Date: 2024-01-01 | reflect | reflections | review |
I reflect periodically to better understand where I am, how I got here, and decide where I want to go.
In 2023 I got married, traveled for 81 days, quit my job, started some businesses, then got another job, wrote 85 posts reaching 118k eyes, built some Zonai machines, became a morning person, and generally decided to just follow my interests.
Adapting from Ali Abdaal's "Wheel of Life" exercise
- Observe - I got married!
- Create - Building with a focus on interests has been fun and impactful.
- Reflect - I started morning workouts which led to better mood, energy, and overall happiness
- Observe - As my interests / values have shifted, NYC seems to support my lifestyle less. It's hard to imagine building a life here long-term.
- Create - I realized that my visions for what I wanted to do in life were wrong and based on faulty assumptions.
- Reflect - My finances aren't very good since I didn't have a job for much of the year.
- Observe - Megna and I are experimenting with different ways of living in the city to see if we can make it work long-term - neighborhoods, activities, and communities
- Create - Interest-based building has been great - I'm excited to build more and see where it goes.
- Reflect - My morning workouts and lighter, more practical approach to finance has made me a lot happier. Looking forward to what a full year of this looks like.
Adventure - 7/10
Adventure gets a 7 because Megna is a travel fanatic so we always have incredible trips which is great but also acknowledging that I don't Adventure in NYC like I used to and am working through how I want to in the future.
- Days Traveled: 81 (22% of year, 4 less than 2022)
- Days in Atlanta: 35
- Total trips: 16 (same as last year)
- Countries visited: 4
- States visited: 5
I thought I was old and lame last year but if that's true then I'm even older and lamer this year.
Which is really to say that I'm doing things more sustainably. This means I'm a bit less fun and exciting but generally more fulfilled and value-aligned.
As Miley says - "I used to be fun [but really] I used to be young"
Megna and I have continued to travel around the world and enjoy our city. We've simply swapped out activities for generally more sustainable ones:
- Instead of seeking out bars / clubs - we opt for dinners and cocktails
- Instead of rushing around maximizing our itinerary - we opt for one or two big things we want to see and then explore / enjoy the area
- Instead of dinners at 9 and drinks at 11 - we opt for dinners at 7 and drinks at 9 (then bed at 11) and perhaps an early breakfast / coffee in the morning
- Instead of buying tickets to shows we like - we first check to ensure the headliner comes on before midnight (in NYC they rarely are)
In general I've found this to be a much more fulfilling way to move through life and aligns better with my values in this phase - no-longer-20-something. But I will say it's not all positive - this new normal has uncovered various mismatches in theory<>reality.
The most glaring mismatch for me is that NYC is high energy. That can be good - when I first moved to NYC I was enamored with the city, people, and LIFE around every street, corner, and tiny apartment (my first apartment was the size of my bed). In many ways it feels the whole spectrum of humanity is here and in your face. For better and for worse.
When I moved here in my early twenties this energy aligned with my goals and values so I got a lot of value out of it. I went to bars / restaurants / clubs / art openings, explored new areas / ideas / interests / walks of life, got new jobs / explored my craft / went to meetups / networked, and met so so many people. I also got in debt for the first time in my life (my running hypothesis is most people go net negative their first year in the city). But it didn't matter - I was living my best life and exploring all life had to offer at a time when I was still iterating aggressively on figuring out who I was and wanted to be.
Fast forward 6(!) years and things are largely the same and yet totally different. I'm married. I'm now the most senior person on my team at work (and wow this gives me perspective on how I must've seemed to the senior engineers when I first started working!). I've lived here longer than many transplants - not all of them of course but I've seen quite a few friends come and go (and some come and go again) which really emphasizes how long I've stayed.
All of which makes me feel... Old.
To some extent I feel a bit ungrateful. By all measures, we've got it pretty good. We live in a 600 square foot one bedroom renovated apartment near Union Square in a doorman building with a shared roof / backyard. I have an 8x8 office which I've dreamed ab for years (and which makes it larger than my first bedroom in the city). I've got a good job, Megna has a good job. We can afford to be here and partake in much of what it offers.
That's often the goal, just being able to make it here. As the saying goes: "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere". So by this measure we've "made it".
Yet it doesn't quite feel like home. I love the access to anything / everything that the city provides and all the efforts it undertakes to push what a city can be in this country (with varying outcomes) but there are tradeoffs to this and I'm currently iffy on those.
I don't do anything / everything. I never really did and I definitely do way less than 5-6 years ago Ham. So is it worth trading off on price, space, and calm for access to things I rarely use?
Yes I like going out to dinner + activity with friends a few times a week and NYC is filled with options. Yes I love being able to get around without a car, instead opting for walking or public transport to get around.
But do I need to be in the city for that? Is this 600ft, 1 bedroom where I foresee us living for the next 5 years? Is this where we would want to start a family?
I don't know the answers to all of these questions yet but I do think that their recent prevalence says something - that there's some imbalance / mismatch to be investigated.
My current hypothesis is that we won't be leaving NYC any time soon. We love everything ab the city except the prices, the space, and the lack of calm. What we will likely change is our relationship to the city - moving out to a cheaper / calmer neighborhood that feels more like home but still has access to activities when we want it. More to come.
Some NYC adventures
- Pranit in NYC
- Rooftop adventures
- Bob visited
- Times Square tourists
- A John Wick Themed murder mystery
- Daniel Arsham shows ft Pokemon and R2D2
- The final Sleep No More
- Holiday lighting / events
Adventures this year:
- Las Vegas
- Zermatt Switzerland where I did not ski but did enjoy the mountains and celebrate Tyler's bday
- London because Megna was bored
- Atlanta for our bridal shower and wedding
- A trip to Hyrule
- A Hamptons group trip
- Celebrating life and Arshiya with a glamping trip upstate
- Boston w the Sahas
- The HAMptons where Megna outran me
- Curacao for our honeymoon
- Toronto for Thanksgiving
My 2023 travels, visualized with TravelMap (added 2024.02)
There were probably more but these were the ones I had pictures of and could remember. I really gotta take more photos.
Community - 5/10
Community gets a 5/10 mostly because I don't see my friends as much as I'd like. Moreover I'm struggling to combine my interests / values, aligned activities, and community building with NYC's attributes which adds to the thrash.
Megna and I got married! It was a great time and largely I'm glad we put the work in to "do it right" - a mix of what we wanted and what our parents seemed to deeply care about. It went incredibly well and I'm very glad it's over so we don't have to plan anymore.
3 months later - not much has changed. I think that's a good thing. Often people seem to refer to marriage as a life-changing event. I kinda see it as if it changes your life you weren't really doing dating right - the whole idea is to test if this is a good fit and if you've done that work then you're already living the life you wanted so theoretically not much changes day-to-day.
That said I will say that long-term planning has been more frequent and the timelines much closer than they were before. While we've long discussed our life, goals, and 5ish year visions we're now nearing that 5ish year mark. This combined with the closing of our 20-something life phase and all that entails I think has increased the push to the next.
Outside of marriage I've tried to be more intentional with connecting with people. But largely I've struggled to connect as well as I did in previous phases which is why I give this Domain a 5/10.
Largely I think this is because I just don't see my friends as much as I used to. A large part of this is due to shifting the activities I'm willing to do and that leads to not seeing people as much at those activities.
- Less parties, bars, and pregames
- Less going to shows
- Less going to late dinners (after 9 is a no)
Ultimately I think this is the right thing to do. But that doesn't make it easy. NYC is an incredibly late city and that just doesn't fit what I want to do anymore.
I've been experimenting with bridging the gap by focusing on alternative activities that I do like and fit my values - dinners, little explorations, maybe an arcade / immersive experience / workshop - but they're often hit-or-miss and it can be a hard sell to people in a different life phase still into NY night life. I've found that when these occur they're usually very fulfilling and energizing which is a good sign, they just don't happen that often.
Moreover my hypothesis is that NYC is not really built for these kinds of activities which makes these things surprisingly difficult / pricey to access. There's a lot of demand compared with a relatively small amount of supply so spots are often competitively booked up and prices pretty high. But this market is still relatively small compared to more mainstream pursuits (read: nightlife) so many of these are also located further out from the city. Together this means hard to access, hard to get to, and a bit pricey.
A recent example of this is me attempting to play pickleball. There are many free courts in the city but so many people are competing for courts (pickleball, basketball, tennis, etc) that I was only able to play 3 games in 3 hours which isn't really worth it. Compare this to other places where my impression is you can typically get a full court to yourself / group for at least 1 full hour even if you have to pay and wait an hour to get the court.
So all in all I see my friends less than I'd like to. To some extent I think this is natural - as you get older your life paths diverge which makes reconvening that much harder. I'm also accepting / committed to the circumstances and tradeoffs - while I'm certainly seeing friends less than I used to, a lot of that time used to be after midnight and at the expense of my future health and happiness (hangovers also hurt a lot more than they used to). But I think there's definite room for improvement. I haven't figured out what it is yet but I think it's possible and will keep trying - suggestions welcome.
In the past year I've been thinking a lot about the role family plays in my life. I saw a lot of my family for the first time in awhile at family gatherings - our bridal shower, a funeral for my dad's brother, and my wedding.
Growing up we saw my extended family fairly often. Not every week but a couple times a year, often around holidays or school breaks. Since college and moving to NY that's happened a lot less - largely due to scheduling, logistics, and #busyness on my part. I think this is a fairly common journey of 20s exploration away and 30s settling back down.
Seeing them now is interesting, it's apparent a lot of time has passed - new life events, several new babies (a few now kids!), and everyone's just older.
As we settle down a bit more in our own lives, experience having 2 immediate / extended families, and consider starting our own I'm thinking more about how this looks going forward.
- How often do we see people?
- How do we juggle the amount of people we could see?
- How do we remain connected across geographies?
No answers here just things to ponder.
Research - 9/10
Research gets a 9/10 cause I looked into a lot of stuff!
I went deep on technologies I think have potential for better creating Simple Scalable Systems (3S) at scale. I'm diving into F# and server-side rendering to see how far we can push these.
- Reading / experimenting a lot on Hypermedia Systems and HTMX which led to lots of TECH experiments and updates to CloudSeed
- More involved with F# community on Twitter, Reddit (r/fsharp), and made my first F# language suggestion
I learned a lot ab what real entrepreneurs are doing to make $ online. Not the flashy venture-funded ones that raise a bunch of money, get on Forbes lists, then go to jail but actual entrepreneurs who live a good life, build useful things, and do a net good for the world. Ultimately it's what made me decide that entrepreneurship wasn't for me yet but did provide a more healthy, sustainable framework to play with long-term.
- Small Bets Community - Not everyone likes Dan Vasallo's tweets but this community has been great for getting behind the scenes looks at real entrepreneurs building lifestyle businesses. Ultimately it's simple but not easy and aiming small is the best bet long-term.
- The Minimalist Entrepreneur - Excellent book from the perspective of the founder of Gumroad that ultimately supports the same conclusion - small bets win.
Art / Creativity
I ultimately learned that art isn't really what I want to build and probably never was. What I really liked about it was the core principle of "play" via medium, process, and concept. My bucket for play is now more aptly named TECH cause really I just like building systems and playing with technology whether it's in real-world software or building a fancy machine in Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.
- The Creative Act: A Way of Being - I think this is my most highlighted book ever. This guy eloquently ponders the essence of creativity and the elusive balance between too much and too little. I don't like re-reading books but I bought a hard cover to put on our coffee table because this one is good enough to regularly flip through.
- ITP Camp - After years of trying to get into a Creative Technology community in NYC I was finally accepted into ITP Camp. It was cool to see what everyone was building and the maker / creator community has energy I'd love to replicate but it also allowed me to see many future paths along this domain which helped me realize this actually isn't something I want to pursue that much. When it interests me sure, but not as a thing I do regularly.
I took a step back from Finance mostly because I didn't have a job but also because I've been evolving my relationship with money. Constant worry is a net negative and there's more practical, similarly effective approaches out there.
- Ramit Sethi - I follow a lot of personal finance influencers and have written my own thoughts on wealth-building but Ramit is the first that I think I could recommend to most people. His recommendations are rooted in science / logic so I feel good recommending it and his arguments are very emotionally persuasive so I feel like people would actually listen. We first watched his Netflix series and everything I've seen since I largely agree with and think people would benefit from considering.
Presence - Mindfulness and Intentionality
At the start of the year I read Digital Minimalism and it triggered a reconsideration of my usage of phones and media. I quit most of my socials for several months and was surprised how much extra time / bandwidth I seemed to have and how many tics I had subconsciously picked up.
An example tic is when I was bored / not doing anything specific I would subconsciously pick up my phone, open it, and try to click an app logo (usually Instagram). After deleting the apps I would find myself blankly staring at my phone then a few seconds later I would be like "Wait why am I staring at my phone?" and it would literally be because I had a subconscious default habit of opening apps when I was bored!
Deleting the apps also made me feel a bit unconnected - I was texting my close friends but lost touch with a lot of second, third layer friends which was a net negative. I got better at texting / reaching out to people when I was thinking about them but found that it was harder to do with many people cause I didn't have regular reminders / updates ab what they were up to. I'm now back on the socials but using them a lot more intentionally - hiring them for a specific purpose - as opposed to default scrolling for hours just because. Also my phone is now permanently on silent (unless I'm oncall) which is scary at first but ultimately so much better - pull-based notifications is way better than push for focus / intentionality.
I don't have much data but I have a hunch that this has had a meaningful impact by freeing more bandwidth to focus on Domains I find more valuable.
Top Books 2023
- The Cradle Series - 5/5 - I've never read 12 books faster, 5/5 on most. If you like anime (fantasy + fighting) you will love these books. It is anime in novel form which I didn't know existed.
- The Creative Act: A Way of Being - 5/5 - Already talked about this but excellent book on the essence of creativity
- Red Rising Saga - 5/5 - Picked this up as a recommendation from Dan and really enjoyed the first three books - a great scifi saga. Haven't gotten into the next "cycle" yet but they have good reviews.
- The Lost Metal - 5/5 - I was dreading this book a bit cause it had been so long since I'd been in the Mistborn universe. But honestly it was typical great Sanderson and provided a nice peek deeper into the Cosmere, setting the stage for cycle 3.
Notable book I did not like: Fourth Wing - 3/5. I had high hopes but ultimately the weak foundation of world building collapsed. Megna and Alex love it though so ymmv.
Top Games 2023
- Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty - 10/10 - Okay so base game didn't come out this year and I played it last year for the first time but the recent expansion and updates really upgraded the whole experience. It is now a complete game that I would say is on par with Witcher and shames new RPGs like Starfield. This is the future of RPGs and the standard for what next-gen means and is likely what we'll be comparing GTA 6 to in 2025.
- Zelda: Tears of The Kingdom - 10/10 - This is an incredible game. Perfect really and makes the most of what the Switch hardware can provide. It improves on everything from Breath of the Wild and adds many new dimensions including building which I went wild in - seriously I made videos ab it.
- Baldur's Gate 3 - 9/10 - I like BG3. It is a very good game and deserves all its game of the year awards. I'm just not the biggest fan of the CRPG style - it's a bit tactical which isn't my favorite.
- Hogwart's Legacy - 9/10 - Okay I really kinda thought this game would suck. A lot of movie -> game world translations just suck. Hogwart's Legacy really impressed me and is what all future wizarding world games should strive for (and movie translations should learn from). Biggest surprise was how fast / good they could make the magic system feel - wow.
- Starfield - 8/10 - I like Starfield. I love Bethesda. It's a good game but it's just not great. It gives me Fallout 4 vibes - good but just not quite there. IMO No Man's Sky is a better overall gameplay implementation of what Starfield tried to do and Everspace 2 is an overall better space game.
Business - 7/10
I'm giving Business a 7/10 because while I'm in a good place now, much of the year was me seeking out better vectors cause my current approach wasn't working. I think if I keep doing what I've been doing in Q4 things will go well next year.
- Have Job?: Yes! (w salary to pay bills and health insurance)
- Revenue: $348.55 (+111% vs 2022's $165.37)
- Cost: ~$2500
- Profit Margin: -
- Businesses Shipped: 2 (-50% vs 2022's 4)
There's been a lot of change in Business this year - my domain where I try to make money to support myself because #capitalism.
A brief timeline:
- 2022.11 - Quit my job at Instagram as a Software Engineer to explore entrepreneurship
- 2022.11 - Joined Reddit as a Software Engineer to experience a startup
- 2023.03 - Quit Reddit to explore solopreneurship
- 2023.06 - Concluded Founder life wasn't for me, started searching for a job
- 2023.08 - Landed a job at Rippling (in this economy!)
For a full timeline / discussion, read My journey from Software Engineer to Entrepreneur and back again
Through this process there was a lot of anxiety and self-doubt:
- Did I do the right thing? Will this help or hurt me short and long-term?
- Will I ever get something better than Instagram?
- What if I'm not a good enough engineer to get hired / do well at another company?
- Am I just being stuck up / snooty / ungrateful / arrogant by saying these jobs are bad fits for me? It seems like other people would kill to get some of these positions and here I am not liking them.
I don't have a solid answer to these. I don't think anyone ever has a definitive one. We simply build up evidence over time and examine what it suggests.
What I will say is that this phase of change was probably necessary for me. I don't know if where I landed is the best place I could have or if the duration of this phase couldn't have been shorter but I do know that I wasn't feeling like I was in the right place for a long time so it was probably worth seeking other options.
Since 2022 I'd been kind of bored with work, my projects, and really life overall. I was comfortable but I wasn't really working towards anything. There wasn't much excitement.
Shaking things up certainly made things more exciting but mostly in the form of worry / busyness as I tried to seek out the next thing. But this process did lead me to a place where I'm feeling calm, comfortable, and more excited ab my projects than I've felt in years.
So seems like a better place overall.
Ultimately my takeaways were:
- I don't actually want to be a full-time Founder, even though that's what I believed I wanted to do for the rest of my life / as part of my Endless Game for the past several years
- The type of work I do and how I do it is just as important to my personal satisfaction with the work as the impact it brings
- You must try things to see if it works or not. Don't wait to stop doing a thing if it's not working.
If I had to distill this further into a piece of advice to give my future self / others, it'd be to make sure that my projects / work fulfills Hedgehog:
- Something the world wants (and will pay for)
- Something you're good at
- Something you're interested in
Ultimately I think this is what brings long-term fulfillment and sustainability to Creation.
Working at Rippling
Rippling has been fun! I'm working on the Risk team which builds tools and systems to monitor and act on risky things like fraudulent payments, stolen / misused credit cards, and stuff like that.
Rippling is a growing company with lots of momentum in terms of business and system growth and is regularly creating new products / features. So far it's given me that startupy vibe of iterating fast with lots of ownership. This has been very refreshing - I think I've written more code in these past few months than I have in a year at BigTech as there's much less overhead involved with getting anything done.
Will this last? Probably not. I think all companies go through cycles of expansion and compression so I'd guess that by IPO time we're slowing down and adding process. But for now, very refreshing!
Our tech stack is largely dual monoliths (I like monoliths!) with a few teams trying to split out into microservices (sometimes good but mostly bad!)
- Backend: Python - It's not F# but not bad either
- Frontend: React on Node - I don't like React but it's basically industry average so could be worse
- Data: Mongo - It's fine. I don't like Mongo (Postgres is a better db in essentially every metric) but it does the job okay and not worth a rewrite right now
I'm currently the most senior engineer on the team which has been an interesting experience for me. I've written about feeling like an older guy in my personal life over the past few years but also being the old guy at work is a regular reminder I didn't have before.
It's not bad just a different paradigm / perspective than I've had before. It gives me greater appreciation for the older / more experienced engineers I had on my teams when I first started working.
- Sales: 5
- Revenue: $215
- Cost: $21 (assuming I work for free =))
- Margin: ~90%
Current CloudSeed stack:
- Backend: F# / Giraffe
- Frontend: Server-side rendered HTML with Giraffe.ViewEngine
- Data: Entity Framework ORM, DBUp migrations
- Hosting: Docker and Docker Compose for containerization and orchestration
I continued iterating on CloudSeed based on my new knowledge / ideas from playing around with different technologies. I still love F# and have been pretty taken with the new trend towards server-side rendering so after a few experiments vetting the approach I moved to the new paradigm.
Ultimately this change has made CloudSeed simpler and more scalable than ever before and anecdotally a lot more fun / productive to work with. People continue to buy / use it every couple months and I still use it to start all my projects so I'd mark it up as a win.
Read more in Why I'm moving from SvelteKit to F#
TECH - 8/10
TECH gets an 8/10 because I'm very happy with where it is now but this was really only the case in the last half of the year. I'd like to do a few more side projects but if I continue Creating like I did in H2, this will happen and the score improve in 2024.
- Projects Released: 5
This year I really had a reckoning with what I like to Create. I've found over the years that Creation is one of my largest sources of fulfillment and interest.
When I look back at my relative stagnancy in mood / life in 2022, I think a lot of it is I wasn't really excited about Creating. On analysis it wasn't so much that I was burned out on Creating more that the things I was trying to Create weren't bringing excitement / joy.
So I stopped Creating. But I like Creating. So that made me sad. Enter vicious cycle.
This year I kinda took a step back from any kinds of expectations / plans for Creation. I felt that whatever I had been doing previously wasn't really working so I might as well try to enjoy what I was doing.
Slowly I started to Create again. In different ways than I had before and not in any one particular category. Just building stuff based on what I was interested in at the time.
- Some little websites
- A minimal orbit simulation
- Some productivity templates
- A paid membership
- Some F# performance benchmarks
- Migrated CloudSeed to F#
- Playing around with server-side rendering and HTMX
- Suggesting change to F#
These Creations are rather unremarkable in both quality and quantity. But they weren't rushed, they weren't forced, and I had fun doing them which I think is a win.
If I had to give advice to my future self / others on what they can take away from this it would again be Hedgehog for finding projects / endeavors that are actually fulfilling in the short and long term:
- Something the world wants (and will pay for)
- Something you're good at
- Something you're interested in
It's simple but not necessarily easy.
Shares - 9/10
Shares couldn't have reasonably gone better than they have this year. I found better ways of Sharing which I enjoy a lot more and am connecting with way more people through them around my interests. The only thing that could make this a 10/10 is if I was getting a bajillion views and dollars to do it but I've accepted that will likely never happen and I would (and do) do it for free anyway.
- Views: 118,147 (+58% vs 2022's 74,562)
If there was one Creation bucket that really took off this year I think it was my Shares. I've now been sharing on the internet for well over a decade (my projects page lists my first site circa 2011) but this year I felt like I found alignment - it was easier / more fun for me to do and people seemed to really connect with it. Enter virtuous cycle.
A large part of this I think is really just a symptom of me being more excited about Creation in general. Essentially all my Shares are just me talking about / reflecting on things I found interesting. So it follows that the more interested / excited I am about the things I'm doing, the more I'll have that I want to share with others.
But also I believe strongly in the idea of surface area of luck. In order for you to be "lucky" you must first be in a position to both recognize an opportunity and be ready to act on it.
I started making videos around 3 years ago during the pandemic cause I wanted a new project and I felt like my writing wasn't getting the reach / impact I wanted. Video was TheThing so I wanted to see if I could leverage that.
So far it's gone pretty well with my videos out performing my writing since year 1. But videos take a lot of time and energy to plan, make visuals, practice, edit, publish, etc.
For me I often get energy from writing. Videos not so much. I like filming the video but everything else (the majority of the process) is quite draining (and often takes 2-4x more time than just writing the thing).
This year I experimented with a new format which I really, really like. I call it a vodcast. Essentially it's me reading / discussing a blog post I've written in much the same form a podcast takes, just with video.
Now many people will not like this format.
- Not as engaging as a typical video you'd expect on YouTube / TikTok
- A lot of talking (usually for a long time)
- Very few visuals
Megna finds it incredibly boring and I have to remind her that she's not my target audience and point out that it's not too different from the 45 minute vlogs she watches anyway. But she's also not wrong - this format receives far less views than my higher production, more visual videos.
But I think the benefits of this format far outweigh the downsides:
- More fun and less energy spent making them
- Videos / Posts are much more useful and nuanced (and I end up editing / improving the posts more so they're usually higher quality)
- My production time has dropped ~50% from ab 6-8 hours to ~4 on average (depending on length / complexity)
- Engagement and discussion is up (both on and around content on socials)
- watch time / % watched is up (even though views per video are down)
Ultimately the mission of Shares is to "Share what I learn and enjoy with others". This new format seems to better support my ability to do that, seems to lead to better / deeper discussion, and is easier / more fun to make so seems like a better path forward.
I use Fathom Analytics for site analytics.
- Views: 52,505 (+112% vs 2022's 24,765)
- Visitors: 42,036
- Posts: ~85
In 2023 hamy.xyz received 52,505 views from 42,036 visitors. I published 85(!) posts this year largely cause I was more excited ab the things I was building and found more effective ways of sharing about them.
Google continues to be my largest source of traffic (~60%), largely to niche troubleshooting guides for specific problems. YouTube comes in second with about 5% showing decent but not large cross-share performance.
The other referrers are pretty small but in aggregate make up ~10% of my traffic. I increased my reshares to other platforms (like LinkedIn lul) which has led to marginal increases in viewership with little increase in effort on my part (I schedule reshares with Buffer).
You can find a list of my socials / where I reshare on my home page.
Top traffic referrers 2023
- Google - 60%
- YouTube - 5% (via HAMY LABS)
- Sergey Tihon - 3% - Runs F# Weekly and the 2023 F# advent calendar (I also participated in 2022)
- [New] Twitter - 3% - I've been posting a lot more on here (via SIRHAMY)
- [New] LinkedIn - 2% - I started resharing here cause LinkedInfluencers and it's weird but works? (via Hamilton Greene)
- Reddit - 1% - Mostly from participation in r/fsharp
Top posts lightly edited to prioritize newer posts and those that are actually interesting vs just high search traffic.
Top Posts 2023
- The State of F# (2023)
- Build a simple F# web API with Giraffe
- Deploy Containers to Google Cloud Run from GitLab
- Is C# faster than F#?
- Instagram's tech stack will surprise you
HAMY LABS YouTube
HAMY LABS YT Stats:
- Views: 65,642 (+32% vs 2022's 49,797)
- Watch Hours: 2,697
- Subscribers: 1,816
- Videos: 52
I continued to make a lot of videos, particularly in Q4 as I aligned on my new vodcast format which has streamlined production and made it more fun for me.
Overall I'm still pretty blown away by YouTube and how much reach / engagement it provides. YouTube has outperformed my writing for the past several years even though my videos / writing basically says the same thing and I'd regard my writing as higher quality than my videos relative to the rest of the field. But that's the power of platform, format, and distribution I suppose.
Most of my YT traffic comes from links / embeds on my site or searches in YouTube. This is as expected and planned because I tend to lean towards technical videos which do better as searchable content (someone who searches for a solution to a particular problem) as opposed to browsable (like you're on YT and you see the cool new MrBeast video and click it). I personally like more searchable content because it leans more evergreen and less clickbaity which to me feels better and is more aligned with my values. Plus anecdatally these seem to perform worse short term but better over time - think of it as an indefinite slow burn as opposed to a rapid explosion.
That said, there is smth to be said about the unreasonable effectiveness of clickbait as Veritasium deftly explains. In this deep dive he terms "Legitbait" which is essentially the idea of using clickbait tactics (curiosity triggering titles / thumbnails) and then actually following through on satisfying that curiosity. There's a fine line here but I think there's definitely opportunity for content framing that works both for search terms and plays well for browse. In my case I think a lot of my essays are good fits for this:
- Open Source Software is Unsustainable
- Stop wasting your time on Bad Startup Ideas
- Your Programming Language Benchmark is Wrong
But I'm still experimenting with this, I'm not an expert, and let's be real my videos aren't that successful so don't have too much data to go off of.
Top Traffic Sources 2023
- External / Direct - 40% - I read this as traffic that comes from links on my posts
- YouTube Search - 29%
- Browse Features - 19%
- Suggested Videos - 7%
Top videos lightly edited to prioritize newer videos and those that are actually interesting vs just high search traffic.
Top Videos 2023
- Scripting Generative Art in Python
- This Zonai machine solos Lynels (Zelda TOTK)
- The State of F# (2023)
- Deploy Containers from GitLab to Google Cloud Run
- Build a Simple Web API with F# + Giraffe
- HAMINIONs: 5
As part of my explorations in solopreneurship I created HAMINIONs - a paid membership - to provide a way for people interested in my projects / shares to support and engage with their continued creation.
The sales pitch is essentially this:
- You give me: coffee money each month
- I give you: More experiments and Shares ab their outcomes, example projects and code, and discounts on my releases
I didn't expect it to be a raging success and it's not. But I did rack up 5 HAMINIONs this year and that makes me happy and pays for ~2 coffees a month.
The Hamniverse Newsletter
The HAMNIVERSE stats:
- Subscribers: 40
I've had an email list on and off for the past several years. On the one hand most email software sucks for sending out simple newsletters periodically (too expensive and clunky) but on the other email remains probably the single best distribution option in terms of reach / engagement.
I observed that I read a majority of my news / articles from links / notifications arriving in my inbox - even for creators I like a lot, I often miss several of their pieces cause I don't get a centralized notification it's out. Now I'm very quick to unsubscribe if a newsletter is low signal:noise but there are a few that I read almost every day due to their format (I enjoy link curations) and high signal:noise.
Further I noticed that a lot of independent creators I followed moved to Substack for their emails and that a few people I know started Substack emails that grew quite popular (Ryan has been killing it with The Developing Dev).
So I decided to give it another go with a few tweaks based on what I'd observed:
- Email needs to be valuable - I personally like periodic link curations so I can see a selection of the best items and pick and choose what I want to read as opposed to a notification every time something is posted
- Email needs to be low effort - The simpler it is for me the more likely it will happen
This led to creating The Hamniverse which is a ~monthly roundup of my top performing posts along with links to that month's reflection. It's small and lets people click in if they want or ignore if they don't.
It's not super high performing (there are 40 subscribers right now) but it has pretty good engagement, is simple for me to make, and I don't really have a better way to let people know a new thing is out there aside from social media which is getting increasingly fragmented / unreliable. So email is here to stay for now.
Finance - 5/10
Finance gets a 5/10 mostly because I didn't make money for most of the year cause I didn't have a job. I'm still very financially secure so my future outlook is unchanged but I'd be remiss if I called this a "good" year wrt Finance.
Honestly I didn't do as bad as I thought I would. I thought this year would be a complete wash akin to taking 2 years off for an MBA. So I pulled money out of the market to serve as my buffer and set out to build things and figure out what was next. But that didn't work out so I got a job and thus started making money again several months earlier than I'd projected.
Now looking at these numbers, this is not a bad outcome. But it's not where I want to be long-term.
Some big factors that make this year a miss:
- While FI is now up to 35% (better than last year) this is largely due to upward market movements, not what I did.
- Due to the large upward market movements, this signals I missed some of the best growth conditions in the past 5 years and thus signals a large loss of growth opportunity
- I still believe a savings rate of 40%+ is really necessary to be financially stable in a capitalist economy, esp if you have a partner
So not as bad as I thought it would be (a ~2) but not good either, thus a 5. I think if I get back into my routines for 2024 this will be a lot better next year.
Health - 8/10
Health gets an 8/10 because while I'm not at peak fitness I have found the most sustainable / aligned routine yet via morning workouts and this is something I think I can leverage / enjoy through the rest of my life.
I am a morning person now!(?) I don't know if I would've believed you if you'd told me I'd be a morning person in 2023 even one year ago. But I am and it's kind of amazing.
I've long enjoyed slow mornings - a coffee, a BEC, and reading some newsletters. But typically it was a get up at 0830 and lounge until 1000 kind of morning. So up in the morning and enjoying it but not really energetic.
This year I found myself increasingly going to bed earlier (~2300-0000) and getting up earlier (~0730) cause I wasn't destroying my sleep cycles by staying out late / giving myself hangovers and because it's closer to the routine Megna has. This left me with an oddly long morning that I liked using to lounge but was a bit too long to be comfortable. There'd be times when I was like - okay done lounging, guess I'll get a headstart on work?
At the same time I was debugging why I wasn't going to the gym as regularly as I'd like. A lot of it was cause I'm lazy but in the theme of Atomic Habits I was like how can I make this so easy that even laziness can't stop it.
The obvious answer was move to morning workouts - it would fill that empty time with something I liked / wanted to do more of and would solve my problem of not regularly going. But I've tried morning workouts many times over the years and it never really stuck.
But this time the circumstances were slightly different and I thought I might be able to stack the deck in my favor:
- Foundation - Better sleep thus more energy to workout
- Incentive - Buy myself a coffee I can drink while working out to wake myself up and listen to a podcast which is something I like doing anyway
- Lower barrier to entry - Go to a gym a 5 min walk away and just commit to minimal workout
The first few weeks of this were hard but I found that if I could just get myself out of the house the rest flowed rather easily. And the results were astounding. I was hyper energized and focused for the rest of the day. Honestly I was so energized and focused it was a problem - I was going 100 mph and prob needed to chill.
Now a few months in my body is more accustomed to this ritual so the benefits are still there, just not at problematic levels.
- More energy
- Better focus, mood, and overall calm
- Way more time - You can't "make" time but by moving my workouts to a time that was previously underutilized it's like I made an extra 2 hours a day which is crazy
- Healthier - I go to the gym way more and it's a good forcing function to not be destructive the night before
- Way less stress / anxiety - By moving workouts earlier and being more focused which allows me to complete more things earlier in the day, I've substantially lowered any stress / anxiety at night and can just rest which ofc makes the next day that much better.
Overall I feel like I leveled up in overall Health performance. Rarely do I find a new technique that is basically all upside and yet morning workouts / moving to a more morning-focused schedule has been incredible. It's honestly my favorite time of day now and I will do a lot to defend it.
As always your Health really is the foundation of everything else you do and this improvement has radiated out to many other Domains in terms of extra time, energy, and focus to devote to whatever it is I want to engage with.
I started morning workouts around the end of August and it's pretty clear this led to a good 5+ more workouts each month.
In terms of physical fitness, this new morning workout thing seems like a sustainable long-term approach to maintaining my body. I don't think I'll ever be at pre-covid levels of fitness again (I was doing ~2hr workouts every day) but that's okay - my values are different now than when I was younger. Now I'm focused on health and longevity via sustainable practices that fit my life cycles long-term.
One notable change here is that I've basically stopped running. Running has been a big part of my life and identity since high school and is an activity I'll be forever fond of. But it just doesn't really fit my life right now compared to other things (stationary bikes and lifting) so I've taken a step back from it.
I think I would definitely pick it up again in a different environment - a good running community, beautiful trails, and nicer weather. But for now it's on pause.
I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention longevity here. I'm a long-time reader of stoic principles and
memento mori ("Remember, you will die") is a core part of that. To many this is a morbid concept but I find it more freeing / empowering in the mindfulness / YOLO since - this is all there is, live it.
A lot of my decisions and research into sustainable health practices are in pursuit of living better, longer. Life is finite but you can stack the deck in your favor to increase its quality and quantity.
In January my dad was sent to the hospital for urgent heart surgery. We were lucky - they noticed symptoms before something bad happened, had a successful surgery, and he's basically back to normal now - if a bit older and weaker.
But it was scary - a visceral reminder that time moves on and our time is finite. I don't know how much this event affected me - it's still new and I haven't seen the full cycle of my decisions - but I'd guess more than even I realize right now.
I don't really have a takeaway here more a reminder and acknowledgement that this likely served as catalyst for some of the larger, bolder life shifts I made this year from my job changes to healthier routines to reconsidering what home means and these ripples will probably continue for years in the future.
Happiness - 8/10
Happiness gets an 8/10 because overall I'm very happy with where I am and how the year turned out. In the first half of the year I was very anxious and restless as I worked through next steps. It wasn't fun / great but I worked through it and ended up on a pretty good vector.
You know what? I'm feeling pretty good. Yeah this year wasn't the best year in any one dimension. Yeah there was some rough months where I wasn't sure how things were going to turn out. And yeah there's some areas where I haven't figured it out yet.
But overall it turned out pretty well. I'm happy, I'm healthy, and I'm making impacts in ways (and via work) that I like.
Life is a bit of a roller coaster so I'm sure there's another drop awaiting me in the next few months. But for now I'll enjoy the high.
I don't know what's in store for next year. I've set some overarching goals for the year and half but am really just going to feel it out and do what feels right.
If not - that's cool too. I'll see you next year.
Live long and prosper,