I’ve decided to keep doing the annual end of the year reflections, iterating further on the structure I used in 2021 and 2020.
What follows is a mix of personal reflections on the year, as well as a brief lists of the things I’ve enjoyed watching, reading and playing.
This year I’ve split my time between working as CTO at Energy Sparks, and continuing to do some freelancing.
I’m really enjoying this role. It’s great to be doing technical and product work again. And it’s been an interesting year for both myself and the charity.
When I started in the role in mid-2020 I focused on ensuring I understood the application from an architectural and operational point of view. While we use freelance developers, including the very capable Julian Higman, I was doing not just the majority of the development work, but also had sole responsibility for keeping everything up and running.
The true test came when I had to take us through a full platform upgrade which completed in January 2022. It all went relatively smoothly, so I’m pleased that I prioritised investing time in the right areas.
This year, I’ve been starting to develop a deeper understanding of the energy analysis side of Energy Sparks. To date, most of this has been the responsibility of a single analyst/developer who has now largely left the organisation. It’s a big hole to fill even though we’re using him on a freelance basis to help with knowledge transfer.
It’s been really interesting learning more about the UK’s energy data infrastructure as well as energy data analysis in general. But I’ve still got a long way to go here.
This year we managed to win some significant funding, including:
- from the Centrica Energy For Tomorrow programme, to support us in expanding into Scottish schools
- from the Welsh government to allow us to translate Energy Sparks into Welsh, so that we can continue to expand into Welsh schools
- from the Department for Education, to allow us to expand Energy Sparks to schools across England
We’re ending 2022 with over 641 schools on Energy Sparks which is more than double where we were last year. This is a great achievement and, as you might imagine, ensuring that the service scales as we grow has been at the forefront of my mind. I planned out a series of improvements early in the year which we’ve now delivered.
To extend the service to this many schools, we needed to grow the team. We’re now a team of eight, with a number of freelancers and partners supporting our work. I spent a lot of time in 2022 interviewing for new roles. And I now have a small team of developers (Deb Bassett, IanT).
It’s nice to be back leading a team again. But, even with a small team this means doing less hands-on work and focusing more on enabling others. I’m enjoying it.
Next year will be a big year for us as we’ve got several projects to land and we need to show that we’re having a real impact. If so, then we should be able to get some additional funding. Fingers crossed!
I wrote a summary of my recent freelance work back in October, so I’ll link to that as a summary of my recent projects.
Since then I’ve started a second project with CABI, supporting a team that are providing advice about publishing FAIR data to a number of Gates Foundation projects.
As I wrote in October, I’m enjoying being able to use the experience I’ve developed around open data and data infrastructure, to support and mentor teams who are building data infrastructure, ecosystems and infrastructure. Hopefully I can do more of that next year.
I’ve got availability for freelance work starting in February, if you need some help?
I’ve had two occasions this year when I’ve had unsolicited feedback on my management style. The first from a former colleague at the Open Data Institute, the second from a recent joiner to the Energy Sparks team.
The feedback was really positive, totally out of the blue, and really caught me off guard.
If I’m honest, things didn’t end particularly well at the Open Data Institute. I left feeling pretty deflated. It wasn’t clear that I fitted into the organisation and I ended my time there — which spanned most of its first 10 years — doubting my abilities as a senior leader, questioning whether I’d had any impact (on the organisation or elsewhere) and with a massive boost to my imposter syndrome.
This feedback has really helped me work through a lot of that. And I’m feeling more confident that I’m doing the right things in my current role.
I won’t share any more than that, but I’m going to try and pay things forward and do the same for other people.
Unsurprisingly, I’ve written a lot of code this year.
At the start of the year I wanted to try and do some more creative coding this year. I don’t think I really achieved that, but there’s a few things I’m pleased with:
- Playing around with styling OSM data in the style of historical maps of Bath
- Creating some simple animations of magazine covers from the Internet Archive
- Recreating some sci-fi terminals in VHS
The last one of those hit the Hacker News front page for a couple of days, so got a lot of traffic. That was fun.
I’ve got a couple of other projects I’ve been tinkering with this year. One of these was a Twitter bot, but that’s going to move to Mastodon now.
I didn’t manage to start running again in 2022. I’m really not sure why I stopped because I was really enjoying it.
Actually I do: it got cold and wet, and I’d mostly hit my weight loss target. So I just let it taper off. Let’s try again next year.
What I did do in 2022 was a lot of walking. Four of us fell into a regular schedule of weekend walks through the countryside which I really, really loved. I always forget how much being outdoors lifts my mood.
We’ll be doing a lot more of that in 2023.
As before I’ve been tweeting what I’ve been cooking in 2022. Although I largely stopped doing this in November after I shifted over to Mastodon.
I still bookmark recipes here.
Of the recipes and cocktails I logged, they break down as follows:
This year was mostly Sichuan dishes as I had a new recipe book. I also continued my love affair with the dirty martini.
I usually try out a new recipe on a Saturday night, along with a cocktail or two. But I’ve ended up cooking less this year as we shifted up our Saturday night routine. We now frequently nip over to visit a friend in Bradford-on-Avon on a Saturday night, so have ended up taking turns with the cooking.
I’ve already published a blog post with my gardening retro for 2022. Beans for the win.
At the beginning of 2022 I jumped from Spotify to Tidal. This was for several reasons.
Spotify ditched the subscription tier that I’d been on pretty much since they launched. This was heavily discounted, so my monthly cost was going to go up. I was also increasingly frustrated with them constantly pushing podcasts. I just don’t get on with podcasts. The whole Alex Jones/Infowars thing was the icing on the cake.
Once I realised that Tidal was a serious alternative — same price, better cut for artists, same coverage and no podcasts — it was a no-brainer to switch over. I’ve not had any issues with the service at all.
It’s a shame that they don’t do an end of year wrap-up though. They do give you a playlist of your most listened tracks, though. So here’s my Most Listened 2022. There’s a lot of Wet Leg, Moderat, µ-Ziq, Rival Consoles and Cymande on there.
I’ve also kept up my habit of creating a playlist of “tracks that I loved on first listen, which were released this year“. Here’s my 2022 Tracked playlist.
It contains 176 tracks totalling 13 hours, 56 minutes and 44 seconds of music. The tracks are in order of when I heard them.
I’m continuing to publicly bookmark the articles and papers I’ve read. And I’m now using StoryGraph to log my reading. You can follow me there if you’re interested.
I’ve been through and imported the last few years of reading data I’d collected in a custom spreadsheet. As a service it’s got some limitations and rough edges, but finding it useful so far. StoryGraph tells me that, as of this morning, I’ve read 106 books, which totals 23,238 pages.
I’ve kept up the habit of having one comic book, one novel and one non-fiction book on the go. I’ve read a lot more comics than anything else.
That big dip in reading from March to May was due to Elden Ring.
My favourites this year were:
- Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
- This One Sky Day by Leone Ross
- The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
- Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa
- The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman
My favourites this year have been:
- An Immense World, by Ed Yong. Changed the way I see and hear things.
- How To Do Nothing, by Jenny Odell. I wrote about it here.
- The Real World of Technology by Ursula Franklin. You can listen to the talks here.
- Fitzroy: The Remarkable Story of Darwin’s Captain and the Invention of the Weather Forecast by John and Mary Gribbin
- Affinities: a journey through images from the public domain review
Affinities is just lovely. I’m a big fan of the public domain review, so it was nice to have a print copy of so many gorgeous images. It lead me down a lot of interesting rabbit holes, one of which ended up with me reading Cartographies of Time, which is also fascinating.
I’m still working my way through a lot of big Humble Bundle collections I picked up in the last few years, but am increasingly buying new stuff via the Comixology app (which is terrible).
My favourites this year have been:
- The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V
- Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing (Books 1-3)
- Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire (Vols 1-2)
- Home Sick Pilots by Dan Watters (Vols 1-2)
Notable mentions go to the G. Willow Wilson Ms Marvel books, the Dan Slott She-Hulk collection, and the first two volumes of the latest Swamp Thing reboot by Ram V.
I read the entire run of East of West, which was…OK? Gave up on Casanova as an incoherent mess.
Managed to finally get myself a PS5 this year, so most of my gaming time has been spent on that rather than the PC. I’ve also now got a Playdate which is gorgeous little device. I want to build something for it.
I’m ldodds on both Steam and PSN if you want to add me there.
Haven’t played many board games this year. Although I did pick up a copy of Quacks of Quedlinburg which has become an instant family favourite.
Most of my table-top (“zoom top”?) gaming this year has been:
- A campaign of Masks which I’ve been running for the last 2 years and which is about to come to a close. I’ve had a lot of fun running it, but think I’m still feeling my way with the system a bit
- Playing two stories of Good Society. The first using the core ruleset, the second with the “Downstairs at the Abbey” ruleset from the expansion which took on a Lovecraftian tone
- Brindlewood Bay, which is simply brilliant
I’m really enjoying playing TTRPGs again. The new rulesets are so story focused and so accessible to newcomers, that I’m not sure I’d ever want to play something like D&D again.
I’ve also restarted the adjacent hobby of collecting RPG rulebooks. So I’ve got a growing mass of PDFs and Hardbacks, most of which I probably won’t end up playing, but who cares?!
Favourites this year:
- Elden Ring, continuing my love affair with FromSoftware
- Pentiment, which was beautiful and engrossing
- Deathloop. I loved the Dishonored games and this is just more of that. But with guns and 60s-70s stylings
Only three as I didn’t play many games. I sank a lot of hours into Elden Ring.
I really enjoyed Returnal, but the grind became too frustrating and I put it down. I’ve also been playing a bit of Darkest Dungeon again whilst waiting for the full release of Darkest Dungeon 2.
I started using Letterboxd this year to record the films I’ve been watching. And by “started using” I mean:
- working through my entire twitter archive to log dates I watched films over the past few years
- mined my email archives for cinema tickets, to do the same over a longer period
- worked through long lists of films, actors and directors to at least log I’ve watched a film sometime in the last 30-40 years, even if I don’t have a date
It’s not comprehensive, obviously but I’ve now logged 1693 films.
This year I watched 84 films, 15 of which I’d watched before.
I watched a lot of films in February. I had the half-term week as a holiday and everyone in the house came down with Covid. So I just watched films whilst the rest of the family were in solitarty confinement.
Not all of my film viewing has been sofa based. I managed to get out to the cinema a few times this year (Nope, Bullet Train, Everything Everywhere All At Once). And I also went to the Forbidden Worlds Film Festivals which are my new favourite events.
My favourite TV series this year were:
- The Peripheral
- Tokyo Vice
- She Hulk / Paper Girls
No real surprises in that list. Although I don’t think I’ve seen many people talking about the Paper Girls adaptation. I thought it was brilliant, so it’s tied with She Hulk for me, which was cleaver, funny but uneven in places.
I should mention that Masterchef remains one of my favourite programmes ever. I don’t really watch reality shows but I’m always clued to both the amateur and professional series. But we did also watch Bake-Off as a family this year. It’s an excuse to bake something for every episode.
I also somehow ended up watching Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing this year, despite not being interested in finishing. But at 50 and a half, I guess I’m in the demographic now? It’s a bit too melancholy at times though!
Years after everyone else I also watched all of Succession. 😲 is all I can say.
Unlikely to be many surprises here either, but:
- Everything Everywhere All At Once
- Uncut Gems
- The French Dispatch
- Boiling Point
Special mention for Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent which was hilarious. And Barbarian which was bonkers.
- Zemalf – thoughtful playthroughs of strategy games. The only channel I’ve ever subscribed to on Twitch and I often tune into the live streams. There’s a friendly community of old gamers there and in the Discord
- Decino. A doomtuber.
- StezStixFix. Apparently I like watching someone repair things?
- 야미보이 Yummyboy. And I also like watching people make street food?
I wrote 33 blog posts in 2022, totalling 23,370 words.
The three new articles that got the most views were:
- Recreating sci-fi terminals using VHS (12,633 views)
- Downloading magazines from the Internet Archive (and making gifs from their covers) (1,367 views)
- Remembering INPUT magazine (432 views)
The three articles across the entire history of my blog that got the most views were:
- Recreating sci-fi terminals using VHS (12,633 views)
- Do data scientists spend 80% of their time cleaning data? Turns out, no? (4,848)
- What is Derived Data? (2,156)
These are all really low view counts in the scheme of things. But I’m not writing for the views.
I’ve been noodling on a couple of writing projects this year which I’m hoping to make some proper headway on next year.
What about everything else?
There’s still a lot going on at home that I don’t want to write about in detail here.
Watching and supporting my kids as they try to become the people they want to be remains the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done. I just didn’t realise it would still be this hard. I have to remind myself that parenting is a rollercoaster. There’s no downhill: just surprising twists and turns.
I jumped to Mastodon in November, as part of the big Twitter migration. Although to be honest, I had been feeling really disconnected and frustrated with Twitter for some time. Mastodon won’t solve all of that, but it’s less angry and political which is partly what I needed.
My twitter posts are now limited to auto-posts from this blog.
What I’ve been wrestling with this year might be summed up as this: “who are my community, and how do I connect with them?”.
I wasn’t feeling a sense of community on Twitter. Mastodon might offer something different, but I don’t think it will. Its still social media, I think I need to find other ways of connecting, both online and in-person.
I’m using DuoLingo to learn Welsh. Two hundred day streak at the moment.
I’ve still not had Covid. That’s good.