Year in Review: 2021

Scott Brady
Scott Brady

This year has seen some significant changes in my day-to-day life. Not only am I now a dad, but I also have a new job.

Other than those small changes, this year has seen some stagnation, which is fair considering I now have less free time on my hands, but it’s also part of why I changed roles. As a result, I’ve found it a little harder to write my review this year.

Previous years: 2020, 2019, 2018 Catch up.

What happened in 2021

The positives that really stand out this year:

  • William: I now have a son (we share a birthday), and it’s absolutely amazing being a dad. He’s a very happy little baby, who’s currently learning how to crawl. He’s just a bit fussy when it comes to food and sleep. While I’m not as exhausted as some parents, I certainly have a lot less energy and spare time than I used to!
  • New job: I decided it was time to take the next step in my career by moving into a more leadership-focused role. I’m still working in the identity space, but in this role, I’m looking to broaden my horizons a bit and concentrate on my personal development.
  • Umbraco MVP: My old colleagues at RSK nominated me for an MVP award from Umbraco, the ASP.NET CMS. This award was in recognition of my contributions porting some of the identity parts of Umbraco across to ASP.NET Core.

The state of

This year has been a strange year for traffic. Some traffic loss coincides with some Google updates, others with articles naturally aging out. I’ve recovered some traffic by updating and refreshing content, but as you can see, traffic still dipped again over the summer.

A graph from Google Analytics showing the traffic from 2015 to end of 2021. Graph shows steadily rising traffic with a plateau in 2021.

Despite a few sleepless nights, I did manage to release 15 articles, 4 of which contain MF DOOM references. Topics included more cryptography in .NET, Umbraco OpenID Connect tutorials, and standards & attacks.

I once again played with this site’s design, removing most of Bootstrap in favor of a customized version of Tailwind’s typography plugin. I’m happy with how the site looks on mobile, but I’m still not convinced with the desktop version. I’ve also slightly tweaked the colors I use to make things a bit more readable. I also switched all URLs to lowercase to make things more consistent across the site. I may have annoyed RSS users with that last one.

Logo for Hyvor, a website comments company. Logo for Revue, a newsletter company.

I migrated my comments from Disqus to Hyvor around mid-year. Unfortunately, Disqus has made some poor privacy decisions over the years, and after reading an article from the creator of Hyvor, I decided to move. While this meant that I lost some referral traffic coming from Disqus, I don’t imagine this was particularly qualified traffic. Migrating was relatively simple, and the team at Hyvor quickly addressed any issues I experienced.

I also migrated my newsletter from Mailchimp to Revue, which has allowed me to improve my newsletters from a monthly digest to a personalized roundup of new articles and changes on the website. Moving to this approach has also seen a 50% increase in subscribers.

Top 5 articles released in 2021

You really liked my content around general identity and security topics this year. This is great news for me, as these articles are much simpler to maintain than coding tutorials that can quickly become outdated! However, as you would expect, they do typically take longer to get right, and I often sit on these for months before publishing them. Motivation, I feel, is the biggest issue as I’m drawn to quick wins. That is unless someone’s upset me enough to get a full write-up about why they are wrong.

2021 in pictures

Me and my son William on our first fathers day.
My first father's day My wife bought us matching T-shirts
Me and my son William enjoying a cuddle.
Lots of baby photos He's overtaken the cats on my phone
Me guest lecturing at the University of West England.
Guest lecturing at UWE I did away with virtual conferences and guest lectured at my local university
My Polywork timeline.
Polywork logo Started using Polywork I started using Polywork to combat impostor syndrome throughout the rest of the year
The logo for my first aider for mental health qualification.
Became a first aider for mental health I took a qualification in first aid for mental health to better help identify mental health issues in the workplace
The logo for the Umbraco MVP award.
Awarded Umbraco MVP I was awarded an Umbraco MVP award for my help migrating their identity stack across to ASP.NET Core
A screenshot of my JWT creation tool, for easy JWK and JWT generation.
Created JWT test tool I took the time to learn some more JavaScript and published my JWT tool I use to create test JWKs and JWTs. It runs entirely in the browser, but obviously don't trust it
A screenshot of my SAML parsing tool, showing error statuses and how far it made it through decoding.
Updated my SAML tool I was getting some very strange error data sent to me by users, so now I've added extra error information so you can understand why the JWT AWS has given you has nothing to do with SAML
A photograph of myself and the RSK team who where in the office on my last day working there.
Quit my job I resigned from my role at Rock Solid Knowledge to pursue something different
The logo for 10x Banking
Started my new job at 10x Banking I started my first role at a fintech, acting as something between your typical enineering manager and a technical product manager
Me and my son William enjoying a cuddle in Cornwall.
Spent a week unemployed I got to spend a week with my family in between jobs
Me and my son William having a cuddle on Christmas day.
Baby's first Christmas! I did say I had lots of pictures of William

Plans from 2021

Last year I set some relatively conservative plans, most of which I got sorted before my son was born. So, I didn’t do too badly.

  • Keep on losing weight - yep, right now, I have a nice big Christmas belly, but throughout the year, I’ve become much happier with how my face looks
  • Another Pluralsight course - no. I released SAML at the beginning of the year, but when I found the time and was in the mood to update one of my Pluralsight courses, Pluralsight went into a production freeze
  • Update old articles - yep, lots of updates across the board, giving old articles a boost in popularity. Notable improvements have gone into my token exchange article and IdentityServer article
  • A little more crypto - yes, and as expected, I kept it to C#. I even wrote about XML signing 🤢
  • Another "project" - yep, one public & one private. I created yet another online JWT generation tool that runs entirely within the browser. Creating this tool allowed me to learn a little JavaScript and React and made generating test data and examples for my blog & internal documentation much simpler. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the private project yet; it might get rewritten in a different language if I do decide to release it
  • Use a different programming language - this year, I’ve focused on learning more JavaScript and a bit of Go. I might write a couple of articles on these in the new year, but otherwise, I plan to get a little more involved with Java/Kotlin so that I can appreciate the tooling my new team uses.

Plans for 2022

  • Write about some other OpenID Providers - I’ve ignored most identity vendors since working with and advocating IdentityServer in my day job. Now I want to take the opportunity to look at other providers and how they are doing things
  • Keep on losing weight - I made some good progress in the latter half of the year and started to become happy with how I look in pictures, so I’m going to keep it up
  • Pursue external sources of income - I’ve debated introducing Carbon ads, but I don’t feel they would bring in enough to warrant any performance or privacy issues. Creating a Pluralsight course is a hard slog where I have to put everything else on hold for three months and then take another three months to recover. Maybe there’s something else out there
  • Grow my leadership skills - For a medium-term goal, I want to learn how to manage more team members and more teams. My long term goal is to manage managers
  • Keep exploring languages and frameworks outside of ASP.NET Core - I’ve probably learnt all I want to from C# and ASP.NET Core. I’ll still blog about it, but now I want to subject myself to the awful tooling of other platforms and expand my general software development skillset. We’ll see how that goes…
Benji the cat being admired by my son William Toby the cat Squid the cat

Happy New Year!