So it seems everyone is doing one so why not join in! Although I realise the amount of people that will read this, I can probably count on one hand.
That being said, I decided to write one up anyway to force myself to write. In my last post, back in October, I mentioned that I wanted to do more writing and was going to be building a CMS and blog about that. Well, the building has been taking place, the writing not so much. More on that later!
So 2020, didn’t get off to the best start for me even before COVID hit. First day back after the christmas break, the 2nd January, I was let go from my job. The less said about that and the employer though the better! Thankfully, one of my friends is a freelance developer and had a small backlog of work that was piling up, so we agreed some figures and he was able to throw some projects my way.
During the early days of job hunting I put some tweets out about the hunt, and a former employer half jokingly got in touch as they were on the hunt for someone. While I was flattered, I initially ruled out the move as they had started to use technologies I was unfamiliar with and I wanted to find something closer to what I’d been doing / using before.
After a few weeks of job hunting and soul-searching, I couldn’t get the tweet from my former employer out my mind. I realised that while I did want a job closer to what I’d been using before, it hit me that actually I was more afraid of change and the thought of having to learn something new.
As of writing this, I am 31. I started writing code and building websites when I was 13 / 14. I would come home from school, forget about homework and dive into code and while frameworks and some of the other tools have changed, since then I’ve only ever used PHP / MySQL as my primary tools. I’ve dabbled with JS, jQuery and basic Vue for the fancy frontend bits but nothing with NodeJS or full blown SPAs with React / VueJS.
So I reached out and we hopped onto a call, and by the next day I was signing on the dotted line to become an employee of Aiir once again. I officially started 10th February and honestly it’s been the best 10 months of work I’ve had. They are great people to work for and treat you first and foremost like humans that actually have lives outside of work. In between me leaving and rejoining, they’ve also gone fully remote, have embraced the “Basecamp” way of working and trust us to get on with our jobs, and I personally feel like it’s been one of my most productive periods ever!
Here is team Aiir from our 2016 Christmas get together, sadly Andy (second from right) no longer works for Aiir and left just as I rejoined earlier this year.
No 2020 review post would be complete without a part on side projects!
In an effort to focus ourselves, me and my “Side Project Partner”, Rick, decided to finally close and delete, Travito. Travito was our Website Builder for Vacation Rental Owners. Without money behind you for marketing, it’s a really tough business to get into. Its legacy will live on however in my Laravel CMS, Aldrumo!
At the beginning of the year we doubled down on ServerAuth and got to work adding new features to help sell the idea of what ServerAuth can do for you. At this point however we were still testing the waters with free plan only. Then through April and into May, we added billing options to ServerAuth and added our first “premium feature”. Throughout the year we have continued to add new features (some free and some to the paid plans only!) and have seen our figures grow in terms of free signups and servers / ssh keys added to our system.
Paid conversions have sadly been slower than we had hoped and with such a low number it’s left us feeling like maybe it’s too small of a market to really make anything work on a larger scale. That being said, this Christmas break has been rejuvenating and motivating, so some new features will be coming in the new year in the hope that we can increase conversions!
As I briefly mentioned above, the legacy of Travito will live on in Aldrumo as the idea for how to put everything together and how the content editor should work all comes from Travito. After we opened the doors of Travito back in 2018 I realised that if an extention / plugin ability was added to hook into Content / Pages then it would actually be a nifty CMS.
Well this is finally becoming a reality. While I’ve not been able to use anything I originally wrote, the concept is the same. As stated in previous posts, I have been trying to build this as tested individual components where applicable and I’m building it on the TALL stack. Using Livewire has been real fun and rebuilding the page editor, that I previously wrote in hacked together VueJS, with only 19 lines of JS code has been amazing!
Here’s a screencast gif of the page editor in action.
There’s still bits to finish, and I need to create an installer but that should be coming as an alpha release in early 2021 and I’m excited. It has been difficult to get away from the “how do I make money off this” or “I should be working on something else that makes me money” mentalities, but it’s helping me remember those times when I was 14, coming home from school and ignoring homework to write code, just for fun as a “hobby”. With no stress at all from social media about making money from your side projects!
And after the year we’ve all had with dealing with COVID, being able to find enjoyment in something is a win!
© 2021 Mike Barlow