I've been enjoying the christmas holidays and haven't touched my Macbook for the last 10 days, which was super relaxing for me, as I tend to become quite a "workaholic". So being calm enough to just relax over the last couple of days has been really good for me.
Public Speaking #
Alright, 2019 was a really good year for me. Let's start with the conference speaking gigs I had in 2019.
I thought that 2018 has already been a phenomenal year when it comes to my public speaking, but 2019 was even better. So here are the conferences that I was able to speak at this year:
Laracon Online #
This year I spoke at my first online-only conference - Laracon Online. The whole conference experience has been really great, yet totally different from any other conference that I've previously spoken at, since the conference is online only. So after giving my talk I went to the kitchen and had dinner with my family - which was both really nice, and very strange since I gave all my energy into my talk and then there was just this black hole. Nevertheless I am looking forward to Laracon Online 2020 and hope to be able to become a part of it again in the future.
Laracon EU Madrid #
In May this year, I traveled to Madrid to speak at the very first Laracon EU Madrid - the slightly smaller version of the big Laracon EU that has taken place in Amsterdam for a couple of years already. The whole conference experience has been great - the conference is a single-track conference and it was amazing to meet and see so many Laravel friends in Madrid. Speaking of friends, I was fortunate enough to travel to Madrid together with my pals Dries, Nuno, Christoph and Freek.
PHP Serbia #
RIght after Laracon EU in Madrid, I flew to from Madrid to Serbia to speak at PHP Serbia. I personally do not think that I want to chain conferences together like this, as this was quite stressful for me (and my family) - but the whole trip still was really cool as I could travel to Serbia along with Nuno, who also gave a talk at the conference. We had a great time at the conference - I've already been there in 2018 and it's one of the best conferences I have ever been to! But I also just had a lot of fun hanging out with Nuno and to once again meet fellow Laravel people all aorund the world!
Laravel Live UK #
The next conference that I spoke at was Laravel Live UK, organized by Jonty Behr. I fell in love with London sevearl years ago when I first visited the city with my girlfriend, now wife. So the conference alone being in London was great for me - and the event itself was very good too. I once again had the chance to travel with Dries, Nuno, Freek, Bobby and Christoph. I was super nervous before my talk since I did a live-coding-only talk for the very first time - but the aweseome reviews of my talk afterwards proved me that all the talk preparation was totally worth it!
Laracon US #
Then came one of the most amazing conferences I have ever been to. Together with my business partner Sebastian, we flew to New York to be at the Laracon US. After being at Laracon EU for multiple years in a row, I always wanted to go and see the "original" Laracon conference - and this year I was fortunate enough to not only attend Laracon, but also to speak at the conference. The trip alone was just amazing. New York is a great city and I can not wait to travel to New York again together with my son and my wife. The conference itself has been exactly how I imagined it to be - simply great. And just like the other conferences this year I was able to experience it all with my travel buddies Sebastian, Freek, Dries, Nuno, Christoph and Bobby.
Laracon EU #
Next up was Laracon EU - as I mentioned I've been to this conference a couple of times already and spoke at the conference twice - but I have never been this nervous before a talk in my entire life. The talk that I gave in Amsterdam was very special to me, as I was on stage together with Freek and we unveiled the project that we have been working on for 8 months full-time this year. The Laravel exception tracker called Flare. Freek and I practiced our talk like crazy, even on the day of the talk itself we rehearsed it twice in Freeks hotel room (a rocking boat).
But after seeing our talk again, I think we definitely nailed the announcement.
The conference itself was very short for me, as I only arrived the night before my talk and left the day after. And while I was so nervous during the conference, I could not really enjoy any other talks this year.
Fullstack Europe #
This year, my friends Freek and Dries organized their first conference called Fullstack Europe that took place in Antwerpes and I was happy to help them out by volunteering. I had the pleasure of meeting James and Robin during the task of packing some hundred goodie bags, and it seems like I have found my lost twin-brother :D
Laracon AU #
The last conference of the year was Laracon AU in Sydney, Australia - and wow...this has been a blast. The fact alone that I am fortunate enough to travel the world and see Australia just because I like to share my knowledge about Laravel and PHP is simply mind-blowing.
Just like many other conferences this year I was not traveling alone, but together with Freek, which made the whole trip even more enjoyable since we got the chance to experience all of this together. We also took a pretty rough boat trip with JMac.
The conference was amazing, the people I talked to and met in Australia have all been extremely nice and I can not wait to come back to a Laracon in Australia again.
Alright, those were the conferences that I could speak at this year! For 2020 I won't do as many conferences, as my wife is having here final year in her studies and she needs my support at home. But I'll try to be at some conferences, like Laracon US in Atlanta.
Beyond Code #
Beyond Code, the company that Sebastian and I started almost exactly 2 years ago is still going strong. We still are only two people within the company and want to keep it like that and try to grow the company with our software and video-courses, rather than by growing the company with more people on board. 2019 definitely was a big part of this ongoing plan as we have accomplished some of our goals to slowly transform from a consultancy to a product/software company.
We still have our cozy little office room, that we visit ~2 times per week. The rest of our work is done remotely in our homeoffice and I still like it every day.
In February 2019 I released my second video course called PHP Package Development and the launch has been really amazing. Also much better than my first Build A Chatbot video course. I think part of it is that I have released some free video series on Laracasts in the meantime so that people know the quality of content they can expect from me, and I generally just became more known in the Laravel community.
Over the last 12 months, we have sold more than 1.3k video courses, which was a big success and I can't wait to announce my latest video course early next year.
Facade / Flare #
Besides working on client projects or on my video course, for me the majority of 2019 was spent on a SaaS project that I worked on fulltime from January to August of 2019. It's called Flare and is an exception tracker built specifically for Laravel. In addition to Flare, we also launched Ignition the free new error page in all Laravel applications starting with Laravel 6.0.
I think the whole idea began sometime in November / December of 2018 shortly after working together with Freek on our first open-source package called Laravel WebSockets. After sending some thoughts of the idea of an error tracker back and forth, we decided that we will need to start a new company for that, so that everything will be (legally) correct. And then we, Spatie and Beyond Code, started our new company called Facade, under which Flare is running.
Working with Freek and everyone else at Spatie has been such a pleasant experience and I can't wait to show you the cool things that we have planned for Flare in the coming months.
You can see Freeks and mine announcement of Flare at Laracon EU here:
Coming to the end of 2019, together with Sebastian, I built a native MacOS application called Tinkerwell. It allows you to "tinker" with your Laravel/PHP projects. No matter if those projects are running local or securely via SSH.
I had the idea of Tinkerwell while having dinner with Sebastian and I was complaining that I always find myself spinning up new Laravel projects, create test routes or test artisan commands just to quickly try out some code snippets - there certainly must be an easier way.
And with Tinkerwell there now is an easier way to do it. The launch was a massive hit, letting us sell more than 1.500 licenses in the first 6 weeks. And seeing that Taylor Otwell himself is using Tinkerwell on a daily basis just makes me even happier. I am overwhelmed by all the positive feedback that I have received for this little tool in such a short amount of time.
From a technical standpoint, Tinkerwell was also a really cool and fun project for me, since it allowed me to escape a bit from my day-to-day Laravel routine and explore some Swift programming. Tinkerwell 1.0 is written entirely in Swift, so building the application itself was a lot of fun (and I have to say that I am amazed at how few bugs there are in the application, given that I'm not a Swift developer).
I can already tell you that the next version of Tinkerwell will be released in January 2020 and this version is completely rewritten using Electron. The reason for this is quite simple: A lot of people are demanding a Windows and Linux version of Tinkerwell, and since Beyond Code only consists of two people, we simply can not maintain three different codebases for different operation systems.
The next Tinkerwell version is also going to bring some really cool new features, that I will blog about soon.
Tinkerwell Web #
A couple weeks ago I released Tinkerwell Web which I think is really groundbreaking. It is a completely free version of Tinkerwell running entirely in your browser! That's right, PHP is compiled to Web Assembly and is running right in your browser. This allows you to try out Laravel documentation examples in a matter of seconds, since you don't need to setup anything locally - it just works right in your browser.
I am already talking with Matt Stauffer about how this can be used in his upcoming project Onramp, to help developers that are new to Laravel and/or PHP to learn what they can do and I hope to bring Tinkerwell Web to even more sites and services in the next year!
Laravel Lunch Break #
Together with my friend Dries, I started a (not so regular) podcast called Laravel Lunchbreak and I still need to edit the latest episode (sorry Dries). But the whole podcast experience is really great and I can't wait to record more episodes with Dries. It's just me and Dries talking casually about what we both have been up to since the last episode and I really enjoy taking the time to do this. Go check it out.
I don't want to talk too much about my private life when looking back at 2019, but there are some things that I think are worth sharing.
After having worked on Flare for 8 months straight, with Laracon EU as a fixed deadline that can not be moved, I started to feel a bit "burned out". I poured my heart into this one project for such a long time, worked countless nights and even weekends, had the project stuck in my head during family holidays, etc. that it was very hard for me to let it go and let it rest for a little while after it was finished. Especially the last 4-6 weeks prior to the deadline have been really stressful for me. One way I figure this out for myself is that my feet are starting to feel a little bit numb. So after noticing this for some time, I decided to go and talk to someone about it. I started to go to a therapy session / coaching session.
A big motivation for this also was Justin Jacksons great talk at Laracon US in New York.
And I can't tell you how good it felt to just brain-dump everything, every other week. It really helped me a lot to regain energy and just see my personal and professional life in a different light.
So to everyone who needs to read this: Going to therapy is nothing to be afraid of, and I am quite sure that it would help everyone no matter if you feel like you need to do it or not. It's just great to be able to talk about anything that comes to your mind for an entire hour and then you no longer have that mental overhead and carry it around with you.
Phew...I probably forgot some things, but I feel like this has been most of what needs to be said about my year 2019.
Thanks to everyone I met this year - I can't wait to see what 2020 brings me :)