Comfort Zones (the obligatory 2011 review and 2012 resolutions post)

2011 was a busy year. I had a host of speaking engagements, including presenting opening and closing keynotes on User Experience and the future of web and mobile design and development at conferences like Future of Web Design, NSConference in the UK, Fronteers in the Netherlands, Login in Lithuania. I hosted the Brand Perfect Tour for Monotype Imaging in London and Berlin, taught my iOS Development and Mobile User Experience workshops multiple times in Brighton, Oslo, and Stockholm, hosted a Geek Ninja Battle and created my own conference, Update 2011 (watch the videos here), and, as part of the steering committee, I helped realise the inaugural Brighton Digital Festival. As part of the Brighton Digital Festival, Anna Debenham from Mozilla’s Hackasaurus project and I also visited two schools in Brighton to teach the kids to code and I also gave a new talk on augmented reality at the Improving Reality conference. Additionally, I presented sessions at the Norwegian Developers Conference, The Big M, and Be Bettr, mentored designers at Design Jam London 2, was interviewed as part of the Insites Tour, wrote a few opinion pieces for .net magazine, and helped judge the .net awards.

No more eating animals

Oh, and in the last few weeks of 2011, I decided to give up eating meat (in a nutshell, I couldn’t reconcile my revulsion at being served whale at a sushi restaurant in Oslo with my willingness to eat–among others-cow, pig, and chicken.) I’m hugely enjoying being vegetarian. Even in these short few weeks, my diet has become infinitely more varied and I’ve discovered (and re-discovered) restaurants, ingredients, and dishes that I never would have otherwise because I would have picked the burger or steak on the menu.

Comfort zones

So I guess I have done quite a bit and things have changed in my life. And yet I feel that I haven’t achieved as much as I wanted to and that I need to venture outside my comfort zone.

It’s somewhat ironic, considering that my focus on User Experience in all things leads me to try and remove all friction from my life; design my life, if you will, for maximum comfort. And there isn’t anything wrong with that… as long as you are also pushing yourself, playing with stuff you love, growing, and creating. (And how lucky we are, those of us that have the luxury to do those things.)

All this to say, I feel I’ve gotten a bit too comfortable and I am going to make a concerted effort this year to venture outside my comfort zone.

Focus and experimentation

I want to start experimenting again, making mistakes, iterating, hopefully working and collaborating with other people, and generally getting my hands dirty.

I’m also aware that I need to focus (heck, I spend enough time telling everyone around me that focus is key). It’s too easy with all the conferences and workshops and travel to get pulled into a endless chain of social engagements. I’m definitely a social creature and I adore the company of others but sometimes you need to cuddle up with a warm blanket, a nice hot cup of tea, and your laptop and actually–y’know–make stuff!

Let’s play together

The ‘collaborating with other people’ bit is also something I want to really focus on. As an only child, it’s not something that comes naturally to me and I want to work on that. (I’m very used to being self-sufficient and handling all aspects of a project… but that–while it has its advantages–can also limit you in the scope of the projects you can work on.) I thought I’d get the chance to work with a lovely team on a new project this year when the kind folks at Lighthouse backed my interactive film idea and helped submit the proposal to the Arts Council and the BBC for their The Space project. Unfortunately, following an unbelievably short evaluation period in which they were inundated with entries, our proposal was not picked for funding. This was a bummer (yes, that’s the technical term) but I have a few other ideas up my sleeve–one of which is an app idea that I’m very excited about.

The write stuff (oh boy)

I also have a couple of writing/publishing projects I want to undertake. This started out as a mild desire but has progressed in the last year to become a full-on craving; one of those ideas that just sits there at the back of your mind and won’t go away until you actually do it. I’ll be starting on three different projects that I will be announcing shortly. I plan on developing each one publicly, and working on them concurrently.

Focus, focus, focus!

Of course, if I’m to focus on these projects, something has to give. As such I am going to cut down on my speaking engagements for 2012. There are several conferences I’ve already said yes to (and which I’m hugely looking forward to), but I am going to be very selective in which ones I say yes to going forward. (That said, if you have an awesome conference planned that you want an inspirational opening or closing keynote for, get in touch!) I am also going to keep teaching my workshops but will limit them to one a month at most.


Finally, I feel like I could do with a change of scene. As much as I love Brighton, I’ve been here for about eight years now (and in the UK for a decade) and that’s the longest I’ve stayed in one country. I have to say I’m tempted by the quality of life in Oslo… or perhaps somewhere warmer? I don’t know. All I can say is don’t be too surprised if you hear that I’m going off to experience somewhere new. (And if you have any ideas–about working together, great places to live, or both, leave me a comment!)

‘nuff talk

I’m still planning out my year but this post marks the end of the thinking phase and the beginning of the doing phase. Time to get those hands dirty. Expect to see some half-baked ideas being developed publicly, experiments, mistakes, new beginnings, new friendships, and hopefully some really cool projects.

Don’t mind the dust, and I hope you enjoy the ride.