2011 in Review

Each time I come to these posts, the year just past seems more activity-filled than ever. 2011 has been no exception. Another big year, with quite a few notable firsts for me:

A stake

In July I became a director and equal partner at Icelab, along with Michael and Max. My time working at the lab so far has been immensely satisfying. I am privileged to work with such a great team, and look forward to having Icelab as the foundation of many exciting future endeavours.

An app

For years I'd toyed with the idea of building an iOS app. It's a platform I love to use, and one that will play an important role in the future of computing, and I wanted to be a part of it. Finally, with my attendance at Swipe Conference as motivation, I learnt Objective-C and Cocoa, and built and released an app (also thanks to the tireless design work of Max). Better still, it was an app for my favorite place on the internet, Decaf Sucks.

Decaf Sucks for iPhone

We released the app in August, just after Decaf Sucks' second birthday. Now, with a few months behind it, it looks like the release has been been quite successful. Personally, it's found me a bunch of new coffee to try, and helped to take me well past 250 reviews. I hope it is a positive contribution for the coffee lovers of the world.

With this big first release under my belt, I feel empowered to create a whole bunch of fun new experiences on iOS. Hopefully there'll be a lot more to share on this front in 2012.

A talk

In September, the whole Icelab crew travelled up to Sydney for Web Directions South, where Michael and I spoke about smart choices for smartphone apps (i.e., web or native, and tell me without the dogma).

Presenting at Web Directions South

This was my first major conference presentation and I was honored to be part of such an inspirational event. I found the whole experience to be really rewarding. I enjoyed the singular focus that it encouraged for a good few weeks of thought, and the extra depths that it encouraged me to plumb in order to give a comprehensive overview of the topic. Its an experience I'd definitely like to repeat. Conferences of the world, who would like to have me in 2012? ;-)

A move

If all this wasn't enough, my wife and I capped off our year by packing up our lives in Australia and moving to the Philippines! I must say a little more about my amazing wife at this point: not only did she put up with me, look after me and keep me sane throughout my work on all of the above, she also shouldered most of the load for planning this move. I couldn't have done half as much this year without her, and I'm lucky to be her husband.

Anyway, as I write this now, I look out our front window onto the lush green of a small park, surrounded by palm trees, goats grazing, roosters crowing, and the kids of the neighbourhood running around. I'm definitely in a whole new place, and I look forward to the many adventures I will have here, away from the computer screen.

Approaching Sugar Beach, near Sipalay, Negros Occidenal

Approaching Sugar Beach, near Sipalay, Negros Occidenal

And more

In 2011, Icelab grew from three to five people. Hugh and Andy are good humans to see everyday and are invaluable as members of the team. I got to witness a lot of great stuff come out of the lab this year, much of which I wish I could have worked on myself. I think this is a sign of a good workplace.

I did get to make one big release. In November we launched the new Corner Hotel site, along with a completely new ticket sales and box office management system, a Rails app that was practically my sole responsibility for the whole year. It's one of Icelab's biggest projects to date, and happily, everything's gone pretty well since launch.

Aside from shipping new projects, we also kept-on-shipping with our coffee subscription service, Dispatch. It's now over a year in the running, and we've had a lot of fun sending coffee around the country.

In the middle of 2012, my wife and I started eating paleo. It was a terrific decision. I've never felt healthier in my life, nor eaten better food. While it's harder to follow closely here in the Philippines, we do our best, and I know that it will be an eating habit that I'll keep for the long term.

And in one final notable event, in April we were lucky to witness the wedding of our good friends Hugh & Tomomi. Since moving to Canberra a few years ago, the friends I've made there really make it feel like home. We'll be back before too long.

So that's 2011. I finished the year feeling close to burnt out, but I'm proud of what I was able to achieve and I've now learnt the critical (if not already obvious) lesson that it's best not to have many work commitments overlapping with an international house move. Now that we've settled here and had a short break over Christmas, I'm ready to go again and looking forward to a productive & venturesome 2012!

Garmisch and me