Changes

Today I turn 41. It’s also the end of my quasi-leave of absence, and on Monday I’ll be returning to full-time work at Automattic on the Dot Org Team. When I do so, it will be in a new role; I’m posting about it here so that all concerned will know what I’m doing, why, and that yes, it’s intentional.

For 4+ years, I was the UX/Design lead for core. At some point in the first year or so, I also started project managing the core team/core development. Then I started doing some community work, events, and general contributor community management. There were also other things here and there, like trademark for a while, being the team lead of the Dot Org Team at Automattic, and various design forays. You might remember that this was too much. I’m not ashamed to admit that I burned out, and needed a break.

It’s my birthday, so it’s a natural time to reflect on where I’ve come from, where I’m at, and where I’m going. When Matt convinced me to take the job at Automattic, one of the things that got me in was that he said I could work on programs to bring women and girls into the WordPress community, especially around programming. In that lunch on a San Francisco sidewalk, I laid out a vision including mentoring programs, school projects, summer camps, trips to the moon… okay, not trips to the moon, but just about everything under it. And then I never did any of those things because I didn’t prioritize it over my work on core.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think core is mega-important. Core *is* WordPress. Without it there would be no community. That said, core doesn’t need me to pour my life into it; my offering feedback, some sketching, and advice occasionally can be as much of a help as my doing research, creating wireframes, reviewing every trac ticket, and testing every ui patch.

In 3.5, I was meant to be on leave (aside from the summit planning), so I  answered some questions and gave some feedback early in the cycle to Dave/Helen/Chelsea/Koop, but otherwise stayed out of it. (P.S. Kudos to Nacin on the project management of 3.5!) My only real involvement was at the end of the community summit, when I spent several hours the last morning sitting with Koop going though the media uploader screen by screen, asking questions (“What about _____?” “What problem does that solve?”), sketching alternate approaches, and generally dumping every reaction and idea I had about it into Koop’s head before he left for the airport. Then I didn’t think about it again. From Skype a few weeks later:

Andrew Nacin 11/27/12 12:28 PM
feeling good about 3.5?

Jane Wells 11/27/12 12:31 PM
i wasn’t really involved with it aside from media morning with koop before he left tybee

Andrew Nacin 11/27/12 12:31 PM
that morning was huge. completely re-shaped a lot of our thinking.

That has me thinking that 4 hours here and there will do just fine instead of ALL THE HOURS.

So! Where does that leave me, if I don’t need to do core design or project management anymore? I keep going back to that sidewalk lunch and how exciting it was to talk about possibilities around using WordPress as a gateway for women, girls, low-income kids, and minorities of all stripes who are under-represented in our community to get into the web industry (see also #2 in this post).

My first week back at Automattic (starting Monday) I will be doing a week’s rotation on wordpress.com support with my team, but will then be jumping into a new role focused on our contributor community. It will involve a lot of projects, but one of the first will be aimed at increasing diversity in the contributor groups, starting with the gender gap. These efforts will all happen under the aegis of the new Community Outreach contributor group, so if you are interested in working on this with me (and Andrea Rennick, and Amy Hendrix, and Cátia Kitahara, etc), please join us! I’ve got a giant list of projects that I’d like us to tackle in the new year, and we’ll need people to help make things happen.

But what about core? And other stuff? I’m reserving Wednesdays to do design so I don’t get rusty. These “office hours” can be used by the core team to have me look at something, or by an Automattic team. Otherwise, I’ll use that day to work on designs to improve areas of the WordPress.org site to help with our goals, and/or tools to help us get things done.

So that’s the plan.

What do you think?

Well Said, Elizabeth

A few months old. but extremely well said.

If we don’t stop bashing and abusing each other for not writing code the way we think it should be written, or for it not being perfect and polished, or for not responding to us in a way that we think we should be responded to, then we will effectively kill off Open Source. We will kill all the flowers we’ve worked so hard to grow. We will have nobody to blame but ourselves when there’s no one left to tend the gardens.

- Elizabeth Naramore

A Bakery? Also, OMGOMGOMG!

This post has the potential to be as long as the scarf I made Matt for his birthday. Knowing that, I’ll try to keep it short and to the point. Opportunity knocked last week and I decided to answer. No, I’m not leaving WordPress or Automattic; get your mind out of the gutter. The owner of a small restaurant here on Tybee (Charly’s) is retiring and selling his place, and $10,000 was plunked down as a deposit to buy it so that it could house:
Jitterbug: eat. drink. blog.
I want to turn it into a bakery/internet cafe/WordPressy community gathering space. Bake in the morning to force some non-computer time, then do my usual WP stuff in the lulls. I wrote a 20-page business plan full of stats and projections, and some smart money types tell me it looks good. But wait! I’ve spent all my money in the last few years on things like raising my brother’s kids, buying braces for same, helping my mom buy her house down here, and stuff like that. I am broke! I can’t afford to turn this place into the vision of awesomeness I see in my head, despite the below-market price and my plan to take a loan out against my 401k. So: crowdfunding!

The project — the Jitterbug Bakery — was accepted to Kickstarter yesterday, and on Monday once I finish their project setup, I’ll launch a fundraising campaign there. I also set up a WordPress site with a paypal plugin for the non-Kickstarter types, which would mean less lost to fees. If you want to help me make this thing a reality, I’d love it if you’d pitch in (rewards range from my brownies and Jitterbug swag to website setups and reviews), but will in no way hold it against you if you don’t.

small green house with a deck with seating

The building in question: the future Jitterbug

Did you know a decent refurbished espresso setup costs up to $15k? And I don’t even drink coffee!

So if you ever thought to yourself, “I wish I could buy Jane a [drink, dinner, iPad, car] to show her how much I appreciate all she does,” here’s your chance! I’ll provide the drinks and dinner if you come visit the Jitterbug, I don’t like iPads, and I have a car I like. I put up a site at BuyJaneABakery.com that is pretty much just what it sounds like. It has all the info on what I (we, if you include my mom and Morgan!) want to create for my local community. The Contribute page has a donation widget at the bottom. Yes, a bit hidden. The Personal Fundraising plugin I wanted to use was pretty and awesome but more trouble than it was worth. If you’re a Kickstarter type of person, I’ll update this post by Monday when the project goes live there.

If you ever really loved me, help me buy a bakery!

Starting a Local Meetup – Status Update 1/29-2012

I posted here on January 5 that I was going to start two local meetups and document the process. Time for an update! Warning: it’s a little long, but it goes fast. :)

Tybee Island

I started with the Tybee Island WordPress Meetup Group in the sleepy vacation community where I live. There are a lot of WordPress sites among local businesses, but most have traditionally been managed by a firm and I would consider the WP community here to be more on the beginner end of the spectrum. That said, it’s as enthusiastic as any of the most insidery cliques at the big WordCamps, and I have high hopes for its progression.

Venue

For a venue, I picked the Tybee Island Social Club, a restaurant/bar in the middle of the island that’s good for groups and has free wifi. The meetup was planned to be a social get-together where whoever showed up could meet the others and we could find out what everyone’s interests and skill levels were, so there wasn’t any need for a venue with a projector or private area.

Publicizing

I scheduled the first meetup for January 11, a little less than a week after I created the group and announced it. I figured I’d be lucky if even one or two people showed up, since I knew I didn’t have time to really publicize it though local channels, and Meetup.com sends a note about new meetups to people in the area 3 days after you create your group, so there wouldn’t be much notice.

On the day of the meetup, I posted to the Facebook wall of the venue that we’d be meeting there that night and anyone was welcome to join in. I also posted to the wall of the Tybee Times, an online-only collection of local happenings. In the meetup description on meetup.com I posted that I would be wearing a WordPress shirt (sometimes it seems those are all I have) and would have my laptop covered with WordPress stickers open on the table. I sat at a table right by the front door and got there extra early so I could feed Morgan dinner there before the meetup.

Getting Members

To my surprise, a person joined the group every day or so, having heard about it from someone or found it via search. I emailed two people I know in Tybee that are new to WordPress to encourage them to join. By the day of the meetup there were 9 members; I couldn’t believe it!

The First Meetup

Around 7, meetup time, I noticed a group forming in the back of the restaurant. It was the group! They hadn’t seen me sitting to the left of the door and had just gone and pushed some tables together. A total of 12 people showed up!

Lesson: Set up shop in forward-facing gazepath from the door if possible. Have sign or table tent to catch the eye.

What followed was a combination of mini-group chats, roundtable introductions, showing each other on laptops what currents sites were and talking about the changes people want to make, and talking about local and regional events. I helped one member download the WordPress iPhone app and make a mobile post using Quick Photo. About half the group had bought tickets to WordCamp Atlanta, and everyone was excited by the idea of putting together a small WordCamp in Tybee sometime right before tourist season hit in full force.

The people who came weren’t all beginners, as I’d expected. About half were beginners, mostly small business owners using or hoping to use WordPress to power their business site. Another couple were advanced users and/or developers who came over from Savannah, and there were a few intermediate users.

Interestingly, it was the beginners who’d all signed up for WCATL (Diane had been waiting for one to happen since we moved her site to WordPress last year in exchange for core meetup cottage rentals), and some expressed concern that they might not know enough to follow the WC presentations. I agreed to do a beginners’ tutorial before WCATL  to get the vocabulary down and be comfortable with the posting process.

We discussed what kind of format our meetups should take. People were interested in running free classes at some point, possibly through the library, and having our meetups be a mix of social (read: drinking, Tybee’s pastime), coworking, and mini-presentations sometimes. We agreed that once a month was the right timing for regular meetups, and that we could do separate events for things like classes.

Everyone paid their own tab for food/drink, and I handed out WordPress buttons to anyone who wanted one. Unfortunately the wifi died near the end, which also meant no one could pay with credit cards, so we stuck around and chatted while we waited for the manual charge slips to be created.

The meetup was given good ratings on meetup.com (only about half of attendees had been members ahead of time).

Success!

The Second Meetup

The second meetup was the beginners’ session we planned at the first meetup. For venue we met at Diane’s house, where it would be quieter. We did it as a potluck — I was busy working on 3.4 scope/schedule and dev chat, so I brought a bottle of prosecco I had at home and a box of chocolate-covered Krispy Kremes that Morgan had decided she didn’t like. Diane made chili and people brought appetizers. My MOM joined this meetup. Not an acronym. My actual mother.

After we ate, we started with the basic intro to WP stuff. Got everyone posting and uploading an image, understanding the difference between posts and pages (it may just be time for us to rename Posts in the main nav to Blog, and have Posts be the subitem — though I know Jaquith hates that idea and will fight it to the death, it would save 15 minutes of instruction that happens with almost every new user), knowing the difference between categories and tags and how to use each, and using the mobile apps for iPhone and Android (except Diane, whose seemed to be hitting a weird bug).

Belinda was also able to help people get things going, so the two of us made sure everyone was keeping up. The evening eventually devolved into more of a social gathering with occasional meandering back to WordPress, but everyone had a great time and learned at least a couple of things.

Next

As mentioned earlier, 5 or 6 people are heading to WC Atlanta next week, and our meetup group members are going to try and meet up there for coffee or lunch or something one day. We’ll return to regular meetups later in February and will pick a regular recurring day of the month. At that point I was thinking of taking out a small ad in the Tybee Breeze to get the word out, putting up flyers at the library and whatnot.

Savannah

I started later with the Savannah WordPress Meetup Group. When I was at WordCamp Birmingham I decided it was time to get Savannah started. I initially planned the first meetup for Feb 1, thinking having a couple of weeks of lead time would mean a bigger turnout, but then I thought of the WP philosophies: Shipping is a feature. Don’t wait for perfection, launch and iterate. With that in mind, I went ahead and set the 1st meetup for January 24, about a week and a half from the group’s formation.

Venue

I wanted to use ThincSavannah, the co-working space I belong to. I have a low-level membership that allows me to work there up to 40 hours per month during normal business hours of 9-5 during the week. In addition I get 8 hours per month of conference room rental time. The space has two large open co-working spaces as well as a couple of conference rooms, and is located in a great location right downtown overlooking Ellis Square and near the Whitaker Street Parking Garage.

I approached the owners to ask if it could be made to work, since technically I wasn’t supposed to be accessing the space at all hours, but our meetups would be in the evening. They wanted to host us (they host several tech-related events), but their offer was a reduced rate on conference room rentals. I told them I appreciated the offer, but since I didn’t want to incur expenses for the meetup, I would just see if I could get free space from SCAD (they hosted WordCamp Savannah 2010 as a venue sponsor) even though I thought ThincSavannah was the better venue philosophically. They said they’d discuss it further. The offer they came back with was to let me use my hours for the actual space rentals, but for me to put down a deposit (about the same price as a month’s membership) against any potential problems. I thought this was super reasonable, and happily paid the deposit. (Why do I have the cheapest membership that limits me to business hours? Because I want to have contact with the vibrant tech community in Savannah, but don’t want to commute 20 minutes each way every day, so twice a week is the max I can handle.)

Publicizing

Again I didn’t really publicize. I sent a tweet to Creative Coast, and ThincSavannah tweeted it, but that’s about it. I tweeted once from the old WordCamp Savannah account, and I tweeted from my personal account that I would be bringing tootsie rolls. :)

Getting Members

Join rate was slower than on Tybee. 6 or 7 had joined (including me) by the first meetup, and 5 showed up. Kevin Lawver, organizer of Refresh Savannah, told me via Twitter that it’s impossible to get people in Savannah to RSVP for things.

The First Meetup

We took the brand new ThincStudio room (the venue recently expanded), and all fit around one of the big (sustainable wood) tables. There was me, two pro WP consultants/devs, one advanced user/freelancer, and one newish blogger. I had a clipboard on the table to get people to sign in. This was good, because I could send an email to the two people who’d heard about it via Twitter and hadn’t joined the meetup.com group yet. My sign-in list had columns for name, member of group on meetup.com (y/n), and if not, email.

It was pretty great. If we’d had beer it would have been perfect. We went around and told each other how we use WordPress and what we were hoping to get out of the group. We discussed different types of meetups we could have and agreed on casual work-on-stuff/social meetups for now, with occasional special events (every 3 months or so) involving presentations or speakers, rather than that being the default. Savannah is meetup-heavy, and it took us a while to itemize all the other events we’d want to work around (Refresh, cSpot, LunchTank, Free Advice Fridays, Social Media Club, etc). We eventually picked the second Wednesday for regular evening meetups at 6pm (vs 7pm in Tybee, b/c there we need to give people to get home from work, while in Savannah we figure people will come while they are still downtown), and a lunch meetup the 4th Wednesday (so people with evening commitments could still participate).

WordCamp?

We also discussed bringing WordCamp back to Savannah, with a focus on local speakers and possible unconference portions. The plan would be to decide the general program as a group, and to assign meetup group members topics to learn enough about to be able to do a session. If needed, I’ll connect people with some of the higher-profile WP community experts to ask/answer questions. We’d like to bring in one featured speaker per track from outside of town.

We talked about venues. The River Club, donated last time by SCAD, is no longer a SCAD property, so we thought about alternatives. WCSAV 2010 had about 185 attendees, and now that there are a bunch of people in Savannah using WP to make a living, we know it would be even more this time around. Caila thought she could hook us up with the Telfair theater since she works at the museum. We also thought we could do a fun, lo-fi WC right there at ThincSavannah. It would be crowded, people would have to scrounge for chairs, etc, but the old-time BarCamp vibe is something we all thought would be a positive thing. We agreed to keep talking about possibilities at future meetups. The possibility of doing something the same weekend as Tybee was seen as a good idea (one day in Tybee for blogger and beginning users, one day in Savannah for more experienced users and makers), but wasn’t gone into in detail.

Next

Our next evening meetup (WordPress Workalong) is scheduled for February 8 (4 people said yes so far), and the lunch meetup (WordPress Brown Bag) is scheduled for February 22 (2 people so far). After I’m back from WCATL, I might put up flyers at a couple of coffeeshops, but a small meetup of people who know what they are doing is such a nice thing I’m not in any big rush to draw in all and sundry. I will probably do more outreach to the other tech groups, though.

So that’s it for the first round. I’ll post another update next month with the progress.

If you currently run a WordPress meetup or would like te start one in your city, please fill in the WordPress Meetup Group Survey and check out the post about our new meetups program. Catch you later!

Blackout

The blackout on WordPress.org is active. It is an interstitial, but you have to scroll all the way to the bottom to get the clickthrough link. It will go away if you click that link and be replaced by the Stop Censorship ribbon for 1 hour, at which point the cookie expires and you have to do it again. We’ll run the blackout for 24 hours. Yes, it will annoy you. I wanted to shut everything down, so count your blessings.

The reason we did this instead of a full shut-down is that there are many businesses and people who help drive the independent web that need access to the WordPress Codex, forums, plugin/theme repos, and APIs. We wouldn’t want to penalize them in our protest, so we just made it impossible to ignore instead.

The action on WordPress.com has also started. The primary home page of WordPress.com has blacked out all of its normal “Freshly Pressed” content. The WordPress.com official blog is sporting a ribbon — if we blacked out the blog, then WordPress.com bloggers would lose access to the post telling them how they can black out their sites using the option we deployed this evening. We launched on option tonight for all blogs on WordPress.com to either blackout (8am-8pm EST) or add a ribbon. In the couple of hours since we launched it, it looks like more than 10k have chosen full blackout, and around 3k have added the ribbon. People who chose blackout will have a ribbon before and after the blackout. Ribbons will remain until January 24, when PIPA comes up for vote in the Senate.

Both the WordPress.org and the WordPress.com blackout pages include a short message that includes a text link to the sopastrike.com site, the Fight for the Future video, the email form, the call form, and the non-U.S. petition form.

These things are what I spent the last consecutive 18 hours working on.

For more information, check out americancensorship.org.

WordCamps Galore

I know I sort of disappeared from WordCamps last year. The whole #fakemom thing seemed like the more important responsibility. Now that my mom has moved down to Savannah and Morgan is doing well, though, it’s been okay to ramp up the travel again. I’ll once again be roving from WordCamp to WordCamp, meeting WordPress users, taking suggestions/complaints/bribes, and making sure things are running smoothly on the organizational front.  I’ll be hitting Birmingham, Atlanta, Miami, and Phoenix between now and the end of February.

If you are planning a WordCamp and want me to come to yours, let me know (or ask Zé/Andrea while you’re going through the approval process). Since we usually wind up with multiple WordCamps per weekend during the summer and fall especially, I usually try to make commitments based on who asks first. If two ask at the same time, the one I haven’t been to before will win. If I haven’t been to either, then I choose the one where there’s not someone else from core and/or Automattic already going. The one with better weather and less-annoying travel may also have a very slight edge.

And yes, once I’ve got my local meetups up and running for a couple of months, I’m thinking WordCamp Savannah/Tybee, maybe before the summer season really makes things crazy (and hot).

Starting a WordPress Meetup

2012 is going to be the year of the WordPress Meetup.

WordCamps are more or less running pretty well under the guidelines and policy changes of the past year. We have a few smaller pain points that we’re still working out like dealing with petty cash, some international shipping stuff, and the like, but by and large WordCamp Central is going great. But what about meetups? One of the adjustments to WC policy was the idea of a WC being tied to a local meetup or meetups — the pinnacle of the local community’s year, rather than a one-off event that is cool but doesn’t do much to build an ongoing community.

There are some great meetups out there, and obviously there are millions of WordPress users that are potential meetup participants all over the world, but how do you get one going? It can be intimidating, I know! To show that it can be done — that YOU can do it — I’m going to start two meetups this month and document the process of how I did it, which I can then turn into a Field Guide to Organizing a WordPress Meetup.

Meetup #1: I live in Tybee Island, a tiny little town on the ocean, about 20 blocks long and 5 blocks deep. There are 3 or 4 thousand residents, plus a booming summer tourist trade. There are no tech companies based here, there aren’t a bunch of other meetups, there’s not a great local community website… in short, this is a small town, where I’ll have to actively go out and find people to join this meetup, and there aren’t that many people to choose from. It will be work. It may not, er, work. But this situation is similar to that faced by people in other small towns, so it will be a good example.

Meetup #2: The nearest city is Savannah, GA, about 20 miles away. As it happens, I now belong to a co-working space there and I go work from there once or twice a week (to be around other people vs working from home, alone, 24/7). Savannah has a burgeoning tech community, a handful of freelancers building WordPress sites, a lively downtown, lots of meetups and a very social culture, and a population of just under 140,000 people. There are groovy coffeeshops with wifi, an art college (SCAD), and pretty much everyone has a website. Getting this meetup going will hopefully take a little less effort if I’m smart about where I do the early publicity.

At the same time I’m acting locally, I’ll be thinking globally. I’ve wanted to do more to encourage, support, and facilitate local WordPress meetups via the Foundation for a while, but until we had the WordCamp program running smoothly there just wasn’t time. We’re now looking into a number of options (talking to meetup.com, looking at rolling our own plugin, thinking about working with schools/universities, etc), and I’ll be reaching out to current WP meetup organizers over the coming weeks to find out their pain points and the things that have worked or not worked for them.

The goals is meetups, meetups, meetups. Whether you call it a meetup, a wordup, a hackfest, a dev day, whatever… if you’re bringing together local WordPress users and/or developers on a regular basis, we want to support that.

Wish me luck, and watch this space to see how it goes. I’m scheduling the first Tybee WordPress Meetup for next Wednesday — if I get even one other person to show up and work on their wp site, that means it’s working.