2023 in review

This is probably going to be short as this year is perhaps the most unproductive year I've ever had.

As usual, I start this off with a compilation of monthly "highlights" that I've already listed in my monthly newsletter.













Extended unemployment

I was expecting at most 1-year of unemployment before I get bored and wanting to start work again.

But somehow I don't feel like working yet. Feels like a gut feeling thing or I'm still feeling fatigued. There's a sense of guilt building up but I decided to just do what I want and not get pressured or stressed by it.

Roughly one year after my unemployment, tech layoffs were still happening, so it doesn't feel like things are going to be smooth-sailing yet. It's quite and not quite post-pandemic at the same time, as most folks are still working from home on some days of the week as part of the "new normal" working arrangements. Not a lot of tech meetups too, compared to pre-pandemic days.


I should say, just one project, not projects.

I've spent the whole year working on Phanpy, a 3rd-party web client for Mastodon-compatible social networks. It's been surprisingly enjoyable and challenging, as I use all my front-end chops, design skills, usability knowledge and years of experience on creating my ideal social media client.

I've added so many cool features since the first inception last December.

  • Thread count indicator – automatic marking of "1/X" on threaded posts so that authors don't have to type it themselves.
  • Boosts Carousel – group all reposted posts from the timeline into separate horizontal-scrolling carousels to prevent them from hogging the timeline.
  • Multi-column mode – Tweetdeck-like UI for multiple configurable columns of timelines.
  • Post translation – full-fledged translation UI with auto-detection of source text, configurable source language and even includes pronunciation text.
  • (Non-native) Quote posts – links to other Mastodon/Fediverse posts will be expanded to look like quote posts.
  • Web Push notifications – push notifications on the web, a feature that's more widely available now since the release of iOS 16.4.
  • Profile posting stats – quick visualisation of an account's posting habits showing percentage of original posts, reposts and replies within the last specific number of days.
  • "ALT" badge & inline captions – Instead of just showing ALT badges, they're also conditionally inlined like image captions.
  • Experimental image description generator – using GPT-4 with Vision to generate description for images when posting images.
  • And… a whole bunch of small UI tweaks and bug fixes.

I'm quite proud of this. It's pretty hard to explain or describe in words, thus I feel that folks should really try the web app to "get it".

Code frequency over the history of cheeaun/phanpy repository, showing all additions and deletions per wee on a monthly area chart from January to December 2023

I find myself surprised that I'm able to focus on one project as I usually get distracted easily to start another new project or shift focus to one of my existing projects.

It feels good to focus on building a product, not during your "free time" or after-work hours, and really just laser-focus on delivering the best user experience without tight deadlines, the need to chase numbers, or reach certain KPI's.

Thanks to Phanpy, my sponsorship grew quite significantly on Buy Me a Coffee and GitHub Sponsors. I really appreciate all the donations! 🙇‍♂️.

Total earnings for past year, showing a line chart of monthly earnings from January to December 2023, on GitHub Sponsors dashboard site

Looking back

View from Sky Garden Capitaspring, looking at Singapore River, Asian Civilizations Museum and Swissôtel The Stamford

Despite having more than a year to think about my next steps, I didn't really put much thought in the end. After 1.5 years of unemployment, I started to get used to this, which is something that I never thought that I could. Time passed by so fast while everyone else continue working, meeting friends, and travelling.

I'm grateful that I have the luxury to be jobless for this long. I'm still able to spend on things that I want. I could go to places like art museums during weekdays while everyone else is working.

There's still a lot of things in my mind. A lot of to-dos and future planning.

But, I'm just too lazy to think.

And I want to convince myself that it's fine to be lazy.