Well, that has been quite the year.
Also: Hello! Surprise! How are you? Yes, it's a newsletter that you probably forgot you subscribed to...
I sent out the last edition of this email missive in the wake of being informed that I was part of a "potential" layoff at a company that was then called Twitter. The truth is that there was a predetermined outcome, but we had to go through an administrative dance so that the company could appear to follow UK legal requirements, and technically I wasn't released until February.
My feelings over the whole shenanigans have been extremely difficult to process; I've described it as "traumatic", and there's a lot of truth there. The deep sorrow at what became of that company and platform is going to be a part of me, no matter how much I try to shut it off. It took until the end of July before I was finally ready to remove all of my content and delete the ~15 years of lived experience and conversations. I now host the original content as a web archive, for posterity.
If you still choose to use the platform now known as X - there's a strong chance you didn't sign up for X, just as I never did - you are free to make your own choices, but I'd strongly encourage you to consider the owner's behaviours, the groups he has been supporting, his changes to the product, his direct attacks on my former co-workers (here is a useful recent summary, that covers both topics)... and Just Stop giving X your attention or (to-be-used-for-AI-training) valuable data.
Let's move on, because (the previous three paragraphs notwithstanding!), I've done that. Look, I've even started taking more photographs again.
As I wrote back in November: I had a Plan. It was assembled slightly hastily, but I definitely felt good about having an intended framework for what to do next. Here's an edited reminder of what that was...
I have a few high-level goals and concepts for the coming months:
take a break. [...] I intend to take time for myself until at least the end of the spring, before seeking my next challenge.
tidy house / tidy mind. [...] it is a good opportunity to do some overdue clearing, selling, gifting, and general tidying.
back to my roots. [...] a chance to do more work on Open Source, on IoT and making, MicroPython, community moderation and engagement on DEV, education, and exploring new online and in-person spaces.
workshop / studio. [...] an art space not far away from home, and plan to move our hobby works (electronics and crafting) there [...]
Let's review where I am at. I'm happy to report decent progress on (most of) these topics!
The "break" has been longer than intended, to be honest. My original thought process was that the redundancy was likely to take until February or March to play out - which was spot on - and that I might look for something as a full-time opportunity starting after Easter.
We went away last December for a short break abroad. Since then, we have had a couple of long weekends in places (usually accompanied with an event happening somewhere), and we've done some camping as well, so there has been some much-needed vacation downtime.
The break from full-time work... well, the Developer Relations space has been affected by the economic twist towards tighter budgets and changes in business focus, and I haven't found too many roles that were at a level that made sense. In the meantime, I am grateful to note that many of my former team, and friends from around the business, have found fantastic-sounding new opportunities!
So, I've somewhat accidentally / unexpectedly started to take freelance contracts, while I think more about my career and longer-term future.
My main gig at the moment is helping the Mastodon project - specifically, I'm working with Mastodon gGmbH, the non-profit organisation that runs the core project and two of the larger service instances.
I'm responsible for Developer Relations and community, although I have capacity to take on other freelance work contracts if they arise. The first main chunk of content I delivered for Mastodon was an overhaul of the third-party libraries page, part of an ongoing effort to list apps that work with the platform. Mastodon is my main social network, and I'm heavily personally supportive of the Fediverse, a network of platforms that use a common way to exchange information, although you may find my accounts on non-Fediverse platforms as well.
I never expected to be freelance! I've been fortunate that my career to date has been in longer-term full-time roles, each of which I've enjoyed. Openly: I'm loving the flexibility to spend time on different things, particularly in our studio (more in a moment). If I can find an arrangement that enables me to work with different projects - or perhaps, one or two major ones - in a way that is sustainable, then that would be great; I'm also open to conversations about full-time opportunities that match my skills and interests.
At the start of the year I was named in the OpenUK 2023 New Year Honours list as a top influencer in Open Technology.
On the one hand, I've briefly wondered how much of the influence derived from the reach of my former Twitter following; on the other, as I look back over 20+ years in technology and Open Source I am deeply grateful to have had a range of experiences and, hopefully, to have had a positive impact across many different projects and communities. So - that was a nice surprise!
I also had the very exciting opportunity to represent the bcs in giving evidence to the House of Lords All Party Parliamentary Group on Metaverse and Web 3, partly in recognition of my engagement and knowledge of this space since our Second Life days at IBM, and continuing to podcast about virtual spaces on a weekly basis.
I went to FOSDEM at the start of the year, for the first time. It was a great opportunity to reconnect with groups in different technologies across Linux desktop, MQTT, MicroPython and Python, and community leadership.
Right afterwards, I represented the Open Source Initiative at State of Open, OpenUK's first major conference (you can listen to a podcast recorded at the time). I've been on to become an OpenUK ambassador and to represent that organisation with booths at two different events in the UK.
As I glance down my list of "social stuff", I've continued to help with the Makeroni meetups in Wimbledon (including our first outdoor Hack in the Park), and also to regularly drop in to the virtual MicroPython meetups. I've been to DevRelCon in London, spoken at Developer Relations events about changes to online communities, and took part in the recent Community People's Unconference.
Connecting this all to my role at Mastodon, I also attended the first Fediforum (an effort to build better together, across and between Fediverse-aligned projects). I've also been privileged to take part in workshops and studies with two different groups, looking into the challenges of distributed and federated social networking, particularly around complex topics such as trust and safety. Most recently, I started contributing to an exciting new Fediverse project called Postmarks, which is a way to store and share bookmarks. You can take a look at some of the things I've bookmarked lately (and, if you have a Mastodon or other Fediverse account, you can even follow the feed for the future - actually, it even supports RSS).
I always love to chat to people about topics I care about, and I've been delighted to be invited to some livestream interviews, and to take part in podcasts, including Techgrumps with old friends and network connections. I'm open to more of this sort of thing!
There is more to come in this slice of my activities. Above all, even though I feel I was absent from a lot of the Open Source and software community spaces over the past few years - for several reasons - I've felt welcomed and at home getting back to them.
Our day-to-day right now revolves around Forge & Craft - the art and maker studio we set up at the end of last year.
The original plan was to get the hobby clutter out of the house and into a space where we both had scope to learn. Heidi has lots of interests including family history research (which, by the way, she is really good at); she particularly enjoys crafting, and making with sublimation printing and vinyl cutting. I've had lots of electronics in boxes for ages, and also wanted to learn 3D printing. We now have a place where all of those things come together.
We are located at Wimbledon Art Studios, alongside a couple of hundred creators covering painting, sculpture, floristry, ceramics, fabrics, and more. The studios hosts an Art Fair twice a year, and I made a short video at the show back in May which provides a sense of the sorts of things we've been up to. Take a look!
This is not an ongoing commercial venture right now, but we're starting to get some strong ideas for things we could do in the future. In particular, we've both really gravitated towards pen plotters, and using mechanical methods to translate digital and generative art to physical formats. Watch this space.
One thing I didn't include in the Plan from the end of last year, but that has been in my head for a long time, is: getting back to regular writing. Somewhere along the way between ~2010 and now, I got out of the habit of regularly posting to my blog, or creating other more in-depth content. In the past three or four months I've made a much larger effort to be better (this newsletter being just one part of that).
Well, for one thing, I'm going to try to pivot this newsletter back to being more regular - perhaps, monthly? - and more focused on specific updates and content sharing, rather than being a massive read summarising 10 months of a year!
I'm about to head to All Things Open in Raleigh, North Carolina. This feels like a successor event to O'Reilly's Open Source Conference aka OSCON that I used to attend "back in the day", and I know a few folks that will be there; it is also co-located with Jono Bacon's Community Leadership Summit, which again is something I was a part of in the 2012-2015 era of my travel and conference days. As a bonus, my two podcast co-hosts and former IBM colleagues are in the same area, and a couple of other friends are based around there, too; so, that's my immediate plan.
The Forge & Craft studio will be open for the Wimbledon Art Fair, November 16-19. It is a free event, so if you're in the area at all, do drop in! We're excited, as we have a stronger shared sense of what we will be showing and working on (& selling) this time around.
Apart from that, a quick break at the end of the year, and I hope to do FOSDEM and State of Open again in January / February; I also hope to be able to do some events on behalf of the Mastodon project.
I guess the real objective of this chunk of the newsletter, is to say: "Where? I still don't know!".
I have this quixotic desire to work on things that are good for people and the world, and where I can make a difference. For a while, that was Twitter. I love the Developer Relations role, and I've been doing things in the space for 15(-ish) years now, but I also love to teach, to explain, to make, and to build communities.
All of this is to get to the point that: I don't know what's next, or where I'm going, but I'm always interested in conversations and ideas. Please get in touch if you know about something that I should look into!
Thank you for being a subscriber! If you enjoyed it, feel free to forward this on to other people who might want to know more about what I'm working on.
I'm open to:
podcast or livestream conversations
freelance work opportunities
(potentially) full-time opportunities
You can drop me a line by replying to this newsletter, or alternatively, follow me in the Fediverse. If you're able to support my current lifestyle, you can also contribute to my art supplies and gadget fund via Ko-Fi.
I'll try not to leave it quite so long between newsletter editions.
Take care, and stay safe. I appreciate you.