Looking Back on 2007

This year started with me looking forwards rather than backwards, and with a view not only to take opportunities that came my way, but make my own as well.


The year began with me reasonably settled in Palo Alto and working for Ning, where myself and the team were preparing for the launch of the potentially game changing yet awkwardly titled ‘Your Own Social Network for Anything’ product.

This landed towards the end of February, and with it the company finally found a path towards success, reaching 70,000 social networks six months later.

Being part of a small, talented and close-knit group of people, and launching something this big was truly an amazing experience. In some respects it was almost like Christmas—on launch night I couldn’t get to sleep, instead staying up until the next morning playing with it and reading peoples feedback.

Once this initial excitement had passed however, the nagging feeling that this was not something I wanted to be doing returned, and over the next six months the thought ‘it is only an opportunity if you want it’ often passed through my mind. When I attended conferences I found that, unlike my colleagues, I wasn’t able to speak of the product with the same level of excitement, and soon realised my interests lay far from social media.

However, it was at October’s An Event Apart conference in San Francisco that the penny finally dropped. After listening to Jason Santa Maria’s talk ‘Design Your Way Out of a Paper Bag’, I left the room with the gut-wrenching feeling that not only was I doing a job I didn’t enjoy, but in a role that didn’t provide me with enough creative freedom either.

It is no surprise then that shortly afterwards I resigned, at the time with a view to returning to the UK to follow my long held dream of going freelance. A chance introduction to Kelly Goto put those plans on hold, and instead I ended the year working at Gotomedia in San Francisco.


Travel was a big theme of 2007, and whilst most of it was US based, it did allow me to get a more rounded view of the country.

The year started with a January weekend spent in Las Vegas with some friends. Unfortunately this trip was blighted by a badly-timed cold, and I spent most of my time either sleeping or drinking cough medicine. Having said that, I’m not sure if being well would have much difference to my overall impression of the place!

The Texas Capitol, Austin, TX

Things improved in March, when I finally attended the South by Southwest interactive festival in Austin, Texas. I absolutely loved this city, sort of a liberal island in heavily conservative waters—although you still wouldn’t want to upset the locals!

I wasn’t able to catch as many sessions as I would have liked, but I did attend a good number of parties, and this first experience served as an excellent introduction to an event I intend making many return visits to.

April saw the first of three returns back to the UK, to attend the Future of Web Design conference in London. Whilst the conference turned out to be unimpressive, I did somehow find myself having dinner alongside messrs Budd, Rutter, Steinhouse, Ribot, Wubben, Boag so it didn’t turn out too bad in the end.

The travelling continued through the summer months. A few days in Montreal to witness the marriage of Tung and Angela in June, also allowed me to indulge in a little architecture when I went to visit the Olympic Stadium in the city. The stadium is something of a white elephant, finished several decades after the games had come to a close, and the debt it created only paid off very recently. I was in my element however as I spent two or so hours taking photos of its eccentric form and daring design.

In August I was able to take ten days away from work to explore New York and San Francisco with my friend Ellen who flew out to see me. We managed to cover huge swathes of Manhattan, even venturing over to Coney Island, which was an experience in itself. On returning to San Francisco, I finally was able to step upon Alcatraz Island, as well as Angel Island which I didn’t even know existed. It’s probably fair to say that I saw more of San Francisco in those six days than I did in the previous six months!

Road sign on Highway 1 near Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA

There were many other trips this year too, including Los Angeles, Napa Valley and Carmel, all of which helped make this a great year for (North American based) travel.

It will certainly be a hard year to beat, but with thoughts towards riding the California Zephyr, attending SXSW, visiting Spain and perhaps even a return to Australia by the close of next year, so I’m certainly going to try and keep up this momentum!

Personal Growth

What I’ve found really fascinating over the last year, is how my time in the United States has helped me understand myself better—the good and the bad. I was incredibly down in March essentially due to my habitual looking back and harbouring regrets of what could have been. Recently I’ve been wondering if I’m a deeply unhappy person, not to say increasingly cynical.

My job was definitely a large part of this. My interview at Gotomedia revealed to me how much confidence in my own abilities had declined, whilst watching tech developments in ‘the valley’ (can you say monetization Google AdSense) is enough to make anyone more cynical than they were before.

Having seen that money and status can not bring you happiness (not that it needed to be proved), I intend on using the next twelve months to try and resolve these issues, and learn how to be a more positive, happier person.

Top Ten Highlights of 2007

Travis at The Fillmore, San Francisco

  1. Watching Travis play live to an audience no bigger than 300 people at The Fillmore in San Francisco
  2. Spending an afternoon in MoMA with Ellen
  3. Launching ‘Ning 2.0’
  4. Photographing the Olympic Stadium in Montreal
  5. Thanksgiving at the Ford’s
  6. Being part of SXSWi 2007
  7. My post-Future of Web Design Dinner
  8. Discovering the joys of Poterro Hill, namely a bagel in Thinkers Cafe, coffee and cookies at Farley’s
  9. Seeing El Jobso at the Palo Alto Apple Store on the day the iPhone launched
  10. Leaving Las Vegas


I can look back at 2007 with a huge smile on my face. Whilst it was always going to be an improvement over the previous year, my desire to take a more proactive approach paid off on many occasions, and I go into 2008 with a clear idea of where I want to be and what I want to achieve, which has rarely been the case.

And with that, the book closes on 2007 and all that remains is to wish everybody a very Happy New Year!


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