Blockchain : The Freeland Passport

Blockchain technology has been in the news a lot lately. Most of the attention however was on the cryptocurrencies and ICOs. But that’s a very tiny part of what the blockchain is all about.

There are many different applications of the blockchain technology – some we already know and some are yet to be discovered. But there’s this one particular milestone, which I consider of ultimate importance.

Freeland, which is a set of social, technological, and business experiments has recently announced the Freeland passport. Watch the above YouTube video (in English, or this one in Russian), which showcases the passport.

Now, with the quick “yes” answer to your question of “Is this real?”, let me ask you a question in return: is your mind blown yet? Mine is.

I think this is a very important milestone in major social, cultural, legal, technological, and financial transformations that are already changing the world. This passport is a beautiful bridge between the two very complex, yet very different worlds we now live in – the physical and the digital.

This is not the beginning, and this is not the end. But this is one of those moments in history, which a lot of people today won’t recognize as such, yet the generations to come will definitely point out and understand.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in the very exciting times!

Time for a new adventure

This week I’ve handed in my resignation letter, marking my last working day as February 28, 2019. After 4.5 years as a Chief Technology Officer at Qobo, I feel it’s time for a new adventure.

Looking back at the last 4.5 years, it feels like there is enough to fill several lifetimes – so much has been done, so much has changed, so many people met, so many ideas tried, and so many things accomplished!

Have a look at my annual posts summarizing just the most noticeable changes:

Or, if you feel like it, take a deeper dive into more blog posts, varying from Instagram pictures to some deep technical brainstorming and solutions.

Obviously, I can go on and on for hours, but here are a few high-level points just to keep things in context:

  • Offices. We’ve opened a new office, or moved to a new office, pretty much every year. First, Nicosia office was moved and expanded. Then Limassol office opened. Then London office opened. Then Limassol office moved and expanded.
  • People. From a small team of 7 when I joined, we’ve expanded to over 20 now. But it wasn’t only about the headcount. We’ve grown the number of roles in the company as well – sales, support, QA, etc.
  • Clients. We’ve built an impressive portfolio, with many large, medium, and small clients, across a variety of industries from a several countries.
  • Technology. We’ve built an impressive set of technology, both internally and externally. Our Amazon AWS cloud infrastructure nearly doubles every year. We have integrated a number of excellent tools to help with project management, quality assurance, development cycle and continuous delivery. And we’ve made Qobrix from scratch into a recognizable brand and force to be reckoned with.
  • Open Source. True to our Open Source believes, we have made significant contributions to Open Source, both via our own repositories, and through the tools and libraries that we use and build on top.

I have met and worked with some really amazing people and teams, true professionals, and inspiring individuals. I have learned a great deal over the years, and have grown both personally and professionally.

So, why am I leaving then? I feel it’s time. It’s time for a change both the company and for myself.

When I joined Qobo, it was a tiny startup, like many others, trying to find its identity, develop, and grasp some luck. It was also still trying to survive the catastrophic consequences of the “Cyprus haircut“, which killed many stronger, more mature businesses. Gladly, we managed to pull through all of that. It wasn’t easy by any means, but we’ve done that. The company has survived, grown, and matured.

It is now well on the way to success, with a clear vision, great products, strong client portfolio, good reputation, and an amazing team.

I think I have done enough to help Qobo to get here. There are now many new people, ideas, and approaches, which will take it forward in a smoother, faster, and more efficient way.

As for myself, it’s also been quite a ride. There has been countless nights and weekends of tight deadlines, non-stop work, lack of sleep, nervous breakdowns, alcohol abuse, emotional highs and lows, and so on. (All kind of expected in a startup.) But I need to step back and recover a bit. On top of that, over the last few month, my focus was mostly needed in non-technical areas. I want to get back to my routes for a bit, and dive into the hands-on technology – things that I like the most: writing code and administrating infrastructure.

Where am I going then? To tell you the truth, right this moment – I don’t know yet. The decision to step down as a CTO and to leave Qobo took quite a bit of thinking, consideration, and preparation. I haven’t looked at my new options or opportunities yet. But given the state of the IT industry in Cyprus and a growing deficit of developers, devops and system administrators, I’m sure I’ll find my next adventure soon enough. (If you have any suggestions or recommendations, please do ping me either here or via LinkedIn).

I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank to you to everyone I’ve met and worked with while my years in Qobo. I am truly humbled and honored to have had the opportunity to work with you and to learn from you! I’m sure our paths will cross again.

New in PHP 7.4

New in PHP 7.4” is a quick and simple introduction into changes and new features of the upcoming PHP 7.4, which is planned for release in December of 2019. In brief:

  • Preloading (parsed source code caching)
  • Typed properties
  • Improved type variance
  • FFI (Foreign Function Interface) – a way to run C code from within PHP
  • Null coalescing assignment operator (??=)
  • ext-hash always enabled
  • Password hashing registry

Dear 2018, you won’t be missed!

A year is a significant period of time in human terms. There is plenty of opportunities for good and bad times. But when we look back at it, we usually have an overall feeling of how good or bad the year was.

Most of my years tend to be either good or average. But 2018 was one of the worst ones I can remember. Sure, plenty of good happened too, but an overall stream of stuff that’s not too great, made it into what it was.

Just a few points that made it so:

  • Lost a few family members. I guess this is kind of expected, the older everyone gets. But still.
  • Nearly lost or got separated from more family members (for a variety of reasons, like health conditions, car accidents, government paperwork, etc).
  • Apparently, nearly kicked it myself. Although it didn’t feel like, but the doctor was pretty sure and I don’t have any reasons not to trust his professional opinion.
  • Had to celebrate my 40th birthday sober as a judge. That’s a first one in a quarter of a century, I think.
  • Had to attend the first funeral in ages (my friend’s father passed away).Had one of those “knife in the back” situations. Which was probably more of my own doing or perspective.
  • Had a whole roller coaster of financial surprises. Mostly downstream though.
  • And on and on it goes.

The stuff at work has been crazy. We’ve been delivering more and faster than even before. (Gladly we managed to nearly double the development team starting in the second half of the year.) When I’m thinking about it all, I often get the racing scene from The Fate of the Furious movie playing in my head. With the only exception that our race didn’t start this year. Think of it more like 3 minutes 15 seconds into this clip:

Even towards the last few days of the year, 2018 tried to give me both a flu and a severe toothache. Gladly, I got nearly immune to this year’s treats.

Overall, one of my favorite movies scenes helps to summarize this year. Imagine that the year 2018 is sitting behind the desk here, and that’s me who’s talking from the shoes of Gust Avrakatos:

With all of that, I’m happy to report that I’ve pulled it through. Once again, huge thanks to all my family, friends, and colleagues who helped and supported me in a variety of ways. Additionally, special thanks goes to all bartenders, waiters and waitresses, and alcohol manufacturers, without who this year would be absolutely impossible.

Here’s a huge cheers for a much better 2019! Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. And I’ll see you on the other side. Enjoy!

WordPress 5.0

WordPress 5.0 has been released today.  It is by far the largest update to the system since … since I can remember.  In fact, to some, it might look like a completely different system, thanks to a totally new editing experience – Gutenberg.

I have already upgraded this blog to the new version, and I’m writing this post with the new editor.  It is awesome!  It’ll take some getting used, but not because it’s difficult, rather because I’ve been using WordPress for too long.

I also can’t wait to see what all the creative people will come up with in their themes and plugins, pushing WordPress websites to the new high.

Great work and huge thanks to everyone involved!