A brief look back on another year of Hacking with Swift
2019 was my busiest year to date: hundreds of new articles, new videos, a conference, an app, a mentoring program, and a whole lot of charity work – I really feel I made the most of my time and position.
Howeer, I usually spend so much time doing the work that I don’t have much time left over to reflect on it all. So, once again I’ve written this Year in Review post to help summarize what I worked on, what results that work had, and what I’m planning for 2020.
As a reminder, this is my full-time job – don’t look at the below and imagine I’m some sort of super-productive genius, because the simple truth is that this is all I do. I don’t have meetings to attend, Jira backlogs to dig through, pull requests to review, and so on; I’m lucky enough that my entire job is exploring Swift development and sharing what I learned with others.
OK, let’s see what happened in 2019…
Have you ever been in the middle of a particular project, but had your brain so fizzing with ideas for a side project that you’ve had to stop what you were doing and work on that other thing for a while?
Me too. And I get it for writing a lot – I’m working with Swift all the time, and my brain leaps around between projects, APIs, and even platforms as I’m trying things that have my brain excited and as connections jump out at me. These things keep me up at night sometimes: if I try to sleep without writing them down my brain just stays in gear, developing it more and more. The only solution I have is to write down my ideas, save my code somewhere safe, then come back to it as soon as possible.
This year I made it a priority to get those notes out of my drafts folder, polish them up, and get them out there into the world. The result was a remarkable collection of tutorials that have really helped take the site to the next level:
If that all sounds like a lot, you’d be right. But there’s more:
That’s 200 days of Swift tutorials, 40 days of Xcode tips, 400 videos, 400 pages of a SwiftUI book, 20 livestreams, plus an iOS app.
All that work has one thing in common: I released it all for free. You can read all the articles, watch all the videos, and even read SwiftUI By Example, all for free. I don’t run Google Ads on the site, and I very rarely have sponsorships – I did all that and more because I believe this is the best community in the world and it makes me so happy to give back what I can.
Of course, I still have a family, a mortgage, and so on, which is why I finally launched a Patreon page so that folks who benefit from my work can help support me in continuing to make free tutorials for everyone.
One of my goals from last year was to “present at 3 conferences I haven't attended before.” Well, I think it’s safe to say I managed that and more: I spoke at iOS Conf SG, MobOS, CodeMobile, Swift Island, Swift TO, and try! Swift New York for the first time, and had a blast doing so – I enjoyed iOS Conf SG so much I’m even returning in 2020!
I also spoke at some conferences I had visited before: Appdevcon, iOSCon, iOSDevUK, Mobiconf, and Pragma. These were all special for different reasons: at Appdevcon I gave my first closing keynote, iOSCon turned out to be the last edition of that event, at iOSDevUK I brought my kids with me so we had a week by the beach together, at Mobiconf I won the Best Speaker award for a second year running, and Pragma… well, Pragma is just Pragma! I could never say no to those folks.
And of course I attended WWDC again. This year was a lot of work because of all the new things Apple announced, and I try to free up as much time as I can to meet people who want to ask questions or show me what they are working on. Honestly, the day after WWDC my mind was empty – I met some friends for coffee and didn’t want to think about Swift at all!
2019 was the year I also ran my own conference for the first time: Hacking with Swift Live. We sold out for our first edition, which was amazing, and I learned a lot about running a conference. I could write a whole blog post on everything I learned, but here are a few things that spring to mind:
Although I had planned to cut down on the number of conferences I spoke at in 2019, I still managed to speak at 12. I’ll be doing even fewer in 2020, and have already turned down invites from good friends.
But what I can say is this: Hacking with Swift Live is coming back in 2020! So, carve out a slot in your diary for July 13th-14th in Bath, England, because we’re back with a whole raft of improvements over our first edition – it’s going to be awesome!
Last year I set the goal to double monthly page views on hackingwithswift.com, with a target of 1.2 million page views. Well, it’s safe to say I shot well past that target: Hacking with Swift now serves up over 2 million page views every month, reaching more than 20,000 users every single day.
The growth has been phenomenal – far more than I could ever have expected. To put it into perspective, the site has had just over 32 million page views since it launched way back in 2014, of which 16 million were this year alone. Putting page views to one side, the number of users is up 85% and the number of sessions is up 79% – more people than ever are visiting, and reading more pages than ever before.
This is partly a result of all the new tutorials I talked about above, but partly also because I rebuilt the site from scratch to be easier to navigate, to make tutorials easier to discover, and to be significantly faster too. I even managed to add a dedicated search feature – another item on my list of 2019 goals checked off!
Anyone can write articles and books about Swift, anyone publish apps teaching Swift, and anyone can speak at conferences – I do those things because I love this community and want to do what I can to help. But this year I wanted to do more than just write and talk about Swift: I wanted to make a real difference to folks who needed it.
This manifested itself in a number of different ways such as me funding diversity scholarships, donating all my speaking earnings and podcast income to charity, and more. But there are three I think worked particularly well, and I want to discuss them briefly.
First, I ran a year-long mentoring program for folks from under-represented groups in our community. This was a whole year of emails and Skype calls where we discussed goals, achievements, problems, and more, and I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. Sometimes this meant doing pair programming to solve problems; other times it meant preparing for interviews; and still other times it meant just chatting about how awesome the new iOS 13 APIs are. I feel really fortunate to have been able to work alongside the same people for a whole year, and I hope they feel encouraged to continue on to greater things in 2020.
Second, all profits from Hacking with Swift Live were donated to charity. This was a two-day event in July where eight speakers delivered talks on day one, and I ran full-day tutorials on day two, all in aid of Special Effect. It was amazing to have so many friends come to learn together, and in doing so raise $30,000 for an amazing charity – I’m so excited to be bringing this back next year.
And third, I recently announced Swift for Good: 20 authors writing one chapter each, with all proceeds going to charity. I’ve been working on this since about September 2018, getting charity approval, designing the logo, building a website, selecting authors, and more, and I was so glad to be announce it publicly a few weeks ago.
As much I love helping folks master Swift, I want everyone to recognize that there are much bigger things at stake. Every one of us is in a position to help others, in a big or small way, and folks like me who are privileged enough to have a platform need to be using that platform to make a real, lasting difference.
Hacking with Swift has gone from strength to strength in 2019, but I don’t want to stop there – I want 2020 to be the biggest year yet, helping more people than ever reach their goals with app development.
First, I’ll be continuing to release SwiftUI updates for all my books – Hacking with macOS, Hacking with watchOS, and Hacking with tvOS will all get SwiftUI updates in January, so folks can see how to adapt their code to Apple’s other platforms to make great apps everywhere.
All these updates – like every update I release – will be free. I’m not here to make a quick buck: I want everyone to know that when they buy one of my books they get far more than they expected. That means free content through my Frequent Flyer Club, it means free Swift updates for the lifetime of their book, and now it even means huge amounts of additional SwiftUI tutorials, all without paying a penny more.
Second, SwiftUI By Example was my first attempt at quick start books – smaller books that focus on one precise topic. On the Quick Start Guides homepage I’ve been saying since June that more will be coming, and this is a massive priority for me in 2020.
Each of these new mini-books will follow the same approach: they focus on one precise topic, and provide hands-on solutions for common problems. Each one will be available to buy as a download for folks who can afford it, but will also be available free online for everyone as part of my long-term commitment to this community.
Third, I have plans for one major new book to launch in February, plus a whole raft of new YouTube videos that will help develop your skills further. At this point I think I’ve covered most of the beginner and intermediate space pretty well, so I’m keen to help folks continue on to reach greater goals with more advanced topics.
Fourth, I’ll be launching Hacking with Swift Forums in February, giving folks one central place to ask questions, find answers, and discuss techniques. This has been requested for a long time now, and with the new site in place it’s time to finally make this happen. I’ll be linking this to my new Patreon page so that Gold Supporters get special recognition – another small way to thank them for their incredible support.
Fifth, yes: Hacking with Swift Live is coming back in 2020, on July 13th-14th in Bath, England. The venue is already booked, and I’m busy lining up speakers – it’s going to be a great event, and will hopefully surpass the 2019 edition in terms of its success and also how much we can donate to charity.
And sixth, I’m really pleased to say that the Swift over Coffee podcast is coming back for season 2 in 2020. It was a lot of fun to create season 1 and I think you’ll enjoy season 2 even more – there are big plans afoot!
All those things are just the start for me. You’ll continue to see lots more free articles and videos, I hope to update Unwrap with some great new features I’m working on, and I might even have some extra podcast plans to reveal in the coming weeks, but hey – I need to leave you with some surprises, don’t I?
If you enjoy my work, please consider supporting me on Patreon. I want to help everyone do their best with Swift regardless of their background or financial circumstances, and that means continuing to publish high-quality tutorials for free. By supporting my work on Patreon you can help me reach millions more people in 2020.
Thank you for taking the time to read an entirely self-indulgent article – honestly it’s as much for me as it is for you, because I spend so little time reflecting on my work.
I hope you have a happy, successful, and fun 2020, and that you achieve your goals both in programming and in life, whatever they may be!
Paul Hudson is the creator of Hacking with Swift, the most comprehensive series of Swift books in the world. He's also the editor of Swift Developer News, the maintainer of the Swift Knowledge Base, and a speaker at Swift events around the world. If you're curious you can learn more here.
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