Somebody on Twitter asked:

What did you learn in 2020 (besides how to make bread)?

I responded there:

  • To grow food in pots.
  • To cut men's hair.
  • To cook more new things.
  • That my cat loves me being home all the time.
  • More about community-building.
  • How to set up a nonprofit foundation.
  • To cut people w/no morals or human decency out of my life.
  • And yes, sourdough.

I was up against a character limit there, but I'm not here.

Back at the beginning of the pandemic, when staying at home was just starting to happen, I remember somebody asking: what will you do with this gift of time? I've had that in mind for most of the year. I miss seeing my coworkers, but I gained close to an hour back each work day in not commuting, and I gained a lot of flexibility. My team tries to work mostly normal hours for the sake of collaboration, but everybody recognizes that people have other demands on their attention too. The parents trying to work while their kids are at home attending school via Zoom gave me the opportunity to attend that mid-day (virtual) class or non-work meeting, and the flexibility to tend to things around the house while working. As one small example, sourdough -- it's a two-day process that doesn't require a lot of attention at any one time, but requires availability that wouldn't have been possible were I going to the office every day. Before this year, bread came from a store/bakery or out of a bread machine, only.

Both of us working from home is sometimes frustrating when one or the other of us has meetings, but we're also spending more time together throughout the day and that's very nice. We eat lunch together, every day, in addition to dinner. Sure, this means I'm not making things that I like but he doesn't (that I would have normally made for lunches at the office), but on the other hand, because I'm not limited to things that pack well, we're eating better, I think. Not always healthy, but less crap, more stuff made from scratch. I even grew some of it, which was new to me.

I only cut his hair the once. He held off for a long time back in the spring, thinking it would be possible to see a barber soon, but soon kept moving. He did a lot of it himself; I did the parts he couldn't see or reach. Men's hair technology sure is different from women's.

At the beginning of the year the evil deeds from people who should know better at Stack Exchange were still doing a lot of damage. It wasn't just what they did to me; they did some other nasty, bone-headed things early in 2020 and then throughout the year. A couple of the employees they drove out shared some things publicly after. (Pro tip: don't fire someone who knows about your dirty laundry without securing an NDA.) The folks there are majorly screwed up, and a couple of people I once thought decent folks in bad situations have shown themselves to be lacking in ethics and human decency. I'm well to be rid of their lies and malice.

Frustrating as it was to lose some good communities there, I've spent this year working to build the next generation at Codidact, and I'm very happy with where we are. We're building an open-source platform for Q&A and so much more, learning from those who have come before and building things that serve communities better. While our all-volunteer team is small and that limits us sometimes, we're flexible and responsive and working with our communities, and that shows. We have about a dozen communities up and running on our network now (including Judaism, yay! with some folks from Mi Yodeya), with more to come. Some of them are doing some novel things that weren't possible Somewhere Else. I'm the Community Lead, and while I had a fair bit of experience as a moderator on communities with varying characteristics, this role has allowed me to stretch and learn even more. It turns out this role makes me the most logical person to do "product management" and bug/feature prioritization and a fair bit of QA, too. Cool!

I'm now a board member; The Codidact Foundation was incorporated in November as a non-profit (I just got the confirmation letter from Companies House this week) and we'll now seek charity status. As soon as we can get a bank in pandemic times to let us open an account we'll be able to take donations and presumably get ourselves some better servers. This is all very exciting for me, and it's neat to be working with a worldwide team with quite a mix of backgrounds. Our major contributors include students and software developers and an ambulance dispatcher and a soldier and an accountant, among others.

Don't get me wrong; 2020 has been terrible in many ways. People close to me have died and I couldn't even be with or hug people, just be on Zoom. Friends and one family member are dealing with health challenges. The pandemic has greatly impeded my congregation (and so many others!). Nearly a year of not being able to socialize, go to restaurants, take in entertainment, hold conventions, attend Shabbat services, or do "normal life things" is wearing. Knowing that it's going to be at least many more months is sobering. (I'm going to call it now: I think Pennsic will be either cancelled again or severely hobbled and small.)

I'm glad to have the kind of job I can do from home; many people don't. And something I left off of that list on Twitter: I've learned how to work from home pretty effectively. I'd like some more human contact in three dimensions, but when (let's say "when", not "if") the pandemic is finally under some degree of control, I'll be able to get that from places other than work. I've learned more solidly that I could handle working for a company that's all-remote -- I suspected as much when I applied for such a position a few years back, but now I've seen it. And my employer has learned that remote works too; finally most of our engineering positions are now listed as "anywhere" instead of just the two cities in which we have engineering teams.

On the larger scale, 2020 has been a year of plague and violence and tyranny and unrest and hate and division. In the much smaller scale here at Chez Cellio, there has been good along with the bad, and I'm thankful for them.