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That was the year that was

It’s interesting how the number of people subscribing to this blog dropped by almost half after I published this mosiac of my photos from the anti Prop8 protest in Boston and this rant about the Bishop of Lancaster. In actual fact it looks like FeedBurner can no longer see the number of Livejournal-based subscribers to this feed (whether LJ reports them correctly or not I don’t know without seeing a sample request), but the correlation is amusing (and a nice way to illustrate how you can prove anything, including the stick-up-the-arse-ness of people, with statistics).

Anyway…

I had entirely intended to write this as a 2008 end-of-year ooh-look-what-I-did post. Then 2008 stopped happening and 2009 started happening and I thought I could write it as a ooh-look-what-I’m-going-to-do post. Then I decided that it was too much fun having a holiday from work and blogging and, well, pretty much everything else, and I stopped trying to write it and enjoyed not doing much for a week or so.

Of course, that doesn’t get anything done in the end, so I figured I’d better finish this off before it got even more out of date and I came back to it wondering what on earth I’d been on about in the first place.

As one year rolls inexorably into another I’ve been thinking, for the most part, at least, about identity, specifically mine: where I am with certain aspects of my identity (which I’m using as a high-falutin’ way of saying "what I’m doing with my life") and where I want them to go.

Identity as a writer

When it comes to writing I think I’ve had a pretty good year, though I’ve written very little compared to previous years. I’m less frustrated with my writing than I was, perhaps because I’ve focussed less upon it than in the past. For the first time ever I’ve published a story, The Girl, Death (albiet on my own website, true) for all and sundry to read. Now that that particularly silly mental obstacle is out of the way I can think more about actually writing things than about whether or not people will like them.

I don’t expect to have a huge amount of time to write in the coming year, mainly because there are so many other things that I want to do (on which subjects more shortly) but I do expect that, when I write, I’ll be more relaxed about telling the story I want to tell; I certainly won’t be worrying every second about how I can never finish the story because everyone will hate it (nobody, so far, has hated the last one).

Identity as a photographer

Roughly this time last year I started my Three hundred and sixty-odd days of 2008 photography project. Like all similarly-named projects the idea was to take (and post) one photo for each day of 2008 (or near enough anyway, given that I started a couple of days late). Whilst I haven’t managed to get round to uploading all of the photos to my Flickr stream (partly because I’m lazy, partly because I fell behind in the processing of them) I did manage to capture the majority of, or at least bits of the where-I-was-at-the-time-ness of 2008, on camera. It was an exhausting exercise, and since this year I’d like to do things that are more and varied (quite aside from arranging my wedding) I don’t think I’ll be attempting anything on nearly as grand a scale in 2009. There will be something photography-project wise this year; I just don’t know what it is yet (though I have some ideas).

Separately from the idea of some kind of overarching project, I want to push myself further as a photographer. I blogged a while back about wanting to photograph more people. Whilst my request for subjects didn’t yield many responses (probably because it didn’t get read by many people for starters) it did yield some, and I intend to take the people who offered their services as models up on their offers some time in the next year.

I’ve been viewing and loving the work of people like Bert Stephani, LIME, Katie Lee and Dave Hobby for much of the last year, and I think it’s about time that I did something with all the inspiration and ideas that they’ve given me. Even if the work that I produce from that inspiration is derivative in the beginning it will, hopefully at least, eventually lead to a style of my own as time goes by (in much the same way as emulating your writing heroes eventually leads to you finding your own voice). As usual, I’ll post the results of my experiments in trying-to-be-good-at-what-I-do to Flickr or somewhere similar. As much as possible I’ll make them available under a Creative Commons license, though depending on who’s in the images the licenses may vary.

People have asked me whether I want to start moving into the realm of the semi-pro photographer, and I suppose that in some ways I do (for example, I bought myself an insanely expensive Nikon 70-200mm lens as an end-of-year present; I’d like to at least pay for some of its value through using it). Truthfully, though, I’m more interested in becoming a better artist than I am in becoming rich through my photography. Money is nice, but it’s a means to an end; having money for the sake of having money is a silly game to play, especially in this day and age. I may consider selling some of my work as prints in the future, but I don’t think I’m at that level yet (and besides, I think I’d need a bigger audience for that to really work).

As far as the quality of my photography goes, I know I’m getting better. I’m more comfortable behind the camera and I’m happier with the results than I was in January 2008. I want to continue to grow and learn, though – otherwise what’s the point?

Identity as a software developer

Let’s face it, being a Launchpad developer is the best job I’ve ever had. I’ve been with Canonical for eighteen months now and I’m loving every minute of it. Launchpad is going from strength to strength and (as I’ve said to just about anyone who’s ever asked me) you couldn’t ask to work with better bunch of developers.

Launchpad will be open sourced in July, and I’m both happy about it (because after all I love freedom) and a little scared (because a part of me keeps thinking that once we go open source I’ll no longer be necessary, though I suspect that’s nonsense).

I honestly and genuinely want Launchpad to be the best that it can be and I can only see Open Sourcing it being a great help in continuing that. The Launchpad user community has some phenomenal brains in it; I can only see that having some of them looking at the code will make our work that much easier (even if they don’t contribute patches; having someone going "WTF?" at odd code can be a great help, which is why I love code reviews so much).

I’m really looking forward to what we have in store for Launchpad in 2009. I think the users will love it, too.

Identity as a FOSS contributor

This has been growing on my mind for most of the past year. Although I’m working for a company that backs one of the most popular Linux distributions I don’t contribute an enormous amount to open source projects, besides filing the occasional bug.

If there’s one thing that working with people like Daniel, Jorge and Jono (besides that it’s a good idea to practice before you play a gig – or indeed to know the songs you’re going to play) is that all OSS projects need help, not just with bug hunting but with documentation, too.

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to step up my contributions to the various FOSS projects that I use this year. I don’t know that I’ll always have enough domain nouse to be able to contribute a patch to fix a bug but at least I can help with triaging and isolating the bugs.

Identity as a human being

I’m getting married in 347 days(!). I can’t imagine at the moment just how crazy things are going to get as we go through the year, but I’d like to think that my fiancée and I can deal with it.

When it comes to this time next year and I’m writing the next iteration of this post I want to look back and be able to say that I every hour of 2009 full of minutes.

Of course, only time will tell.