Happy Holidays everyone! The year end is coming, and in a few days’ time it’ll be 2015! Do you think you are ready for the new year and the excitement and new challenges it brings?

Before we move on to the new year, it’s high time for all of us to do a review for the year.

But why?

This is actually my first comprehensive year-in-review ever and I think it’s important to do this because:

  • A lot of things happened in my life this year, mostly good. And it’s cheerful to look back on them.
  • You never know what you can improve on without looking at the report card.
  • Looking back at the experiences I had and lessons I learned. Looking at the big picture will help me decide what I want to do next.
  • Why not start 2015 on a high note?

So, here we go!

Highlights of 2014

  • Met Alexis Ohanian. He came to the UW for his Without Their Permission tour. Cool dude.

Me with Alexis Ohanian. He is freakishly tall

  • Won CodeDay Seattle in January. We made a Yelp for Bathrooms app — because it should not be hard to find a clean bathroom when you’re out.
  • Won Facebook Hackathon PNW Regional in April. Advanced to Global Finals.
  • Went to Facebook Global Finals Hackathon in November. Best hackathon experience so far. Didn’t win but made a few friends and got to spend a week in the Silicon Valley.

That’s our team at the Facebook Global Finals Hackathon. Left to Right: Me, Aaron Nech, Ryan Drapeau, Grant Timmerman

  • Published my research’s results. (See: How do spammers harvest your email address?). I worked with Jeff Huang on this project for over a year, and even though we could not submit the findings for peer review, I was still happy to be able to learn so much in my first year of school. Got amazing feedback from academia and industry.

  • Interned at Google at their Mountain View HQ. Probably the best way to spend a summer. A lot happened here, but I’ll save that for another time. ☺

Made a lot of new friends at Google. That’s Karolina Pyszkiewicz. She goes to the UW, too! I can never say her last name.

  • Made a ton (I mean a ton) of new friends both online and IRL.

  • Attended four hackathons (Linkedin Hack Day, Outside Hacks, YC Hacks and another I can’t remember) in four continuous weekends while working at Google. Because why not. Won a couple prizes too.

  • Spent a long weekend with my family in CA just seeing places. We drove from Oakland -> SF -> Muir Woods -> Napa Valley -> San Jose -> Santa Cruz -> SF (400+ miles in 2 days). It was their first time in the US. It was my first time driving here in the US. No I didn’t crash.

  • Met Ryan Hoover (OMG) in SF. We chatted about life and products over bubbly iced tea.

Me and Ryan Hoover. I was really happy!

  • Had (a fancy) dinner with Firebase founders. They are really cool people with a lot of useful advice to give.

  • Went to see a baseball game for the first time at At&T Park in SF (thanks Google). Yeah, it’s boring for the most part.

  • Went to YC multiple times (it’s actually more bland than you’d think, but I guess that’s on purpose).

  • Went to the Google Prom on a cruise. It was so much fun.

Huskies who interned at Google in Summer ‘14. Taken during Google Prom on a cruise. Karolina was my prom date. We were the best couple.

  • Travelled to the east coast for the first time, to Philly for PennApps. Ended up working with Arduino and Tessel and won a Jawbone UP.

  • Organized UW’s first hackathon, and PNW’s biggest — DubHacks. Really, really time consuming but ever bit worth it. (See: Geekwire coverage). I can write a whole post about this experience.

Do it. Host a hackathon!

  • Went to Startup School Silicon Valley and met some amazing people there — from founders to investors to students like myself. Would go again.

  • Did a lot of traveling. I travelled to a different state probably a dozen times, mostly to the bay area and mostly during fall. Most of the traveling was for hackathons, some for interviews and conferences. I met a lot of new and amazing people and ended up making some great friends.

  • Read a lot of things. Here’s what I loved reading. Out of all those, I highly recommend reading Peter Thiel’s Zero to One.

  • School was alright. Not terrific, but not terrible too. Our team did win the Software Entrepreneurship class project (make a software-powered business and pitch to investors with fake money).

  • Got profiled in Geekwire. Best holiday gift ever. Geek of the Week: Karan Goel cultivates a hacker culture at the University of Washington - GeekWire

Side Projects Review 2014

Instead of writing another post about the side projects I worked on this year, I think it might be better to just roll that up here. I won’t list all the projects I worked on, you can check them out on my Github.

Of all my projects, my favorite project one was Nightingale (still closed source for now). It’s basically a simple app that crawls and collects music shared by people you follow on Twitter. I made it to solve a personal problem — I used to miss the music links my friends posted on Twitter at 3am. I put in months of work into this app to make it usable (UX-wise), and efficient (it isn’t as easy to decide if a link is a song or not). There’s still scaling issues, which I may address in the future.

On to summarizing the year of side projects now:

  • Made opens source contributions every single day.

My contribution graph

  • Learned Javascript (and Node.js) and Dart. Really starting to fall in love with Dart.

  • Some of the web apps I launched this year have received over 100,000 unique visitors combined and over a quarter million page views combined. The visitors came from all seven continents. Among the top visited apps were SoundWall, SoundCloud Instant and Product Hunt API.

  • I made it to the homepage of Hacker News and top of Product Hunt multiple times for some of my projects which resulted in a lot of new relationships. (SoundCloud Instant, Email spam study, Product Hunt API, PebBus)

  • I found out what I like to work with: music, Twitter and NLP.


What was the best thing that happened to me this year?

Ooh. This is a hard one. I think the best thing that happened to me was the Google internship. It helped me grow so much personally and professionally and gave me so many opportunities to do so much more with my life (like meet other people, attend meetups etc). And the salary and benefits are not bad at all. ☺

What did I do this year that I’m really proud of?

Without a doubt, DubHacks. There was an actual need for a well-done, large-scale hackathon here in the PNW. We had a relatively small team (10 people) and a rather big project. None of us had the experience of hosting a large hackathons, and only a few of us had been to one. We saw this as an opportunity to learn by doing, and the result was amazing.

What are the top three lessons I learned?

  1. Consistency is probably the most important building block for any habit.

  2. Never stop learning. This might sound cliche but it’s so true. There is just so much to do and to learn out there, there should not be any excuse for not doing all those things.

  3. Being happy is hard when you’re being forced to do something you don’t enjoy. If it’s not possible to quit, roll with it but, supplement your days or weeks with things you love. Don’t like your job but love to sing? Join a local meetup group and attend. Being happy for a few minutes makes life so much nicer not only for us but for people around us.

What character trait did I develop most this year?

Overall confidence, especially for public speaking. I’ve never really been much of a public speaker but I forced myself to do some this year, and while I’m still not a great speaker, I’m getting there.

Goals for 2015

Ok so it was all a happy and cheerful year, but there are some things I’d like to work on for 2015. I’m listing my resolutions publicly for the first time because I think that public accountability is a huge motivator.

  • Lose xx pounds (not listing the number here). I gained a lot of pounds over the summer (<sarcasm>Thanks Google</sarcasm>). It’s time I lose that and then some (already working on this). I’ve already been following Tim Ferriss’ Slow Carb Diet and plan on continuing it.

  • Travel less. I like to travel, don’t get me wrong. But it is affecting my studies. Which brings us to..

  • Do better in school.

  • Participate in more public speaking.

  • Write more.

  • Read even more.

  • Improve my personal brand on Twitter. I did work on that a lot this year, and it seems to have worked; I’d like to continue working on that become a more respectable figure on Twitter.

  • Less Facebook. I log on to Facebook multiple times a day, but hardly post anything. Most of my Facebook activity is on the chat. I’d still like to be able to avoid using Facebook for checking random stuff that people post on there.

  • Meditate every day. I’ve started meditating for now and it’s all going well. I’d like to continue doing that, it takes only 10 minutes.

  • Become a better listener. I’ve been working on that this year, but the results were not great. I’d like to STFU and just listen more.

So that’s about it. That was my year. How was yours? I’d love to hear your story. Email me or tweet at me. I reply to everything I receive.

Here’s to a prosperous 2015.

Thanks to Gideon Wulfsohn, Kevin Bastien, Arush Shankar, David Coven and Tejas Manohar for reading the draft of this post.