As I've said before, this post is entirely for me to be able to look back at my year and remember what the highlights were (and this year is a very me-me-me post!). Equally, I'm honoured that you're reading this and I hope you make it to the end (though I appologise in advance for the pictures, there's much more skin than my usual blog posts!).
Attend ffconf 2016
The UK's best JS and web development conference. Find out more & get tickets.
My business is (actually) 7 years old and it's been slow to grow (entirely my fault/design). But even though the rest of the world seems like it's in a recession, it also seems like the web industry is doing just fine in it's little bubble, and as is Left Logic. Business is split between agency work, training and the conference, Full Frontal.
But through hiring, Left Logic now has Fabien O'Carroll joining at the very start of January and I'm still hiring to find a potential second position. What I'm particularly excited about is that I'll be focusing both mine and Fabien's time entirely on JS Bin to see if I can make JS Bin self sustaining.
JS Bin turned 5 years old this September, and this is when I decided that I want to try to make it run itself. There's many issue opens (both for bugs and features) but also my own vision.
So I'm working with Danny Hope (who's worked on the UX on JS Bin for around 4 years) and we (Left Logic) will be investing lots of time and resource into seeing the vision through.
The sustainability will come through pro accounts, so look out for that aiming to launch at the start of February.
Photo by Marc Thiele
I had the honour of being invited back to jsconf.us to speak and only spoke at a total of 10 events this year. Which is good as I'm down on my 12 the year before and am trying to actively reduce this in favour of spending more time at home/in the UK.
My proudest speaking gig (if there's such a thing) was being asked to share my experience (slides & video) with students at Portsmouth University (and was able to give the talk again at Tower Hamlets College). For me personally and professionally, it's pretty daunting to speak to final year students, about to fly the coop, offering opinons about avoiding a "real job" and flying solo - but it was a really positive experience all round.
Photo by Dan Govan
This year we sold out in a record 11 minutes, whilst also causing a DDoS attack on our ticketing system! As a result, we created Side View which was also a huge success.
Full Frontal was made up of careful content curation, whilst Side View (though also carefully curated) was made up of amazing proposals that didn't quite make it through to Full Frontal. Basically I got to have my cake and eat it.
Please do check out the videos on youtube (both Full Frontal and Side View will be available).
Other projects and things to be chuffed with
Left Logic supported CodeClub, although only in a small way (probably) compared to bigger companies, I was able to donate some cash for a couple of different needs. I'm a huge fan of what CodeClub does, and truly think what they're doing is an inspiration to us all. Go find out what they're doing, and even volunteering if you can.
I paid for a ticket for a "deserving" young individual to attend the Bacon Conference, as I was asked (in a rather awesome video - in the link previously), but none of my team could make it, I asked the public to suggest someone, and I'd random select an individual to pay for their ticket. I think I'd like to do something similar again next year.
Photo by Anna Pantelia/CERN
I was asked to join a team going to CERN to re-create the first line-mode web browser. It was an amazing experience both in the project that we had to build in the two days that we were there, but also the sheer scale of the projects going on at CERN. Because I was so focused on our deadline, it didn't really sink in until we returned back home, but still a very proud moment for me (this is the interview link).
Joining the NodeFirm. A meaty collection of individuals that are serving Node based projects, so it's a real honour to be part of the Firm. It doesn't change how Left Logic is run, but simply that I'm a resource to the Firm and that collective effort goes in to the training material supplied.
As well as a few project releases:
- nodemon - complete rewrite and accompanying site
- 5minfork - the 10 minute email for github repos
- Head Shots - a WebRTC project built for Google IO
- Tentoring - a day hack with Stef Lewandowski winning (one of two) best projects during Do Startups
- min.js and bind.js - microlibraries to do selectors and events, and object to DOM binding (respectively)
Finally, Bruce and I are working to release Introducing HTML5 as a free online book early in 2014. We've got about 5 chapters transcribed, and I'll start releasing it as soon as there's some design in place.
This year has been quite a big personal (positive) year for me. The biggest thing has been my health. Since Tia was born in 2010, I never returned to the gym (where I was doing spin classes at least twice a week). So my 2013 new years resolution was to quit the gym (I'd been paying for over 2 years having never gone). The second part that I wasn't telling people, was to join immediately, and return to the gym (one that was close to work and walking distance).
This is the difference in my face in the last year:
My BMI is always high (read: obese) because I'm 5'6 and of stocky build, so I've generally ignored it, but I bought a set of fitbit Aria scales, and it was telling me that my body fat was 30%: which is obese. This isn't the kind of obese that has trouble getting out of bed. This is "obese" your heart could give out and you could leave your young son without a father to grow up with. I needed to change. At peak, I was 14 stone and 30% fat, and horribly embarrassed about my body since... I don't know, around age 22!
But I've long known that going to the gym wasn't enough, my diet had to change too. I'd read a lot around the Paleo diet, and took inspiration from that. From February 2013 onwards my new diet (note I was not on a diet) was simple: no wheat or dairy. And cheat. Always, always, cheat. I'll come back to this.
My aim was to get my body fat to 25% (0.1% above "average") by May (because jsconf.us was in May, and I knew it was in the sun where I'd hope not feel my usual horrible embarrassment about taking my shirt off in public). Anything beyond that was based on relative success.
Lunch times became impossible, especially after finding my favourite sandwich shop only 6 months before. In the UK, if you're not having sandwiches for lunch, it's likely you're not eating lunch! It took about 2 months for the craving to end (it turns out it might be linked to the 66 days to form a new habit).
At the same time, I joined a gym in Brighton (LA Fitness, the gym is generally rubbish, but it's something better than nothing), and my rules were: 3 days a week, first thing in the morning (since I couldn't find any other time in the day), lift heavy, and always increase the weight. I didn't really know what I was doing, but I was making gains. I'll come back to what I focused on and what I do now.
By 22 April I had my body fat down to 26.5% and I decided to get a personal trainer. The combined cost of the gym and a PT meant more outgoings, but then this is money I was investing in my heath.
By May 29 (jsconf deadline) my body fat was 24% (I was now out of the obese category and in to "average"). I was very, very proud of myself.
I set a new goal: 17% by my birthday (September).
I made it. Just. 17.9% on September 7th.
I've had a bunch of travel and conferences (where drinking seems to always happen, which messes with my diet), so I've come back up from 17%, and by the end of the year not managed to get back to (yet). But that's okay. I've finished my year on 19% body fat. In the year, and at peak, I've lost 25lbs of fat (that's just over 10kg of lard) (this is a chart of fat mass over the last year):
And yes, here come my obligatory semi-nude pictures (trust me, they're not too bad, and the "good" picture has more favourable lighting, but there's no photoshop going on - I promise!). It's useful, ne-powerful, to capture these, because over the months I questioned whether this was worth it, is the work I'm doing really making any difference? And honestly, it's hard to capture that first chubby picture (and in fact I wish I had taken one from the very start, but this was from March - a month in) because it's not how I saw myself in my mind's eye. Once I had it though, I had a benchmark to measure change against. I'd keep taking the pictures around every other month, and I could see the difference which is a big confidence boost that things are doing well.
I've still got a little further to go in my goals, but I'm happy with my progress. I feel healthy and strong for my son. I love that I can throw him around when we play, and I don't feel out of breath.
I've lost access to my entire wardrobe because I've dropped a t-shirt size (from large to medium) and my trousers from (up to) 38 inch to 32 inch (edging on 30 - the size I was when I was 18!). The biggest goal for 2014 is to ensure that I continue these new routines in my life - something I feel won't be too hard to achieve.
A few important lessons I learnt
Cheat. When I went to the gym earlier in my youth, if I missed the gym, I had failed. If you fail, then you start from scratch again, and that's hard and disheartening so I was more prone to giving up.
By cheating, and planning to cheat, I was able to fail without really failing.
If I had no choice in food, I could say today was a cheat day, so I could have milk or cookies or pizza or ice cream, or all of these in a day. If I missed the gym because I was away or was ill (or hurt), it was allowable, and I hadn't failed. This meant that it wasn't a slip up or mistake, simply: part of the plan.
Diet is 70%. Without a healthy diet I wouldn't have made the gains I did. In fact I know (because I tested this with Julie) that even without the gym, I would have made good process entirely on diet change. But it's super important that the food isn't unpleasant. I'm not a believer in the types of routines that can't be sustained (for me) like fasting. I've heard of some people who use this technique effectively, but really dislike those days. For me, diet change is something that needs to be something that I can enjoy, and is in place in 10 years to come. No wheat and dairy is doable for me. I've also naturally cut down on drinking (which frankly I've always been pretty rubbish at anyway).
Strength training is all I need. Using compound lifts and simple routines gets me a long way. I'm using the 5x5 routine right now, and with the PT was following strength training routines. I get all the cardio anyone would need from the lifting I do.
My routine (currently today) consists of squat (115kg), deadlift (140kg), bench press (75kg), bent over row (80kg) and overhead press (45kg) - and that's it. Each successful 5x5 the weight is increased by 2.5kg.
I faint when blood is taken! I decided to get a full blood analysis done to try to understand what the make up was (WRT testosterone, cortisol, etc). They were supposed to take 5 vials. They managed 3 before I completely blacked out! My first time every fainting, and definitely an experience to remember!
Finally, and most importantly and excitedly, we're expecting a little girl at the beginning of May 2014. We only just announced this to the "public" via twitter and it's been a very different pregnancy so far.
It's still a very emotional and a lot of complicated feelings - but this will always be true after losing Tia. None the less, we're all excited and we're both looking forward to her arrival in 2014.