Looking Forward To 2017 by Matthew Setter

Looking Forward To 2017

November 28th, 2016

Well, New Years is almost here, so it's time to reflect on the year that was, as well as look forward to the year to come. Let's see what went well. But, more importantly, let's see what's coming up.

 2016 - A Year In Review

I'm 100% A Freelancer!

2016 was a pretty good year all in all. My freelance business really took off. What's more, I'm very proud to say that I'm staying as a freelancer for the foreseeable future.

I was asked, rather directly, in the last four weeks whether I'd ever consider returning to full-time employment. I'm glad that I was asked, as it forced me to stop, think, and deeply consider where I stood on the matter.

As a result of weighing up the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a freelancer, and seeing just how far I've come over the last 12 months, I've decided that freelancing is the right combination for me.

I know that it's not for everyone. But it's perfect for me! Why?

Here are my core reasons:

  • What other style of work would afford me so much flexibility, so much time, so much enjoyment?
  • What other arrangement could give me so much time with my young family?

These are especially important to me as a father and husband. I've been a full-time employee before. Actually, I've been one for the majority of my professional career. And while I know that it's something which works for so many people, something which they feel very comfortable with, I know it's not for me.

I know that being a freelancer best suits my psychological makeup. By being one, I have the opportunity to do work which offers a large amount of variety. I can work from virtually anywhere, instead of one fixed location.

I can choose when I work, if required, to fit around things that unexpectedly come up, such as when my second child is born, or if I need to take my daughter to the doctor's.

I have An Awesome Set Of Clients

I'm really happy to be working for a range of wonderful clients. I don't often say who they are, but over the course of the year, I've formed great working relationships with a host of great companies.

They include:

I'm really happy to have met some of the wonderful people behind these companies. They have inspired me with their visions for the future, and what they want to achieve for their customers.

Given that, I'm proud to be working with them, as a technical writer, to help them achieve their visions. Definitely check them out and see if the services which they offer are a fit for you or your organisation.

If you’ve not seen my re-tweets of the writing work which I've been doing for them, I’m sure you will in 2017.

What's Coming Up In 2017?

Writing A New Book

The first thing I want to give a plug to is a new book that I'll be releasing. I can't say much yet, as there's a few things that I have to clear up first. But suffice to say, it's going to be something to do with the wonderful Zend Framework.

It's not going to be a big book, one of the “bible” types, nor a deep-dive. It's going to be an essentials style book. If you've never touched the technology before, this will give you an excellent, rapid overview so that you can get up and running quickly.

I know, I know, I'm not really saying anything. But, when the time comes, I'll be doing a proper announcement. An if you use Zend Framework — stay tuned!

Goodbye Markdown - Hello Asciidoc

As I've started to tweet about in earnest recently, I've moved to Asciidoc as my main file format of choice. For the last 12 - 24 months, I've been writing nearly exclusively in Markdown.

Now, while I have a lot of positive praise for the format, outside of its original specification, it's rather limited for technical writing, as its scope is limited to a specific set of options that you would expect to write for web-based content. Better said, it's not sufficient for the task.

Sure, you can use tools such as Pandoc to augment what you can do with it, even extending it in to other applications, such as PDF, ePub, and Mobi.

But, that's been bothering me, as so much of my writing is increasingly requiring me to step outside of the format, and use hacks. I don't like that, and haven't for some time. As a result, I've been in search of an alternative that caters to all that a technical writer needs. And in Asciidoc, I've found it!

This is something that I'll talk more about over the course of 2017. But for now, suffice to say after discovering Asciidoc and doing a lot of experimentation with it, I've found a format that supports all that I need, plus a lot more.

What's more, the ecosystem facilitates that native feel, and appears extremely supportive to the type of work that I do. Given that, I'm planning to get a lot more involved in that space, and become a champion of it.

Refreshing Zend Framework 2 Foundations

Along with the migration to Asciidoc, I've decided to migrate an existing book of mine to it. And along with the migration, I'm planning to keep the book up to date regularly as well.

If you're not sure what I'm referring to, I wrote Zend Framework 2 Foundations a year or so ago. The book's tasked with laying the foundations of using Zend Framework 2, so that you can get up and running with it quite quickly.

I've not updated it in some time, something which I definitely should have done. So, in 2017, I'm going to be keeping an eye on the book, and make changes as and when:

  • A new revision of one of the relevant components changes
  • I find a grammar or spelling mistake
  • When I feel that I could say what I've already said in a better way

What's more, I'm planning to begin selling it directly, instead of through LeanPub. I have nothing but good things to say about LeanPub. So don't see this as any complaint against them. I just believe that this is the right decision to take on a business level.

It will give me much more control and flexibility, along with fresh insight in to all the things that make selling an online product possible. I may come to regret it, but I’m too excited to be concerned.

More Time On Master Zend Framework

Master Zend Framework is my primary blog, one I started around 4 years ago. It only came to it's current form in the last 12 - 18 months. So, you could say that it's been constantly evolving.

Despite that, I've never really set aside the time that it really needs to have the opportunity to become what it could.

Given that, I'll be devoting a dedicated part of my working week to it from January 1, along with putting a specific plan in place for where I want to see it go.

I believe that it has the possibility of being something much more than what it is, something akin to what Laracasts is for the Laravel community. It just needs to be given the opportunity. More on this will be revealed over on the site.

Being More Efficient

This is something that I've been working at the entire time I've been freelancing. I don't mean that I'm incessant about doing work ever quicker, solely so that I can make more money.

I mean it in the sense that I want to do the best that I can. Part of that means that I seek to forever do what I do better. And by better I mean:

  • Quicker
  • More efficiently
  • More effectively
  • And always delivering increasing levels of quality

As the majority of what I do is technical writing, the specifics that I plan to undertake are undertaking a journalism or writing course.

From what I've learned over the last 12 months, I believe that there's so much I can learn from professionally trained journalists and journalism courses.

Specifically, here’s where I’m keen to improve:

  • Turns of phrase
  • How to approach the writing process
  • How to structure a piece
  • How to better edit the written drafts
  • How to write better headlines
  • How to make my writing more effective for online consumption

Given these goals, I'm sure that I can continue to deliver ever better quality pieces.

The Podcast

I'm not sure if you're already a regular listener, but if not, I have a bi-monthly podcast, called Free the Geek. I started it in 2016, and it's gone ok. Actually, if for nothing other than networking and learning to produce a podcast, it's exceeded my expectations.

In 2017 I'm planning to continue producing episodes, yet focus on improving quality. Specifically, I plan to:

  • Improve the quality of the audio
  • Improve my microphone technique
  • Improve the quality of how I am as a host

I'm also planning to ensure that they come out each fortnight, regular as clockwork. I’d love it if you would hold me accountable.

That's a Wrap

And that's a wrap on year in review, and the look forward to the year to come. What about you? Have you taken time out to stop and reflect? How was your year, and what do you plan to achieve next year?

CC Image Courtesy of Florian Rohart on Flickr

Matthew Setter. Ethical Hacker, Online Privacy Advocate, and a Software Engineer.

Matthew Setter

Software Engineer, Ethical Hacker, & Online Privacy Advocate.

Matthew Setter is a software engineer, ethical hacker, privacy advocate, & technical writer, who loves travelling. He is based in Nuremberg, Germany. When he's not doing all things tech, he's spending time with his family, and friends.