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2017 Retrospective

I look back a lot more than what I suspect people realise. Not in a reminiscent way, but rather because I find it helps me put things in perspective. A lot of people like to set personal goals or objectives so that there's something specific they're setting out to achieve but for me personally, I just want to see progress. I want to be able to do these retrospectives - not just on Jan 1 but every day - and say to myself "yeah, I'm happy with how far I've moved ahead". And believe me when I say that not a day goes by where I don't reflect on the last few years and think "yeah, this is awesome!"

I've just re-read my 2016 retrospective and to the point about progress, I'm pretty stoked about what I've done since then 😀 Here's how I feel about 2017:

Blogging

This is still where it really all began for me and my blog has been an absolute cornerstone of everything I do. This year, everything was up by about 25%:

Blog Traffic Up 25%

I avoid focusing on the raw numbers when it comes to Google Analytics as they're increasingly skewed by ad / tracker blockers, but it's still useful to get an overall trend of things. Things like the most popular posts:

Most Popular Blog Posts

The Onliner Spambot post was more than twice as popular as the next biggest post and both the top 2 were about massive dumps of personal data on the web. A large part of this is because these posts appeal to the masses and they got picked up by a lot of mainstream press outlets. The "Hold My Beer" post was probably the most fun (or is that "frightening"?) post of the year and I'm also happy to see 2 posts on HTTPS making it into the top 10 pages. It was a massive year for encrypted web communications and people have really eaten up material on it.

The sponsorship model on the blog also went from strength to strength with every single week in 2017 filled. Even more surprisingly is that all but one week in 2018 is already committed, mostly to previous sponsors so I'm very pleased to see that model working well.

Travel

Travel tended to dominate 2017 with 37% of my time spent away from home:

Travel Stats

That's up 17 days on 2016, here's what the time spent in the air looks like (and so you don't have to ask, this was generated by App in the Air):

App In the Air Stats

That's only 6 hours more than 2016 and actually 1,677km less than the previous year courtesy of more domestic travel. The focus on shorter local trips is more apparent when you see I went from 9 trips in 2016 to 17 trips in 2017.

In 2018, I intend to treat travel more like a golf score: the lower the better. I have trips committed to in Europe in Jan, the US mainland in March and Hawaii in April (it's a conference, honest!) and I'll do the usual NDC Oslo thing in June, but those trips will be no more than a couple of weeks long each and I'm going to try really hard not to do much more than that. Doing things like the remote workshops will help me achieve that objective.

Speaking

In the intro of this post when I talked about wanting to look back and feel like I'd made progress and 3 speaking events in particular stand out. The first is actually a talk I did twice, once in Oslo and once in Sydney and it's my Hack Your Career talk (view the recorded talk here):

Hack Your Career Talk

This one was a real departure for me because it's a soft skills talk about how I made my career what it is today. I discuss the journey including the things I've done, the abuse I've had and how I've managed time with my family. Both times after doing this talk, I had really heartfelt feedback particularly from people unhappy in their jobs (I talk about how I had to get out of my old one). It was a really highly rated talk (I still publish all my feedback scores) and it just felt great to present it, perhaps as part of my own post-corporate life therapy!

The second was one I hadn't originally planned to attend simply because of the amount of travel I was doing and that was Pluralsight LIVE (view the recorded talk here):

Pluralsight LIVE

That event was an absolute "rock star" experience from the awesome stage in that photo to working my way through the Secret Service folks guarding Michelle Obama who came onto that same stage shortly after my keynote. I expected that event in September to remain the highlight of the year, until this one (view the recorded talk here):

Congressional Testimony

This setting in the United States Capital is one I never saw myself appearing in (photo courtesy of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce). No way, no how could I have seen this coming and looking back on it, it really was a surreal experience. This picture in particular is the one that feels like the most defining moment of my 2017:

Post-Testimony Smile

It's a contented smile after having testified and receive resoundingly positive feedback for something that took a huge amount of effort and personal time but, I hope, made a positive difference. Plus, I reckon I also scrubbed up alright given my usual level of presentiveness (my 8-year old son's word, not mine!) And it all started with a little project I built in my spare time...

Have I Been Pwned (HIBP)

Let's start with the raw numbers:

  1. The total breaches went from 178 to 259 (one new breach every 4.5 days)
  2. The total breached records went from just over 2 billion to more than 4.8 billion (7.6 million new records every day)
  3. The Twitter followers went from 21k to 40k
  4. The total verified subscribers went from 942k to 1.8 million with an average of 2.2k new subscriber per day in the last 4 weeks
  5. The average daily unique visitors now sits at about 70k according to Cloudflare

But the biggest thing to happen to HIBP in 2017 isn't reflected by the raw numbers: it gained legitimacy. The Congressional Testimony was a part of that but there's actually much, much more to it, including some things that will unfold over the next couple of months (I actually have a blog post in draft about the legitimisation of HIBP). Let me explain what I mean by this:

No matter how valuable the service is or how ethical my intentions are, there's no escaping the fact that HIBP exists solely due to a bunch of people breaking the law and stealing data. I've turned that data into a service and I've always been really conscious that it's the sort of thing that exists in a very grey area of legitimacy. You're probably a regular reader who's tech savvy and understands what I'm doing with HIBP but think about how the average person might view it: there's some Aussie bloke with billions of records of data and you can search it!

I'm going to talk a lot more about legitimisation in 2018 and ensuring HIBP continues to do good things that help minimise the impact of bad situations. I hope that when I sit down to write this same post on the 1st of Jan in 2019, I look back at this one and feel as happy about where HIBP has gone in the coming year as I feel today.

Report URI

2 months ago to the day, I announced my involvement with Report URI. Things have been steadily ticking along with that project and I chat or talk with Scott pretty much every day. It's tracking along well and forming a part of many of the things I write about. I do need to make more time to write more about a few related things and travelling less in 2018 is going to help me do that. Indeed, that's one of the reasons why I got involved in the project; I want more things I can throw myself into remotely without spending so much time on aeroplanes or in strange places!

Pluralsight

This was a bit of a transitional year for me in terms of Pluralsight. I only recorded one "traditional" course (i.e. a deep technical one) and it still adorns my pinned tweet today:

I did create another 5 "Play by Play" courses but this means Pluralsight efforts are well down on my 2016 results where I created 9 courses with 5 of them being the more traditional kind. Why? A couple of key reasons:

Firstly, I'm now up to 33 courses in the library so from the perspective of creating content on a platform in order to get exposure for what I do, new courses weren't adding anything I didn't already have. Of course, they add royalties which are important (I'm paid based on how much my content is viewed), but in terms of pure commercial terms, there's more and more I've been able to do with my time which brings me to the second point:

Secondly, other opportunities came up to create content for other organisations. They don't operate in the same space as Pluralsight (they're not competition), but my course on GDPR for Varonis and my course on Ubiquiti's UniFi networking gear both gave me opportunities that made sense commercially and reached new audiences (they're both freely available to everyone, too).

But what I am very happy to say is that you'll be seeing a bunch of new Pluralsight content from me in 2018. It'll be different to everything you've seen before and it ticked all the boxes that Pluralsight and I needed to make this effort feasible. As you'll see if you watch that talk on Hack Your Career I mentioned earlier, the relationship with Pluralsight is very special to me and I'll always be looking for more ways of working closely with the company.

What's Next

One thing I know I need to keep working on is better time management and part of that involves picking and choosing where to invest effort. These days, that often means there are emails, tweets, comments or other messages I don't reply to; I simply can't reply to them all. It's also meant declining an increasingly large number of events around the world, 75 separate conferences in total (and yes, I do take note of them in case circumstances change):

Declined 2017 Events

Particularly towards the latter part of the year, I did a lot more commercial talks at home. Many people still don't realise that most of the time, most speakers at most tech conferences get no more than travel and accommodation paid for (some not even that). But increasingly, I'm finding events that see enough value in my attending that they're actually willing to pay for the time. This helps me justify the effort (even a local Aussie talk for 45 mins means committing a couple of days of my time) and more importantly, helps me justify not doing the other things I could get up to at home (which includes actually seeing my family).

One of the things I do really want to start focusing on more in 2018 is taking HIBP further in terms of using the data to do good things. There's a few things to fall into place over the coming weeks and it also ties into that whole "legitimisation" piece I mentioned earlier on, but there's enormous opportunity to do some really cool things that I've had in the back of my mind for a while now. But that project more than anything is enormously hard to plan out in advance simply because of how dependent it is on events totally outside my control, namely someone breaking into a system and dumping the data!

Summary

As I said in the opening of this post, I don't tend to set explicit goals and I don't have specific things I want to achieve over the next 12 months beyond the very generic "do stuff that makes me happy, spend time with family, etc". What I really want to see is ongoing improvement; I want to look back in a year from now as I'm looking back today and say "that was awesome". I do have a number of things in mind that might contribute to that awesomeness and they may or may not happen. I may go totally beyond them. I don't know, but I'm going to enjoy the journey regardless.

Finally, when I look back over the last year, the thing that keeps coming back to the forefront of my mind is how it made me feel. I felt like I did an enormous amount of stuff that made both myself and many other people happy whether that be blogs or talks or workshops. Perhaps most importantly to me personally though, is that I did it on the terms I wanted and it was far away from "the beaten path" of traditional careers. That's always been a personal goal (there's a healthy dose of anti-establishment in me) and I love that life today so easily switches from suit and tie in Congress to getting around in little more than board shorts and thongs (stop laughing, you know what I mean!) And that's probably a good note to close the year on: a heap of hard work with a healthy dose of light-hearted fun with friends around the world. Thanks for tuning in over 2017 😀

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Hi, I'm Troy Hunt, I write this blog, create courses for Pluralsight and am a Microsoft Regional Director and MVP who travels the world speaking at events and training technology professionals