2019 in a post

Quite a year without writing a single post…what happened?


  1. Introduction
  2. Personal life
  3. Personal Projects
    3.1 Winescraper
    3.2 PricePaladin
    3.3 Trovafrasi
  4. Contract work
  5. Technologies and tools
  6. This blog
  7. Wishlist
    7.1 Life
    7.2 Projects
    7.3 Technologies
  8. Conclusions

1. Introduction

Honestly, a single word: consistency. That’s exactly what i was missing.

But there is a reason: special event in my personal life and focus moved to actual personal projects but hose took my full attention and slowly forgot to update the blog.

Now my sabbatic year has ended (sabbatic in the sense that during 2019 i discarded all contract work and focused only on personal life and personal projects) and i’m back looking at a new 2020 new year’s resolution :D

2. Personal life

2019 has been a really impressive year in my personal life: i married my beautiful wife and we had to grow our two children that now are a little bit older and so they require a little more focus!
We had to prepare the wedding (we decided to go “custom” and do a lot of stuff by ourselves and that was really stressful but also paid back a lot creating a really special event) and to plan our honeymoon trip with our two children to that beautiful country called Norway!
Now we two are back to work and that increases difficulty in finding time to manage all the “other things”.

3. Personal projects

3.1 Winescraper

Starting on late 2018 i developed a lot of code to create a winescraper system so that i can create a wine comparator. It was a project i started with a friend of mine but to be honest, we soon discovered that greater player had already an unbeatable SEO. Some of the major players (wine ecommerces) have more than 10k pages of great, unique and optimized content describing both the wine and the wine producer.

There was no game, we couldn’t hope to beat them. the result was i became proficient with js and js related scraping technologies, but nothing came to a real project.

3.2 PricePaladin

Well, i said i became proficient at scraping so i created a tool to monitor price changes, pricepaladin targeted at B2B.

As any project, it took an eternity to be developed. The result? Well to be honest not so good, but only from a UI point of view (and it lacks some needed functionality like APIs).

The tool is interesting but still immature. It must be improved a lot and must become more user-friendly for non-business users. Except for that it implements some good things like automatic price discovery and fallback to preview to select price field manually.

The problem is that i let the project die. Didn’t make consistent marketing and developing so currently i have about 50 users that don’t use it frequently but all on the free-tier.

Total Income: 0€ :(

3.3 Trovafrasi

This project became the main one of 2019 and for the future. Me and my friend decided that there was enough space to get into the quote and citation business so we created Trovafrasi, a nice website to grow in that field.

We studied the competitors and saw that it should have been a profitable niche but success here is based on a few factors: consistency and content.

Content because it is necessary to produce hundreds of articles and consistency because Google likes to see a continuous stream of fresh content.

So we decided to hire a freelance on fiverr to compose the articles choosing the citations from our dbs and to use an external services for some editorials texts.

The project is composed by two different technological stacks: a backend written by me in NodeJs to provide the editor a tool to use to search citations from our db and import them into the article, to create images with text that will be imported in the article too and the second stack is Wordpress. The article written in the nodejs backend is pushed to the Wordpress site, there the last text editing happens and then we publish it.

Our wordpress installation is super-optimized (pagespeed is about 98-99 on mobile on any page).

It has required a lot of time and still today we have to do manually the “social stuff”. We publish on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. And since we create audio files from our articles, we publish them as a podcast on Apple and Spotify. Working a little bit with ffmpeg let me create videos too (still image with the text of the podcast) and so we have a YouTube channel too.
All these things should help a little with growth.

Currently (i won’t disclosure it) we have a good traffic but still insufficient to make decent money. We want to grow before adding advertisment.

This project came with some good things:

  • i played with wordpress
  • i created a very good backend with nodejs
  • we outsourced some of the work (first time!)
  • we are consistent

4. Contract work

Starting from august i decided to accept some contract work again. I gain no money from my projects and even if i can afford it, now it’s time to go back and have a stream of revenue. So i accepted contract work from a very good client i had (he is nice, gives interesting jobs, pays what i ask, he is smart) and so things got on a good trajectory again :)

I’ve been working with Grails and Spring Boot and rediscovered some old but (at least for some aspect) fascinating technologies for Spring webservices

5. Technologies

2019 was very rich in terms of technologies i played with. Here it is a rough list of technologies and tools i usedstudied/used:

  • js: it was definitely my year in the NodeJS world. I think i’ve understood the greatest limitations of this tool but for quick and dirty web development it is excellent. Perfect for scripting too
  • java: back again with my first love! After developing a crypto exchange in 2018 for a customer, i definitely consider it a super language. Powerful ecosystem, it is a really reliable piece of technologies. That said it comes with its toll in terms of productivity and easyness so you must know well when to use it. I’ve started to study some > than Java8 new features (a lot taken from languages like Kotlin) but didn’t use them again
  • wordpress: it’s definitely the publishing platform. Far from being excellent or perfect, it is so simple that in a good or bad way, you can bend it to your will! And it has an extraordinary (and cahotic and full of bad ones too) universe of plugins. I think my perfect publishing tool would be a Wordpress to static site with markdown support. There exists a few wordpress to static site solutions, it could be worth to have a look at them
  • docker: after using it for the first time in 2018 for the exchange, i’ve decided to play a little with it. Great technology, nothing bad to say. For my personal use though i don’t need it. But i liked it a lot and consider docker-compose a perfect solution when you have multiple parts
  • grails: back again to this old friend (i’m using version 2.5.7 for my customer). To be honset, it was a super-productive framework. I’m sorry it was poorly efficient and that it gained quite to no traction in the world
  • react: i’ve started using it on a personal project for a friend of mine. I still don’t know it well but it is interesting. I ’d like to learn it especially to play with ReactNative
  • ffmpeg: what a wonderful and powerful and complex tool! Any time i use it i think you can do anything video related with it
  • telegram bot: nice technology, i’ve played with it and created a bot that keep me informed with the ongoing of the bitcoin values. IT is very simple to create a Telegram Bot and i think i will use it again in the future for something else
  • Amazon Polly: great API, the quality is really impressive and it keeps going better

6. This blog

Writing takes a lot of time and effort. I have two children so my spare time is not so much, i have to work for contract projects since i can’t gain much from my personal projects and i must develop both the old personal projects and new ones…honestly that is the reasin why i didn’t write in 2019.

I hope to do better for the blog in this 2020 and i promise i will. The next big step will be revisiting the SEO part of this blog that honestly speaking is zero!

7. Wishlist

I have a long wishlist for the next year.

7.1 Life

  • do more bushcraft especially in winter
  • practicing something non technological
  • do more in-house sport activities

7.2 Projects

  • create a blog related to bushcraft
  • create a “best offers for bushcraft” website using pricepaladin
  • update the blog more frequently
  • develop pricepaladin and give it what it deserves (API, massive import and a better UI)

7.3 Technologies

  • create an electron app (should be easy since now i’m proficient with NodeJS)
  • study and play with python
  • create a Coinbase Bot
  • study kotlin both for android and server side code
  • create a game i thought of a long time ago (an open 2d virtual world but really limited in actions)
  • refresh my knowledge of Android
  • have a look at Flutter

8. Conclusions

I had a great 2019 even if it didn’t bring any money from my personal projects. 2020 has just begun but seems i have already a lot on my plate!

Alberto Plebani Written by:

Alberto Plebani is an italian software engineer currently working as a freelance developer. Happy father, happy bushcrafter!

Find him on LinkedIn
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