2023 In Review
By Mike Street
2023 was a year which seemed to fly by - it doesn't seem like 12 months have passed since I was last reflecting my annual achievements. Despite this, there were some pretty big events this year, when I actually think about it, but it all seems to be compressed into, what feels like, only a couple of months.
As with previous years, these posts are written mainly for me, to reflect on the year and think about the one coming.
There was a major milestone this year - Alfie starting school. We picked the school last December and found out in April we'd got our first choice. My wife and I were quite apprehensive about how he would be but, thankfully, he thoroughly enjoys going. He is absolutely smashing reading, writing and maths too. With Alfie starting school, all our home routines changed (again), but we've made it work.
Alfie (and my wife) also started at Squirrels - the pre-cursor to Beavers, Cubs and Scouts. He was wary to start with but is starting to join in with the activities, without being glued to my wife the whole evening.
Ruby has developed into a sassy second-child. Often following in her big brothers footsteps and happy to go along with things, she does have a side of her the comes out every now and then which has ultimate attitude. She's hilarious and you can tell she does a lot of things to just make us laugh.
2023 also saw plenty of trips out on Bob (the cargo bike), along with utilising it's carrying capacity - picking up bits on my lunch breaks for the house and garden. We also went to see the Flying Scotsman at our local steam railway and took the kids to their first wedding.
Holidays saw us go to Butlins, Alton Towers (staying in the hotel) and Center Parcs. The garden got another face-life (after letting it run wild) and it now in a more manageable state for taking care of - I actually use the opportunity when walking down to the garden office to do a spot of weeding or pruning.
I can't seem to go through a year without buying a new bike. This time, it was the commuter bike's turn to be replaced. I never got on with the Genesis really, I didn't enjoy the gear shifter location or the seating position and the the hub gear made me constantly worry about getting a puncture (as I didn't know how to take the back wheel off).
My new bike is a Triban RC520. I could find nothing but good reviews for Triban bikes and it had everything on my wish list. It reminds me of the old Planet X London Road I had. Trusty & nippy without being fragile. Everything on it is replaceable, repairable and bog-standard.
While on the topic of bikes, we finally managed to convince Alfie to ride one with pedals. For ages he was riding a pedal bike as a balance bike, but he is now speeding off and getting more and more confident each time. Ruby has progressed onto Alfie's old balance bike but is still a bit wary of it.
2023 saw a lot of new faces start working for Liquid Light which also means a few people left. With no-one handing in their notice since 2019, a lot of the staff had been with us for a fair amount of time so we were due a bit of a change, I think we were just surprised at the scale of it. This year we had 5 people hand in their notice and 6 people join (which for a company of 14 it's a big change). Fortunately, no two people left for the same reason - most going off to pursue different interests but, as with any staff churn, it is going to put pressure on the business.
We welcomed 3 developers (2 front-end, 1 backend) 2 new designers and 1 new account manager meaning every department had at least one new team member. With new faces, though, come new processes, suggestions, ideas and energy. Most of this year was spent bedding the new staff in, so I'm looking forward to what we can do in 2024 with all this fresh blood.
On the tech side, the biggest accomplishment was setting up Renovate. This is a bot/script that runs on a scheduled CI job and keeps dependencies up-to-date. This ensures bugs are auto-fixed, merged and deployed while minor updates to packages are raised in a merge request.
We are also starting to look into testing (yes, I know) and I've done some research into a few popular frameworks - settling on Backstop for lighter regression testing and Playwright for more in-depth end-to-end testing. I wrote a blog post summarising the meta-frameworks i've created around them.
We've continued with the upgrades and updates while still pushing forward with new builds and developments. We opened up a couple of new roles for our senior account manager and backend developer to give them more responsibility and reduce the pressure and workload on the directors. I'm excited to see how these roles develop and progress over time.
Side projects took a bit of a hit this year as I delved into work-related evening activities. The work on Renovate, beginning of testing and optimising processes occupied my mind, along with the ongoing upgrades.
Ale House Rock had a couple of small improvements - brewery pages are now richer (with content pulled from Untappd) and more of the information is unified (there was a lot of duplicated breweries and a duplicated beer, too). I've also reduced the reliance on the numbers in the code for identifying the beers, as it became muddle when I posted a duplicate.
This year I've managed to adopt a couple of "real-world" side-projects - puzzles and going back to the gym. There former was kick-started when building Lego with my son as I enjoyed the hunting and placing of the pieces, rather than the end build. We are now at the point where my wife and I have an ongoing puzzle that sits under the sofa and comes out on occasion. It's nice to have a no-screens no-pressure hobby to turn to in the evening. Sometimes we really get into it and smash one out in a week or so whereas, other times, we let it tick over for weeks.
I've also re-joined a gym, trying my best to go twice a week. I'm not following any strict routine (which I enjoy), but I've been enjoying the free, included classes and having a big room to get a bit sweaty in - it helps clear my mind. Due to the aforementioned routine change, I am having to go in the evenings. This isn't my favourite time to go (especially after dinner) but it works best for all of us.
Talking of evenings, we got "the kids" a fish tank with fish for Christmas, however my wife and I are far more invested in it then the kids are. We picked up 4 fish so far, along with some live plants which I've enjoyed tending too. I'm fascinated with the snails that have snuck in there and I'm enjoying tending to the plants and tank in the evenings.
As for digital side-projects I've been chipping away at an API-based one since October. The yet-to-be-named SaaS, is a central aggregation of your data allowing you to view everything you've been up to along with having an API itself. The MVP is powering my stats page as it is currently manually entered by me. I've so far got it connecting to Strava, Garmin, Goodreads, Last.fm, Spotify, Letterboxd, Untappd and processing a Geocaching export. I've got my sights set on more services too - it starts to become addictive adding more and more. I'm currently struggling with a name and how to visualise all the data.
Talking of stats, the data on my stats page has been updated. Side note, I uninstalled the Instagram app at the beginning of the year, so only uploaded 1 photo the whole year.
After a shift in marketing & positioning at work, I've stopped writing for Liquid Light in 2022 (which often bolstered my blog count and felt like cheating, as I was being paid to write). Even without this, 2023 was just 1 post off my biggest year for blog writing (2021). I wasn't consciously trying to put posts out (and thought I'd had a "bad" year), they just seem to have "appeared". Looking at the top 10, It's great to see plenty of new posts becoming more popular but it still surprises me that a post from 2017 is in the top 2 (and has been since it was written).
In 2024 i'd like to continue this cadence of post writing - it felt like a nice spread over the year and I'm hoping the testing we're introducing will help feed some of that content. I also feel like I could write more posts about TYPO3 (the CMS we use at work) as I don't tend to blog about that at all.
(Side-note: For the last few years I'd been looking at just e-bike rides when gathering the stats. I've updated the stats page to include non-electrified rides too!)
All my cycling stats increased from 2023 (despite 2022 ending up being more than I thought - see above) which was great to see. More regularly cycling to Brighton twice a week helped, along with cycling to and from the gym in the second half of the year. It's no surprise that my step count increased with the gym being added to my routine, but it is a surprise to see I burnt less calories last year - I guess walking (Geocaching) counts more than a few "Bootcamp" classes at the Gym, which is an encouragement for me to get out and walk more.
I also noticed that my cycling for the last few years is the inversion of my beer reviews - this may just be a Spurious Correlations, but I did consciously choose to drink less beer and join the gym this year, so I suspect that had an influence.
In 2024 I hope to keep up with the mileage increase (or plateau). I feel the 2500 mile mark is a good target for this stage in my life. Although, if this drops due to more walks and Geocaches found, I'd be ok with that.
Last year I said getting my 1000th find would be "easily doable" as it was a "mere" 85 finds away (and I'd found 174 in 2022). I nearly didn't get it, however, and I had to make changes to head out a couple of times before the end of the year to just about clinch it. It was great having this final push of motivation, although I wish i'd paid more attention sooner. My find rate dropped to just 0.263 per day (45% decrease) but I still got out, saw the countryside and got some fresh air.
In 2024 I aim to find a similar amount to 2023 (96), if not more. I'd like to find at least 100, if not ~150.