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Reflecting back on 2021 – a year in review

Every year, I try to sum up my whole year in a blog post. The year in a review usually showcases some of the most significant things of the year to me ranging from friends, family, work and more. 2021 was a very unique year for me considering many things. This article tries to sum up those moments that had the most impact on me last year.

Starting the year 2021 with deep grief

My family and I were facing a very sad time at the start of the year. As I had mentioned in a previous blog post both in English and Bangla, I had lost my father this year.

This was very unexpected and came as a shock to us. My father was one of the greatest men I met in my entire life and losing that person, took a heavy toll on all of us. I still sometimes have nightmares, flashbacks of my dad. I regret why there wasn’t a bit more time.

He had the brain hemorrhage stroke on the 28th of December, 2020 and my new year started. He was in a coma for 3 months and died on March 22, 2021. I simplified the whole thing in a few lines but the journey was very tough for us. Whoever has lost someone close can relate to it.


The first couple of months of the new year was very hectic for me and my family. If you probably took care of someone sick β€” you would have known already. Since he was in a coma, someone from the family had to be with him always. My brother Toufiq Hassan, I, and one of my close relatives (who helps with us managing some home stuff) Jashim covered the shifts mostly in a week. Meanwhile, I was doing a full-time job at Poptin as well around that time. I’m thankful to the Poptin team that they were very supportive of the whole situation.

My father died on March 22, and we immediately went to Jessore, to our ancestral home for his burial. After 2 Janajah (one in Dhaka, one in Jessore) β€” we finally lowered him to his grave for eternal rest. May Allah SWT grant him Jannah.

Coping up with the new reality

Just when we were coping up with the new reality of living without my father, I slowly got to understand how many of the things my father took care of without us knowing. We never had to worry about electricity bills, utility bills, municipality taxes, collecting house rents, finding new people for rent, and more stuff.

This whole thing was a huge learning for me and I often had nights when I had a very tough time coping up with the grief and loss. This might have been the first year when I sometimes felt really low and cried my heart out. But yeah that’s life.


Getting my very own, MacBook Air M1.

When I joined Poptin last year, I had to buy a new MacBook. It was long before the M1 PRO and M1 MAX revolution that Apple put at the end of the year. After looking at the new MacBook Air at that time, and comparing it with the MacBook Pro with a touch bar — I felt I’d be better off with the Air.

I like fanless and compact stuff. MacBook Air was definitely the best choice for me and it is still a very capable machine for most of my things.

MacM1
My first, very own, MacBook Air M1

I opted for Air M1, 16GB RAM. After using almost 8 months or so, I can vouch for its performance and it hasn’t let me down ever since. I was amazed at how good the ARM64 migration was done via Rosetta. Apple has fundamentally changed computers, forever.

Doing a full re-design of an existing plugin with 20K+ users, MyStickyElements

As a Product Manager, my strength is not in designing. However, I started the year with almost a redesigned version of the old MyStickyElements plugin which already had 20K+ users at that time. I designed the whole thing in Figma. This helped me to have more skills in Figma and figured out Auto Layout this year. Even since I figured it out, I had been an avid fan of the feature.

We released this plugin on 18th June 2021. We did a total revamp of the existing UI/UX and each element was re-designed (custom element, workflow, button changes, animation, preview, hover, etc). One of the tough things was to make it familiar to existing users, and also make it refreshing and easier to use for new & existing users.

Of course, much feedbacks from others came along and helped me to do the workflow right. And we had to ensure every feature works like it was before. The testing and fixing of small things almost took 1.5 months: after the plugin was ready with 2 months development. Happy it’s out there.

The plugin had been receiving a lot of great reviews as well. (Thanks to our incredible support team! πŸ’ͺ)

Planning my wedding reception amidst the pandemic

Last year, on December 11, my Nikah was done with my wife, Tanjim Binte Kuyum. But there were still the official wedding ceremony and wedding reception remaining. This year, around May, I thought about preparing for the wedding & reception.

However, things were not as simple. There was a date planned, we took all the preparation for that date, and right before 2 days – the event was postponed due to an extension of lockdown in Bangladesh. So I had to some running between different family members, different wedding organizers and things like that.

After the first time, we planned it the second time. Fortunately, it was alright this time.

Saif Wedding Ceremony
A F.R.I.E.N.D.S Theme’d Wedding

I had done a F.R.I.E.N.D.S themed wedding and shared one of my wedding photos on Reddit.

To my surprise, the photo was shared almost 100+ times with 2K upvotes on Reddit.

Getting more skilled into time management, multitasking & cross-team collaboration

Premio Plugins has a lot of products including 5 WordPress products, 3 Shopify products, and 1 Wix product. We are also working on a great SaaS platform for 2022 which we’ll unveil shortly. All this product management meant I was more cautious about time management. This year, I started using a designated To-do app to organize things. I have been using Todoist mainly, but I often use Microsoft’s To-Do as well (I did a custom Slack integration through Zapier).

As a Product Manager – one has to do cross-team collaboration pretty frequently. However, previously At my previous company, I was looking after only 2 products. This year, I had to manage, and do cross-team collaboration for almost 9+ products of the Premio Plugins brand. All of this helped me to be more specific while communicating, being more collaborative while getting more productive and overall having better communication with others than I had last year. All of this, while being remote. Awesome, huh?

Cutting down social media usage

As you probably read before, I cut down on social media big time. All of this helped me to do better use of time and I saw my productivity go up throughout the year after cutting down on social media.

Also, I replaced some of my Facebook time with Reddit which is pretty great to find and join niche communities. I am loving it so far. πŸ™Œ

Losing my paternal uncle

After losing my father last year, things were still in the recovery phase as I mentioned earlier in the blog. However, this year, I lost my paternal uncle (চাচা/Bangla: Cha-Cha) which also was a massive disaster to our family.

The man who was getting the date is no more with us (Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajun). The photo was taken at my Nikah

My uncle left behind 2 daughters and one son β€” all are still teens. If you are reading this article, I ask you to make dua for both my father and uncle as they had passed away this year.

Having some nice family moments

This year, I had some nice family moments as well with my own family and extended family. I went on a short tour at Srimangal, went to Jashore for a few days to meet and spend some time with my wife, and had some good time with my cousins, relatives, grand-parents & other family members along the way

Nature

Also, we celebrated our first anniversary as well πŸŽ‰

🎬 Consuming some nice movies & TV series

I love watching movies & TV series. This year was no different. Among the many movies and TV series I watched this year, here are some of my picks that you can also watch

  • Zack Snyder’s Justice League
  • Godzilla V Kong
  • Spiderman No Way Home
  • Shang-Chi
  • The Matrix Resurrection
  • Free Guy
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine (A new sitcom I fell in love this year)
  • Loki
  • WandaVision

(I watched a few more but kinda forgot about them lol)

πŸ‘€ Looking Ahead

I’m 26 this year; empathy is not something people tend to achieve at 26. But that’s one of my goals in 2021. Having more empathy among other things. πŸ™‚

Here’s a photo collage of different moments of the year (I spent only 5min on it LOL)

Also, I plan to get fit, which I had been planning to do for a while (among other things). Also, I’d love to grow more as a person both professionally and personally.

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Personal

How I finally broke up with Facebook in 2021

How I finally found a viable solution to keep using Facebook for critical useful purposes and stop wasting time by endlessly scrolling

I have been using Facebook for a long time now. As far as I remember, the first time I opened Facebook was on 2008. At first, I didn’t have that many friends, and I didn’t use it that much. However, this became very useful to me and helped me to grow as a person because I had other sites to explore and find more about communities around the world (Remember forums? Yahoo! chat rooms?)

Many of my generation and later generation do not understand there is a whole Internet beside Facebook and that’s sad πŸ™

I did not become that active on Facebook right away from 2008 to 2010. However, around 2011 I started using Facebook daily. As the mobile phone revolution was happening with Android and iOS going toe to toe β€” one platform was growing immensely, which was Facebook. When I got my first smartphone, Motorola Atrix, back in 2011 β€” one of the first apps I installed was Facebook. Since then, I had been using Facebook for a considerable amount of time every single fucking day (for no fucking reason!) I had been spending at least two or three hours pretty much for the last five or six years which even piqued to 5 hours in the last 3/4 years.


When I understood it was time to dial it down

In 2018, I first discovered that I was spending way too much time on Facebook doing absolutely nothing and scrolling my newsfeed endlessly. I thought about quitting Facebook, and I tried deactivating it a few times. However, as my close friends, some of my colleagues, a few Messenger conversation was always happening inside Facebook. Sometimes I had to log into Facebook, which really looped me in to use this platform even more. If you have used Facebook, you know once you are looped in, you spend an enormous amount of time even before you notice it.

So from 2018, I was trying to minimize my time on Facebook as much as possible. As some counter precautions, I started using Facebook from the default Safari browser, ditching the native app experience. I had been using Facebook with Safari on iOS since 2018, because I wanted to experience an inferior version of Facebook, so it discourages me from logging into it every time. I agree that the first few months were tough because everything is much smoother on the native Facebook app on both Android and iOS. And you miss out on some new features and stuff. Nevertheless, I made peace with it, and I kept using the browser version. One of the best things about the browser version is that Facebook cannot ask you for more permissions like camera access or things like that. You can always install some adblockers to minimize the tracking and enjoy some other privacy-focused features like cross domain protection of Safari.

Beginning 2021 with an aim to use Facebook absolutely minimum

Starting this year, I had hoped to do a few different things than previous years. I thought about quitting Facebook and replacing Facebook with some other platforms because I knew I could not leave Facebook. After all, some important things are happening over there. And I have to like log in sometimes. However, I wanted to severe my ties with Facebook as much as I could.

One of my resolutions for 2021 was to use as little Facebook as I could. Everyone read about the news how Facebook tracks it across different platforms, sells data, manipulate you (Cambridge Analytica) and do all sorts of stuff. So I wanted to get off this platform as soon as I could. I’m happy to let you guys know 2021 was a great success for me to break away from Facebook in a really good way.

I started 2021 by joining my new company Poptin where I had been working as a Product Manager, learning new stuff, doing new things and handling a lot of stuff. So this helped too. I could finally focus on more productive things than using Facebook for a long time.

Starting the year 2021

And that’s precisely what I did. Beginning of the year, I started to use Twitter and Reddit more and found my topics exciting topics On Twitter and Reddit communities that I love. Reddit and Twitter have helped me to find content that is more related to me, and that elevates me to learn something new and communicate with some people who have similar interests. This led me to find some great communities which helped me to improve my knowledge and perception of different scopes.

Switching from Browser to Friendly App

I don’t usually buy an iOS app until it’s excellent for me. I found the perfect Facebook app on iOS, which is Friendly. Friendly is an iOS app that helps you to browse Facebook and adds a few nifty features on top of it, like downloading images & videos, hide some stuff and blocking Facebook ads and trackers among other things. But the best thing about the app is it allows you to view your newsfeed by muting a few words which are not available on Facebook natively. This feature singlehandedly encouraged me to use this app over the Facebook on the Safari browser. I could quickly mute words and topics that I do not want to view on my news feed with Friendly. It helped me to have a clean Facebook experience, and an experience I want over what Facebook wants for me.


The final nail in the coffin

Earlier this year, I learned about a new tool on Chrome store that basically unfollows everyone including all Facebook pages, and all your Facebook friends. The extension encourages you to take control of your whole newsfeed.

I first knew about this tool because Facebook was trying to shut it down. When I heard in the news what Facebook was trying to do, it encouraged me even more. I was really curious to try it out. And that’s what I did. I installed the unfollow Facebook extension and in a few minutes I found how to unfollow everyone with single click.

Taking the Red pill

When I was standing on the screen where I can click and unfollow everyone, it was kind of a red pill/blue pill situation from the movie The Matrix. It required a little bit of courage from me to push that button. But I stood up to my decision and I pressed the button that unfollowed every friend, every page, every group, basically from every single people from Facebook.

Peace πŸ•ŠοΈ

This was a miracle for me because I was consuming way too content that didn’t actually had meaning to my life and was not adding any value. I was scrolling and scrolling for no * reason for hours. This really helped me to focus on more important stuff and see the world from a different perspective.

I can finally disavow the whole social media as I don’t see anyone. I don’t have to get approval of anything to anyone. I don’t feel the courage to post a new status or photo as soon as I take it. Rather, I can enjoy the physical world. And spend more time with my friends and my family β€” which matter to me the most. Also, I saw my productivity getting a boost this year.

Wait, does that mean you don’t use Facebook, at all?

Well, no! I tried leaving Facebook for good, but it didn’t work out. I always ended up using it when I deactivated. So ::instead of not using at all, I have trimmed it down to a handful of use cases.

I manage a few groups like Desperately Seeking Dhaka and there are some critical information on Facebook that I often need to make my life easier (say Traffic Alert, selling something and follow some useful pages like The Verge, and some close friends).

However, I only use Facebook nowadays to post something for others to consume, not consume those content myself with endless newsfeed scrolling like before.

Also, I have a few messenger groups that I use to communicate with others. Unfortunately they are not using anything but, Messenger. So I use the platform to communicate with them from time to time.

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Personal

I lost my dad this month, and it’s tough coping up without him

I want to share a story that happened to me in 2016, but I signed a legal NDA with Microsoft not to disclose it for a certain period of time.​


In 2016, I got connected with Microsoft’s Windows Vice President of that time (how I got connected with him is a whole different story). I started emailing him regularly with many of my thoughts about improving Windows 10 as it was in very early beta. ​

Just like how Bruce Wayne falls down to a pit when he lost his dad, my emotions reflect the same.


We exchanged many ideas and he often asked me to give prototypes and demonstration of the features. I sent the demo, prototypes with more enthusiasm each time the next day. ​


Many of my ideas and feature ideas later got shipped with Windows 10. (Windows Defender self-security, the new screenshot tool which is replacing Snipping Tool, many improvements in Windows 10 Mobile, Automatic Sign in with Microsoft Account are just some of the ideas that got deployed in later years). I also gave an idea of a browser that updates itself, detaching from Windows 10, which I was surprised to see because the idea was pretty similar like the new MS Edge.​
Anyways, the reason I’m sharing this is not about these features that got deployed later on. For these contributions, the Microsoft team wanted to gift me something back in the days. They sent a brand new top-tier Core i7 Surface Pro 3 with a stylus and everything to me. As I had been a tech guy since I was a teen, this was like my wildest dream come true. Freaking Microsoft’s Windows Vice President sent me a top-tier, max spec’d Surface Pro 3! I couldn’t wait to use it.​


So after getting it shipped to Bangladesh and unboxing, my father couldn’t believe it. He was so astonished and was so awe’d by the laptop. I could see he loved the computer. Since it was mine, he never could have asked it for himself because he knew I was damn excited for the Surface Pro 3. But seeing his excitement, I took a decision that day. I thought to myself – I am still pretty young, and an expensive gadget like this – doesn’t suit me. It would be best if my father uses it and I instantly gifted one of my most precious gifts to him. He was delighted, and he used it till the last week before he went into a coma and eventually passed away.​


My father would have been 62 today (it was his birthday today). I had to open the laptop today to collect some old data files. I’m proud that I gave it to him as a gift a few years back (and made him a bit proud). ​
It’s tough coping up with the situation. If you have your parents, do take care of them. If you can, please pray for my father’s departed soul in your next prayer.