Matt Wilcox

Musing

Dec 24th 2018

2018 in review

Things might be starting to look up...

A quick catch up

My personal world has been doom and gloom from 2015 until now.

I’ve not written on here for a long time. To be truthful I’ve been avoiding “insightful” stuff for quite a while. No matter how much thinking I put into something, it tends to not resolve anything, usually making it worse - and so aversion is a tactic I’ve fallen into. It has its benefits. It has its drawbacks.

I don’t feel like I’ve had a good year since 2014, and almost everything since 2015 has been profoundly negative in my mind. From a relationship falling apart, to the stress of a mortgage on a house I didn’t like, to an isolation from a lack of friends in the local area, to my government and the media acting in ways I find utterly soul crushing time after time after time - it’s all felt like a compounding pile of misery and hopelessness.

I’m not going to go into detail about it. As I said; there’s little hope that I can see for anything important on the mid to long term on a none-personal level. Western democracies are on fire run by egomaniacs and selfish idiots incapable of doing non-selfish things regardless of wider consequences. The climate is literal a few years away from irreversible damage leading to a death spiral for the entire planet but… see my earlier point. My generation, and the following ones, will pay dearly for the hubris, selfishness, and dogmatic idiocy of our leaders over the last few decades. But. In small ways things on a personal level aren't so bad right now.

This year

2018, thankfully, feels like it may be the start of things taking a somewhat unsteady upward swing.

At the start of the year I bit the bullet and put my house up for sale. Things on a personal level had not been working out where I was for years, so the only thing to try was to move. The house sold and I think I managed to just about break even on it. I moved back to the area I come from, and managed to work out a trial period of working remotely. I’m currently back with the parents while working out a way forward that isn’t going to lead to the same incredible stress and anxiety I’ve mostly managed to escape from for now.

A surprising and incredibly helpful thing this year was joining Commando XFit in the spring. I can not describe how helpful that was thanks to an incredibly kind, caring, and awesome group of people who encouraged and celebrated each other’s success together. Adam and Dan who run it are brilliant people. Three times a week for a good five or six months, I’d get over to the beach at Colwyn Bay and spend an hour absolutely destroying my body with intense exercise in the open air. I got as fit as I’ve ever been and started being a bit more social. And… then I moved 100 miles away. I now do indoor bouldering, but its not the same - and as much as I enjoy bouldering, the social aspect and the physical one are no match. Unfortunately, I’ve not found a similar exercise group - or an affordable or workable xfit offering. I tried a couple with an old friend, but stopped when it wasn’t working out.

This year I’ve been playing - and running - D&D. That has become a large factor in things now, and it’s a great hobby. Wednesday evenings I get to join 5-6 other people and have some great fun as we use our imaginations.

In early 2017 I got a dog - like I said I wanted to. He’s a rescue and has done me a lot of good - and vice-versa; he’s getting more confident and trusting all the time. This year he’s continued to improve (he’s currently lying at my side snoozing).

It’s been good to be able to see family more often - and to realise that although I enjoy time on my own, I need people around me. Too much being on my own is a bad thing.

2019

There’s a lot I’ve got to do. I’ll be hitting 38yrs old in 2019, and that feels old. It feels scary to be where I am at this age. But - it’s also the youngest I’m going to be, so I’ve got to get stuff done now.

Personally

I’ve got a few big things to do which I hope will have some solid answers in 2019:

  • Decide when and where I’m going to move should I be able to afford it (I’m waiting until the Brexit fallout, and some things professionally to resolve, before I even consider this).
  • I want a social circle - hard to get a new one at the best of times, let alone at this age, but I need one.
  • I want to get back into some more serious fitness regimen (having let it die off over the last two months).

Professionally

Professionally, things have accelerated none-stop, and we’ve been working at the ragged edge of peak capacity for the last two years - putting out more websites than ever annually, all of ever increasing complexity, and achieving both those things with fewer staff.

It’s meant I’ve had little time to learn new things. I desperatly need to learn new things because I can see us being left behind if we don’t; my skill set is already back from the cutting edge it once was. Though we are still putting out high quality work, we need to make sure we don’t end up building high quality horse-drawn carriages in a time of automobiles. That means taking a good look around and assessing what’s going on in the wider context. A lot of things over the last two years have seemed bad bets in terms of timing and payoff, but a few of those things have proven themselves and are now maturing and beginning to make more sense to seriously look into. On my hit list for 2019 I’ve got:

  • Creating a robust cross-platform full featured webpack build system that works well for us; replacing our feature limited and OSX only GUI compilation software.
  • Learn how to implement VueJS enhancements to a traditional web page without sacrificing performance or good practice; Vue offers a modern method of doing things, a path to future enhancements, and removes a dependence on legacy libraries and methodologies like jQuery.
  • Learn more about SPA offerings as replacements for traditional web pages.
  • Learning PHP7 and Yii2 well enough to make robust plugins for Craft 3.

This December has contained an unusual quiet few weeks, and it’s taken all of those weeks just to understand that those are the points I need to learn. There’s also stuff like a virtualised development environment, and offline-first web apps, but those are lower priority wins for now.

I deeply distrust SPAs as they are complicated, pretty alien, and can be built poorly in a way that’s far worse than a bad standard website. SPAs rely on frameworks that fall in and out of fashion, and are not progressive enhancements - if the JS breaks with an SPA you generally get nothing. SPAs go against a lot of the core precepts of a quality website I’ve adhered to for a decade and a half - but they also feel like the inevitable future of web development if only because they’re a somewhat sane way to manage an incredibly complicated stack of requirements and build systems that the features of a modern website demand.

Getting a site to load as fast as possible, as functionally as possible, as robustly as possible, in an ever increasing variety of devices and contexts… takes a toll. Websites are a lot more complicated than they used to be, and something has to give - you can’t artisanally write all aspects of that anymore - there are more and more abstractions required.