My Name Is Changing

My name is not really Jane. I started going by Jane instead of Jen in 2001 when I moved to Seattle and took a job at Microsoft. How did I wind up as Jane? Needed a nickname (the MS “alias” that ruled your existence) to deal with the namespace issues attendant on such common names as mine, and didn’t want to take the variations available, which mostly involved the nickname Jenny.*

When I started going by Jane, I gave up the name (cough) I had built in the IA community over the preceding couple of years (oh, sig-ia, those were the days!) and just started over. I felt like a fresh start anyway — I’m a sagittarius, we’re like that — so I didn’t sweat it much. I reconnected with some of the IA people under the new name, and lost track of the rest.

Jane was meant to be a temporary nickname, but then I moved to San Francisco in 2002, and when I announced I’d be going back to my real name, Courtney Scott and Lane Becker said (in the most enthusiastically friendly way possible) I looked like a Jane, not a Jenifer, and that they would not call me that. I didn’t really care much, so I kept going by Jane. Plus, since I’d lost my jenifer.net domain due to the evil ways of Network Solutions and had wound up moving to janeforshort.net (as I was using then), it saved the hassle of having to redo my site, deal with link issues, etc. And really, half the time when I said “Jen” people though I was saying “Jane” or “Jan” depending on accents/where they were from, so it didn’t seem to make much difference to me. It was all very go with the flow.

You know what doesn’t flow? Any kind of registration under a nickname when your ID doesn’t match. Pain in the ass! Especially in a post-9/11 USA.

What also doesn’t flow is a bearing a family name from a father that was abusive then absent, and whose family didn’t act in accordance with the title. I hate being a Wells, and have for most of my life.** So I’m changing my last name, even though my mother would much prefer me to wait until she’s dead. (I’m not being hyperbolic, she said it those exact words the other day at lunch: Can’t you wait until I’m dead?) Which is kind of funny, since it’s not like she kept that surname either.

First Name

Effective immediately I’m going back to being Jen. Jenifer if you’re feeling fancy or formal, but mostly just Jen so I don’t have to add “with one N” all the time.*** If you call me Jane, that’s fine. I’ll still answer to it, just like I’ve kept answering to Jen for the past decade with the people who knew me before the nickname took hold. Hell, I’ll still even answer to Niffer, the teenage nickname from my ADK days 20+ years ago.

Last Name

I’m changing my last name to Mylo, a contraction of the first and middle names of the maternal grandmother who mostly raised me (who also hated her family name, but got rid of it by taking my grandfather’s). This will take more time to get used to. Sorry. It’ll also take more time to be legal.

Online Identity

Oh, @janeforshort. You were always just a little too confusing. Is it for or 4? Yes, it’s been my online name for 10+ years. Whatever. Leaf on the wind, baby.

Screenshot of irc nick update

I’m switching everything I can over to @jenmylo. That’ll include irc, twitter, website (when I get around to it, but I did buy the domain), skype, and whatever other usernames I can easily change. Those I can’t, meh. Anyway, you might want to update your contacts for me in these apps if you ever want to see me online. All current email addresses will just forward to a new one, and at some point I’ll send out a note with a new address to everyone in my contacts.

I’ve had friends change their names before. I know it can be awkward. Unlike some of my friends, who were rabid about not letting anyone use the old names,**** I don’t really care. I won’t use them myself moving forward, but it’s fine if you do.

So, we’re good?

* Jenny was originally an English nickname for Jane, not Jennifer (mine is spelled with one N, but most have 2). Jennifer is a derivative of Guinevere/Gwynyfar. I discovered the origin of Jenny after reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman for an English class, and being really confused (and literature never confused me). If there were two extra women in the house, nothing made sense! Ah, but Jenny and Jane were in fact the same housekeeper, not two separate women. Once that was understood, the story made sense!

** Though I have always found it fascinating that my mother and father had surnames that meant the same thing: hers, Walsh, was Irish for Welsh, while his, Wells, was Scottish for Welsh. Neat!

*** I was born with two Ns. I dropped one in the 5th grade because there were too many Jennifers in my class. That’s the hazard of being given the single most popular first name of your decade. And we all had middle names of Marie or Lynn, too. People naming kids: don’t be so common!

**** “It’s ‘Andrew’ now, I don’t want to be called Andy anymore.” “If we were still sleeping together, I might care, but with 5 years of ‘Andy’ under my belt (so to speak) and infrequent communication in our future, I probably won’t remember.” “No, you have to.” “I don’t think you understand what ‘have to’ means.”

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?

Baby Sea Turtle Hatch

As many of you know, I’m one of the volunteers with the Tybee Marine Science Center’s Sea Turtle Project. This involves dawn patrol on the beach checking for turtle crawls in nesting season (May-August), nest sitting during the hatch windows, and being around for crowd control and assistance during hatches (until October).

Last night, I was headed down to the beach at 7:45 for a planned release of some loggerhead babies that had hatched in the morning and were taken off the beach for safety. Most of them hatch at night, when there’s less chance of immediate predation (seagulls etc) or being stepped on by a beach swimmer. When I arrived at the nest, one little guy (well, probably a girl, given our high temperatures this summer — sand temperature is a determiner of sex) that had still been in the nest throughout the day had poked its head out, and after about 40 minutes had saved up enough energy to emerge fully and begin its journey to the ocean and eventually the (Sargasso) Sea. It took about 15 minutes once the first flipper was out, and since it was still light out, I was able to catch it all on my iPhone.

The reason it was unusual to be able to film this trek is that when they hatch at night, we don’t allow lights on the beach except for red filtered or infrared light, because the turtles use the reflected light off the ocean as a guide and flashlights or other artificial lighting confuses them and they go toward the lights instead of the ocean. We don’t pick them up and carry them to the water because the crawl across the beach is an important strength-builder — they’re going to be swimming for 24 hours straight once they hit the water! Also, not enough is known about how their brains imprint on their natal sand, but sea turtles return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs, so it’s important to let them do their thing.

About 1 in 1,000 babies like this one will survive, though other estimates say that’s just the first year and it’s more like 1 in 4,000 or up to 10,000 for reaching adulthood (source numbers vary, and remember that sea turtles live a long time when they do make it). Each nest contains around 100 eggs, and we have 23 nests on Tybee this year. Will this one be one of the ones that make it? Odds aren’t good, but I’m always hopeful.

What can you do to help? Support conservation groups. Stop using disposable plastic (to-go cups, straws, saran wrap, etc). It mostly ends up in the ocean — it looks like jellyfish (a main turtle food) in the water and turtles eat it, which can kill them.

For more information about the sea turtle program, please visit the Tybee Island Marine Science Center.

Breaking Into a Lock

I wanted to have some books at the Jitterbug on the shelf by the couches. Since my mom moved down here in October, I’ve had boxes of books sitting in a $65/mo storage unit one island over…mainly because I lost the lock combination. A friendly neighbor came over with bolt cutters, but the way the storage unit lock protector is designed, bolt cutters don’t fit (which makes sense, in retrospect). The storage unit people said to get a lock cut off they had to call a locksmith for $100. I turned to the internet.

There are a lot of videos out there on how to break into a Master lock. Cutting up a soda can to make a shim seems popular, but be warned: the new master locks have an anti-shim protection built in (not that I tried this method, since I don’t have any soda cans). The method I tried involved slowly making my way around the dial noting the natural stops and writing the points in the middle of each, crossing off the ones with a .5, and of the ones left discarding all those with the same last digit. This left me with the 3rd digit in the combination. Then there was a chart to try various combinations. It took a total of about 3 minutes. I should have googled it sooner.

The Problem with Rescue Time

Last June I wrote a post outlining my typical day, with the post-end call to action to bring more balance into my life, specifically by not working so many hours. Back then, I was typically sleeping 4-5 hours per night, working 7 days a week (that was a very unhealthy 120 hours per week), and very rarely taking time out to spend time with family or friends.

I haven’t solved the problem — far from it — but it has gotten a little better. On average these days I work about 80 hours a week. I try to make sure that involves taking at least a little time off over the weekend to get outside away from the computer. Having my mom live nearby now makes this easier: 1) if she calls and asks me to do something with her, I feel guilty saying no, and 2) if I drive to the store I often stop to say hi since she lives across the street. So that forces me to get out a little more. Starting the WordPress meetup group in Savannah also creates a little enforced interaction, though it’s not exactly a break from work to spend 2 hours helping people learn to use WordPress. I also started using Rescue Time, and I try to force myself to stop working before I hit 80 hours. There’s a problem with measuring yourself with Rescue Time, though. Several problems, actually. Here’s the chart for me for the past week:

My efficiency compared to othersMy efficiency throughout the day

The first problem is not that big a deal. My job involves reading, commenting, and writing on a lot of blogs. WordPress.com hosts more than 100 private P2s for the company, and though I don’t track all of them, I’m in and out of quite a few. By default, Rescue Time thinks blogs are Very Distracting, so unless I go in and change the status on individual sites that are work-related, a lot of my work blog stuff gets inaccurately rated, hurting my efficiency rating.

The second problem is the thing that really bugs me. Mornings are really efficient for me. No one else is awake usually, since I start working at 6:30am right after I make Morgan’s lunch and send her off to school. My routine involves playing whatever TV downloaded the night before while I blast through the accumulated emails and P2 posts from work blogs (this is also the default for a chunk of my weekend work time). I get an email with every Trac comment/commit, every P2 post from the team blogs that I do follow, plus all the email I get from WordPress community members.

Trac and P2 emails don’t usually require my full attention to skim through, deleting the stuff that doesn’t require follow-up and saving the stuff that does. I spend an hour (or sometimes 2, depending on how busy the other side of the world was while I slept) doing this initial skim propped up in bed with my laptop while half-watching some show or other. Because I use a Mac, I have the handy ability to act on the mail and/or browser windows with two-finger scroll, even when that window is not in focus, just by hovering over an area of display. This means, for example, that I can make the Quicktime window be bigger by having it in focus/on top of the mail/browser chrome, so that my peripheral vision picks up more of the visual story while I power through the inbox, deleting away though it’s never brought into focus.

Rescue Time tracks the in focus window. So despite clearing though a hundred or two emails and reading through a few dozen P2 threads, Rescue Time thinks I’m just watching Very Distracting video, not doing any work.

This also hits me if I grab a sketchbook to draw some ideas for a UI or to make lists. If I’m doing that, I’ll often put pandora.com in focus so that if I don’t like a song I can skip it more quickly, or I’ll pull up one of those downloaded TV episodes so I can listen while I draw (I try to have ambient sound at least half the day, so I don’t go into hermit mode more than I already do).

Does it really matter that the tracking isn’t completely accurate or representative? No. Whether it thinks I’m 80% efficient or 60% or 30%, I know how much I get done in a day. And I still need to ratchet down the number of hours I work, and rather quickly if I’m going to get down to the equivalent of one full-time job before the Jitterbug opens. Still, I’m enough of a Type A that getting an email that downplays what I’ve done rankles just enough to matter. So I might stop using Rescue Time. Right after I get the weekly summary down to 50 hours per week or less.

Poem for Kevin’s Birthday

My friend and co-worker Kevin Conboy‘s birthday was yesterday. I’ve known him since 2000. Since everyone still called me Jen. Since before I started dying my hair.

I posted this originally on a company blog. It is a terrible poem, but it hits the high points of our relationship. There is a factual error in the first line. When I wrote it I was thinking we met when I moved to Denver in 1999, but now that I think of it, I started at Spire in February 2000. The whitewater catchphrases at the end of each stanza, however, are 100% true. :)

Kevin

We met before the Y2k, you said
the cell phone didn’t like me and
we picked out a pinball machine.
Whitewater.

You yelled at me for my first blog that year,
“Center OR left align,” you steamed.
I went with left, obviously.
Good goin’, pardner!

The golden summer of Spire, that was it.
Lunch, ice cream, napster, rent, blue note,
and celebrity jeopardy.
Jackpot!

I left for Vermont with your mix CD:
Nosering Girl and Morrissey, yo.
Freelance, Ocean Navigator.
No way out!

We carried an iMac home from Brooklyn –
I still have that gorgeous machine!
Then thank you treats at Veniero’s.
Insanity Falls.

I thought you were sick of Wall Street data
So I said, “Matt, I have this friend…”
And there goes another birthday.
Ride the whirlpool!

P.S. Kevin is also backing the Jitterbug!

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!