Ladies Learning WordPress

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Yesterday I had the huge pleasure of mentoring at another Ladies Learning Code workshop, led by the multi-talented Elida Arrizza. This one was very close to my heart, since it was WordPress for Beginners.

The 40 participants learned a ton throughout the day, from installing WordPress locally, to getting a handle on The Loop, through customizing a theme.

Ladies Learning Code WordPress Agenda

The Day’s Agenda

Have a peek at the slides and learner files on Github and some of the day’s tweets:

I’ve had a blast mentoring with Ladies Learning Code and look forward to more events in the fall. Special thanks to Nancy Naluz for bringing LLC to Montreal and doing a fabulous job organizing the workshops.

The Gentle Art of the Flatter-Nag

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Much digital ink has been spilled on the subject of diversifying the speaker pool at tech events, and in particular, getting more women to give presentations. (I won’t rehash that conversation here, and if you don’t think diversity at tech conferences is important, this post isn’t for you.)

I want to share a simple technique I use to try to get more awesome women speaking at events I care about. And it’s pretty simple. I contact all the women I know who have expertise in the subject at hand – often WordPress – and encourage them to speak.

It’s so simple, but it works. Very often women let self-doubt take over, and need that extra nudge to submit a talk. A friendly word or two of encouragement is often all it takes.

Behold: The Flatter-Nag

flattery battery

flattery battery courtesy of roadsidepictures

One of my friends who I recently prodded to submit a talk to a local conference gave my technique a name I think is quite apt:

Flatter-nagging: Asking someone to do something while simultaneously complimenting them.

Sometimes, they respond that they’d been thinking of applying, but weren’t sure what to pitch. So I help them brainstorm ideas – starting with the simple question “What are you most passionate about when it comes to WordPress” – and that usually helps to narrow down the topic pretty quickly.

Sometimes, the reaction is more like, “Who, me?” They don’t feel like they know enough to speak publicly about WordPress. What I find fascinating is this response has come from people who help users troubleshoot WordPress issues all day! (It’s amazing how we take our knowledge for granted, myself included.)

I gently remind them that they surely know more than they think, and that people love hearing speakers share what they’re passionate about.

If this is an issue you care about, try out my technique sometime – or share it with others. I hope you’ll find it simple, but effective.

Hasta la próxima, Miami

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I had the opportunity to spend time in Miami last week after a long time away. A lot has changed but in some ways the city seems stuck in the past. I put together a few observations.

Things I will miss about Miami

  • Hearing Spanish all around me
  • Fresh tropical fruit juices
  • Cafe con leche
  • Sun and blue skies
  • Palm trees
  • The turquoise ocean
  • Mojitos everywhere
  • Cuban rice and beans (congri)
  • Fresh fish
  • Plantain chips
  • Cheap parking

Things I will not miss about Miami

  • Styrofoam everything
  • Lack of public recycling bins
  • Pedestrian traffic lights that take forever to turn green
  • Needing a car to go any distance
  • Taxis that may or may not come
  • Taxis that take forever to arrive
  • Taxis that don’t take credit cards
  • Basically, taxis in general

Until next time, Miami – thanks for your hospitality.

Robot Calling

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The phone rings.

I glance at the caller ID screen and don’t recognize the number, so I don’t bother picking up. If I’m near a computer or my iPad I’ll probably Google the number for clues.

I check voice mail. Oh, yay! I’ve won a cruise to the Bahamas… for the fourteenth time this year.

Nine out of ten phone calls I get these days are either surveys or robocall spam. The automated calls from my local Honda dealership that are so conversational they sometimes suck me into replying “Hello?” are particularly annoying.

The days of friends and family calling to chat are just about over – and I’ll admit I’m rarely compelled to initiate a call myself. My dad still calls to catch up now and then, which is refreshing.

I miss the sound of the phone ringing as something positive to look forward to. Would it be a friend wanting to see how I’m doing? A family member calling to share their latest news?

I wonder if I’m being nostalgic for no good reason. Email, Facebook, and Twitter are are the main ways I communicate these days, and they seem to serve me well. And yet, every time the phone rings and it’s not a real human, I get a little wistful.

Do you miss having “real” conversations on the phone? Do you still call your friends?

WordCamp Updates

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WordCamp MiamiI have two little bits of WordCamp news to share.

I’m delighted to be speaking at this year’s fifth anniversary edition of WordCamp Miami, taking place May 9-11. My session is Getting Comfortable With Child Themes. On Sunday I’ll be helping out at a workshop teaching WordPress to kids and in between sessions I’ll be volunteering at the Happiness Bar. It looks like a fun event – last year there were trading cards and an ice cream social featuring Nutella-flavoured nitrogen frozen goodies. Who knows what surprises this year holds? Looking forward to meeting new folks and seeing friendly faces.

A session I presented at last year’s WordCamps in Montreal and Ottawa called Help Me Help You: The Art And Science Of Getting Good WordPress Support is now up on WordPress.tv. The talk went on to inspire two posts on the main WordPress.com blog: The Art and Science of Getting Good WordPress Support, and its follow-up, How to be a WordPress.com Detective, which looks at more advanced troubleshooting techniques. Check them out if you’d like to learn more about strategies for solving WordPress conundrums big and small.

 

 

Plugin Slam!

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A number of years back, when I was still quite new to the Montreal WordPress community, our local meetup group held a “plugin slam,” which was a kind of show-and-tell in which we each got to present a plugin we thought was cool to the rest of the group. It was a really fun evening that I’ve always remembered.

This week, we revisited the idea, getting together on a chilly winter night and sharing a dozen of our favourite plugins. Here’s what we looked at:

  1. CMS Page Tree Viewpresented by Richard Archambault
    Lets you order your pages in the dashboard by dragging and dropping; particularly useful for large sites with many pages
  2. Featured Image Columnpresented by Richard
    Adds a thumbnail preview in the posts overview screen to let you quickly see which posts are missing a featured image
  3. Multisite Toobar Additionspresented by Richard
    Adds quick links to commonly used network admin features in the toolbar; geared to super admins or admins
  4. WP Gallery Custom Linkspresented by Alexandre Simard
    Adds a few new fields on each image in a media gallery, including URL and link target; perfect for a gallery of logos that need links to external sites
  5. SuperCPTpresented by Ziad Saab
    Allows you more easily define custom post types and custom taxonomies; uses icons from Font Awesome; Ziad is working on an extension to add repeating fields
  6. Press Permit Corepresented by Elida Arrizza
    “User management on steroids”; advanced content permissions system lets you define your own roles, which can even be attached to custom post types. There’s a Pro version and extensions, including one for WPML
  7. Add From Server presented by me
    Lets you quickly add images to the media library from your server; useful for images that you’ve uploaded via FTP instead of the dashboard
  8. Regenerate Thumbnailspresented by me
    Allows you to regenerate image thumbnails at all required sizes, as defined by the current theme and media settings; useful if you switch to a theme that needs different image sizes for things like custom headers, sliders, and featured images.
  9. Amazon Affiliate Link Localizerpresented by Belinda Darcey
    Automatically detects all Amazon links on a site and adds your affiliate ID, detects visitor’s location and switches the link to their local Amazon storefront
  10. Post Thumbnail Editorpresented by Carl Alexander
    Lets you manually crop all versions (e.g. thumbnail, medium, large) of each individual image, allowing you to use the best part of every one; great for perfectionists and photographers
  11. Resize Images before uploadpresented by Geneviève Gélinas
    Resizes huge images before uploading; useful for folks who don’t know how to make images smaller before bringing them into WordPress
  12. Changeloggerpresented by Richard
    Displays plugin changeset right on plugin overview screen in the dashboard; saves a few clicks

Got a favourite plugin? Share it in the comments!

Photos (cc) Jeremy Clarke

So You Want to Engineer Happiness

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One of the best things about being a Happiness Engineer is telling people I’m a Happiness Engineer. Inevitably, their eyes light up and a smile inches across their face. Sometimes they let out a “For real?”

At a company where we’re allowed to make up our own job titles I’d have a pretty hard time giving up mine.

People often ask what it takes to engineer happiness all day, so I’ve compiled some thoughts on being a Happiness Engineer – or HE, as we affectionately call it. (Nearly everything at Automattic has either an acronym or a numeronym.)

What does a Happiness Engineer do?

Happiness Engineers at Automattic help users understand and enjoy the software we provide, from WordPress.com itself, to themes, to plugins like Jetpack, Akismet, and VaultPress.

What qualities make a good Happiness Engineer?

Happiness Engineers innately love to help folks solve problems and thrive on troubleshooting issues large and small. HEs think of clear and helpful communication as an art form and we are always working on perfecting it.

Here are some other qualities I think make a great HE:

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If you get impatient quickly when teaching your in-laws how to use email or have trouble explaining technical things without using jargon, this job is probably not for you.

Working remotely

Automattic is a distributed company, and nearly everyone works remotely – in 27 countries at last count. Most of us work from home, while cafés and libraries also witness their fair share of Automatticians pounding away at keyboards. Some folks craving a more office-like environment co-work from shared spaces – sometimes with their colleagues, like a group of Automatticians who co-work together in Boston.

Forums are fun

If you think you might make a good Happiness Engineer but have never helped people with WordPress-specific things before, a great place to test the waters before applying is in the support forums, whether for WordPress.com or WordPress.org. If you get sucked in quickly and find yourself spending hours answering questions just because you enjoy it, that’s probably a good sign.

Extended happiness

A few of my colleagues have written insightful posts that really encapsulate the experience of being a Happiness Engineer or working at Automattic. Check out the words and experiences of Andrew (who leads the Core Happiness team), Zandy, Steve, and Aaron.

Credo

The Happiness Engineer job page puts it well:

As a Happiness Engineer, helping people is your passion. Our goal is to build relationships based on trust which result in happy, passionate, loyal customers and colleagues through listening to their needs and guiding them to the fullest use of the products we offer.

If that description calls out to you, why not do something about it? :-)