Looking back at 2019

Jan 7, 2020 | 7 minutes read

Tags: KDE, Frameworks, Community, Data-Analytics, Job, enioka

Except if you lived under a rock, you might have noticed that we’re in 2020 now. I thought it would be a good point in time to write a retrospective blog about 2019 (although I admit it touches sometimes on years before 2019 for context reasons). Expect something somewhat less KDE centered than usual (although it will of course talk a fair bit about KDE). Since I don’t want to bore everyone to death and to try to keep that post short, I will cover what I consider the four big topics of 2019.

Health Issues

You found me less active lately? Well… there’s a reason for it, since the end of 2018 I got some health issues and it massively spilled over 2019 as well. It all started with a pneumonia in October 2018. I never felt sicker in my life, it was really excruciating and immediately derailed all the plans I had post-Akademy 2018. After I recovered I spent a full year getting sick around once a month. Even a small cold would badly degenerate and put me on my knees. Rather unpleasant, but kind of expected since you’re apparently fairly immunosuppressed for a year after a pneumonia.

It led to me attending Akademy 2019 without even presenting anything (the first time ever!) because a) I needed to take it more relaxed than usual and b) I didn’t really have much to talk about. And what happened a couple of weeks after Akademy 2019? Another pneumonia… and they say lightning never strikes twice the same place. Of course it took some time to fully recover again.

So far it looks like things calmed down though, I got the usual seasonal cold without it getting out of control unlike previously. Hopefully it’ll stay like this for the coming months and I’ll be my usual self in 2020 again. I hope to churn at least some more work to have something to show at Akademy 2020, we’ll see.

Switching Jobs

I jumped into my first job unrelated to public research right after my PhD. I worked there for something which looked like a couple of weeks… I blinked… and I stayed there more than eleven years! I don’t regret it of course, it was a nice space for growth, I learned a lot and hopefully became expert in a couple of specific fields.

Still, after so many years, either I kept digging in the same expertise fields and probably would do so for the remaining of my career, or I would try something different. That was the main reason for leaving for another mother ship. I had a few interesting contacts and in the end I joined enioka Haute Couture.

It is still services but the positioning is very different. Instead of aiming at being a company expert into a couple of technical fields, it’s aiming at being best in class to help customers be in control of their own developments. On most projects, this means being involved in the very early phases of the project when the technical stack is being picked. It also means helping the people we work with to grow and making sure they master the tools and techniques necessary to the project success.

It’s really awesome so far, I’m really enjoying it a lot. As far as technology is concerned I’ve learned a tremendous amount of new things in a very short time:

  • improved quite a bit my Python skills;
  • discovered Typescript;
  • worked with 3D engines in the browser;
  • reviewed GraphQL APIs and making recommendations around them;
  • and much more!

Obviously this means I’ve been doing a lot of work both on the server side and the client side (both rich clients and web clients). After years working almost exclusively on Qt based rich clients, this is really exploring more ground.

Interestingly, I end up doing more mentoring than before both for our internal and customer needs which replaces nicely my former trainer role. It’s still about teaching but in a very different setup, I enjoy it quite a bit as well.

And last but not least, the enioka Haute Couture team is Free Software friendly which means we’re also pursuing projects which are helpful to communities we like. As an example, you might have noticed we became active around KDE lately (both as patrons and contributors). There is some other work and discussions around FOSS going on too, but that’s less directly relevant to KDE.

Finding My Place in KDE

Talking about KDE, I started working with the community in 2003… it means that during the next spring I’ve been around for a whooping 17 years! I’ll never beat someone like David Faure at the “oldest dino still around” contest but that starts to be a very respectable number of years I guess. Of course, on such a long period of time I added roles or changed roles several times.

The two most demanding projects I ever undertook were facilitating the creation of the KDE Manifesto and the transition from kdelibs to KDE Frameworks. Add to that that both happened around the same time (although one ended earlier) and I can tell you that around 2015 I was very much burnt out. That’s in part why I decided to focus only on Zanshin for a while, but had troubles to sustain even this.

I thus took kind of a longer break which got extended due to my son being born. As I was finally coming back to ramping up again on Zanshin and started my work on Community Data Analytics (more on that below), that’s when the first pneumonia kicked in (see above) ruining all my efforts to keep my pace.

And then end of 2019, we started talking about Qt 6 and KDE Frameworks 6… that’s my chance to somewhat come back. I’m not at full capacity yet, but as you might have noticed I participated in the KF6 Kickoff Sprint, I’m helping with the organizational work and reporting about progress. So let’s say for now I’m having a light stewardship role in KDE Frameworks. That’s a good area to keep in touch and do more, in particular through my new job as hinted at above.

Of course I’m not loosing hope doing more in Zanshin again and resuming my Community Data Analytics explorations. We’ll see what 2020 brings on that front.

Community Data Analysis on Hold?

As I mentioned earlier in this post, my Community Data Analytics explorations didn’t progress much during the past year. Well, it’s only partly true. My series of posts and the public exploration of communities have been on hold for the past year indeed. That being said, a lot has been happening in the shadows!

It turned out that the scripts and methods I was using for my posts were very useful for enioka Haute Couture as well. Remember I mentioned we were present in early phase of projects to select the technology stack? Well, if you lean toward several potential FOSS solutions to your problem, it’s actually not a bad idea to get a feel of the community health in order to choose. For instance, all other factors being equal, I’d choose the solution with the stronger community over the one with the marketing hype.

And of course, since we get a lot of freedom at enioka Haute Couture and since ComDaAn (the set of scripts I use) are useful, we decided to have an intern working on ComDaAn for a few months. In the end, we’ve been very lucky and got a really good intern. She did a tremendous job on ComDaAn for the past few months I’m really glad we had her. She finished her internship on the last day of 2019 but I’ll have another post here (hopefully soon) covering in part what she did with us.

Onwards And Upwards

So as we can see, the past 18 months or so haven’t been all perfect but they also brought their share of (sometimes unexpected) goodness. It’s life I guess, somewhat chaotic… but with nice opportunities too if you look for them. I’m wondering what 2020 will bring!