Software Architect / Microsoft MVP (AI) and Pluralsight Author

AI, ASP.NET Core, Azure, Blogging, Bot Framework, C#, Chatbots, Instagram Graph API, Pluralsight, Social Opinion API, Twitter, Twitter API v2

Recapping 2020

It’s that time of year when a lot of us reflect over the 12 months and look at what we’ve done, what we could have done better and what we’d like to change as we move into 2021. By now I thought we’d have hoverboards and flying cars but here we are decades later and still no sign of them.

I need to recap myself on what I’ve done for part of the MVP Program and this is a good way to jog the memory.

Some of the main highlights from this year include:

  • Publishing an eBook
  • Creating an Open-Source SDK that makes it simple to connect to the new Twitter API
  • Lessons learned with Azure Exams
  • Launching a SaaS web application

 

Throughout this article I also share some tips or lessons learned that you might find valuable.

Blogging

I shipped a blog nearly every single week through 2020 (ok, I’m taking the 26th of December off).

The most popular topics have been around:

  • AI
  • Chatbots
  • Instagram Graph API
  • Twitter API

 

I looked at Google Analytics between January and December of 2020.  Most of the readers are from the USA, India, or the UK – you can see this here:

One thing that’s interesting is the reach a blog can have. You can see there are readers from all over the world:

It’s incredible to think a blog can reach so many people.

Broke 100k Page Views For The First Time

Page Views for the blog reached over 100k for the first time in November.  There were 3 visible periods of growth with the last 3-4 months seeing a double in page views to 20k per month.

Consistency pays off – a marathon and not a sprint!

Tip: If you’re nervous about shipping work or setting one up, just do it. Do it under a different name if you must.  You never know the opportunities it might attract.

Published an eBook on Gum Road

Some of my most popular content in 2020 was the Instagram miniseries. This 4-part series so popular that I decided to add additional chapters with a full-blown .NET Core Web Application. I released this on Gumroad as an eBook with full source code.

Am I going to retire in the proceeds of the eBook? Probably not. It was a good learning exercise though.

Tip: If you’re intention is to become a “creator” on one of the many creator platforms out there to make money – build an audience first.

Pluralsight Course

I’ve built up a lot of knowledge about the Twitter API and I remember the pain points when I first started out with it.  It made sense to condense some of this knowledge into a course, so I pitched this to Pluralsight.

The course titled “Mining Data with the Twitter API” was published in the Summer and packaged up the key steps you need to take for you start building with the Twitter API.

Tip: You might be sitting on loads of knowledge or experience.  The chances are you could package this up into a course. If you’re interested in becoming a Pluralsight Author, then get in contact and I can connect you.

Open-Source SDK (Social Opinion API)

I heard that Twitter were running an initiative called Labs. Labs was effectively a “build in the open” initiative for Twitter developer APIs. These went onto become the officially released Twitter API v2 and was ground up rebuild of their developer APIs.

I had plans for Social Opinion that meant it would need to use v2 and with no other .NET SDK for Twitter API v2 I had to build my own.

I built this over the course of a few weekends then uploaded it to NuGet and GitHub. At the time of writing the SDK has been downloaded almost 1,100 times. The SDK was also added by Twitter to their Developer Portal which was great.

Imagine my surprise when I received a handwritten note through the post from  some of the DevRel Team at Twitter!(this is how DevRel is done!)

Social Opinion went Live

I integrated the SDK with a web application I had been building on and off in my spare time. I called this Social Opinion.  The SDK could fetch more data than before and powered multiple dashboards which contained richer insights.  Northumbrian Water piloted the social listening and audience intelligence components for their digital festival which were well received.

Polls are quick and simple ways to gather feedback on Twitter. I blasted a few of these out over the course of a few evenings. Each ran for a week and the responses were interesting.  The data showed people were looking for automation, account analytics, audience intelligence and account maintenance features.

I created the features and shipped them onto a live site.

Many thanks to the Twitter DevRel Team in supporting me with endless questions and/or technical issues I experienced along the way.  You can login for free here.

A paid plan is also available which contains additional features and handles accounts with larger followings.

Exams AZ-900 and AI-900

I hadn’t done a certification for a few years and wanted to test my knowledge on Azure and AI so booked the fundamentals for each of them.

I’m in the Microsoft Cloud daily and doing a lot with AI services so felt I didn’t have to prepare too much.  I knew my weak areas though and they surfaced in the AI exam.  You can read more the experience here.

Tip: It’s easier than ever to book these exams. I done mine at home. Sometimes you can get free exam voucher by attending certain Microsoft events. Keep an eye out for these through 2021 and bag yourself some free certifications.

Podcasts, Virtual Events and Shows

I was fortunate enough to be invited onto several podcasts and virtual events. Each covered totally different topics and were fun. I stretched out my comfort zone to do these as it’s not a regular thing for me.

Commit Your Code Podcast Interview

This podcast is about the person behind the technology and how they got into the tech space. Some of the things we spoke about were:

  • being told I never had the grades to do CS
  • dropping out of university!
  • how I got my break

Danny is a great guy and we riffed off each other in the episode. You can listen to it here.

Cloud Skills Show – AI from a Developers Perspective

I develop a lot of chatbots and have used Cognitive Service extensively on projects and in this episode of the Microsoft Cloud Skills Show hosted by Adam Jackson and Amy Boyd I shared opinions on AI from a developer’s perspective.  Other fantastic guests discussed AI from a Data Scientists perspective and newcomer perspective.

You can watch the episode here.

Festive Tech Calendar

In December fellow MVPs Gregor Suttie and Richard Hooper created the awesome Festive Tech Calendar. Lots of great content was created by people from around the world.

I created a 20-minute walkthrough of the main components of chatbot development and showed how to create chatbots using Bot Framework Composer.

You can watch this here.

AI Global on Tour India

This was a 4 hour live event and sponsored by Packt Publishing and Microsoft. We ran through AI and chatbot development.

Image may contain: 3 people, text that says 'Powered by StreamYard mYard Aman Raj Q: making Conversational bots through Bot Framework Composer is easier than making Conversational bots using rasa or Dialogue Flow? Keep posting your questions for Jamie !!! with #AskJamie'

Towards the end we had QnA and I had an unexpected guest – my 4-year-old decided to jump bust in the room and onto my knee for cuddles! It’s not 2020 if this doesn’t happen, eh?

You can watch this event here.

Making Number 3 in the Top 10 TechNet Articles of 2020

My Open-Source work with the Twitter API was picked up by the Microsoft TechNet UK and Industry Blogs Team. I answered a few questions, and an article was published on the topic. I found out this made #3 in the Top 10 TechNet Articles of 2020.

Nicolas Hurt made the #1 spot with his piece on Building your Data Lake on Azure Data Lake Storage gen2.

Find the Top 10 Articles of 2020 here.

The Attention Economy

The number of emails, DMs and notifications were starting to get insane for the last few months. I removed all but one social media app from my phone.

Throughout the day I started to put my phone on DND mode. I missed the odd Amazon delivery by doing this, but I really noticed the benefits on my attention and hitting those flow states.

Tip: Digital tools, products and services are clawing at your attention. Claw your time back!

Next Year

Finally, moving into next year. I’ll continue to be developing chatbots and will ship a weekly blog.

I have a new Pluralsight course in the pipeline that’ll show you how to use the newly released Twitter API. There will also be some user requested features added to Social Opinion.

Thanks for reading, leaving your questions on the site and have a great time over the December holidays and New Year.

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