Year of Quality

Juan Villela

Every year, the guys at Cortex develop a theme that sets an overarching idea guiding their decisions. The “Year of Less” and “Year of Positivity” have been since 2017. Some people have begun to follow along with their yearly themes, like Quinn Rose with her “Year of Quality.”

That got me thinking of some recent changes I’ve made lately. There’s only so much one can consume, and a vast amount of good content is out there. I typically have an extensive backlog of podcasts, videos, shows, articles, and audiobooks I’d like to get through. Although I do enjoy all these things and go through them eventually, I am trying to remember what most of them were about or if I gained anything valuable from them. I don’t want to be a snob about it, but I value my time and can do much better. And that was my thinking when I began cutting back on the media I consumed. I slowly started doing this a few months ago, and this is what I’ve done so far and what I plan to do next.

The Cleanse

First and foremost, most of the stuff I see or listen to tends to be science or tech-related. There’s no “I want to better myself” motive behind it; I genuinely find it fascinating and enjoyable. But there’s a lot of the same explained in different ways. So I’d classify the content based on impact, whether it makes an impression I’d return to or even write down some of it. Here’s how I went about it with each category.


My player of choice is Overcast. And although Overcast doesn’t have a starred/favorites list, it’s relatively easy to view your stats on the episodes list. This was the easiest way to determine which shows make a regular impact. I listen to three main genres: Comedy, Science, and Tech. Comedy is only three shows, and Tech is about the same. Tech podcasts are a dime a dozen and cover practically the same topics. So, I kept those that talked about more niche and specific topics. And though Science had a ton of different shows, I was about to use the same strategy as with Tech and slim down the playlists. To give you an idea of what I mean, Tech has shows like Pragmatic and ATP1, while Science has Twenty Thousand Hertz and Big Picture Science. These are very well-developed shows that focus on putting out quality long-form episodes. They had interesting discussions, and I jotted down ideas I came up with from listening to them. So yeah, an impact.

There’s also Development, which is like tech, where many of the shows cover the same topics, but it’s also a little more complicated because there aren’t many that cover particular topics. So I went with three great ones. One covers general front-end stuff, the other has more JavaScript-related issues, and the last does a deep dive into the history of Computer Science and the people who made it what it is now. It’s called Command Line Heros, and you should check it out if you’re into that sort of stuff.


Almost all videos/shows I view are from YouTube or Netflix. There are one or two shows I might have to “rent” elsewhere to watch, but that’s rare. This doesn’t consider movies, as we often go to the theaters and buy copies of the ones we like to rewatch frequently. So it mostly shows.

There are precisely nine shows we watch in my household. It used to be much more, but we stopped them for one (or both) of two reasons. Either it required paying a subscription for just that show. Game of Thrones is always the exception, but for the most part, a no-show is worth $15 a month. That’s why piracy is going up. Or the plot just got boring. There’s a lot of quality TV now, and there’s no need to waste it on just okay stuff. So cleaning the house here was relatively easy, to be honest.

With YouTube, it’s a little different. There are a lot of great creators. I enjoy and love their work, but there’s too much. So, I opted to use the same approach as with podcasts. So, I looked at my watch history on each subscription and my bookmarked videos and considered the quality of the content in their respective genres. With that, about 30 subscriptions become less than 20.


I still use RSS and will continue to support it until it dies, which I doubt (and hope) it ever will. But there’s still a backlog of 46 articles I have yet to see, plus about 10 in my Reading List half-read. With this, it was more complicated than I thought. I have followed many of the blogs for years. But they post very infrequently, if not hardly at all. So I let go. Then, some always have interesting content, but if I’m honest with myself, the title caught my attention. I have no idea if I’ll ever get to them, so I have to let it go. And lastly, there are the dozens of webcomics I follow that I always catch. But I followed the podcast approach. How often do I bookmark them, but also, how often do I share them? So almost 30 became 9. And just like that, my feeds were slimmed down to only quality blogs I never miss and always want to read from start to finish. And some great comics.


This was a little different. I don’t read physical or ebooks; I only listen to them. I got into Audible halfway through 2018 and almost always reserve a few hours before bed to listen to them. I always finished one book before jumping to another. And I pick my books carefully. This was mostly setting more time aside to listen. I found that cleaning and commuting are fantastic times to listen to booms. And I got my partner into it as well, so I have an incentive to read more and share my thoughts. If anything, I must avoid adding a book to my wishlist just because the brief description from someone on a podcast sounded cool. I’ll be more thorough in my vetting and only add stuff I know I’ll enjoy.


This was by far the easiest. I have a close-knit group of friends, and we’re all antisocial nerds who never leave the house. So it works. Social media: I wouldn’t say I like sharing my personal life online, so I don’t use Facebook or Instagram. Also, I’m about to wait to start trusting Evil Corp after the year they’ve had. My Twitter feed is heavily filtered with Tweetbot, and I’ve unfollowed many people who only post to complain. Reddit is, well, Reddit. I follow a few subs there, but the ones I do are there for one purpose: to release my stress. So, I only open the app when I feel I “need” it.

So Why the Cleanse?

I want to focus my time on other (better?) things this year. I don’t know what exactly. I want to learn Nodejs and improve my Python. I also want to grow and improve as a developer. But I still need to set goals. Coming up with unrealistic goals that I could never live up to is setting myself up for failure. I got into development because I wanted to do a job I enjoyed. And I want to do the same with everything else. Forcing myself to accomplish a goal during a period quickly becomes more about completing it rather than wanting to get out of it. So, instead, I will follow Quinn’s idea and set the theme for a Year of Quality. Cleaning out my media consumption began as simply a time management thing. There needed to be more time and even less for other important stuff. But now, I consume only the best of each and have time to focus on other important stuff. I’m drinking less stuff to do more of other things because the other stuff is more (stuffy?) necessary. Stuff.


I want to transition from what I do now (front-end development) to more back-end stuff. Node is a big one, and I’d also like to get into messing with databases. I’ve gotten to play around with some of this and made some Node apps that I use frequently on my daily workflow and have enjoyed. So, I want to continue doing it. This also means I need to improve my JavaScript, which I’ve been working on more and more lately. And since it’s the year of quality, the quality of my code should also improve.


Even though I suck at writing, I want to do it more. I want to keep my ideas private but rather get the ideas out of my head. I often suffer from insomnia, and a restless mind mainly triggers it. Writing things down gets all that out of my head and helps me relax more. I used to keep a daily journal for that purpose alone, but that quickly started to feel like a chore. I want to revive this blog and focus on writing some of the ideas and thoughts that stick and get them out. And if someone finds them attractive, then extraordinary. I’d also like to write about some of the personal projects I have going on. I tend to leave things unfinished, and making them public will force me to finish them more often. Guilt-tripping myself is very effective.


My family consists of me and my partner. It’s great. We’re considering adding a plant, but we tried a few years ago, and it died. We both work full-time and spend all our free time together. But recently, things have taken a wrong turn. I enjoy what I do while my partner doesn’t. We’ve been discussing both doing development together for quite some time, so this is the year we should make that happen. Is anything remotely close to a goal for this year, getting my partner into development and working from home with me?


When I first thought about doing this, I was hesitant. I’m pretty good at commitment; I would only have a job as a freelancer if I did. But I lose interest in things over time, like anyone. Importance is relevant; what is critical today can likely be nothing tomorrow. Priorities change quickly. But that’s precisely why a yearly theme will work. It’s not meant to tie me into a set of tasks I need to accomplish within the year but rather serve as a guide for my decision throughout. So here’s hoping for a quality year…of quality.

  1. Yes, it is an Apple podcast. But unlike most fanboy podcasts, these software engineers are critical of the products and have a realistic view of them. So, compared to most Apple podcasts, ATP is a niche. ↩︎

See Also

Year of Focus

Last year's theme was a success. This year, I want to take advantage of the extra time I carved for myself and focus on the things that matter.