Categories
WordPress

WordCamp Updates

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.

 

 

Categories
WordPress

Plugin Slam!

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

Categories
Automattic WordPress

So You Want to Engineer Happiness

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:

word cloud

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? 🙂

Categories
Automattic Travel

Charleston

There is something special and surreal and intense and wonderful about getting together and living with your colleagues – who hail from around the world – for a couple of weeks throughout the year.

And this particular trip was extra-memorable. Trapped on Isle of Palms in South Carolina during a freak deep-south ice storm, we battled closed bridges and slick icy stairs/streets/sidewalks, fought through weather-related transatlantic travel mishaps, cooked enough pasta for an army and barbecued All The Things in lieu of the planned restaurants, and eventually made it into Charleston to see some sights five days later than expected.

Despite challenges, it was an amazing meetup. There was a lunch picnic in front of a cozy fire, long chats about everything under the sun, brainstorming sessions, and raucous games of Cards Against Humanity. During the last few days of van rides I heard more belly laugh-inducing Han Solo/Chewy repartee than over the past ten years.

When the key bridge reopened after several false starts and we finally made it into downtown Charleston there were gluten-free bakery wonders and vegan delights. And we collectively ate more fried southern food than most of our stomachs had ever experienced before, with mixed results.

It was a week to remember forever. Thank you to my funny, smart, warm-spirited colleagues – and friends – for making it so.

tdiv panorama
The Automattic Theme Division.
Categories
Technology

Learning from Beginners

Ladies Learning CodeI spent yesterday mentoring an eclectic group of students at a Ladies Learning Code workshop, which introduced HTML and CSS – the building blocks of web design – to a roomful of 40 eager learners. LLC is an amazing cross-Canada nonprofit – with chapters from Newfoundland to Victoria – “working to empower everyone to feel comfortable learning beginner-friendly technical skills in a social, collaborative way.”

There was one mentor for every four to five participants – an incredible ratio that allowed us to spend plenty of hands-on time with each student, giving more one-on-one attention to those who needed it.

My group included a Java programmer who’d barely touched HTML before but caught on quickly; a graphic designer encouraged by her company to learn more about what happens to her mockups after they get sent to the website integrators; a married couple consisting of a PhD film student and a social-media specialist at a nonprofit (the couple that learns to code together stays together?); and a Master of Library & Information Studies student who realized she needed to up her game on the tech front, with her school symbolically about to dump the word “Library” from the program’s name.

Venturing outside my usual sphere of WordPress geeks was refreshing. It reminded me that more people than I think use PCs. That not all men taught themselves programming at age eleven. That semi-colons are darned important. That the music HTML and CSS make together is magical. That watching people have lightbulb moments never gets old. That getting women excited about technology is a worthy endeavour.

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