3rd January, 2012

Another year in review

The year 2010 was an important and epic one for me, so as it ended I wrote about it in some detail. In doing so, I set myself the goal of documenting each year I survive, and as 2011 was equally epic in some regards, I really want a record of it for the future me.

It’s not showing off. It’s personal. For me. In my journal. I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten some important bits and pieces, but it doesn’t really matter. Anyway, without further ado, here’s my thoughts on 2011.


The year got off to a great and ambitious start. January was all about New Adventures in Web Design. The anticipation was huge, and we managed to pull off a fantastic and meaningful conference with some 650 attendees packed into the Nottingham Albert Hall. We even published a newspaper. After everyone had gone home and we’d packed it all away, I reflected on New Adventures.

The Great hall
The Great Hall during Mark Boulton’s talk (photo from Robert Sedovšek)

The event would not have been possible were it not for the generosity and support of hundreds of people, and each and every one deserves huge credit for every contribution, big or small. We made a few mistakes, but all in all it was wonderful, and it’s happening all over again in 16 days!


Much like 2010, this year was packed with travel. I think I clocked up around 70,000 miles in total. Following a well-earned rest after New Adventures, I jetted off to my old stamping ground Iceland to keynote the 10th Icelandic Web Awards on a very snowy and stormy Reykjavik night. This was a huge honour, and although my Icelandic is poor, I just about understood who won what and enjoyed giving out the spangly awards to all the winners.


This month, I began a major collaboration with Greg Wood and Cameron Koczon. We embarked upon a long journey towards the music app we all want, and although at the time of writing it’s only approaching the initial very limited first beta, we made huge progress throughout 2011. I learned a huge amount from Cameron and cannot wait to share the results with you all. Follow @fanzinefm to keep track of our progress.

I’d been to Texas before but finally made it to SXSW Interactive. Despite buying a pass, I spent the whole week drinking in the sunshine with friends old and new, and my nights were the same minus the sunshine. I’d never buy a pass again as I just didn’t use it. A week of booze, parties, and opportunities that I hope to replicate this year.

I ended the month back in my beloved New York (mostly Brooklyn as usual) working, drinking, exploring, and hanging out with people who are increasingly up there on my best friends list.


A pretty quiet month, working away on the music app and a few other projects. I also began to focus much more on writing. I do love articulating my thoughts on paper, and need to get back into that as it’s incredibly cathartic and rewarding. This month, I drafted my article for The Manual, feeling the pressure as I’d been made aware my article would open the book. Thankfully, Carolyn and Andy made the whole thing as easy as they could.


I popped down to London’s Hospital Club for The Critters—the inaugural Ubelly Awards—where New Adventures was awarded Event Of The Year. Not bad at all, and nice to have a wee award for all my trouble.

Me and Bruce Lawson with our lovely awards.


June began in beautiful Vancouver, Canada at the Interlink Conference where I ran a workshop and also closed the conference, which was a real honour. Unfortunately, I was pretty ill so I rambled a bit and went some twenty minutes over time, but nobody seemed to mind. It was a wonderful week in Vancouver and I’m really looking forward to returning this year.

I was back home for two days, and then back to New York for more work, via the Virb party in Manhattan where I wore shorts whilst getting drunk with old friends. It was pretty bloody hot in the city, which slowed down my brain quite a lot.


After making a pact in Brooklyn, I got my first tattoo. I’d wanted one for at least fifteen years, and now my life feels more suited to such whims. It’s taken over most of my upper left arm, and is a tribute to my late Dad. Greg came with me and had something put on his leg.

Speaking of Greg, he joined me as an official New Adventures partner, and this month we launched the 2012 New Adventures site and everybody got excited, perhaps because I’d earlier suggested skipping a year or not even doing it again. Greg convinced me over a beer.

I went up to Manchester to be interviewed as part of Elliot and Keir’s brilliant Insites Tour at the magical Magnetic North offices, which was a really great evening in a city I need to visit more often.

A couple of days after that, I was in Perth, Australia for the Edge of the Web conference, where I did the opening keynote. It was a joy to finally make it to Oz, and especially as I got to spend some time with ex-pat old friends and see Elbow at Metro City. Bloody long flight though. Won’t be doing that again in a hurry.


Back home for two days, and then back to New York for more work. It was stupidly hot. I mean, really really stupidly hot. I cooled off in the sea at Coney Island, drank a lot of beer, and didn’t actually do that much work—because it was hot. One night we drank beer under a tree whilst Bon Iver played, and I had a most unusual 24 hours after that (which is all I’ll say).

A photo I took of Central Park.

As soon as I got back I had to drive into the middle of nowhere for my friend Mike’s stag weekend at a big cottage where I spent most of my time asleep through cumulative jet lag. Oh, and The Manual finally landed on doorsteps, featuring my article, and some kind words from Andy in his intro about a chat we had in a pub once.


This month was a relief as there was less time on aeroplanes, and I popped down to Brighton again for dConstruct, mainly to hang out, see friends, talk rubbish, and enjoy a few great presentations.

Later that month I did a talk at Second Wednesday. 2W is a very well established Nottingham meet up and yet I’d never been, which was shameful. So I turned up, spoke about craft for 40 minutes, then drank some more.


I made my way to Oslo for the Frontend Conference where I did the opening talk to a very quiet but appreciative audience. I loved what I saw of Norway and enjoyed a few days exploring. I was especially thrilled to finally see all those famous Edward Munch paintings. My mind was blown.

From Oslo, I caught a plane with The Standardistas and Jessica Hische (who never stopped sketching amazing things all trip) straight to New York for the second Brooklyn Beta, which was again absolutely unique and special and incredible and all other superlatives. I spent a couple of weeks mooching around Brooklyn again, half-working, half-daydreaming. Greg and I had a badass apartment with a roof, so I spent a lot of time on that, watching the world go by.

Before the Fanzine demo at Brooklyn Beta
Me a few minutes before the Fanzine launch (captured by Jon Tan)

At Brooklyn Beta, we offered the first public glimpse of the music app we’d been working on. I presented a five-minute reveal towards the end of the second day, and was unusually nervous.


November was all about Build in Belfast, where I spent a fun-packed week around my workshop and presentation. Andy scheduled me to close the conference after Jason Santa Maria and Jeremy Keith, which made me pretty nervous, especially after Wilson Miner had killed us all with his tear-jerking mind bombs before lunch. Still, it was a fantastic week full of great people from all over the world, and Andy made everything even better than last year. No mean feat.

The final trip of the year was my first to Germany. I spent a couple of days in beautiful Cologne, before catching a train to Düsseldorf for the Beyond Tellerrand event. Marc Thiele was an excellent host and I really loved Germany and it’s people.


And so, it was a fairly quiet end to the year. December was all about preparing for New Adventures and working on the music app. And Christmas. I did manage to write an article called Taming Complexity for 24 Ways, which I’m pretty proud of. Other than that, I just kept away from aeroplanes, made a lot of soup, watched a lot of films, and tried to do a lot of work.

And so to 2012

The last twelve months was again heavy on the travel, heavy on the learning, and heavy on the waistline. In 2012, I want to do much less travel and get back into learning, experimenting, trying stuff. If that goes to plan, perhaps I’ll have some new things to talk about in 2013.

I’ve already got talks lined up in Iceland, Canada and the US (An Event Apart — gasp!) this Winter/Spring, but think a Summer at the coalface getting the music app out there (and writing this new book, finally) will be time well spent. I quite fancy a nice English Summer in the garden, with the cricket on the radio, a few cold beers, and more time with good friends. That has to be a good plan. I may also find my future wife, although she is proving most elusive.

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