bare bones.
It has gone like gangbusters this year. A lovely little side-business to our main efforts, and the income it generates allows us to spend a bit of time improving it in a way we couldn’t justify if we weren’t earning money from it.
The final sale/handover of my (and Jon’s) other conference baby was completed in May. FE International launched their new iteration of LTVConf in May with me co-comparing.
The new version is a different beast. Shinier, more focussed on SaaS businesses, less “early help” more “ongoing business-y”. Makes sense for them and their audience.
Met a couple of excellent humans during it; Laura from MeetEdgar (who also relocated to Brighton!) & Sherry, an expert on mental health for entrepreneur-types.
Major highlight of June was heading to New York, to speak at the final GORUCO. When I found out how much their venue costs were… I was surprised how long they’d managed to survive!
It’s always sad (and a little concerning) when a long-running, regional conference stops happening. My read is, the big Ruby central conferences continue to grow, but the lack of Ruby having “new hotness” status means the smaller events with a Ruby focus are struggling a little.
Walked enormous distances (30km!) around Manhattan, swore at Trump Tower, watched an England game in a terrible Irish pub, ate well with New York chums and hung out with (surprise) Aussie Ruby friends and even managed a rooftop meeting/lunch with Stella in Dumbo House.
I wanted to focus on our infrastructure, so got my good friend Tadej to do some work on instrumentation and alerting for us at CoverageBook.
Was great to work with him again. Pleasingly not too many skeletons uncovered and it gave me a great deal of comfort that what we thought was happening (both good and bad) was pretty much on point.
Another year in Brighton Dome. Ticket sales were a little down on the previous year, I’m thinking the re-emergence of Bath Ruby had some effect, but the talks were terrific. Two of them ended up on the programme at RubyConf.
As a result of some incidents I’d heard about at other events and a lack of clarity about expected behaviour and consequences at a number of events I gave a little five minute talk at the beginning of the day.
It was by far the best thing that I’ve ever done, according to the amount of email and “quiet thank you” feedback that I received. Lesson relearned: Don’t underestimate the power of explicit, thought-through, inclusion at your events.
Chained to the school terms for holidays meant I spent a lot of the summer on holiday with the kids.
Italy (roasting hot, mosquitos) and Scilly Isles (epic ferry-sickness, freezing sea, lots of walking, helecopter trip!).
Signed the papers that permanently puts me at CoverageBook. Official title: VP of Engineering. Fancy title, means nothing in a team of eight.
A job, team, business, work pattern and product I can be proud to work on and have no plan to leave anytime soon. I’d love to espouse some of the stuff that I think makes our small, but hugely profitable business, special… perhaps this year.
Also had my 39th birthday and on that day a fancy health-check. Not my idea of a good time, but was on my day off and would’ve been a pain to move it.
I was a bit heavy, even for my ‘stocky’ build and my ‘bad’ cholesterol levels were high. One of the reasons for having myself checked was a familial history of poor heart health so this forced me to redouble my good behaviour.
I increased my running to become a more regular habit and simply not eating crap everyday seems to have made a big difference. I also added “take vitamins & fish oil” to my list of habits, as a result of the advice of the doctor.
Had the opportunity to work with Dot as she came in to do some feature work on Answer The Public for us, delightful.
Gave the most nerve-wracking version of the “Impermanence of Software” at an internal Propellernet meeting.
The agency and the software business (CoverageBook) don’t overlap much day-to-day so most of the people in the room were new to me other than ‘that programmer guy from the coffee machine’ so it was sort of an introduction to the rest of the business.
The talk went down well, and I think that kind of talk from someone presumed just to be a nerd from upstairs, was a surprise to many and it fed into a wider announcement of “making life better” from the founders of the organisation.
A trip to LA, to speak at RubyConf, about how we communicate with each other and the underlying roles we’re playing when we do.
Spoke in the ballroom from Ghostbusters, which had two chandeliers, which means they executed my speaker rider. Went well I think, plus had a great time hanging out with my conference pals. Los Angeles downtown had some decent food, but not much buzz. The wider city (Hollywood sign!) I explored on the public transport, which I came to understand was not the obvious tourist approach.
I continue to think the breadth of topics, styles and voices on the conference stages show what a brilliant community surrounds the Ruby language. So many talented performers and well put together stories.
My final performance, I don’t think Saron will ever get over: backseat No Diggity on the way to drop me and Nadia at the airport. That one was an exclusive.
Back home… our team had been struggling to ship a new version of our main product. For lots of reasons. November was when we finally took a severe approach and began deleting stuff with a view to shipping something/anything into customer’s hands.
It was a brutal and stressful process, but we’ve finally started moving the damned thing and we have real user testing underway and a much clearer focus for the tool. What exactly it is in reference to our existing product, I’m still not sure. But it feels like working on it is fun again.
We took a leaf out of Basecamp’s book and had a “tidy up all the shit” few weeks ahead of Xmas. We took all the outstanding bugs across all four of our apps and plotted them on an “effort” vs. “impact” grid, then tried to knock off stuff that was both simple and made a big difference—either for us or our customers.
Also got myself a regular session with a therapist. Very recommended. Feel like it gives me a “bought friend” who can listen to you without the baggage of having to be your friend or know any of the other characters in the stories you are telling. It helps me.
Completed 20 One Ruby Thing’s for which I am indebted to Nadia for editing.
Lined up speakers and early year marketing for Brighton Ruby 2019. Had a couple of drop outs from people I was really keen to bring over, maybe next year for them, but the invited speakers are good.
Already had to opt-out from speaking in Australia in February, and the line up looks so great, but I think that might be a good thing for my sanity.
Less travel. More calmness. Maintain good habits. Do more exercise, more consistently. Do less.
Last updated on January 1st, 2019 by @andycroll