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Freek Van der Herten
Freek Van der Herten

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★ A recap of 2018

Now that 2018 is coming to a close, a lot of awesome people have written a recap post. Here's mine!

The most significant change on a personal level is that my girlfriend an I bought a house in Ghent. Together with our two kids, we moved this summer, and we now live in an awesome house that's very close to the center of the city. For me as a city guy, this is really nice. It's also very close to the train station, which is handy as I need to be in Antwerp often.

Because I was experiencing some symptoms of burn out, I tried to do some more things outside programming again. I took up biking again. In the summer I rode my race bike from Antwerp to Ghent and back a couple of times. When it gets a little bit warmer in Belgium, I'll ride out again. I've also spent a lot more time at home compared to 2017, which was very good!

I've also started recording some music again with a couple of friends. Here are two of them: Charlotte and Fabrik.

Launching a side project

Codewise the thing I'm proudest of this year is the launch of my side project. Together with my buddy Mattias. I launched Oh Dear!, a service that not only monitors the homepage but every single page of your site.

If you want to know more about the process, check out this interview Mattias did on Indie Hackers.

What I loved most of doing something outside of my main job was that there were no time and budget constraints. We did no marketing research. There was no big planning. We launched it on a hunch when we felt it was running stable enough for our own sites.

I want to grow Oh Dear! some more. Mattias and I understood early on that traditional advertising wouldn't work for us. Instead of pushing ads in the faces of potential customers, we try to get known by providing extra value. We attracted a lot of new customers through our blog. Next year we're going to try to reach an audience outside of the Laravel community by adding some free features. Keep an eye on that blog for updates.

Meanwhile at Spatie

Our team published a ton of packages this year. Regardless of the principal author of the package, most of the these got better by feedback during the initial release or through maintenance by colleagues. That's why I consider most of these packages (and all of our open source output) teamwork.

Here's the list:

A personal highlight for me was the creation process of Blade X. We sat together with the entire team, brainstormed and created the initial version together!

We also published a new major version of laravel-medialibrary which added support for responsive images.

Outside of the opensource work at Spatie I collaborated With Marcel Pociot to create Laravel WebSockets. We're delighted with the result and the warm welcome the package got by the community. I really enjoyed together with Marcel - this is the first time I pair programmed with somebody outside of Spatie - and we're already busy with another collaborative package.

Let's bring the focus back to Spatie. In March we celebrated 10 million package downloads. We created a dedicated site for it where people could win a Spatie T-shirt. At the moment of writing the download count of our open source packages is at almost 24 million.

In July we (finally) launched a new iteration of our company website. It now focuses more on our Laravel expertise and our open source efforts. Here's a blog post on some cool stuff that happens on the backend. My colleague Willem did the bulk of the front end work, here's his guest post on it.

Willem was also the driving force on the renewal of our dashboard. It now uses Tailwind CSS. Read more about that in this blog post.

The team at Spatie grew with three new members: Wouter, Adriaan, and Ruben.

We now take on bigger projects than previous years. Even though we sometimes still create small promotional sites, we mostly spend our time on medium to big sized applications.

In 2019 Spatie will probably continue to grow. We already have posted some job openings on our site. Our office is getting too small and we plan to move to a bigger space.

Even though our team and client workload is growing, we'd like to keep focusing on team member happiness, reserving enough time to work on open source projects and keeping on the interests of every team member individually in mind.


In addition to reposting lots of interesting pieces written by peers, I published 40 blog posts of my own on Here are a few highlights:

I still enjoy writing on my blog, and I will continue to do so next year.

The design however is growing a bit old, and I plan to have it revamped or revamp it myself somewhere next year.


I still love conference speaking. On my blog, you'll find a list of very talk that I did this year.

In 2018 I spoke at conferences on four different continents. PHP Experience in São Paulo marked my first time in South America. Laracon US in Chicago was, like expected, very cool! I loved exploring the city itself after the conference.

Laracon EU remains one of my favorite conferences, mostly because of the fantastic people that are present there. This year, Spatie had a booth and almost the entire Spatie team was there. Hopefully, we can repeat that next year.

Last but not least, seeing Lalit, Fahad and their crew back in New Delhi for the Laravel Live conference was a fantastic experience. It was also fun to meet Harish in real life, who has been doing some work for Spatie remotely. After the conference we visited Taj Mahal. It was an unforgettable day, and I hope to return to Laravel Live in 2019.

Even though I love speaking publicly, I probably going to do less of it. Conference speaking means a lot of traveling, which I enjoy, but that also means that I'm away from home. With two kids I don't want to travel too much anymore for now. But you'll probably still see me at Laracon US and EU, either as a speaker or an attendee.

The Full Stack user groups

Together with Dries and Rias, I organize the Full Stack Antwerp user group. In 2018 we hit our goal of organizing a meetup every single month. Our audience grew quite a bit. We have over 60 people at each of our events.

In 2019, Rias, Dries and I will start two other user groups: Full Stack Brussels and Full Stack Ghent.

Another cool thing Dries and I are organizing is the Full Stack Europe conference. Both Dries and I have never held a conference before, so it's pretty exciting. We already done a lot of preparations behind the scenes. I can't share much except that it'll happen in Antwerp around autumn 2019. Subscribe to our mailing list at our website to be kept in the loop.

Other recaps

Want to read some more recaps? Here you go!

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