2020 Retrospective

Between a global pandemic and a shocking display of the ugliest parts of human characteristics, 2020 will go down as one of the worst years to be around. Compared to some of the other heartbreaking stories I keep reading, my family and I were lucky to only be inconvenienced and not devastated by everything that happened in 2020.

The tl;dr version of this post is: ‘I got MARRIED 😱 … and, yeah, I wrote some code’

Married

After way too long, Dana and I finally got married. The pandemic ruined our more elaborate plans, but we had drawn on the engagement for too long already and all our travel plans are at a halt for a while, so having a small ceremony at my sister-in-law’s backyard seemed like a good idea. We live-streamed most of it on a (non-interactive) Zoom and a (interactive) Google Meet virtual meeting so we did get a big audience for the event. I wish my parents had been able to join us physically but we’ll do some kind of IRL party when we go to India whenever the world feels safer.

Code

One of the interesting parts about working at Comcast Labs is that you get to work on a number of projects using very different technologies. In previous years it has been a healthy mix of VR/Blockchains/Chatbots/Machine Learning etc. In terms of domain, this year was a lot more focused. Most of my explorations were in the space of Customer Experience Bots, and efforts to improve the Xfinity Assistant, coming at it from a lens of 3-5 years out. Over the year I built a Knowledge Graph editor using Grakn, explored the use of Structured Data, esp Microdata, within chatbots and worked on adding more intelligence to the edge (i.e. Mobile Apps) to power the diagnostic flows.

I also enjoyed working on some personal mobile apps using Flutter, Ruby on Rails and Firebase. I am blown away by the capabilities of Firebase and hope to share some learnings on that on this blog soon.

Here is a very unscientific quantitative breakdown on what I spent my time on this year

The one thing that is conspicuously missing here is Blockchains. While I still help run the Comcast Blockchain and Decentralized Technologies Guild, I didn’t get to spend any actual coding time on it in 2020. Here is hoping for 2021 🤞

Community

The Google Developers’ Group that I help run went virtual this year, like every other Meetup (I wrote a bit about that earlier). I miss hanging out in person with the friends I have made there but thanks to Google Meet and Slack, we are still alive and kicking.

The one change this year was a lot more interactions with the Google Cloud teams as well as GDG-Cloud Philly. With my own interest in Cloud Services growing, the joint sessions with the other two groups were definitely super interesting.

Books

This hasn’t been the greatest years in terms of reading, but that is a good thing, since my focus was more on producing and given the time limitations, something had to give.

2021 is starting off on some positive notes so I hope its a better year in general. Have a great 2021 👍

Author: Arpit Mathur

Arpit Mathur is a Principal Engineer at Comcast Labs where he is currently working on a variety of topics including Machine Learning, Affective Computing, and Blockchain applications. Arpit has also worked extensively on Android and iOS applications, Virtual Reality apps as well as with web technologies like JavaScript, HTML and Ruby on Rails. He also spent a couple of years in the User Experience team as a Creative Technologist.

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