I’ve always been impressed by people who manage to get their annual “year in review” posts each year, and the first time in years, I think I might actually have a chance to get one written before the year closes. I don’t have long, so off I go…
It’s been while since I last wrote a year in review – my last was in 2018! Loads has happened obvs, and trying to do the last 5 years in review is a fools errand, so please forgive the honking great gaps. That said, it was quite gratifying seeing some of the things I was hoping for back in 2018, become more concrete.
Health of loved ones
One of the big things for me this year was me and my wife finally figuring out what was causing a really delibitating health issue for her – and it being something that seems to be (as far as we know) dietary that we can mitigate. This means we’ve been able to respond through some thoughful choice of food we prepare and eat, along with some help from doctors. This has been huge for her, obviously, but as someone who does most of the cooking in our household, it’s been a year of discovering new things we can cook, and eat together to replace some old favourites. To finally feel like there is some resolution is such a relief.
Getting better at taking time off from work
For most of my professional life, I’ve been objectively terrible at maintaining anything like a sensible work-life balance, and I think 2023, was the first year where I felt like I was able to take holiday from my day job, and feel like I could do so safely.
When I was single, and working for myself, it was pretty easy to throw myself at work, and forgot to take any holiday at all – in many ways, what I did professionally was very much my main source of meaning for me, and the only way I could permit myself to take time off was if my family had booked one and there was no real way I could get out of it, or if I was already speaking at a conference, and it made sense to add on an extra day to see more of the city than the conference venue. So this was a big one for me.
Burned out a bit in Q1
It might seem weird just after the previous paragraph, but there is some nuance to this. While work has been fulfilling this year, it has had some stressful moments – normally this would be less than ideal, but in March, a friend very close to me and my partner died by suicide. I’ve never experienced death so closely like this, and it shook me up pretty badly. It also happened at an already stressful time of the year for me, where I felt that taking much time away would have made things worse. I was glad for the time to recover in Q2, but personally, this cast a pretty long shadow this year.
Losing control of my physical fitness this year
I’m probably the least fit I have ever been right now, and I don’t think it’s because I’m now in my early forties. I stopped paying attention to my fitness late last year, and the stressful first two quarters didn’t really help.
I haven’t enjoyed running so much recently so did much less, and after a few abortive attempts at using some variant of Freeletics or Kernwerk, I couldn’t get into a regular rhythm there either. Also, trying quad-skating in bowls in late spring led to me landing awkwardly and I ended up bashing up my tailbone so hard that even now when I stand up, I feel a slight twinge of pain now.
I’m experimenting with more different activities now (mostly via classpass), and I intend to keep doing so, as I have more than 10kg I want to lose in 2024. This actually feels doable now though.
Growing the Green Web Foundation into a renewed organisation
It’s tickles me somewhat to see my 2018 post hinting at something related to finding a way to work on “environmental web work full time“, because now that’s literally my job. I am employed full time as the executive director of the Green Web Foundation, a non-profit that I essentially joined, then worked with friends to reboot it into a renewed organisation, that does the kind of work that I now count among my career highlights.
I work in a management team with two awesome kick-ass friends, Michelle and Hannah, running the organisation, with a renewed international board, and a staff of people I respect, learn loads from and truly enjoy working with.
Unsurprisingly, the other professional highlights are related to this work.
Seeing the renewed Green Web Foundation branding show up
In 2022, we worked with Ellery Studios, the people behind the super cool Energy Transition coloring book, to come up with a newly refreshed brand for the Green Web Foundation, and this year was the year we started using it – on our own site, in our own training materials and talks, and generally in every new piece of work we did.
Talk highlights – FOSDEM and the IEA
I did a few talks this year, but the most part, I tried to scale back from the year before in favour of focussing on internal work – that said, I’m really proud of the ones I gave at FOSDEM in Brussels in February, along with the keynote I did at the IEA in Paris in October. For the last few years, I’ve been citing the IEA in almost every talk, blog post and report I write, so to be invited by them to speak was a real highlight for me. Doing two talks at FOSDEM was a a bit of an overcommitment on my part – I’m learning from this for FOSDEM in 2024 and going as regular punter – but looking back, I think the content was strong, and also, seeing such positive feedback from people whose work I read and really look up to really gratifying.
Seeing CO2.js become a thing
In 2019, one of the things I did during my Prototype Fund work was experiment with all kinds of ways to embed an awareness of CO2 emissions into digital work, as a sort of side project to the main work of figuring out how the original green web platform worked, so it could be open sourced as part of my grant. Some of my original experiments with extending Google lighthouse are online in an original archived repo from 2019, and the seeds of CO2.js are in this issue in the repo outlining a way to do the calcs alongside the inspiration.
After writing the calculations a few times, and looking at the other places it might show up, like sitespeed, or webhint, and so on, I figured that extracting the key bits into a libary would make the most sense.
CO2.js come into being in February 2020, and now it’s in use in all kinds of places, starting with sitespeed as the first major project to adopt it. Not just that – the bus number is now greater than one, and I get to work with Fershad (or fish, as I’ve come to know him) on it, who is now effectively the lead maintainer of the project.
It’s such a relief to see an idea I tried to squeeze into my Prototype Fund time get some traction, become a project with a growing set of contributors developing it.
It’s also amusing seeing so many links back to 2018 – that was the year my first token contribution made it into Firefox, and this was the year that the stuff I learned back then led carbon calculations being built into their browser.
Which leads me to another highlight…
Leading our first green coding workshop for the SDIA based around CO2.js
One side effect of CO2.js being a real thing now, is that it’s used in enough places, and enough open source and commercial projects that it’s possible to design a workshop demonstrating all these different uses.
And in the last quarter of this year, I worked with Fish to design and deliver this specific workshop in Berlin as part of the SDIA’s Green Coding Summit – with me delivering it, and him doing most of the design of the activities. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and it’s in good shape for us to use and re-use in 2024. you can read a write up of the event where we debuted the workshop, along with links to the deck we used (amongst other things).
Seeing the green web fellowship develop
One other thing in my mind this year was seeing the conclusion of our second run of the green web fellowship. In 2019, Michelle and I would meet regularly over coffee, to talk web and climate stuff – we’d share whatever we were working on with each other, and ideally put it somewhere on the internet. To be honest, she did a better job of blogging and documenting what we did discuss and learn as we did, and I’m glad she was so diligent.
Anyway, this idea of learning in the open as a multiplier of activity was one of the ideas we wanted to promote with the green web fellowship programme we started in 2021. You can see the fellows and the projects that came out of it on the green web foundation website, and the fellowship now under Katrin’s stewardship is something I’ve found really rewarding to be part of. To the extent I get to be proud of the work they did, I am so proud.
I’m also itching to experiment with the hydrogren protocol – one of the projects by second cohort fellow Kevin Webb. This post about putting the internet back in Things gives some helpful context for why I think it’s so interesting. I’ve pre-ordered a Hydrogen Ion for 2024 tinkering, and I’m now actively looking for folks in Berlin who have too. Maybe 2024 is the year I write some Rust?
Hosting the Environment Variables Podcast
Not directly my job, but related – I’ve got into a rhythm hosting the Environment Variables podcast with the Green Software Foundation, and it’s something I’ve really enjoyed this year. I think we’re now close to 50 episodes, and I’ve hosted the majority of them now, interviewing experts and learning an absolute boatload along the way.
I didn’t fly this year.
I travelled by train to Hungary (Budapest), France (Paris), the UK (London and Gravesend), within Germany (Freiburg, and Furtwangen) and Belgium (Brussels, and Hasselt).
Books and Media
I read something like 13 prose books this year, counting graphic novels. A few highlights for me were Red Team Blues, and The Lost Cause by Cory Doctorow, How Infrastructure Works by Deb Chachra, A Brief History of Equality by Thomas Piketty. I think The Lost Cause is now my fave solar punk book, and the one I’d recommend people start with when looking at climate fiction now – definitely ahead of the Ministry for the Future.
In terms of games, Sakuna was my revelation. It’s a game me and my partner played loads of, and it’s a wonderful mix of rice farming simulator RPG, and frame perfect side-on action. I didn’t dare go near Tears of the Kingdom in 2023.
Plans for 2024
Beyond what I’ve mentioned, the main things I really want to focus on in 2024 are a) me and my partner’s health, b) integrating better in Germany, and progressing further through the slow towards citizenship, and c) remembering to find time for for a 2024 in review – this turned out to be longer and more introspective than I thought, but ultimately cathartic.