Reflections on 2014

I’ve never been much for resolutions, per se, but I do think it can a good idea to reflect on the year that just passed before barreling headlong into a new one. In that spirit, I thought I would jot down a few professional milestones from the previous year.

Public speaking

One of my goals for the year was to try my hand at public speaking outside of the office. Fortunately, I had a couple of great opportunities. The first was WordCamp St. Louis where I spoke about responsive images (video | slides). The second was HighEdWeb Pittsburgh where I talked about some of the stuff I had been learning about designing mobile friendly web forms (slides).

In doing so, I was again reminded that one of the things I love most about the web industry is that it exists because people simply share what they know with the community. This year I hope to do even more sharing, even when—perhaps particularly when—I don’t feel like I have anything to share that would be of any value to others. I also met some great people who inspire me to be better at my craft and from whom I continually learn new things. Special thanks to Dave Olsen and Aaron Graham for giving me the opportunities at both events.

Learning new skills

My job title says “designer” but I’ve always been a design/development fence-sitter, because I like to be able to execute the ideas that I have in my head and not just make pretty photoshop comps describing what it is I want to see made.

This year, I decided I needed to bone up on my JavaScript skills a bit and found the JavaScript course at Codecademy to be a fun way to get back to the fundamentals and fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge from being a self taught hack. I can honestly say going through that course made me a better all-around programmer, not just when writing JavaScript, but also with the PHP that I was writing for WordPress projects.

Launching new projects

Working at a University comes with the chance to work on some really interesting projects. One such project came this year in the form of an ambitious proposal to launch a new online publication that would showcase original essays and reviews focused on the big ideas of our time.

Screenshot of the Common Reader homepage

After a lot of hard work with a great team of people, The Common Reader was launched in October. I was the primary designer and did quite a bit of development on the site, which was a lot of fun. I look forward to watching the publication blossom and grow in the coming years.

Contributing to WordPress core

I’ve used WordPress longer than Facebook has been a company, but had never even thought about contributing any code to core until earlier this year when I ran across a bug on a project at work and decided to learn how to submit a patch. Once I saw, ‘props joemcgill,’ show up in the Trac logs, I was hooked. I ended up working on several patches, some of which made it into the WordPress 4.1 release in December—a particularly fun accomplishment that would not have been possible without the support of the generous community that is behind WordPress development. I look forward to getting more involved in the WordPress community in the coming year.