2018 in Review

Here were are again… At the rate I’m going here, this blog will just be a collection of annual years in review.

Anyway, an interesting year. For most of my programming career, I’ve had my job and then my personal projects. This past year drew to a close, the day job took a lot more of my focus. In fact, for the last 2-3 months at least, I haven’t really had any big personal projects. Work has been taking most of my attention. That’s not a bad thing. I’ve taken on a new role, really a whole new career path at work and I’ve grown in so many ways. More on that later.

Personal Projects

As far as personal projects, I started the year being into the Rust programming language, but before too long I got way more into Go. As far as programming languages, Go has excited me more than anything else has in many years. It takes a lot of the strengths of many different languages. It’s a compiled, strongly-typed systems programming language, but at the same time it can be expressive enough to make it really fun to do creative coding with. As with Rust, I have been generating graphics with bindings for Cairo. Initially I was using go-cairo. But as that has seen very little actual work over the last couple of years, I wound up forking it and doing a lot of work on it myself, resulting in my own go-cairo. I also ported the bitlib library that I’ve used in other languages over to bitlib for Go or blgo.

GIFs
I created a lot of animated GIFs with the above setup. And a couple months of the year I led a gif-a-day kind of thing on twitter. #MayContainGifs and #GulyIsForJifs. These were great fun and it was really nice to have other people playing along.

Wine

I also did two side projects for other people in 2018. I was approached by the designer, Jenny Doll. She was working with the Anarchist Wine Company and wanted to create a series of generative, data-driven labels for a line of wines. Yes, please. The wines lines are called Anarchist, Philosopher, Rosé Against the Machine, and Conspiracy Theory. For each group, we took data relating to historical anarchists, philosophers, disruptors and conspiracy theories and worked them into a generative design. For example, a list of philosophers, their birth dates, date of death and some other key date in their life. These were interpolated into various “hot spots” on a square canvas. Then I used my Random Lissajous Web algorithm (one of the few techniques I can say with a good amount of confidence that I invented) and gave each data set some different parameters. The web also reacted in different ways to the aforementioned hot spots, and each set had a different color palette. In the end, the result is very abstracted from the original data. But damn, they looked cool once they wound up on the bottles.

Elixir

Another project came up at just about the same time and wound up being very similar. I was approached by Design Science UK to create some graphics for Elixir Europe, a community for European life science organizations. They needed images for their 2017 annual report. A full back/front cover spread and full page images for each section. They also wanted something like the Random Lissajous Webs, but in a way that represented the idea of each section of the report: platforms, communities, activities, governance. These again got pretty abstracted from the concepts. Essentially what I wound up doing was generating lots of different images with random parameters, picking ones that I liked and kind of matching them up with the section concepts. You can browse the actual publication here:

Both this and the wine project gave me some practice in creating high resolution images. This would have been a problem in my previous platform of choice, HTML/JS/Canvas. But generating these in Go worked out really great. The final challenge came a few months later. Elixir wanted a large banner for a conference they were presenting at. The banner would look something like this:

But the required dimensions were roughly 11 feet by 7 feet, at a resolution of 150 dpi! This wound up being so large that even Go/Cairo choked on it. I wound up having to render it in four different overlapping tiles and then stitch it back into one giant image.

Work

For the last almost two years, I’ve been working at Notarize. We do on-line notarizations. Not the sexiest thing in the world, but I think it’s a great example of taking some important function that has not really changed in centuries and bringing it into the modern world. In addition, we’ve extended the service so that we are able to do full mortgage closings completely on line. You can buy a house, without ever leaving your house. You can buy a house on your phone. I mean fully buy a house. Sign all the documents, get them notarized. Done deal. You own the house. The company is changing laws and revolutionizing the industry. When I started, I was the 7th engineer. At this point, there are nearly 40 of us in the engineering department alone.

That’s me, front and center with the blue shirt.

In November of 2017, I made the first big career jump in ages, becoming an engineering manager, and wound up managing something like 10-11 other developers. At the end of 2018, the person in charge of engineering gave notice. There was nobody in the wings to take over his duties and it’s not the kind of hire you get overnight. So, to make a long story short, I’m now the Director of Engineering of 38 engineers. Factually, I’m leaning heavily on one of the other managers, who is taking on about as much extra stuff as I am, but he didn’t want the title. I didn’t particularly want it, but I didn’t really want to see the position go unfilled. In short, I think (hope) I am better than nothing.

This is a huge life change for me. It means I’m writing virtually no code at work anymore. And that’s OK. The me of a few years ago can’t believe that I’m saying it’s OK, but it is. We have a really high quality team of amazing developers here who are more than capable of cranking out code day and night. I’m focusing on process and code quality and keeping this crew of 40 evil geniuses happy and productive and not killing each other.

2019

Like last year, I’m not really making any specific resolutions, but I have some guidelines I’d like to focus on a bit better this year. I published these last year.

To summarize,

  1. Creation is greater than Consumption.
  2. Enlightenment is greater than Entertainment.
  3. Advice is greater than Authority.
  4. Commendation is greater than Condemnation.

I think I did pretty well on 3 and 4 last year. I don’t feel like I created enough in 2018 though. And what I created was more for entertainment than enlightenment.

So for 2019 I’m going to work on 1 and 2. I have two ideas for books that have been floating around in my head. One for several years. I’ve started these both a number of times. I plan to actually finish both of them this year. Watch this space for more details. I’d also like to publish more tutorials and articles. Maybe even some more videos. But let’s start with some more tutorial-based blog posts here.

I’m also doing less and less on “social media” these days. It’s become less and less social and more and more media. I left Facebook for good this year and it was one of the best things I did for myself. I’m about -this- close to closing my Instagram account. But I do follow some family members there, which is the only reason I’m keeping it at this point. I played with Mastodon a bit earlier in 2018, but despite all its promises of being a social media utopia, it’s not for me. So I’m down to Twitter as the only thing I really check on a regular basis. And I’m trying to do less and less there as well. Oh, no, wait. I’m also on Reddit regularly, though I don’t post a lot. Just the odd reply here and there, and my interests are constantly changing. To be honest, I miss the old days of forums. I’ve considered setting up some kind of creative coding forum or discourse. Something I will look more into this year, unless someone knows of a good one out there already. But for now, the guideline is going to be “tweet less, blog more”.

Speaking of guidelines, a few others I want to note for myself to try to follow in 2019 are John Maeda’s Four Rules from 1999:

  1. Don’t speak ill of others.
  2. Avoid passive aggressive behavior.
  3. Listen broadly, but don’t waffle on decisions.
  4. When in error — admit, apologize, move forward.

And while we’re at it, here’s a gem from Woody Guthrie – his resolutions from 1943. Holds up pretty well, IMO. I love the conditional on number 3. 🙂

Happy 2019 all!

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