To my surprise, I see that I haven’t written a year-end review post here since 2014. I can guess why; my renewed blogging efforts were still only weeks old at the time, so that post served as initial public announcement for much of the work mentioned therein. The Decembers since then have all seen their respective years’ project announcements already happen, all filed neatly in the archive, so why repeat myself?
But as I wrote last week, I need to push myself harder to not just acknowledge but actively maintain paths to all my past work, and not just shout Look at this! before flinging each just-hatched project over my shoulder and diving into to the next one.
And, yes: I feel so bruised and shaken from 2017, absolutely the first year of my adult life where ending it within a still-intact civilization feels noteworthy. I think we all deserve a little self-indulgent horn-blowing.
Please grab a celebratory kazoo, then, and play along as I recount what work I managed to ship this past year.
One more Play of the Light episode. I relaunched my video-game podcast late last year as an interview show, having conversations with people who love certain games about why they love them. In the first one, I interviewed my wife about Marvel Puzzle Quest. In the second one, I talked with four long-time friends about how they play single-player CRPGs together. That latter interview happened two days before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and that hurled whatever regularly scheduled podcast-production energy I might have accumulated into the gray sea. But I did get around to editing it and putting it up a few months later, at least.
My final IFComp as lead organizer. After four years of running it, I have passed along IFComp’s lead-organizer role to Jacqueline Ashwell. Stephen Granade offered me the leadership position after the 2013 competition, just as I finished a very trying year with family matters. I committed myself to the project fully, partly as therapy, but also because I really did have a vision for the comp. I dare say that — with help from many volunteers, and all the years’ participants — I pulled it off.
I plan on sticking around as IFComp’s tech lead for the time being, continuing to operate the web application that runs at ifcomp.org.
IFTF’s first full year in public. Inspiration for this IF technology nonprofit came directly out of multiple conversations I had with IFComp’s unofficial advisory board, as well as its volunteer legal counsel, during my first couple of years organizing the event. We filed it into existence in January of 2016, and unveiled it that summer, so 2017 stands as its first full calendar-year. I’ve served as IFTF’s president throughout this time.
We’ve had a great year. Every program but one has met its goals for 2017 (and we have a plan for bringing that straggler back ‘round for 2018). Our first topic-focused fund-raising drive exceeded expectations, raising thousands of dollars in IFComp support, and we successfully assumed stewardship the IF Archive — something I wanted to be a launch program two years ago, but which we (correctly) decided at the time to delay. And we just this month opened up a little merchandise shop in celebration of this!
I’ve lately and often thought that IFTF, due to outlive and outshine any of the brief-burning projects towards which my attention defaults, will stand as one of the best things I’ll have ever helped create.
During the first few months of the year, I had an opportunity to ascend my consulting business to a new level, taking on some truly door-opening new clients. This carried a price: I would have to dedicate myself wholly to this endeavor, abandoning my freelancing stance, and instead establishing and then running an honest-to-goodness consulting firm, probably with multiple employees — something larger than myself in every sense. In other words: doing what I did with co-creating IFTF, except with this set of easily sellable skills and knowledge I didn’t necessarily care about, not in the way that I cared about preserving and supporting interactive text art.
After weeks of conversation with friends, family, and colleagues, I ultimately decided to bail, even though this involved ending multiple freshly inked agreements with these would-have-been clients. The brief pain from this so quickly blossomed into such a relieving field of energy and inspiration to focus on things I cared about that I knew I chose correctly.
Alisio and Bayamo, the first two projects in my “wind series”, represent the first tangible fruits of this new personal and professional definition that I found for myself. And, yes, I have a couple more of these in the oven, but of this I shall speak no more tonight.
No new Bumpyskies development. A year ago, I thought that further developing Bumpyskies, maybe even expanding it into a commercial enterprise of some sort, would take up much of my 2017. In fact, I barely touched it.
Frankly, I feel pessimistic about spending a lot of time and attention on a project that depends so much on American tax-funded climate-science data sources. I love that Bumpyskies works as well as it does — I’ve managed to make use of it myself several times, this year — and I hope that reality will change such that I’ll feel more confident about further developing it, some day.
A talk about lessons I learned making Bumpyskies. I made a ten-minute version, presented at !!Con in May, and a twenty-minute version for The Perl Conference in June. In retrospect, a mistake: making the shorter talk was a pleasure, but then trying to flesh it out by another ten minutes for a subsequent conference felt terribly frustrating and painful. I don’t regret pitching both conferences, and I think that both talks ended up pretty good — but I should have limited my speaking to one or the other.
A proper games-writing portfolio. Yes, only last year did I assert that all my ambition for writing professionally about video games had long since passed. Well, I wrote from a time deepest in the grip of Bumpyskies-development fever. Things have shifted!
I made a note a few months ago to pull some sort of games-writing portfolio together. When a friend earlier this month retweeted a certain game-news website’s want-ad for editorial assistance, I felt such a magnetic pull to the idea that I finally sat down and made it happen. And I did apply to that job, and I don’t hold my breath about it, and I know that further opportunities won’t come calling just because I made another webpage. But at least I feel finally dressed to go out looking for gigs, now.
Version 1.5 of Plerd. I continue to grow and tweak and share the software that powers this blog — as well as a handful of others around the internet, some of which aren’t even by me! Plerd remains my most successful traditionally open-source software project, and I take a very subtle joy in continuing to develop and maintain it.
A new title for this blog, followed by sixty-three new posts. I have no idea about correlation versus causation, but starting in January of 2017 — the same month I gave it a more interesting title than “jmac’s blog” — Fogknife experienced a surge in readership. Certainly my audience remains quite cozily modest in size, but according to my nerdy little visit-tracking tools, the thousand-ish monthly unique visitors I’d see quite consistently after my 2014 year-end post suddenly doubled this past January, and has doubled-and-more-again since.
Well, I’m glad you are all here. Here’s to surviving another year together, and making stuff when we can manage it.