2020 - Reviewing the strangest year of my life

A look back at 2020 - a very, very strange year - and an outlook on 2021.

I think we all can agree that 2020 probably did not go as planned, to say the least.
In this article, I will take the opportunity to look back at this wild year, set some goals for this year and share a few of my thoughts along the way.

What I wrote a year ago

Before we review how the year actually went, let's see what I thought about 2020 just when it started:

  • I plan on practicing my tricks to the level that I can do a little stage magic show (I am VERY scared of this, btw)
  • I want to do my Advanced Open Water Diver certification and do a lot more diving throughout the year (my goal is to have reached 30 dives by 2021. I've got 9 so far...)
  • I would like to empower and support others on their way to the stage. Rather than doing many talks myself, I'd love to elevate voices that we usually don't hear but should.
  • I will continue to support local events and the local community as part of Web Zurich's team and supporter for other local communities.
  • I wanna get rid of another 5 kilograms :)

Right, that'll gives us a few things to go through, I guess.
Let's start with the communities

Communities and Covid19

This year has thrown a spanner into many plans regarding conferences and community gatherings. Last year I took 88 flights to visit communities all around the globe, this year there were a total of 10 flights taken.
I am grateful to have been part of Friends of Search both in Amsterdam and in Brussels last year as well as Search-Y in Paris and the HSR best practices event in Rapperswil, Switzerland.
Little did I know that those would be my last in-person conferences for the year.

In March, Google switched to working-from-home mode and our team had the unpleasant obligation to let conference organisers know that we won't join their events physically. This was met with overwhelmingly supportive responses; it was clear that we're all in this together.
Web Zurich, the local community of people making things on the web, switched to online meetups and we established informal after-party chats thanks to my co-organizers Aleksej and Rob.

I also had the goal of fostering new voices - besides the speakers at Web Zurich, I took on a mentee for speaker training and I am extremely excited to see her hit the stages this year!

Virtual events

Within a really short amount of time, virtual events sprung up and while many of them were great, it was abundantly clear to me that they cannot replace in-person events.
As an organizer I understand where the weak points come from and that taking risks isn't necessarily something you want to do when a pandemic is about to eat your livelihood, yet I would have wished for more experimentation.

One of the things that struck me is that many events, including Google's events, opt for pre-recorded talks screening at a set time, accompanied with some live chat and a live Q&A with the speaker.
But for me, that's more like a video series than an actual event where things go sideways, sometimes. Where there are ephemeral human interactions, interactions that make an event worthwhile.

I look at the interactions in two ways: Sharing information and knowledge on one side, exchanging insights and experiences on the other.
Events have been so energizing and exciting for me, because at some point at any in-person event we all mingle. We chat. We exchange ideas, tell jokes or stories and discuss all sorts of things (like work experiences or the fact that beach theft is a thing).

This exchange and mingling, it turns out, is really hard to do in a virtual event. Aurora and I did successfully experiment with a virtual Unconference - but I digress, that'll be a separate post soon.

Oh, and another side effect was that I could not really achieve my goal of performing magic on a stage... but I did get an opportunity to do a few small tricks every now and then on camera, which turns out to be quite hard.

Work from home

With events usually being a large part of my work-life and the rest being fun interactions with my coworkers in the office, this year has been very different.
Working from home itself is very much bearable - I have the comfort of a good setup at home and a fast internet connection. What I didn't anticipate or plan for, however, is video recording.
We do quite a bit of work with the video team and they, just like everyone else, had to hit the ground running this year.

With studios closed the joyful journey of setting up a make-shift studio space came to our homes.

I also realised that I feel lonely sometimes. Luckily, we established a daily "coffee chat" with coworkers where the usual office banter was conducted via Google Meet. I also missed the people from the community, so I decided to do two other things:

  1. The fortnightly JavaScript SEO office hours on our YouTube channel
  2. The more-or-less-weekly Twitch streams of my open-source work on my Twitch channel

Both of these are great! I really enjoy the interactions that happen during these initiatives. On Twitch, a steady small group of people regularly joins the live chat and we share laughs, stories and daily tidbits with each other.
It was during one of these streams that the infamous sheep made their first appearance:

Diving and biking

I started into 2020 with a total of 9 dives and was hoping to do my Advanced Open Water certification along with maybe 21 dives to get to a round 30 dives in total.
As it turns out, being at home most of the time gave me an opportunity to take it much, much further than that.

In January I was in the Maldives and took my Advanced Open Water as planned and got do dive with Mantas along the way. There I made new friends as well and diving grew closer to my heart than I ever anticipated.

I finished 2020 with 152 dives in total, I am a certified Rescue Diver and I am blogging on my diving at my divingfor.fun blog.

I also picked up biking and ended up biking a total of 1796 kilometers. My biggest milestone there was to cycle around Lake Zurich for 100km in one go.

A look forward

Now what's left? To set some goals for 2021.
I did learn to enjoy being at home and out in nature, be it underwater or on my bike.
I think realistic goals for 2021 are:

  • Hold my weight at 90kg or even get to 85kg
  • Become a PADI divemaster
  • Cycle 2000km in total in 2021
  • Continue mentoring new speakers
  • Run more virtual unconference events

And with that: Cheerio, on to a happy, healthy 2021!