2015 in Review

I turned 40 this year, my daughter turned 18. Some other statistics from a life tracked by SaaS applications. I have:

  • run 1006 miles
  • flown on 37 aeroplanes
  • flown in 2 hot air balloons
  • visited 7 countries
  • delivered 26 presentations and 3 full-day workshops
  • walked 4,786,447 steps
  • posted 17 times to this blog
  • written 17 articles for other publications
  • launched my CSS Layout News weekly email, now at 2679 subscribers after 22 editions
  • moved my Business of Digital Products list to Curated

Here are some highlights.

My final trip of 2015 was to Paris. Drew came along too as he had never visited Paris. We went up the Eiffel Tower, drank French wine and I presented on my favourite subject – new CSS layout. The dotCSS conference record excellent video of their talk so despite the fact I had a massive graze on my chin from falling down a hill on my face three weeks before I’m quite pleased with this video.

Perch and Perch Runway

Most of my work time is spent on things relating to Perch and Perch Runway. This year we’ve shipped 20 releases of the core product alone. As we come to the end of 2015 are very close to a version 1 release of Perch Shop, a fully-featured e-commerce solution for Perch and Runway. It’ll be a solution for selling things from ebooks and memberships through to full stores with thousands of products. I can’t wait to have that in use by more than our excellent band of beta testers.

We recorded a podcast round-up of 2015 for Perch and our plans for 2016.

Although Paris was my final speaking trip, it actually wasn’t my last speaking engagement of the year. That was at our very own online Perch Summit, hosted by the lovely folk over at Environments for Humans. Earlier in December we had a day of sharing our plans and teaching Perchers everything from template tips to how to get started with Perch Runway. Seeing how enthusiastic attendees were about Perch and coming features was a real boost to both Drew and I. Running an independent software business is hard. Most of the time you only hear from customers when they have a problem, or when they take it upon themselves to inform you how to run your business (usually by giving them things for free). Just having that chance to share things with people who get what we are doing, and are willing to pay to ensure it continues, was a real help at the end of a busy year.

Hot air balloon

Just after taking off in a Rainbow Ryders hot air balloon in Albuquerque.

Travel

In the past couple of years I have rediscovered how much I love to travel. Despite finding myself in places for short periods, I try and see something of each place rather than just another airport, hotel room and conference centre. I feel most at peace with myself when I’m on the move exploring a new city, usually in running shoes with a route memorised before leaving the hotel. I love the feeling of returning to places, I have “my” places in Paris, in Warsaw, in Berlin. I have coffee shops I like to sit in, running routes I know well.

Highlights of the year have included flying in a hot air balloon over the desert in Albuquerque; having a day of many adventures in San Francisco with Simon, Natalie, Tom, and Cleo the puppy; riding Dutch bikes with Drew around the countryside just outside Amsterdam; taking the high speed train from Paris to Barcelona then seeing the wonderful Sagrada Familia with my daughter; running on Santa Monica beach at sunrise, and so many other things.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica at sunset. I loved running along the beach here.

Speaking

I travel because I speak at conferences and this year I’ve delivered presentations with subjects ranging from running an indie software business to front-end development with CSS via automating servers with Puppet. I speak and write about things I find interesting, and that I think other people might find useful too.

I achieved a personal goal this year of being asked to speak at two Event Apart conferences. The team over at An Event Apart put on the most amazing, and well-organised shows. I had such a great time speaking in Boston and San Francisco this year for AEA and am very excited that I’ll be speaking for them again in Nashville and Boston in 2016.

Speaking at An Event Apart

Speaking at An Event Apart in San Francisco. Photograph by Jeffrey Zeldman.

I often get asked which is my favourite conference, I can genuinely say that with very few exceptions I enjoy all of the events I attend. They are so different. An Event Apart and Smashing Conf both feature web design and development, but the audiences are quite different. They are both a world away from the focus of conferences such as MicroConf and Peers. All of these however were highlights in my year, along with many other events, and the people who organised, spoke at and attended them.

Slides and resources for 2015 presentations

CSS Grid

The CSS Grid Specification gets a special mention in this end-of-year review as it has been the focus of a lot of what I’ve been writing and speaking about this year. Last month I wrote a little history of my journey with the spec, and I’m hoping that we’ll have it in browsers very soon.

I was also invited to observe the CSS Working Group meeting in Paris where Grid and other things were discussed. I found it fascinating and hope to continue to be involved in early stage specifications. I would really encourage other people to take a look at the things that are making their way through the process, you can learn a lot just by following progress of a spec on the mailing lists.

I launched a site of examples and resources for anyone wanting to take a look at CSS Grid Layout, you can find it at gridbyexample.com.

The Golden Gate Bridge

A photo of the Golden Gate Bridge taken on a day of many adventures!

Writing

The speaking starts with writing. I do my thinking through writing words and sometimes people publish those words. I’ve continued writing a regular column for A List Apart, something I will carry into 2016. A few favourite pieces from my blog, column and around the web are:

In addition to all of this there are a couple of completed and soon to be announced book projects plus my new online CSS Layout Workshop, based on the material I present in person.

Editing

I also enjoy technical editing. At the end of 2015 I joined the A List Apart team of technical editors. I have the enjoyable task of reading submissions and helping steer the technical content of that publication. I review articles for Smashing Magazine, and have also worked on a few books this year as technical editor including CSS Master for SitePoint.

La Sagrada Familia

No photo can do La Sagrada Familia justice. I was glad that my daughter was with me on this trip and we got to see it together.

2016 – focus and value

I’ve put together a Now page that lists the things I am working on and interested in doing in 2016.

My failure in 2015 has been that I still haven’t been able to get Perch to a point where we can hire another developer. We need that other person, we have so much we would love to do and an extra developer would make all the difference in how quickly we could do that. My focus in the business in 2016 has to be how to get to that point.

Focus is a key word for me in the next year. As this year shows I typically say yes to a lot of things. I think saying yes is important, but I need to make sure it is to the right things. In 2016 I’ll be saying yes to the people and organisations who value me and my unique input, and those things that I can really add value to. That value isn’t just in financial terms – although I do need to be at a point where all this activity at least leaves me as secure financially as I would be if I had a job. I also want to be able to work alongside interesting people, on things that challenge me, and in places where my experience and knowledge make a difference.

Focus on the things that matter, and give my time and energy to people that value it, and places where I can make a difference. That’s my aim for 2016.

Balloons in Bristol

Balloons leave Bristol Harbour for the press launch of the 2015 Balloon Fiesta.

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