My 2011: a year like no other

Posted on Sun 01 January 2012

This blog has been mostly silent in 2011. Blame both Twitter that makes capturing quick thoughts so easy and a busy year as I started my freelance business. But a new year is starting, and along with the traditional wishes I owe an update to the people that still look around here. There have been many important events in the world this year, but I will talk about the selfish me, since this year has been like no other in my professional life.

I'm my own boss!

When I decided to go freelance, I thought it would be for a limited time while I worked on setting up a new startup project. It turned out this was a rather ambitious project, one of the kind I was a bit tired of, requiring a lot of work before reaching out to the world, and that the people I had planned to build it with were not the right ones for this kind of venture.

So I started to grow my freelance business, working 3 days a week architecting and developing the backend systems of a new M2M solution using J2EE (mostly Jetty and Spring), Hazelcast and MongoDB, and doing some short expert consulting gigs in various domains: data collection architecture, mobile geolocation app strategy, search engines, etc. I also did some fun side projects exploring augmented reality and Kinect hacks with my son and my friends at Tetalab, the Toulouse hackerspace.

I was also offered several interesting positions, but I didn't felt like being an employee again now, and most of them required relocating which isn't currently an option. So among others, I declined offers from Google, Facebook and even Apple who all seem to be starving for talents! Feels a bit weird to say "thanks, but no" to these big names...

I've also incorporated my freelance business for tax reasons, and the very difficult part was finding a name. After a long search and the help of startup name generators, we settled during a family gathering on Digispoon. No real website for now, as I don't really need it and don't have the time to set it up. And don't ask for a long explanation for this name: Digispoon just sounds nice, has this "digi" prefix that fits well with my various digital activities, and "spoon" has this double-O that so many web companies have, including my two former employers (Joost and Goojet, now rebooted as A funny (or stupid) tagline could be "Add a spoonful of digital technology to your projects" :-)

If you have a nice tagline or logo idea, leave a comment!

New projects

In this period of change, two books really inspired me: The 4-hour work week, and Start small, Stay small, a developer's guide to launching a startup. In rather different ways, these books opened my eyes on the fact that there are other routes than either large companies or heavily funded startups. It is perfectly possible to build a one or two persons startup and grow a business that will bring enough money to live more than comfortably. And we live a golden age for this: hosting a web site has never been so cheap, and we have highly productive toolboxes available that make possible things we barely thought about a couple of years ago.

So this is where I am now: I've met people with business ideas and skills but little or no technical knowledge, and along with my part time freelance business I'm working on these projects. These are two different projects, which makes my work week a lot more than 4 hours, but these were interesting opportunities I did not wanted to miss. Nothing to show yet, but they'll both go live in a couple of weeks.

Technically, I'm using Play Framework, jQuery and its countless plugins and Less CSS, with MongoDB, MySQL and Lucene to store data and Hazelcast for cluster messaging and synchronization. A highly productive mix that allows me to go straight to the problem to solve rather than having to fight with boring infrastructure boilerplate.


The year ahead will hopefully see these projets come to a fruitful life. Although I like it, my consulting business is more a means to eat and fund these projects than an end and who knows, maybe in 2013 I'll reach the mythical objective of working 4 hours a week and have plenty of time for all the things I've put aside because of lack of time. Not sure I'll ever reach that point though: I love technology too much!

And I promise I'll write more than a blog post a year :-)

Happy new year all!

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