2014: Annus alpha

Venice Beach — May 2014

I know it is a bit self-indulgent but I find these review posts helpful and it isn’t really like anybody reads anything I write.

So the first thing I should say is I am ending a year at the same place as I started it organisation wise — makes a change! I do have a different job now though. That is more usual.

2014 has felt like a pretty massive year — certainly professionally. It has been hard work and not without some rough spots but all-in-all it has been a 12 months I can look back on and feel pretty satisfied.

It has gone by in a flash though — from the website outage and my fun on Twitter in January through to the launch of our Alpha in December it has been non-stop.

Santa Monica — May 2014

It was a real roller coaster but I learned a lot — especially how to cope with considerably more scrutiny and interest than I am used to from (very) senior people. I feel like I have been exhausted for months but am incredibly proud of what we achieved and more so the way we achieved it. The manner in which people have embraced the work we did on the Alpha has been more than I could ever have hoped for and given it is the culmination not only of a project I’ve worked on for most of this year but also putting in to action a set of principles I have been banging on about for eons it has felt like something that has been years in the making.

At times I have experienced some pretty severe doubts about my ability to do everything I was setting out to do at work. I have been overwhelmed at times and my confidence has been shaken but in the end it all came together — in a large part thanks to the great team I am working with and I am ending the year in a much better place mentally (if not physically!) — I guess success breeds contentment ☺

Port 80 speakers

I also decided this year I would challenge myself to do some public speaking. It is not something I enjoy. Well that isn’t really true. I love the bit when I am actually up on the stage doing my thing but everything up to that point I find incredibly stressful and am often physically ill. Afterwards I am almost immediately drained as the adrenaline seeps out. Nonetheless I gave it a go and the feedback has been pretty positive. I was lucky to speak at some brilliant local(ish) events with great teams behind them. Port80, DigPen, Oxford Geek Nights, WDC were all amazing and it was also an honour to speak at the Wikimania conference as well. I also spoke at a number of internal or work related events as well as Ignite in Cardiff at the start of the year. My guesstimate is that I spoke in front of a little over 2000 people this year! I never, ever felt comfortable doing it but I think I got a little better at the ‘performance’ element over that time. It has led me to a chance to speak at SXSW in Austin — a real bucket list moment for me — so I am happy I challenged myself.

I changed my approach to my blogging this year as well. I wanted to write on a wider range of topics than I previously had been comfortable doing and also to feel free to be a bit more personal than I had in the past. This led me to suspending my main domain (digitalbydefault.com) half way through the year and thereafter splitting my writing between our work blog (digitalpublishing.ons.gov.uk) and here. I still ended up writing 80+ blogposts and certainly broadened the topics — though the popular posts were mainly related to things I have traditionally written about. At times I struggled with my writing this year — experiencing ‘writers block’ in a way I never really believed existed previously but other times I really got a lot out of it and really it is my only vaguely creative outlet these days.

Despite my public promise to myself back in March that I wouldn’t get involved in any more side projects or running events I did on a couple of occasions — the work ones went pretty well but the personal project was a pretty depressing experience and this time I am sticking to my guns. No more meet-ups for Matt (well no more organising them anyway!)

I have to be honest it is a long time since I ended the year with such a feeling of having actually achieved something — I kind of like it and long may it continue.

On the personal front I managed to stay off the booze for 101 days at the start of the year — which was pretty unprecedented for me. I also had a pretty brilliant trip to the West Coast (including a rail trip on the Coast Starlight route) and even picked up a can of paint or two again to do a little graffiti (I am dreadful these days but it was fun!).

So that is a wrap for 2014. See you in 2015!

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