Twenty Nineteen

So, 2019 happened. Herewith some thoughts about the last year and reflecting on what’s to come.

tl;dr: The world is literally on fire, Brexit is happening, we’re led by liars, cheats and idiots, and I’m no nearer to 13st then I was a year ago. But despite it all being a mess, there’s still plenty to do every day and with some focussed effort, it will all be okay in the end. Except maybe Brexit - nothing good can come from that.

My biggest achievement this year was getting Node-RED 1.0 released. I’ve tried to write up my thoughts about that a few times and never quite managed to find the right words.

It was certainly exciting to get to that point. It was very satisfying to hit publish on it. And I certainly felt pride in having done so.

But the last three months since the release have been a bit more of a mixed bag.

Once it had shipped, I found myself without a plan. It wasn’t for a lack of things to do - the backlog is large and healthy. But I had lost the focus the 1.0 roadmap provided.

Aside from a few fixes, I’ve not really done anything significant in the code. That isn’t to say I haven’t been busy. I’ve been working on documentation, creating some more video tutorials as well as putting together the workshop I ran at NodeConfEU.

It’s all useful stuff, but it has all felt like catching up, rather than moving things forward. Each time I’ve sat in front of my laptop to write code or design some new feature, I’ve struggled to make any meaningful progress. And that hasn’t been fun.

The frustration only increases when I reflect on the fact we still haven’t made Node-RED a sustainable project. If I stop working on the backlog then it grinds to a halt. We do have some valued contributors who definitely help to make a difference, but they are typically focused on their own priorities, rather than those of the wider project.

It’s the usual Open Source story - there are plenty of companies benefiting from our work, but very few willing or able to pay that back. It’s a hard problem and one that doesn’t have an easy answer. It just so happens I’m at the sharp end of that deal. In general, I’m okay with that, but there are certainly times when I wish we could do more.

Ever since Dave and I created Node-RED, I’ve been in roles that have enabled me to justify spending time on it. For example, when I was in Emerging Technologies, it was a tool we continued to develop to use on client projects. Then, I was a Developer Advocate focussed on IoT - using Node-RED in most of our activities to help engage with developers. But in 2019, I moved to the Open Source Development organisation, where my job became Node-RED.

It’s a great place to be. Not many people can claim to have been able to turn a side-project into a job within a large organisation like IBM.

I did a talk at Monki Gras in 2016 about how Node-RED came about. Towards the end I shared some of the lessons of getting things done. One of them was:

When a side-project becomes a job, it risks becoming a chore and that then risks leading to burn out.

I don’t think I’m burnt out, but I’ve certainly been close to the edge and at times, stared over it. It’s clear I need to find a way to change things up - and writing this post is part of that.

So with all of that said, here’s what I think I want to do in 2020.

Get a plan

Whilst I’ve clearly needed a break since shipping 1.0, it’s time to get things moving again. The first step is to come up with a plan - a new roadmap to help prioritise what we’ve got to do.

Get more organised with my time

With so many plates to keep spinning around the Node-RED project, I need to better structure my time to ensure things keep moving forward proactively rather than constantly reacting to the next thing that crops up.

When I’m back in the office next week, I’m going to block out time in my diary each week for some of the regular tasks I need to do. I’m going to keep TweetDeck closed so I don’t have a drip feed of the latest horrors of the world distracting me.

Keep a record

I’m going to keep a list of what I get done each week so I can look back on my successes, rather than just remember the failures.

Side projects

I need something that isn’t Node-RED. A hobby, a side-project, a thing I can distract my brain with.

I’ve started a couple things recently that I’m enjoying playing with and want to get to the point where I write about them here as well.

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In side project news, I've figured out exporting from blender to three.js, including animations. Need to tweak the swing of the arms whilst walking. Pleased with the random head scratch whilst standing still. #blender #threejs

A post shared by Nick O'Leary (@knolleary) on

I started making a Raspberry Pi-scale R2-D2 using the 3D printer at work ages ago, but that ground to a halt. Having bought my own printer last year, it’s time I dusted this one off and made some progress.

Write something here more often

I’ve tried and failed this one many times. Writing is a muscle that needs exercising. I struggle with exercise.

So there we go, thanks for reading this far. Remember to say Hi and have a good 2020.