2022 in Review
Achraf Ait Sidi Hammou
I took the first semester of 2022 off school to explore multiple ML research topics on my own. At the beginning of the year I was almost certain that I would do a PhD in ML and I had just applied for a master thesis at McGill university, Montreal. There’s a lot I could say about this semester… but I’ll keep it short:
- Being 100% free to work on whatever I want was freaking hard! and I failed to stick to a plan. Instead, I kept having doubt about whether I was working on the right thing and I kept jumping from one idea to another.
- I ended up being rejected from McGill which led me to reconsider research altogether and realize it wasn’t for me. Sometimes a rejection is what you need to open your eyes. But that meant the whole purpose of this gap semester changed mid course when it was already super hard to know where to spend my time.
I still had a bit of structure as I was also getting a a DevRel job at a cybersecurity startup which was omega fun! It was only 2 days a week otherwise I would have gone all in with content creation —livestreaming on Twitch, doing open source contributions, running a YouTube channel, attending dev conf, etc. It’s definitely something I can see myself doing again even though it was hard to “sell” a product I wasn’t building myself. If I had to do it again, I’d spend a lot more time hanging out with the engineers and using the product myself.
I was mostly working remotely and I felt like it was just too much this time. I’m starting to feel remote fatigue if that’s even a thing.
Right after being rejected from McGill, I had a great conversation with a friend of mine who wanted to start a company during his last year of school. We’ve built things together in the past and I was looking for what to do next now that I had ditched the research path. I jumped on the opportunity and joined him. We spent the next 2 months doing calls to understand what we could build.
As my semester was coming to an end, I started feeling anxious about what I was going to do for my last year of school and I was even more confused about what I would do next… Our project was starting to get serious but I just couldn’t focus because of all those existential questions i had so i decided to step back.
After a few months of cooling down and going back to school, I had another chat with him in October and decided to get involved again. I was and am really grateful that he had the patience to let me figure things out.
Today, we are further than we could have ever imagined. I’m having a blast building the product and working with 2 amazing co-founders but friends first and foremost.
I’ve been an avid reader of newsletters —so much so that I’ve built withcurated.com to save my newsletters for later. But in 2022, I hit a point where it was just too much. My inbox was flooded with emails every single day and I just couldn’t keep up with the amount of content I was receiving. So I got rid of everything.
At some point though, I felt like I was truly missing the cool things going on — the latest products, the best essays, etc. So I took a step back and thought about what newsletters I wanted to let back in. The answer was the curated list. Newsletters are rarely of high quality when it comes to content. But lists are a great attention filter so you can go straight to the good part.
After subscribing to a few of them, and as I was spending a lot of time on Hackernews for my DevRel job, I realized that these newsletters were just made of the frontpage of Hackernews…
As I was just getting out of a research internship on recommendation system I felt like I could do better: a personalized recommended list of links from Hackernews.
That’s how scrambledtech.com was born.
I wanted to do things differently this time though. Instead of just going straight to building a product, I wanted to talk to people and do the service myself, manually. So I did. I reached out everywhere to find my first subscribers and went through 500 Hackernews posts per day to curate lists for people I got to know better through a few questions.
Honestly, I don’t know if it really made a difference as i didn’t get any additional information on how to build the product. But it did make a noticeable difference that made it all worth it: i have people on the other side ready to use the product as soon as it’s ready. I’ve gave up so many projects after a month of development just because I was tired before I even got to promote it.
Today, i finally managed to wrap up the V1 and you can signup to receive your very own daily newsletter.
My very first fullstack app back in 2020 was an attempt at building a social platform on top of Kindle highlights. It got me to learn about web scraping as Amazon doesn’t have a public API to interact with its data. The project was a complete fail and I kept trying to find a solution to retrieve Kindle highlights since then… until I found it! 💡
It only took a weekend to bootstrap a chrome extension from previous projects, build a scraper to fetch and store Kindle highlights and publish the app to the chrome store.
My Big 3:
- Build a company with my friends
- Build open-source apps live on Twitch (VODs on YouTube)
- Get off the productivity bandwagon — read-later & PKM apps (Notion, Obsidian, Matter, Pocket, etc.), insight porn and productivity YouTubers
My other goals:
- Reply to messages faster (I tend to ghost for days 👻)
- Learn Vim
- Learn Go and/or Rust
- 120 WPM (on typings.gg)
- 5k GitHub commits
- 100 stars on GitHub
- 100 Livestreams
- HN Frontpage
- Write 30 blog posts
- Fix my knees and Run a 20km
- Bench 80kg — Deadlift 100kg — Squat 100kg - 30 Pull-ups