Cell Phones, Engagement, & Disconnection

My cell phone runs out of juice all the time, and I don’t realize it until those moments when I need to call/text someone or when I need to hit up Google Authenticator for 2fa. When I’m out and about, I use it as a computer mostly for things like looking up something that came up in conversation that we can’t quite remember. I don’t have notifications set for all the sites and email accounts and slack channels and stuff that bombard me when I am on my laptop. I usually feel (because of the things people in the tech community say to me when they see me so blasĂ© about mobile availability and my resistance to enabling all the push notifications) like a lone wolf luddite in a forest of cell-addicted people. When friends or colleagues constantly break eye contact to check their phones sitting on the tables in front of them I think it is super rude (though I also think it is an actual addiction and they don’t do it any more consciously than someone else might bite their nails). So I really loved this article today. I’m not a lone wolf luddite!🙂

Go ahead and write off 20 percent of your day. You’re going to spend it gazing into your phone.

Even when we’re not actually using our phones, they still distract. A recent study found that performance on basic tests of attention gets worse if a cellphone is merely visible nearby.

“Engagement” is a common business goal for the design of so many websites, apps, and services. We lure people in and try to figure out how to get them to stay. We tell ourselves that our goal is to “delight” users, but I think we’ve lost the thread of what the word actually means. We seem to think it means keeping people distracted and busy. When you say “engagement,” I now hear “theft of attention.”

Read the full article: Connected // Disconnected.

Meat Makes the Planet Thirsty – NYTimes.com

Good article in the New York Times about the relationship between agriculture/cattle and water resources. Yet another good reason to give up eating slaughtered animals!

It’s seductive to think that we can continue along our carnivorous route, even in this era of climate instability. The environmental impact of cattle in California, however, reminds us how mistaken this idea is coming to seem.


via Meat Makes the Planet Thirsty – NYTimes.com.

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.”


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?

RIP Dave Brubeck

  • In junior high band, we played Linus and Lucy.
  • My high school band teacher was a jazz clarinetist, and he liked Dave Brubeck.
  • As a teenager I bought the CD of the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack.
  • My friends (from ADK Loj) and I bought tickets to see him play at St. Bernard’s Church in Saranac Lake in 1989. We were so excited. It turned out that most of the program was some high school choral group, and the appearance was a favor. Dave Brubeck accompanied the student singers to some of the worst warbling of church music ever before he played some of his own stuff. Still.
  • Jazzfest at SPAC.



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

Happy Birthday, @rboren

Ryan Boren has been my most constant coworker since I started working on WordPress four and a half years ago. As lead developer, he had to be my sounding board for everything, and he made me smarter without ever making me feel dumb. Thanks, Boren. There’s a vegan cocoa beach cake with your name on it when you get to the summit in a few weeks.