Every year, I write a year-in-review blog post. I've been doing this since 2013!
Traditionally, these have focused on my business/bootstrapping highlights, in addition to any personal experiences I feel I can share publicly.
(You can read 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013 here).
Jon Buda and I have been running Transistor (a podcast hosting and analytics platform) together since 2018.
I love waking up and going to work with Jon, Helen, and Jason. I'm still passionate about the podcasting space, and I'm excited about all the cool stuff we get to build for podcasters.
Despite all the economic uncertainty in tech, we grew revenue in 2022. Also, according to James Cridland:
"Transistor has been one of the fastest-growing podcast hosts, says the analysis we did - the number of new shows almost doubling 2020-2022."
Overall, I feel incredibly fortunate. Transistor has given me a really great life. Every additional day we get to work on it feels like a blessing. The rewards and margin that Transistor has given my family are enormous. I can't even fully put it into words: it's been life-changing.
In January, Jon and I finally met up in person for our founders' retreat. After 2.5 years of not seeing each other (due to the pandemic), Jon joined me in BC for a week. It was wonderful!
We did some planning for 2022, but also lots of snowboarding and hanging out.
Beginning the year this way greatly benefits us as partners and the company. We started to sketch out some of our goals and intentions for the year.
I spent the last few months of 2022 trying to improve Transistor's search results for terms like "how to start a podcast" (both on Google and YouTube).
While I could have hired someone else to do this SEO work, I genuinely enjoyed learning about it and testing different strategies. A few key lessons:
With a team of four people, we were able to launch a lot more features than in previous years.
By far, the biggest highlight of the year for Transistor was the team retreat we did in Montreal, Quebec.
It was incredible to be in person with Jason, Jon, and Helen; this was our first time all being in the same place simultaneously!
Our highlights included the following:
The experience of exploring business and product ideas in the same room was helpful. But even more so: being able to further our relationships with each other, and make memories, was invaluable. We recorded a podcast about it here:
We didn't hire anybody new in 2022, but I started to feel like I could use a collaborator on the marketing side.
I didn't have the same spark and energy these last few years as I've had in the past.
In particular, watching Jon and Jason work together in our #dev Slack channel inspired me to team up with some contractors and 2022. I hired Jason Beggs and Josh Anderton at various times to help me with the Transistor website. I also collaborated with Jeremy Enns on a livestream event (hoping to do more of these in the future).
I plan on working more with Josh Anderton on Transistor's marketing site in 2023. Every time we've collaborated, I get a burst of energy and inspiration. Plus, Transistor benefits from his design sense and web dev skills.
Even though we launched Transistor in 2018, I still hadn't attended podcasting's biggest event: the Podcast Movement conference.
So I committed to attending their leading conference in August 2022 in Dallas.
It was the first conference I'd attended in 2-3 years, and it gave me a massive boost of energy. I met so many incredible people, customers, and internet friends.
Even though I'm committed to flying less (I cut my annual flights from 8-10 down to 3-4), I also recognize there's nothing quite like getting together with folks in real meatspace.
I'm planning on attending more podcast events in 2023.
In 2021, Josh Anderton and I started building Meeps: "A better way to create online communities and memberships." The idea was to stop using Memberful for MegaMaker and switch to Meeps as the community management tool.
At the time, driven largely by the pandemic, there was a lot of interest in building online communities. Startups like Circle, Clubhouse, and Hopin were attracting mega-valuations. It felt similar to the podcasting space when Jon and I launched Transistor in 2018; some good momentum.
But unlike podcasting, the momentum around communities didn't last long. As Tatiana reported in her newsletter:
If you’re hoping to grow a community business in 2023, a lot of what you might be hearing right now is not optimistic: With the winding down of the pandemic, people are finding other social options to occupy their time. We are spending less on things that feel optional because of inflation and a pending recession. Many of the communities that were started in the last few years are now either ghost towns or defunct.
As we spoke to our early-access customers, it became apparent that building a community was harder than starting a newsletter, a podcast, or a blog.
I'm still using Meeps for the MegaMaker community (and it's working great!). So the plan is to keep Meeps running for the time being. I feel we might find a use case with more traction in the future.
For much of spring until fall, my wife and I had many days on Kal Lake paddleboarding, which was amazing.
There's something about being on the water that we found incredibly grounding. Any worries we had before left would just evaporate as soon as we were floating and paddling. For many weeks we were out on the water 3-4 times. Very therapeutic, a practice we plan on continuing in 2023 when it gets warm!
COVID restrictions accelerated our trend of spending more time online on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc.
While I've benefitted immensely from the relationships I've built online, I think the pandemic really showed me how important our real-life interactions are.
Comedian Matt Ruby recently commented on this in his new special:
"A room full of people coming together to laugh or dance or sing or worship or whatever is the antidote to everything that's going on that's negative. We just gotta get off screens."
My favorite moments in 2022 were all related to spending time with people offline: snowboarding with friends, taking my family to Disney (and meeting up with my friend Andrew and his family), going to Vancouver with my wife, visiting friends and family in Edmonton, having my sister's family visit us in the summer, going to concerts, dancing, karaoke, and going to parties.
I want (need?) more of that energy in my life. I think we all do.
In retrospect, the advent of Twitter, Facebook, and other "short-form" social media hasn't improved our public discourse.
Sam Harris echoed the thoughts of many when he left Twitter:
"I just came to believe that my engagement with Twitter was making me a worse person. It really is as simple as that. I left it because it suddenly became obvious that it was a net negative influence on my life. The most glaring sign of this, and something which I've been concerned about for a few years, is that it was showing me the worst of other people in a way that I began to feel was actually distorting my perception of humanity."
I'm someone who cares deeply about human progress. The sharing of ideas and critiques has been a key part of our evolution as a species. Creating spaces for respectful debate, dialogue, and dissent is how we examine ourselves, our leaders, and societies (and make them better).
And for a long time, it felt like the internet was improving our public discourse. Over the years, I've changed my mind on a variety of important topics (climate change, human rights, ethics) after hearing people's thoughtful reasoning in blog posts, forum threads, and podcasts.
But, the proliferation of toxicity and misinformation on social media is turning that tide. We now have, as Sam Harris says, "a larger problem to deal with:"
"It's still not clear what to do about the social harm of misinformation and disinformation at scale. Algorithmically boosted speech isn't ordinary speech, and many people don't see this: that we have built systems of communication in which lies and outrage spread faster and more widely than anything else. Scale matters. Velocity matters."
Like Sam, it's not entirely clear to me how we solve the problem.
Intuitively, it feels like part of the answer is more "slow media:" blog posts, articles, and podcasts are examples of this. Because mindful media is usually decentralized (using tech like RSS), it doesn’t suffer from the “monetized outrage” we see on platforms like Twitter. Instead, I believe this "slow media" encourages a more thoughtful way to express our ideas, concerns, and theories.
All that being said, the most effective method for respectful discourse I've found in the past year is person-to-person, preferably offline.
A number of times over the past few years, I've found myself getting into an argument with a local friend on Facebook. When possible, I'd reach out in DMs to see if we could get together for coffee or lunch. Surprisingly, we'd meet up and spend most of our time reestablishing a connection: "How are your kids? What's your job like these days? How's your parents' health?"
I'm realizing how much of our humanity gets stripped away by social media: there's not as much room for depth, nuance, or real connection. Whenever I meet someone in-person (even those I deeply disagree with), I instantly have more empathy and understanding for their point of view. Often, we'll walk away from the meeting, still disagreeing on a few things but with greater respect for each other.
Regaining a connection with someone you've been fighting with online feels like progress.
I'm still going! I see Meriah almost every month, and it continues to have a profound impact on my life.
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