Review of 2019 and a look forward

It seems to be that time of year when everyone writes up a list of their achievements for the year. So here I go jumping on the bandwagon.

2019 Wins

Looking back at the year, one thing I don’t seem to have done is blog! It seems I managed to only write one post since 2018. Well there is a reason for this that we’ll get to later.


We were lucky that this year the main FOSS4G conference was in Europe, so I drove across Europe to Bucharest, Romania. My one blog post of the year was a review of the meeting. Since then I’ve been amazed to see that more than 3500 people have watched Andrea Aime and me rant about community involvement in open source projects. Compare that to the 43 people who watched me discussing actual work!

I also got to go to Edinburgh for FOSS4G-UK and present on the WPS work I’ve been doing for Astun customers.

Work Things

I delivered 6 training courses and a number of mentoring sessions for Astun this year, including a trip to Harrogate while the world cycling championships were happening (which pushed the hotel prices up).

Other Things

Other than work, I spend a lot of time hanging out at GIS Stackexchange. I had a good year ranking 3rd in reputation gained and the moderators and community had a good year too.

I continued to work on my Vim chops by using it as my entire Python dev environment. It may be that this works because I don’t write very complex python code rather than I’ve got the set up working well.

I carried out a lot of GeoTools and GeoServer work including the first attempt to fix all the spelling mistakes in the GeoTools user documentation - this involved modifying 280 files. One day I will build up the strength to try to fix the developer documentation and then we can enforce spell checks on documentation check ins!

In November I, along with a bunch of other actually talented people, took part in the #30DayMapChallenge where we all tried to make a map each day in November. It was instigated by Topi Tjukanov and he has blogged about it. I think we were all surprised by how well it went. I spend a lot of my time talking about making maps, and writing code to help people make maps, but not a lot of time actually drawing them so this was a nice change of pace for me.

I also spent one (or more) mornings a month volunteering at my local repair café. These are a lot like the open source software community, in that we try to fix things that are broken and would otherwise be thrown away. It’s great fun and you have to love the look on people’s faces as they ask how we learned to fix things - the answer is always “we just keep trying things until it works”.

2019 Losses

Not everything went well in 2019 (hence the lack of blog posting) the main thing that went badly was that my chronic depression worsened despite everything I tried. However, this time I decided to let my colleagues know what was happening rather than keeping it to myself (and HR). This turned out to be a good strategy as everyone was very supportive (compared to previous employers who just started the redundancy process). Subsequently, my eldest nephew took his own life at the end of his first year at university. As you’d expect this hit me hard and I did a lot of thinking about how I could have supported him (and other people with depression) more and it came to me that hiding my problems gives people the impression that they are the only ones with the issue. So, I decided to be more public about my depression, hence this part of the post (and the keeping track of achievements is something my therapist suggested too). So, if you follow me on twitter or Facebook you will see more posts about self care and me ranting about people being expected to work long hours etc.

What does being depressed mean (for me)?

It means I spend a lot of time worrying that I’m not good enough: for my job; for my wife; for my open source projects; at cooking; etc. So if you are just starting out as a developer and wondering when you stop worrying about these things I have to confess it never happens (but that could just be me). But also I’m talking about it here because you shouldn’t let these doubts stop you progressing at things you want to do.

It also means that I tend to overlook (or discount) the good things that happen, so I now keep an achievements diary - some days all it gets in it is “got out of bed” other days I can write a page or so about exciting bugs I hunted down and killed.

And finally, it means if you don’t hear from me for a few days that I’m probably in bed, reading a book and recharging. I have next to no energy reserves and get very tired very easily, so don’t panic. I always manage to escape bed’s evil clutches and get back to doing things. It may also mean that if you only interact with me through, say, code commits that I might be off trying to perfect my french bread making or trying to fix an annoying piece of electronics.

Looking ahead to 2020

I’ve already booked my place at FOSS4G Calgary and I’m trying to work out how to get to Latvia (wondering about driving again) for FOSS4G-EU. I’m about to set off on my second work trip of the year for some more mentoring (and nothing helps my self esteem as helping to solve peoples problems).

With any luck you’ll see more short coding related blog posts this year.