2014 Yearnotes

I realised at the beginning of last year that I had become too comfortable with my job and craved a new challenge, so in April I left Makeshift to become a freelancer again.


Almost immediately I joined a small team working on Contributoria, a community funded journalism platform. In December Contributoria helped to fund over £22K worth of articles from journalists around the world.

In August I worked with Artangel and Paul Pfeiffer on a digital-only art piece for The Space, which gave me a chance to try out the latest web audio technologies.

For my birthday I gave myself two weeks of holiday to work on an HTML5 game. One of the constraints was to use no third-party JavaScript libraries, which meant handling every aspect of the game myself. It remains one of my favourite projects—not bad for an idea I had in a dream.


Last year I gave one serious talk and two light-hearted ones.

Talking about cranes, a bridge, a boat list and a radio telescope made me many friends at Scottish Ruby Conference in May, and later at Converge in August. Who knew there were so many civil engineering fans out there.

Hannibal Lecter films taught me a great deal about user interface design, as I explained to the Design + Banter audience. Watching films Doing research for this talk was time consuming, but rewarding.

At ColdFront I asked a room full of developers to stop breaking the web by depending on JavaScript. Other speakers filled in the details on how to achieve it.


I taught the Creative Coding course again for the second year design students at Goldsmiths. A write-up of that workshop could become a self-study book for a complete beginner. I’m not sure whether I will find the time to write it, given that I might not make any money off it. The new VAT rules put me off selling it as a digital book.

A website made by a student)

A website made by a student

I ran an intense, one-day workshop introducing first-year design students to HTML, CSS and JavaScript. In 2015 I will teach two more workshops which will showcase the possibilities of working with web technologies.


Last year I decided to write more, but who doesn’t do that in January? Instead, I read more, and wrote less, but I spent much longer thinking about every piece. I asked why Apple’s Health app doesn’t allow period tracking, explained why corporate hackdays are a bad idea, disapproved of the latest browsers obfuscating URLs, and talked about the loss of ownership that comes with connected products.


My best friend lent me a PlayStation 3 and a few games, so I spent many evenings and weekends having the greatest time of my life.

My Skyrim boyfriend and I

My Skyrim boyfriend and I. I’m the one with the cool magic weapon

In Skyrim I killed hundreds of men on my way to find the man of my dreams. I found him, married him and bought a house where we moved in with our adopted children (I never finished the main story). I escaped from a psychopathic computer in Portal; in Portal 2 I saved that same computer, now transformed intoa potato. I caught a serial killer in Heavy Rain, and caused the deaths of my friends in Beyond: Two Souls.

A wonky drawing Ellie from The Last of Us

A wonky drawing of Ellie from The Last of Us

But the most important game I played was The Last of Us. I developed a strong relationship with the game’s protagonists, Joel and Ellie. I missed them so much once I finished the game that I’ve started playing it again. As I move through an already familiar world I discover more things that delight me. The Last of Us is the best game ever made (that’s right!), and I urge you to play it yourself.

A courtyard seen from a balcony (The Last of Us)

A courtyard seen from a balcony (The Last of Us)

The rest

For a while I had been asking friends, family and colleagues to use gender neutral pronouns when talking about me. In 2014 I made it official (i.e. I sent almost everyone I know an email about it). I go solely by the name Nat, so if you know my previous name I request you never use it.

That change, though seemingly small, decreased the level of gender-related stress I deal with, especially at work. Words are incredibly powerful.

Here’s to another great year.