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The year of change that was 2011

The year is winding down, and its time to reflect on the 2011 that was. The year took me into the dark abyss of the American housing market and back out the other end. Somehow I ended up in Austin, a little lighter in the pocket-book to show for it. It saw the most exciting, and ultimate, year of that which was Gowalla. I got in pretty good shape, and then got into pretty mediocre shape. I read a lot, coded a lot, wrote a bit, and learned a lot about everything. ‘Twas a tough year, but all’s well that ends well, or so they say.

Things I read

The most interesting fiction I read this year was Neuromancer. This one was probably more jaw dropping before The Matrix came out, but it was still interesting. That said, it reads like the Cliffs Notes version of Neal Stephenson.

The best non-fiction I read was Godël’s Proof. It’s a short, clear explanation of his approach to computability. Even if you’re medicore at math and proofs, like myself, this one will stick.

The best technical book I consumed this year was Smalltalk Best Practice Patterns. First off, I love Kent Beck’s concise but powerful writing style. Second off, this book is like discovering that someone wrote down a really good theory of the elements of software decades ago and no one told you about them. Third, you should get a copy of this book, look for the used ones.

Things I made this year

I piled a lot of the things I learned about infrastructure and shipping software at Gowalla into Mixing a Persistence Cocktail. How to think about scaling, how to ship incrementally, overcoming THE FEAR. It’s all there.

I large chunk of my time at work on Chronologic. I presented on it too. Then I open sourced it. We deployed it at Gowalla and it held up, but not without some rough spots. I presented on those too.

I did a lot of open source tinkering this year. A lot of it is half-baked, but at least it’s out there. That was a major personal goal for the year, so I’m glad I at least stuck my neck out there, even if I’m not rolling in kudos. Yet!

Things I wrote this year

Modulo a summer lull, I ended up doing a good bit of writing this year. The crowd favorites were Why metaprogram when you can program?, The Current and Future Ruby Platform
Cassandra at Gowalla, and Your Frienemy, the ORM. My personal favorites were The ear is connected to the brain, Post-hoc career advice for twenty-something Adam, and How to listen to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

Of course, working at Gowalla this year was quite the ride. I wrote about that too, sometimes rather obliquely. Relentless shipping,
The pitfalls of growing a team, The guy doing the typing makes the call, Skip the hyperbole, Sleep is the best, and Don’t complain, make things better were all borne of things I learned over the course of the year.


If I had to pithily summarize the year, I’d tie it together under change. Change is good, challenging, frustrating, and inevitable. Better to change than not, though!

By Adam Keys

Telling a joke. Typing.