Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

Minutes from the last minutes of 2016

It feels wrong to leave my blog hanging on such a brief note about new employment, especially now that I no longer have to keep nearly as many secrets about what I do in front of the computer screen. A blog post authored on December 31st is all but guaranteed to be a year in review. But I’ve procrastinated on updating this blog for well over a year, so you’ll get more than you bargained for.

As my last post suggests, I’ve been preoccupied with maps all this time. Specifically, I’ve been developing an iOS Cocoa Touch library for utterly customizable maps with an incredibly creative team. It wasn’t my intention to delve into iOS development after leaving the Cupertino orchard. After all, I had only started using a smartphone a few months prior. It was only a matter of time before I gave into temptation and ported the library to macOS. Now I have an excuse to write AppleScript!

To me, the most important feature of these map libraries is that they’re based on OpenStreetMap data. Libraries like Mapbox’s are a conduit for the OSM community’s unparalleled, mostly labor-of-love mapping to find their way into the lives of ordinary folks who don’t obsess over maps. I have a lot more to say about why OSM matters, but it would take this post far into manifesto territory, so that’ll have to wait until next year.

Last year, I got an opportunity to share ideas for nurturing the OSM community at, of all places, the United Nations headquarters in New York. It was my first time I’d ever spoken at a conference – I guess it showed. The conference scene also took me to Mexico City and San Diego, where I introduced a small sliver of the Wikimedia community to OSM and its community. The Wikimedia and OSM projects are drawing much closer together, and we’ll finally start to see some of the concrete benefits of that relationship in the new year.

AVIM, my Vietnamese input method extension for Firefox, gained some long-needed features this year, like support for multisyllabic loan words. But the future of that beautiful extension is in doubt, because Mozilla is dead-set on sunsetting the only browser extension platform that’s more than a toy. It’s a pity; the end of AVIM in Firefox will chip away at Vietnamese speakers’ ability to use their native language as a first-class citizen on the Web.

So it’s with mixed feelings that I careen into 2017, but only because 2015–16 was so swell. I’m sure you’re already looking forward to my next last-minute update in approximately one year.

Short-term memory

  1. Minutes from the last minutes of 2016


    A blog post authored on December 31st is all but guaranteed to be a year in review. But I’ve procrastinated on updating this blog for well over a year, so you’ll get more than you bargained for.

  2. Mapbox


    A couple weeks ago, I started at Mapbox, a startup focused on advancing open data and GIS technology.

  3. A nation of handouts


    Years ago, I started to collect government-issued road maps, procuring them for free by stopping by roadside welcome centers and signing their guestbooks. Look what happens when I take the collection out of its shoebox.

  4. Hardly knew ye


    If you only know me from this blog, I have been pretty mum about that nine-to-five part of me. Well, today is my last day tending orchards in Cupertino.

  5. Lowercase history


    Among my many roles in the Wikipedia project, I play the part of historian – lowercase historian.

The name’s Minh Nguyen, though I style myself Minh Nguyễn, with all the wonderful diacritics. I’m a graduate of St. Columban, St. Xavier, and Stanford, and currently a software developer at Mapbox in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since March 2002, Minh’s Notes has been home to my occasional insights and frequent attempts at humor.