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2022: The year in lists

I don't usually do these end-of-year reflection posts, but at a time where I feel like I'm finally starting to hit flat land again after a year of climbing hills, it seems like a nice thing to do, and a way for me to reflect on my own achievements.

I've spent a lot of time mulling over the bad things that happened this year so I want to focus on the good stuff.

For that reason, there won't be much mention of COVID. I want to make it perfectly clear that I see it as very much still a thing, I got it for the first time this autumn and it completely wiped me out. Now that the post-COVID immunity has worn off somewhat, I'll once again be wearing masks in crowded places and on public transport well into 2023.

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The year in...

...career decisions

Last year was the year I left my job at Monzo and joined a startup, and this year I did the opposite. I made some tough decisions and got really burned out, but coming back to Monzo in August was amazing and has been just what I needed to help me understand more about what I want out of my career. Thankfully, I've recovered from the burnout I was suffering from earlier this year.


This year I found myself speaking at seven conferences... and attending one!

  • In March, I showed CityJS London how to build a virtual "piano" with the Web Audio API.
  • In April, attending All Day Hey in Leeds made me fall in love with the web all over again.
  • In May I took my virtual piano talk to my first international conference, BeJS in Brussels!
  • In June I spoke at UX London about the importance of clear writing in product development, based on a blog post I'd written for incident.io.
  • In July I opened FullStack eXchange in London with a keynote about the history of personal websites. My laptop completely crashed at the beginning of the talk, so I had to restart my computer while everyone watched...!
  • In October, from the glorious Barbican Centre in London, I showed the lovely folks of State of the Browser 2022 how to build a website like it's 1999.
  • In November I achieved a career goal of speaking at FFConf in Brighton, delivering a love letter to the personal website. It was everything I'd hoped for, and I'm so proud of it. If you've never been, it's one of the loveliest communities around.
  • And finally in December – the week before Christmas! – I travelled to Málaga in Spain for the inaugural WeyWeyWeb to play that virtual piano again, this time with added Web MIDI. I very nearly didn't make it thanks to a combination of train strikes and snow, but I'm glad I did!

At times I was a bit overwhelmed with conference prep, but ultimately I had a great time, and I can't wait for the conferences that 2023 will bring. (my inbox is always open!)


International travel picked up again this year, with trips to Brussels and Spain for conferences, and Scotland, France and Iceland for holidays.

Iceland was absolutely incredible, I really can't recommend it enough. A week of driving around, taking photos and being surrounded by the most incredible landscapes I've ever seen.

A photo of Skógafoss, a waterfall in Iceland. The waterfall is wide, set between two moss-covered rocks. There is a lot of spray in the air and the weather is overcast.
Skógafoss, Iceland
A bright orange sunset, looking out onto the water with some very dark stretches of beach at the bottom, so dark they are black.
Sunset at Akranes

I finally got the Eurostar (to Brussels) for the first time since it's been at St Pancras and honestly I now see why everyone's so obsessed with it. It's SO GOOD.

I also spent some time in Suffolk with friends, and we went birdwatching at RSBP Minsmere, where we saw an amazing murmuration of starlings!

A flock of starlings moving together in a mushroom cloud shape, above a marsh. The starlings look like little black specks, almost like insects. There are larger gulls flying around.
Murmuration at RSPB Minsmere


Last year in an attempt to de-Amazon my life a bit I swapped out my Kindle for a Kobo Libra, which has built-in Overdrive support. So I've been enjoying renting ebooks from various local libraries!

A few of the novels I particularly enjoyed this year:

In the last month or so I picked up a copy of The Staff Engineer's Path by Tanya Reilly. It's full of really useful advice and scenarios for anyone who's either looking to get to Staff, or understand more about what that role entails. Since it's a work-related book it's not the kind I tend to devour in an evening, so I'm making my way through it VERY slowly, but it's definitely a useful one.


I can't listen to music with lyrics while I work, so it's lo-fi beats to relax and/or debug to all the way, but here are some particularly good albums (new and old) that I enjoyed this year. It seems to be 2003 again with some of the new releases and I'm honestly living for it.

...video games

One thing that didn't change this year is that I played a shit-ton of video games. Here are some highlights.

  • Horizon: Forbidden West – Horizon: Zero Dawn is one of my all-time favourites, and this didn't disappoint! The world-building is incredible, it's absolutely stunning, and I love hunting around for datapoints to discover even more lore.
  • Tunic – lovely Zelda-esque game with some REALLY creative puzzles. Really loved this one.
  • Tiny Tina's Wonderlands – based on my favourite Borderlands 2 DLC, Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, this was a delightful (and hilarious) D&D-themed action game. Borderlands remains the only FPS-style game I've ever enjoyed. Disappointing DLC that I didn't even bother with, but I got a lot of hours out of this game!
  • Cult of the Lamb was great fun for a while, but also had some serious bugs that made the game really frustrating (these have been patched now). It also finally got me to like roguelikes, which resulted in me finally playing...
  • Hades. I'm pretty bad at it, but everything about this game rules.
  • Deathloop was a lot of fun, even if I did enable a LOT of accessibility settings! Fascinating story, great setting, and very clever puzzles.
  • TOEM: A photo adventure which was extremely cute and I loved it
  • Carto – wonderful little indie game
  • Chicory: A Colorful Tale – a lovely allegory for depression and making the world seem more beautiful again.
  • Stray – another vote for beautiful world-building and lovely storytelling.
  • It Takes Two – hooray, finally a couch co-op game! The story was absolute dogshit and we hated everyone in it, but the gameplay was excellent and made up for it all. Really, really creative co-op.
  • Shamefully I've only just started Return to Monkey Island, but I'm loving it so far obviously, even if the new art style is a little jarring and I miss being able to make Guybrush say "I'm not picking that up."
  • I've also spent the last few weeks replaying Skyrim – 11 years later! – and it still holds up. Incredible. You could probably run it on an electric screwdriver at this point. (Still buggy as shit though, even on PS5)

I've noticed that game devs have been adding a lot more accessibility settings to games in the last few years. Accessibility isn't just about being able to play games if you're disabled, it's about everyone being able to enjoy the game. I'm... aggressively okay at video games, and so for games like Hades and Deathloop that have really challenging combat, the only way I can get through it without dying over and over and over again at the same place (and inevitably rage-quitting) is to turn the difficulty down. I don't always want to play on easy mode, though. Lots of games now have more granular accessibility settings, so you can turn down the damage you receive, or make it so that you get a little stronger every time you die. This means I don't feel like I'm walking through the game with no challenge at all, I can still enjoy the story, and play it at a level of challenge that suits me.

...learning things

Some of the things I learned this year:

  • how to create shadow effects with CSS perspective
  • how to use the Web MIDI API to hook up a MIDI controller to the browser
  • basic music production – recording, mixing and mastering
  • about the CSS function clamp()
  • how to make okonomiyaki and takoyaki

...blog posts

I wrote a whopping SIX posts this year! It may not sound that much, but it's a record since I've had this site. I'm hoping I can keep momentum going into next year.

...the web

  • I left Twitter for Mastodon, and I'm not actually sure I like it more than Twitter. But I don't want to go back to a platform that's unbanned some of the most detestable people in recent history.
  • I joined omg.lol, and you should too. Until 1 Jan 2023, it's $5 a year for a pastebin (paste.lol), URL shortener (url.lol), Mastodon instance (social.lol), email forwarder (@omg.lol) and soon a weblog (weblog.lol)! I now have a fancy "web card" I can link people to if they want to get in touch. It's just lovely vibes all round.
  • It feels like there's been a bit of a personal website resurgence, which is lovely – especially considering the topics of the talks I've given this year! I gave this site a bit of a facelift, with five new themes including some very silly ones. I also moved it to neocities and joined some webrings because WHY NOT.

There you have it

It's been nice to spend some time reflecting on the good things that happened this year despite all the bad. I'm hoping to keep the conference momentum going, so if you know any that are looking for speakers, let me know! Here's hoping 2023 brings new opportunities and more personal website joy.


  1. DebraDenton100 DebraDenton100
    @sophie I absolutely loved The Dictionary of Lost Words! I was just recommending it to a friend last week. Not only did I enjoy the plot but the writing style just flowed. Enjoyed how the suffragette movement was juxtaposed with the development of the Oxford dictionary. What a book!
  2. Robb Knight Robb Knight
    @sophie Really fun post, I should try and do one before the end of tomorrow.
  3. Alistair Shepherd Alistair Shepherd
    @sophie Carto is fantastic, love that game!I read Song of Achilles this year too, have you read Circe also by Madeline Miller? Similar style but a story far less known and one of my favourite reads of this year
  4. Andy Bell Andy Bell
    @sophie a cracking review post. It was ace to hang out this year again too m8 🙂
  5. Sophie Koonin Sophie Koonin
    @andy likewise! Looking forward to bumping into you next year I’m sure!
  6. Sally Lait 🦦 Sally Lait 🦦
    @sophie Shockingly I'd somehow missed yours! 🤦🏻‍♀️ Thank you for writing it, and for some good book recommendations. Have you read All My Rage? I think you may like that one
  7. Sally Lait 🦦 Sally Lait 🦦
    @sophie Also I thoroughly agree with your sentiment on accessibility settings. I've got Deathloop lined up to play next and will keep that in mind! I do similar when there's utterly exasperating bosses nowadays, but also memorably after my miscarriage I played Celeste with ALL the accessibility options on which turned it into a completely different, gentle experience but one which really helped me at the time. So much about the settings is situational need for me too.
  8. Marty Coote Marty Coote
    @sally @sophie very tempted to nerf the difficulty on Celeste. I love the vibe and writing but I am finding the difficulty steam deck smashingly frustrating.
  9. Sally Lait 🦦 Sally Lait 🦦
    @martycoote @sophie Yeah it's incredibly tough, and I imagine super satisfying if you're in the right place to actually stick with it. But as you say I enjoyed the other sides and wanted to finish it, and just enjoyed running around and collecting the bits and pieces. Maybe give some of the options a try and see?