Twenty Twenty-One Annual Report and Twenty Twenty-Two Goals13 Dec 2021
This is my eighth annual report. Here’s last year’s. Every year, I’m like “wow I did nothing” and then I look back and realize “hey, I did some things!” – here are those things. This year, it’s especially surprising and relieving because I’ve felt that I’ve had to drop so many things in order to just keep getting by. My brain capacity feels so low; my mental stack has felt so full that it can’t handle even one more thing or you-know-what happens.
The first half of the year, I worked at Artefactual as a digital preservation consultant (as I had for the prior three-ish years). In May-June, I left Artefactual to join Daily, a streaming video and audio API for developers. In some ways, it’s a massive shift. In other ways, it’s hardly a big shift at all. I’m no longer working in the archives and preservation field, but I’m still implementing and making it easier for folks to work with software built on top of on video standards, which is what I’ve been doing in archives for the past jeez-like-a-decade anyway. I thought this would be a bigger mental shift than it has been. Honestly, the main perceptual difference has been that I’m (saying this as humbly as possible!) somewhat of an avpres “household name” (for better and for worse) and now I am just a new normal average face. It makes it easier to focus on the work; I don’t have the baggage of being a person of interest/influence. Okay, that didn’t come out very humble, but it’s how I feel and I’m tired.
A big project I worked on that culminated either in 2020 or early 2021 was a Digital Curation Systems Report for Georgia Tech Libraries (which was wonderful to work on, great great people to work with, highy recommended). That link goes to the full report and it’s very rad of them to put the whole thing online because we were very honest about the issues and gaps. I think this is something digital preservation folks are always wanting more of, and here’s 56 pages of it. There was also a presentation at DLF forum.
One of my last major projects at Artefactual was drafting Guidance Notes for preserving 3D, CAD, GIS, Audio, Moving Image, Raster Image, Database, Document, Email, and Spreadsheet formats. They’re basically extensive lit reviews, so check those out if you need some citations.
My other big project this year before leaving Artefactual was workin with the Tate time-based media conservation team, doing integrations engineering and systems design work. They’re a great group of people, extremely nice, and I think one day in the future there will be some public results of that work (which was largely internal infrastructure).
At Daily, I’ve been working on a lot of things. My job is similar to my job at Artefactual and my jobs on MediaConch, BWF MetaEdit, QCTools, and all other Ricecapades/MediaArea projects, which is sort of a mix of “everything that needs to be done.” It’s a mix of helping developers understand and use the product, product contributions, making sample code and demos that explain technical concepts, and technical writing. All-in-all, that’s a pretty good fit. Helping people learn things is always my guiding light and writing code is always my guiding passion, and this makes space for both. I’m appreciating the fast pace and the ability to do more engineering work.
One of my larger projects, building out a live transcription API, was recently summarized in this conference talk. My first and only talk of 2021! That’s so wild to me because I usually do, like, ten.
In addition to fewer conference talks, I wrote fewer blog posts and did fewer projects. I backed down from a major grant project that I was on (DVRescue, it’s incredible, check it out!) and I quit teaching. Both of which are a huge huge bummer but my burnout levels were super real (and still are) and I had to cut everything I could. I’m finally down to having just one job for the first time in my life (if “school” counts in some form as job), with one exception (where I was running a company and working absolutely all the time on it, a full lifetime ago).
But okay, I did manage to do a few very fun projects this year!
Halt and Catch Fire Syllabus I almost forgot this was done in 2021 because I put it together in January after a lot of research that went on in 2020. This was a lot more popular than I thought it would be and my second time at the top of HackerNews. I’ve had resounding and continually positive feedback (yes, even though it was at the top of the orange site).
Media Collection Viewer I used this idea as a way to play around with Rust/WASM/JS, since I hadn’t had the opportunity to do that since I was at Recurse Center in Spring 2018. I still think this is a very cute, very FAST, and very practical way for people (especially at small archives) to get a high-level graphical summary of their media collections.
Adding translations to the A/VAA For this, I set up a framework for translating the A/VAA. I think there’s a few bugs to squash, but mostly translation work needs to happen in order for this project to be complete. (Please reach out if you speak French, Japanese, or Spanish or honestly any language and want to get involved! Please please reach out if your organization can fund/sponsor this important work!)
Other small things:
- I participated in Recurse Center Never Graduate Week, and that links to all the notes I took about what I did during that week. My focus was “maintenance”!
- Volume 10 of Internet Girlfriend Club – would love to make more of these, I just need contributions!
- My website went through a makeover (RIP New Order homage, you will always be loved).
- Olia Lialina quoted me and talked about my project THROTTLED in her piece “Infinite Seance 4”, a huge honor!!!
- Did a tiny bit of volunteering at the best conference in the world, No Time To Wait.
- I started work on a longer-form writing project that I somewhat promptly stopped, but I’ve been thinking about picking it up again.
Still dealing with a lot of the annoying shoulder pain that I suffered from last year. It just feels endless and overwhelming a lot of the time, and I’m mostly in this space where I manage to get through the workday but then can’t spend any more time doing much of anything because it hurts so much. (Hence having to quit doing absolutely anything side-projecty or fun or interesting or social – it’s Work / Recover / Sleep.) I am really really really really really hoping that I can get back to “normal” in 2022.
The bummer about the shoulder stuff (in addition to everything about it) is that every type of medical professional has been like “yeah you’re totally physically fine but you’re just stressed and tensing your body all day.” It’s like when the dentist tells you that you are grinding your teeth at night (which I was also told this year). You can’t control your big dumb body when you’re sleeping!
It’s also made me really take a hard look at how much of a people-pleasing overworker I am, because I am not being pressured to work excessive hours or need to work multiple jobs just to survive or anything like that but as soon as my body stops hurting, I will immediately overwork myself either at work or by doing some side-project type work (see: HACF syllabus, media collection viewer, A/VAA translations which I had tons of fun working on but caused SETBACKS). I have absolutely no chill and it keeps hurting me!
I didn’t delete twitter but I deleted all my tweets and I quit using it for a while. I’m briefly “back” for the sake of conferences but I did manage to curb my usage. I quit Mastodon too because although it’s much milder, I felt like it still was feeding me all the same negative feelings that Twitter does. I replaced this usage with TikTok, where I merely let the chaos wash over me and it’s almost exclusively soothing, not a rage-funnel or personal-attack-launchpad.
I don’t want to get all into personal body things (except for shoulder pain which I will complain about all day), but I did lose weight, eat better, started regularly getting exercise (in addition to the accidental strength-training that comes with going to PT), and quit biting my cuticles (an OCD-related habit I’ve had since I was a child). My face is always clean and moisturized. I’m part of a very loving two-person two-cat household. I’ve never been particularly out-of-wack in any of these departments but I’ve gotten better at identifying and celebrating and appreciating these baseline-health things (plus I got more than one major reminder about the frailty of it all, and I know I’m not the only one).
I read a lot of books. Here’s a few that I read this year that made me go “oh!”:
- A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
- Long Division: A Novel, Kiese Laymon
- The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket, Benjamin Lorr
- Bunny, Mona Awad
- Future Feeling, Joss Lake
For next year, I don’t know! Everything is so everything these days. I just want to get back to a place where I can go through a week without having can’t-do-anything-else levels of pain. It’s always right on the cusp of achievement! I can feel it! But right now, I think only focusing on that is the safest and healthiest option for me. I know my TODO list is 800 ideas long and I’ll continue to work on accepting that sometimes things just have to move slower.
Oh, two things I know about that are on the horizon:
- VCD (Video CD) research
- FFmpeg workshop (ETA July)