So long, 2022.

It's been a little while since I did a year in review post, so let's get that out of the way first. For all the wild unknowns of 2020, 2021 was a landmark year but for, sadly, all the wrong reasons.

In September '21, I lost my dad. Just over a month later, my partner lost her wonderful step-dad. Come the end of the year, and in the shadow of that combined grief, my drive to talk about literally anything else that happened in 2021 was at absolute zero. I skipped the blog post.

Now a year on, as we're closing out 2022, I've realised that writing (publicly or privately) helps me to organise my thoughts and, in a roundabout way, helps me to reach some amount of closure. 2022 has absolutely blinked by so, in that spirit, I feel that this time a year-and-a-bit-in-review post might help to make things a bit less rushed.

Work. permalink

Please understand that, as I'm British, I am hardwired from birth to hate any kind of own-horn-tooting. That said, experiencing such a huge loss in 2021 has made me realise that I need to properly celebrate my wins when they happen. In that spirit, here's a bunch of positive work-related things that made me feel good in 2022.

Please forgive me as I commence tooting:

  • After dad died, I finished up my last contract and took some time off work to be with my family. When January 2022 rolled around, the year kicked back into gear with the launch of that final '21 project – I had an absolute blast working with the talented team at True Digital to build the frontend for the new Aardman website. As a teenager I had actually dreamed of studying animation and working at Aardman, so it was such a pleasure to work on something with so much scope for building fun little interactions and animations.

  • Despite taking time off at the end of 2021, I managed to stay booked throughout the whole of 2022 and worked with some truly awesome people on everything from brochure sites to design systems and web apps.

  • I said no to a lot of projects this year. That might seem like an odd thing to celebrate, but in past years I have really struggled with burnout. Turning down more projects and forcing myself to take at-a-bare-minimum a week between projects felt like a really positive step in staying healthy. I'm not going to say that I didn't feel overwhelmed at times this year, but I'm looking forward to saying "no" a lot more in 2023.

  • I'm not really sure that I've nailed my unofficial goal of blogging more in 2022, but I did manage to fit in a handful of blog posts this year. One of them, based on a hologram technique that I'd first tried out back in the skeuomorphic mists of 2010, proved quite popular. Ultimately that post was shared on the orange site, which culminated in a funny couple of days seeing my site's normally meagre bandwidth spike – no, rupture – to around 60gb in 48 hours (remember that a compressed png can be much smaller than an SVG, folks 😅)

  • To my endless surprise, the continued enthusiasm for my Synthwave '84 VS code theme carried it past one million downloads at the start of September. I really will do a light version one day, I promise.

  • In late summer I got a surge of Twitter DMs and emails from strangers. Normally that's a signal that Synthwave's glow has stopped working again, but this time it was thankfully more fun. Unbeknownst to me, YouTuber Gary Simon's DesignCourse channel featured this website in a roundup of developer portfolios and it was driving a lot of enthusiastic people my way...

  • ...and then, in October, that momentum got this site nominated for the "Personal website of the year" award at Jamstack conf's Jammies. I didn't win, but it was a huge confidence boost to know that people liked my work enough to place me alongside such talented finalists.

  • Also in October, my partner and I were able to attend WDC in Bristol together. It was my first conference since New Adventures in January of 2020 and I've definitely missed the conf buzz. Hearing such fantastic talks and hanging out with the speakers and attendees was both amazingly fun and hugely inspiring in equal measure. In 2023 I'm definitely going to be attending more, and * maybe * even think about writing a talk of my own.

Looking forward to 2023. permalink

I've tried to avoid making this post about the sudden increased speed of big-tech-corporations imploding, but the whole thing and the subsequent shift to open-source alternatives like Mastodon has left me feeling positive about the future of the web in 2023.

I absolutely love my work, but for a long time now I've been feeling a bit out of step with the industry as a thing. The endless Twitter arguments about which new frontend framework makes you a Real Developer have left me disengaged at best and, at worst, almost drove me off of social media entirely. Now that the old world-as-we-knew it is starting to look a bit more fractured, I'm feeling oddly more upbeat.

As someone who cut their web-development teeth on Geocities, I couldn't be any more here for the sudden resurged interest in owning your own content. The momentum is infectious and in the coming year I'd love to see conversation shift even more. Tools are hugely important of course, but I'd much rather hear more about what we're making, than how we're making it. Even bigger than that, I'm hoping to see less emphasis on the FAANG model of corporate gains, OKRs, KPIs and WTFs – I want to see industry focus shift to smaller projects and, more importantly, the lives, aspirations and emotions of the humans building them.

For perhaps obvious reasons I haven't dwelled too much on my personal life in this post but, speaking for this human, everything I experienced has made me realise two fundamental truths: Life is short, and we don't have the time to take things too seriously.

I'm going to spend the next year making more time for my family, and creating more space for personal projects and building weird/cool stuff for the sheer hell of it. I'm going into the new year feeling energised – Here's to a healthy and happy new year in 2023!

Hi, my name is Robb.

I'm a freelance creative developer helping awesome people to build ambitious yet accessible web projects.

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