2013 In Review

This is the first time I’ve written a review of the previous year, possibly because I don’t write often as you can see by the lack of blog posts. I decided to do it so I evaluate last year and see if this year I have achieved the goals I have set out to do, so here is 2013 in a review.


For the first time in my career I found myself without a mentor, someone who wasn’t just superior by rank but also knowledge. This was due to the fact that the development manager left and he was not replaced, instead two specialised lead developers were chosen to fill his role. Unfortunately this didn’t work out perfectly as certain areas of which he managed did not get picked up and therefore became unmanaged with no one wanting to take ownership of it.

Although I do discuss ideas and problems with the lead developers as well as the other developers, it is not often that I can learn something new from them of which I did with the development manager. This is disappointing as I feel when you have someone who you learn from frequently, you have an accelerated development, so this was hard for me. Instead I have had to search more for knowledge else where be it blogs, articles or even podcasts.

Side projects

I started a few side projects in 2013, a game which was a 2D top down RPG, a mobile application to track 1001 beers to try before you die, a macaw-esque tool and finally a collaboration between some of the developers at work to create a idea crowdsourcing platform.

I am disappointed with how little I’ve achieved on side projects this year, although valuable knowledge was gained by developing them I would have liked to release something. I did manage to get the landing page of the idea crowdsourcing platform completed but that’s hardly an achievement.

Development Environment

Towards the end of the year I realised that not all the developers had the same development environment and because of this, occasionally we got the “it works on my machine” problem. We normally use a guide to setup our development environment with Macports but this is quite long, tedious and error prone so some developers opted for MAMP. I wanted an easier solution, so I started looking for one, I found Vagrant and decided to start playing around with it.

After writing a thousand line plus bash script to provision my virtual machine I realised this wasn’t portable as it required the developers to have intricate knowledge of all the commands, what I needed was a domain specific language. So I did some investigation and after a discussion with the IT team it was decided on Puppet because of the support and maturity.

Again, I invested many hours learning Puppet and writing manifests and classes to build our development environment and finally it’s in a good enough state to deploy across the developments. We’ve got a few developers using it however I am unsure whether I will invest my time in it with the current state of providing hosting undecided.


Side Projects

I want to see at least one side project launched this year and a landing page does not count. I know it’s not hard, but I am a perfectionist, I want to ensure it’s perfect but hopefully my reading will help me get over this problem.

Development Environment

I want to further improve our development environment by using Packer to build a pre-configured base and also to ensure our bases are all the same. I am half way through this with support for building Vagrant boxes, I just need to add the Amazon support and we should be done.

I also want to investigate using Docker as there is some work being done to make it work nicely on OS X, so we’ll see how that goes, if it provides to be a viable alternative to provisioning an entire VM it’ll mean less overhead.


One of my personal goals for this year is to read twelve books in the year, I know it’s not a lot to some people but keep in mind I read no books last year, I sourced all my information online. I will be particularly focusing on non-fiction but I may get a chance to read a few fiction on the way, the first book I’m reading is Rework by 37 Signals so maybe I’ll do a review on that