6 Things I Learned in 2010

2011-01-06
6 Things I Learned in 2010

Lots of people seem to be doing a 2010 reflection post of some sort, so I wanted to jump in as well. To be a little different I thought I would reflect on what I learned this year. In no particular order: 6 Things I Learned in 2010

1. ActionScript 3.
Finally got a decent grasp on AS3 after several years hacking around with AS2. Some basic AS3 skills went into our Flash based Cornhole game this year. Be sure to throw a few bags in your off time.

Cornhole Game

2. CakePHP.
I never took any programming classes in school, but have spent the last few years really trying my best to teach myself basic scripting/programming skills in some of the most relevant web related languages. I've been playing with PHP for a while (CandorGallery) but really got into CakePHP this past year. CakePHP is a MVC based PHP framework that really lets developers do some powerful stuff. I built a little proof-of-concept webapp that imported trending topics from Twitter and let users rank the worthiness of the trends. I've since decommissioned that project.

TrendMeme Trend Page

3. jQuery.
I jumped into a tiny bit of Javascript a few years ago when working on the Tennessee Traffic Widget, but could never make my ideas actually function. This year I finally got into jQuery which has been an amazing tool for actually getting stuff done. I really cut my teeth on jQuery when building Pulse, which is a little app that accepts your zip code and displays current information based on that location, pulling in current tweets, weather, weather maps, news from Google News and photos from Flickr. This one was fun to work on.

Pulse - What's happening around you

4. Gardening.
Not just gardening, but learning about how this country grows/manufactures food and then gets it to the population has been a huge wake-up for me this past year. From chickens that are too fat to move, to patented seeds, to grain fed vs. grass fed animals, and on and on and on; It's really quite disgusting how we feed ourselves. On the other side of that, participating in vegetable and meat CSA programs has been wonderful. Our backyard gardening project didn't work out very well this year, so I'm looking forward to improving this coming spring.

Lattuce Sprouts

5. Tinkering.
It's amazing what you learn just from playing around with what interests you. This year I tinkered with an Arduino, built a squarefoot garden, scripted my home server to alert us to tornados and severe weather, rigged a solar panel and battery to run my home router and modem, built a small iPod charger out of yard lights, pulled down weather maps off NOAA radio and on and on picking up all kinds of information about how things work.

6. People.
I learned that people's behavior is always unpredictable. After the historic flooding in Nashville this spring, most of our office spent time over several weeks helping people out who had homes that were flooded by the high waters. We ripped out drywall, carried belongings to higher ground, cooked food, etc., etc. People were grateful for the assistance, but at the same time we witnessed an interesting behavior pattern of people who were really unwilling to help themselves. There were several instances where people were content to sit and do nothing, leaving their belongings in their homes to rot, and live in unlivable conditions until someone offered physical help. And not just days after the flood, but weeks later. Three and four weeks after the water receded we were still out there with Hands on Nashville helping people that finally decided they probably shouldn't live in waterlogged, moldy homes. I don't know if it was pride or fear or just lack of common sense in some cases, but had there not been an overflow of volunteers in that area of town, there would still be people living in flood damaged homes, untouched and unrepaired. And it wouldn't surprise me if there are still people living in those conditions, content not to help themselves out.

House moved off foundation

It was a stark contrast to the experience after Hurricane Andrew where all our neighbors came together immediately to secure belongings and damaged property and then come together each night to cook-out and provide food for each family on our cul-de-sac until power was restored and homes repaired. All without outside help from strangers.

Looking Ahead
On a brighter note, looking toward 2011, I'm looking forward to the continue rise of the electric vehicle, multi-touch workstations, iPad v2.0 with retina display and GPS at half the cost (fingers crossed), releasing a version of Seedling (web app for logging progress of plants in your garden), and continued learning and tinkering!