2010 in Review

2010 was one of my most exciting and productive years yet, working with great people to build some products that I’m truly proud of. When I look back, I hope that this summary will help remind me that it was the start of something amazing.

I Shipped

This year I was able to enjoy a developer’s greatest pleasure, many times over: shipping.

RentMonkey and Dispatch screenshots

First came the year’s most significant milestone for me: after 18 months of work on weekends and evenings, we finally launched RentMonkey. Some called it “the best form on the internet,” others said it is “easily the most gorgeous and usable rental property leasing app you’ve ever seen!”, we think it is a great way to take back control of your biggest investments. We’re proud of what we’ve done so far and very excited to continue to build it in 2011. This is just the beginning; we’re in this for the long haul.

With the first RentMonkey release behind me, I threw myself some long-overdue updates for our other baby, the café and coffee review site Decaf Sucks. Not long after it’s first birthday, we released a new design and a whole swag of improvements, including Facebook logins and a lovely infinite scroll. This helped increase interest in the site and now we’re just a touch shy of 1000 reviews!

This wasn’t the only news on the internet-coffee-obsession front. Just before Christmas we embarked on a whole new business venture, coffee subscriptions. Dispatch, from Decaf Sucks was conceived in one week and launched the very next (I wrote more here about that particular whirlwind). It’s been received really well and we’ve had a lot of fun sharing some coffee love around Australia.

Work at Icelab

Much of the energy and drive behind all of the above has risen from the inspirational team and environment at Icelab, where I’ve just finished my first full year of work. We saw our fair of client project launches, with the most notable for me being Exploring Democracy for Old Parliament House, which was the lab’s first big Rails app, and the Water Storage iPhone app for the Bureau of Meteorology, which saw me get my hands dirty with Objective C for the first time. Icelab has been the perfect place for me to grow into a the well-rounded developer that I want to be.

Screenshot of the new Icelab site

A few months ago we also released a new Icelab site, designed and built as beautifully as ever by Max. It’s great to have a better platform for sharing the things that we get up to. I’ve taken to blogging there with vigour (which explains the quietness here), and we’ve all been sure to keep our portfolio nice and fresh.

Open Source

Right before the 2010 Rails Rumble, I was able to extract the OmniAuth-based Twitter and Facebook logins from Decaf Sucks and release it as an open source Rails 3 engine called OmniSocial. I blogged about it and was lucky to have it featured on The Ruby Show and Ruby5. This little publicity boost at its release has actually seen it adopted in a few apps, which has been fantastic to see.

In 2011 I’d like to do a bit more of this: identifying useful patterns from my apps and extracting them into useful open source tools. John Nunemaker is my inspiration in this regard.

Ruby Community

More on the Ruby front, I continued to run the Canberra Ruby Crew meetings in 2010, moving them to the more centrally-located Icelab. We had good attendance and a bunch of new faces, not to mention the usual pizza, beer and good times.

Canberra hosted Australia’s seventh RailsCamp in April, where I was able to continue working on my nebulous iOS development skills (and have Happy Birthday sung to me by 100 drunken Rubyists). I also made a bunch of short talks at both the Canberra and Sydney Ruby groups, as well as at Canberra’s BarCamp:

Lastly, I ventured to Japan with a glut of Aussie Rubyists for my second RubyKaigi!

More Highlights

In short form: I wrote my first Rails 3 application, as well as more JavaScript than ever (made easy via CoffeeScript). I surpassed 100 café reviews on Decaf Sucks, averaging more than two reviews per week. I started a tumblelog about heavy metal with my brother-in-law, and it has been some of the most challenging writing I’ve done to date, but also a great way to discover new music. I got an iPad and iPhone 4, fantastic, life-changing devices both. I was motivated and inspired every week by the amazing stories and topics on the 5by5 podcasts. I started playing Ultimate Frisbee and working out three mornings per week. My laptop is finally backed up regularly. I rediscovered the fun of photo-sharing through Instagram.

Misch and me in Japan

Last, but never least, 2010 was a thoroughly enjoyable first year of marriage to my amazing wife. She has been the rock and support that allowed me to do all of the above. We had plenty of fun times together, including a weekend in the world’s biggest spa bath, a 3-week adventure across Japan, and a lovely first anniversary getaway.

That’s it for a big year. In 2011 I will continue to get excited and do things. Watch this space.

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