James Randall Musings on software development, business and technology.
2021 Retrospective


I guess the biggest most impactful thing that happened this year was that I learned that I am autistic. Understanding that has been incredibly helpful to me - it makes much of my life make a whole lot more sense and being aware as to why I sometimes approach things and react as I do has really helped me have some self compassion and give myself a break.

I also moved house this year. I left a beautiful area of Bedford town (the old part of town by the river - if you follow me on Twitter you’ll have seen the photos) and moved into a hamlet about 10 miles from Bedford. Its so much better for me: quiet, far less people, far less traffic, lots of lovely walks on my doorstep.

On the sport front I no longer “exclusively” cycle. I started to run this year and took one on one swimming lessons which got me from doggy paddle to being in the fast lane in the pool. Hoping to do a triathlon in 2022.

I stared to learn the guitar this year. Somehow, somehow, I’ve ended up with both an electric and an acoustic. I really enjoy playing and am slowly getting to the point where I don’t totally suck. I still suck. But not totally.

Finally I’m looking forward to welcoming a new member of the family in January: a Golden Retriever pup. So excited. Its been a long thought about dream / goal.


I started the year by ending a CTO role and taking a break. It left me pretty burned out and questioning my competence and I needed some time to recover.

With time I’ve come to realise three things:

  1. I was in a situation where my own values were at odds with the values of those around me (that doesn’t mean the people around me were horrible and I am wonderful - but we had very different perspectives and motivations, very different). It took a good cycling friend to point that out to me and that that’s exhausting.

  2. With hindsight their are certainly things I could have done better but ultimately I don’t think their was a way to succeed. All a bit Kobayashi Maru.

  3. I really don’t appreciate being gaslighted. I came across one particularly unpleasant individual and it took me time to realise what was going on. In fact I didn’t realise until after I’d left. I think, I hope, that with this experience I will spot this sooner if it happens again.

On the positive side I learned a lot about business from my time doing that role and in some ways (as much as anything starting to understand more about what I want) its set me up nicely for a role I started on towards the end of the year: leading an engineering team working on a product in a small business. Lovely people, good work to be done, lots of opportunity for growth. I really feel in my element and have been loving it.

Both the top and tail of the year have helped me realise that I am product person. I like to get deeply into a product or two with a small team of people. I really don’t get my kicks from being 30,000ft away from things. I’ve spent most of my career building products and its really what I enjoy.

I’m writing this during the Christmas break and am actually rather looking forward to getting stuck back in.

Social media

Towards the end of the year I’ve made a concious decision to step away from social media - Twitter basically.

There is the odd gem posted and I’ve met some great people through it but the rate of both has slowed massively and what’s left is a lot of repetitive debate, groupthink, and drama.

I encourage everyone to try giving up Twitter. You’ll quickly find three things about Twitter.

  1. Its very addictive. You’ll find yourself reaching for your phone or beginning to type in the URL a lot. It will take a little while and some effort to cut this back. Once it has… open up Twitter… you’ll feel the urge to start visiting again. Don’t. But it does show how addictive it is.

  2. It has a negative impact on your mood. After about 3 weeks I started to feel a lot more chill and a lot less prickly.

  3. Its a real time sink / focus robber. You start to get more done - be it work, leisure, or working on the relationships that matter.

I occasionally visit, mostly to check my DMs and post links to things like this blog post, but I rarely post now and intend to keep things like this. If it wasn’t for DMs (which I plan on moving away from to simple text messages) I don’t think I’d be their at all now.

Open source

I’m so done with all this. The debates, the expectations, the entitlement, the attempts to professionalise things for free, the corporate invasion. Perhaps I should just have said the .NET Foundation (shudder) and left it at that.

I’ve switched my out of hours coding to just fun stuff which I feel no compulsion to finish but enjoy when I feel like it. But to be honest I find myself doing less and less of that too. I’ve hardly written any code for a month or two. I think in part this is a by product of giving up Twitter - I didn’t conciously have a need to “prove myself” and “keep up” but I think that’s exactly what was going on.

Again: I encourage you to try giving up social media. I think it will lead to a richer life for most.

I still use OSS of course. I sponsor a couple of projects, I’ve paid for a license when it made sense to.

All that said I’ve got this F# based collaborative sketch tool I need to put online I guess. Maybe. One day.

Tools and Technology

  1. The M1 MacBook Pro is an amazing machine - easily the best laptop I’ve owned. The battery life is astounding, its silent even when doing sustained heavy workloads. I got the M1 Max - its overkill. I’ve only really got the extra GPU cores going when really trying to (Blender basically).

  2. I’m still smitten with F#. It remains fun, its very productive, it helps me get stuff done.

  3. JetBrains Rider continues to do a good job for me. I dabbled again in Visual Studio but I find it… horrid.

  4. I binned Windows this year. My desktop now runs PopOS.

  5. Most of my work is now AWS rather than Azure based. Neither are perfect but I’ve found AWS to be much more consistent, predictable and easier to reason about than Azure (that said my F# collaborative sketching website uses Azure Container Apps which seem great).