2023 in review

Wait, what, it's only a week until 2024? Time for what has become a yearly tradition… in this post, I'll review some of my 2023 in work, conferences, reading, writing, listening, music and learnings.

Note: like my posts about 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018 and 2017, this post is mostly ‘highlights’, lowlights left out intentionally.


The work year was different than usual: my full time job (first in 10 years or so) ceased to exist and I switched back to freelancing.


In July I joined the NL Design System team (almost) full time. We support a community of web specialists from across the Dutch government to create open-source components and guidelines for all. I joined as an accessibility and developer relations specialist. Now I'm PR/communications lead, with still some time for accessibility (but none for devrel). The project is very much up my ally. I really like the colleagues. I also feel fortunate to bring my experience into this team. And, of course, just as fortunate to have made it once again into a team where I get to learn lots from the others (and all of the design system, government, accessibility and development experience between them).

Outside of NL Design System, I did some in-house workshops, talks about the web and web accessibility, and the occasional WCAG audit.


I continued in Open UI CG, mostly scribing, learning and then conveying some of the work to developer audiences in blog posts and talks. It's still one of my favourite meetings of the week.

Other volunteering didn't work so well. I joined the marketing team of my local solar energy community, made plans but found no time to properly work on them and left. I also joined the CSS WG as an Invited Expert, a long time dream come true. But so far, I only managed to join one meeting and only marginally kept up with emails and issues. Let's say between when I said yes and when it was official, a lot changed at work and I wanted to spend more time with family. I hope they don't revoke my status just yet and hope to start prioritising my WG involvement sometime in 2024.


Last year, as the popover attribute started to make its way into browsers, I hoped I would do a talk about the nitty gritty of building popovers (repeating the phrasing I used last year). That happened. I wrote that talk and took it to a number of events. In addition, I made a new talk called “ARIA, The Good Parts” and did a 10 minute rant for the IAAP-EU called “Will tools save us?”.

screen recording of dev tools and the toggle, in the dev tools the code is as described, with a form, fieldset, legend, options and svgs At CSS Day, I met the hotel cat once again

All my talks in 2023:

  • Shifting left: making accessibility easier, by doing it earlier at a11yTalks (online)
  • “Dialog dilemmas and modal mischief: a deep dive into popovers and how to build them”, I like long names, what can I say? This popover talk happened at JSNation (Amsterdam) (7 minute edition, with transcript), CSS Day (Amsterdam), Front Conference (Zurich), HalfStack (Vienna), Covent of Wisdom (Eindhoven) and React Advanced (London)
  • “ARIA: the good parts” at Paris Web (Paris, obvs), NDC (Porto) and WeAreDevelopers (online)
  • Will tools save us” - introduction to a panel for IAAP-EU's celebration of the 3rd anniversary of the Web Accessibility Directive (Brussels)

I also attended Beyond Tellerrand in Düsseldorf and State of the Browser in London.


I read a bit less than in the last year, most of them while on holiday or travel (see: full reading list if you like book covers). These are some books I can recommend:

  • Just Human by Arielle Silverman (auto biography), in which she shares her own experience being blind within the context of society, from the moment she was born to the age of 36. Learned a few things about the workings of ableism.
  • Make me one dimensional by Sang Young Park (novel). Murder mystery, friendships and growing up.
  • Doe zelf normaal by Maxim Februari (non-fiction), on the role of “datafication” in society. Original, clear, funny at times, witty.
  • Le Perfezioni (De perfecties) by Vincenzo Latronico (novel). On gentrification, Berlin, millenials.
  • Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (novel). The videogame industry, sudden success, weird relationships. Was told this is ‘a TikTok sensation’, but won't let that ruin my feelings about the book or my liking it. Consumed this as an audiobook on a few long drives.
  • Binge by Douglas Coupland (short stories), 60 (!) stories, loved most of them, easy to read in between other tasks.


Saw more live music than in the year before (yay, thanks to babysitters and being more ready for their help as a family). I got lucky that the artists I listened to also toured near me on the right dates, so I got to see:

  • Little Simz, at North Sea Jazz. Was spectacular. Would have loved a full band, vocals etc, but even without that it was great. I was introduced to her No Thank You album, worked my way back through Sometimes I Might Be An Introvert and Grey Area, and now I'm all in Stillness in Wonderland, it was a fantastic musical rabbit hole.
  • James Blake, at 070. I don't understand how he makes music (how do synthesisers work?), but the new album is great and sounded excellent live. Some fans knew it was birthday, so we all sang.
  • Esperanza Spalding, also at North Sea Jazz. I'd not heard of the fairly sexist song ‘Girl Talk’, but the way she performed it with Fred Hersch was awesome (see Girl Talk on YouTube).

I also listened a lot to De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig, Sault, Sef, WIES, Massive Attack and Typhoon.

I made a live music log to track concerts publicly (inspired by Vasilis).


Including this one, I wrote 15 posts this year, some lengthier than others. Less than usual. There's a bunch of drafts that I'm looking forward to finish!
Of this year's posts, most shared were an FAQ on accessibility and one on ableism in the Vercel community.

Most sceptical were a few posts I wrote about ‘AI’, where I said that opt-out is rude, ‘AI’ content isn't user centered and LLMs are not artificial, nor intelligent.


I stayed in Taipei, Kaohsiung, Düsseldorf, Porto (2x), Berlin, Zurich, Vienna, Paris, Brussels, London (3x), Bristol and Porto.

I wanted and was able to do a lot of this year's conference travel by trains, twice by night train. The latter aren't cheap if you want some comfort (I went for beds), but very pleasant and lower in emissions than flights would have been.

houses in various bright colors like yellow, blue and red, with a blue sky that contains 5 hot air balloons Saw hot air balloons in Bristol


Some random things I learned this year, in no particular order.

  • Social media doesn't need algorithms for that real community feel. I still like it on Mastodon and still mostly left Twitter and Bluesky. I still use Instagram (to follow artists) and LinkedIn (to follow a random mix of people that never came to Mastodon).
  • A lot about electric cars (and probably still too little). Quite the rabbit hole, but I bought one, so that I can stop buying petrol. I didn't want to buy one without researching some ins and outs.
  • In git: to fix commits further back than the very last one, by doing fixup commits and autosquashing them. I hope I won't forget.
  • Lots of words in Mandarin (~1000). I had some formal courses, but midway this year I started Duolingo (add me!). It uses simplified Chinese characters (not traditional) and Taiwanese friends and family scold me for that. But honestly, the upsides outweigh the downsides for me.
  • Fresh YouTube accounts (I set one up for work) recommend even more extreme-right content than my many-years-old one does. I wish I could turn recommendations off altogether.
  • Conference speakers are actually just humans.
  • Lots of things about government departments and how they work together and the meanings of very specific acronyms.

Wrapping up

Thanks for reading, hope there's useful recommendations in this post. If you're still reading let me end with my best wishes to you for the new year, see you in the next!

Comments, likes & shares (27)

Feels particularly weird to post this year with all that happened in the world this year… but ok.
@hdv “Conference speakers are actually just humans”Speak for yourself…
@sophie @hdv In the same way professional athletes are human but it makes me question if we're really the same species.
@hdv I can't tell you how much I appreciate this in your footer "This website does not collect your data. No language models were involved in writing the blog posts on here.".
@hdv Good post, too btw ????. I actually came to say that and then noticed the footer. My recovering post-covid brain is still not firing right.
@adrian Hah thanks on both counts!