My New Year’s Resolutions for 2012

I don’t always do New Years Resolutions, but this year I did, coming up with over a dozen things that I wanted to achieve in 2012.

With a couple of days left, it’s time to see how this worked out.

Go back to school

I learn most stuff informally or on-the-job. It had been years since I did any formal education so I decided that in 2012 I would find and complete a formal distance-learning course.

I completed Stanford courses in Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning with coursera, getting good marks. These were challenging and time-consuming, but definitely worthwhile.

Conversational Internet

After getting the idea at an event in December 2011, I decided that in 2012 I would make this happen and get a working prototype off the ground.

I pitched the project as one of last summer’s Extreme Blue projects and mentored a team to produce the first pilot version of “ChattyWeb”, which generated interest from various sources including the BBC and Channel 4.

Mobile development

I put mobile dev stuff on hold while I focus on Watson stuff, but I wanted to do something to keep my hand in and write at least one mobile app in 2012.

I helped with an IBM Research project by writing an Android app that gathers sensor telemetry data and submits it to a server. And I tried writing a Windows Phone app. But that was all… basically my mobile dev skills are still getting rustier.

Hack something

I used to spend free evenings hacking away on personal projects or geeky ideas. But since starting my new job, I fell into a habit of working evenings and weekends, and stopped doing these sorts of random hacks. I decided to get back into creating non-work-related hacky stuff in 2012.

Work still displaces personal hacking. I used face detection as a form of sentiment analysis to measure my reaction to TV viewing, I mashed up my fitbit personal activity data with stuff like sentiment analysis of my tweets, and I wrote an app that monitored my daily happiness. Better than nothing.

Keep a daily log

I decided to maintain a daily log, making a note of something good that happened or that I did every day.

I’m still doing it. I’ve missed the odd day, but I’ve got something for almost every day this year. And I’m glad, as it is a positive and useful exercise.

Blog more

I went quiet on this blog in 2011, mainly because I got absorbed in my new day job. I decided to revive it in 2012 and write a post at least once every couple of weeks.

This is my 37th post this year. I’ve added an impressive quantity of inane rambling to the Internet. I wrote ten posts about stuff I did with the kids, six technical posts about something I did at work, seven random personal posts, five posts about geeky hacks I did in my own time, four posts about IBM Watson, three posts about Conversational Internet, and one post about an event that I went to. I’m happy with that mix.

Get in shape

I hadn’t done any running in 2011, other than jogging a slow mile or two when Grace wanted to run. I decided to get back into shape and be able to run at least 10 miles. I entered the Great South Run (which I’d done in 1hr 45mins before) and set myself a goal of completing it in 1hr 30mins. I started 2012 at a somewhat chunky 89kg, and set myself a goal of getting down to 80kg.

I ran over 390 miles in 2012, and did the Great South in 1hr 26 mins. With the help of a new fitbit, I got my weight below 75kg, and felt better. I undid some of this in the last couple of months, doing no running in Nov-Dec and eating too much junk as work got manic. But this is salvageable and overall was a win.

Charity trustee stuff

There are a few things I wanted to concentrate on in 2012 for SYA, such as an employment tribunal we had to handle, completing a restructuring that was necessary after the loss of much of our funding in 2011, and a revamping of our website.

Most of this was done, although the website work is still incomplete. The employment tribunal dragged on far longer and was more time consuming than I had expected, and derailed a lot of other work.

UIMA-AS using WebSphere MQ

UIMA-AS (an Apache framework for building asynchronous text analytics applications) uses JMS messaging internally. It comes with the Apache JMS messaging provider, Active MQ. I wanted to modify this so users have the option of using IBM’s JMS provider.

I have a rough-and-ready but working proof-of-concept that shows that it can be done. I talked with some UIMA contributors about tidying this and formally submitting it to Apache for inclusion in the UIMA project in some way. I’ve not finished this.

Read books

I read 29 books in 2011. I set myself a goal of reading at least 24 books in 2012.

I read five books this year. Oops. Reading is the main thing that got squeezed out as I got busy with work this year. I need to rectify this in 2013.


There are a few other things that are either confidential/work-related or a bit private.

I finished one. I barely started the others.

Having New Year’s Resolutions was a helpful thing, and I’ll be making a set for 2013. I know there is a fair amount of cynicism about them, but find that they help me focus. In GTD terms, I made each resolution into a Project, and made sure that each one had at least one “Next Action” in my tasks list. In this way, my GTD Weekly Review meant I reviewed my progress against my resolutions every week. I think reviewing them regularly was why they (mostly) worked.

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