About Jane Wells

User experience design for WordPress. Master gardener.

Jitterbug Playlists, Take II

The speakers are finally hooked up throughout the Jitterbug, and PlayMySong is up and running. Woohoo! Haven’t put much music on the iPod attached to it yet, since in the meantime I was just streaming kexp or Pandora on a dock speaker, and it’s time to load it up. I’ll be adding a bunch of songs and albums this weekend (and thank you everyone for your suggestions last time around), but I was thinking it might be fun to feature some playlists from all my favorite WordPress people. So, say, someone could come in and listen to Ipstenu’s playlist while we troubleshot their broken blog, or Jaquith’s playlist while digging into some custom code. Even better, since people could potentially submit multiple playlists, someone might choose from Ipstenu’s Rock Out playlist, Ipstenu’s Relax-o-meter playlist, Jaquith’s Morning Mix, Jaquith’s In the Code Zone playlist, whatever.

Your challenge: Put together a playlist of about 90 minutes (20-30 songs depending on their length) that has a common thread to the songs, be it genre, tempo, cheering-up-factor, memories from your senior year, whatever. Basically, make a perfect mix tape. Give it a name. You can make as many of these as you want!

Put it/them in a comment on this post, or if you are shy, you can send it to me using the contact form on this site (or email me). Playlists MUST be about 90 minutes in length. Lists of albums or too few/too many songs will not be considered a playlist. I would love to have playlists we could put on from all the people I see at WordCamps, people who backed the Jitterbug, and people who are contributing to the WordPress project. My personal musical tastes bear some weight here, so know that I am unlikely to put death metal, contemporary country, or Christian rock in the rotation. (Punk, Americana/old school country, or gospel would be okay, though!)

Playlists, playlists, playlists!

And yes, once everything is all loaded up, you would be able to activate your playlist from where you live using the app. 🙂

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.

A Tale of Two Brothers: Plans, Construction, and Dev Styles

When we first moved into the Jitterbug building, my two brothers came to help fix it up. I wanted to get rid of the bar that had been in place before, and build a little bakery counter that would be a comfortable height for me to work behind (I’m short) and use some old windows I’d bought off craigslist to showcase the baked goods.

Brother #1’s Approach:

We can definitely build it. First I need you to figure out exactly what size you want it to be, where the windows should go, and draw me up a plan — a basic blueprint to work from. Then we can look it over and figure out what exactly we’ll need and then we can put it together.

Brother #2’s Approach:

Counter about this high, stretching across this space, and using as many of those windows as we can fit in, with a shelf inside and some kind of back covering to keep dirt away? Yeah, I can do that. I’ll do it right after I finish this other thing.

Jane: But, Brother #2, don’t you need a plan, a blueprint?

Nah, I know what you want. If it’s not exactly what you were thinking as we go along, we’ll just check in along the way and we can always redo a bit if I don’t do it how you pictured it. It’s not rocket science, you’ll be happy with the end result one way or another.

Guess which brother was in charge of building the counter? Brother #2. Brother #1 worked on it as well, and so did I, but Brother #2 was ready to jump in and rough it out to move things along quickly. He had no compunction about ripping something out if it didn’t work the way we intended, and embodied the idea of prototyping into iterative improvement/development so completely that I couldn’t help compare this experience to working on WordPress.

There are two schools of thought among WordPress core developers, it seems — the coding equivalents of Brother #1 and Brother #2.  Brother #1 in core terms would be asking for wireframes before writing a line of code, and for everything to be completely figured out in advance. Brother #2 would be more of a jump in and get something started kind of dev, who prototypes using his best judgment and solicits feedback on design aspects as the build itself comes together and can be experienced as a prototype.

When I started working on WordPress, it was mostly Brother #2s. If I said an idea in skype or IRC, someone had it roughly coded to look at before the rest of us were even done talking. Lately, it has felt like we’ve shifted more toward Brother #1s. Statements like, “We need wireframes,” or “You have to decide exactly how you want it to work,” come at me in IRC and Skype, making me a bottleneck and a gatekeeper to development. Yuck!

I don’t want to make any more wireframes. Period. 10+ years is too much. I don’t mind doing up a sketch now and then and putting it on Trac, but I’d like to see more of a return to Brother #2 style development. (There are definitely some in core who do work this way currently.) Just start prototyping. Better UX decisions will almost always come from playing with a prototype vs just imagining with pen and paper (or computer and mouse/wacom). That’s not to say there isn’t a place for specs — when there are a lot of developers working on something, a spec is really useful for keeping people on the same page. But that spec could be as simple as a written description of the feature or change that’s archived and updated as the project evolves.

I did a lot of wireframes in the beginning with WP. In 2.7 we had the Crazyhorse wireframes, which Liz and I did to communicate something totally different to developers I’d never worked with before. In 2.8 with widgets, I did them because we were radically changing the UI, but even more because the underlying widgets code was so sucky that experimentation would have taken forever in a live situation and I didn’t want to put Andrew through that.

Since then, I’ve avoided doing many wireframes. I like it when the dev takes the first stab. Not only does it remove me as a bottleneck, it puts more UI/UX ideas into play before things get finalized. If I do wireframes, then the devs are basically just builders. Which some like, I know, but many want to do product design thinking as well. And really, even for devs that don’t want input into design, having a conversation with a whiteboard or doing a rough sketch is just about always enough for a dev to rough it in as a 1st pass/prototype.

Think about how fast we could go. In this example, we’re talking about doing an update to the way Gallery tab works.

Brother #1 Style: I (and/or some other UI people and devs with a UI bent) review what we have, look at what else is out there right now, get some community feedback, throw around some interaction model ideas, core group debates, pick one, wireframe/write spec, start the build.

Brother #2 Style: “Hey, let’s make the Gallery tab better! Here are the 3 things we want to solve in this iteration. Core people: if you have an idea of how to improve 1-3 of these things, we want you!” Core people discuss their ideas, those deemed of interest make a rough prototype, I/core team/Matt/whoever reviews proposals (in prototype and/or mockup form depending on skillsets), picks one to use as base, makes list (for reference) of what to change in next round to better address the goals, someone starts development.

In the Brother #2 scenario, there’s no initial ux bottleneck, more people have a chance to propose ideas, proposals are focused on solving specific issues (vs being everything cool we can think of), and the real development begins with something to look at/refer to already in place. In Brother #1 scenario, it could be up to several weeks before anything gets coded… the same amount of time it would take to do several rounds of prototypes in the Brother #2 scenario!

I forgot to mention: my counter came out awesome. Not exactly as I’d first imagined it, true, but it served all my goals, was attractive — I’d never even thought of using beadboard until Brother #2 told me to start putting it on the front panel — and I was really happy with the end result:

Jitterbug counter

The counter whose construction was led by Brother #2.

So: no more wireframes for me. Brother #2s, I’m at your disposal for ux feedback!

Proposing Navigation Changes

I just made a ticket on Trac with a proposal to address navigation in the WordPress dashboard. Here is the description.

  1. Explaining the difference between Posts and Pages to new users is time consuming and often frustrating. We’ve all done it, have our best/fastest version of the talk down pat, but it still takes longer than it should to get many new users to the point of understanding the difference.
  1. Back in 2.7, when we set up the left navigation we put Pages at the bottom of the content nav section because in testing 2.5/2.6 so many people complained about accidentally clicking Posts/Pages by accident because they were close together in the old UI and both started with P (blame it on capital_p). Because of this, Pages falls below the less-frequently accessed areas of Media and Links, and people don’t necessarily see it right away because they expect it to be higher up.

I’ve been testing out two changes to the left navigation aimed at reducing these two issues on my test blog for some time now, and have been using it during demos with both new and existing users to great success, so I think it’s time to propose it for core.

Change 1: Change the Posts label to Blog. All Posts can remain as is, or could be reduced to just Posts, since the reason we added the All in the first place was that Matt thought it looked weird to have the same word shown twice.

This change reduces the amount of time it takes me to get a new user really understanding the difference between posts and pages by about 75% (very informal testing, have kept track with about 30 new users by just keeping an eye on the computer clock to see how long it is before we move on). The dynamic blog/static site difference is much easier to grasp when they see that familiar word Blog instead of Posts because “posting” is an action that applies even to static content, and even posts are displayed in web pages (vs Pages).

Change 2: move Pages up the menu to sit below Blog, so the two most important content types are at the top. Since they wouldn’t look similar (ha ha capital_p) there would be much less risk of accidental misclick based on letter shape (poor manual dexterity would not be affected, but in that case those people are already clicking the wrong things, right?)

I’ve attached a screenshot showing what the navigation would look like with these changes.

screenshot of proposed navigation changes

Jbug Update 5/25

I posted this update to Kickstarter just now, but thought I’d archive it here. You never know with third-party systems how long they’ll be around, right?

It’s been a week since the last update and Memorial Day weekend is upon us. We’re not open yet! Bummer, but what can you do. Inspectors who said they would come around 4-5 days ago didn’t, and at this point everything that happens has dependencies that tie back to interval approvals from the inspectors. Based on where we are now, it looks like the first week of June (I’ll give that an 80% confidence rating). That means it’s time to schedule the grand opening party for a couple of weeks later! It will be on June 20, so anyone who was planning to come out for it should mark their calendars. And now, the update.

Since last week:

 

  • Door handles/locks have been installed, and the fire inspector signed off on them.
  • Electrician came yesterday and said that since the 2-door cooler and the kegerator I ordered use so little power (I went for Energy Star models, of course), it should be no problem to have them on the same circuit. Yay!
  • Register stand from Tinkering Monkey has shipped.
  • Bought a coffee brewer from a guy who upgraded to a faster machine. Found him through the guy who set up the espresso machine, and though it was an hour’s drive each way to pick it up, it saved us around $400.
  • Fire marshal signed off on the handrails and the concrete pad at the bottom of the ramp.
  • The painter is putting up additional steel around the hood per fire marshal instruction yesterday. The fire caulk is actually yellow. Should hopefully be finished today.
  • Painter finished painting yesterday. I totally called it.
  • Ordered a drop-in water-filling and ice chest station. ($700)
  • Sold the chest freezers. Gave a really cheap deal to the person who came to look at just one of them. That got them out of the back room and it meant supporting a cool local business at the same time. It’s a mobile farm food truck!
  • Ordered the cabinet for the water/ice/sink setup, but it will probably not be here for another 5-10 days. Will probably open without it and install on arrival if health inspector will allow.
  • Ordered rolling cart for bus tubs/trash station, and a bunch of bus tubs.
  • Shelves installed in back room. Ordered food storage containers to sit on them.
  • Replaced exit sign batteries, only to find that one more has gone out. Back to Batteries Plus!
  • Cleared out more stuff, washed more stuff, ordered more little stuff (like heat resistant spoonulas!)
  • Obtained permit from City Hall to have outlets reconnected.

What’s coming this week:

  • Electrician comes on Tuesday to make the outlets in the dining room live (laptop juice, yay). ($330)
  • Install fire extinguishers.
  • Finish fire caulking, replace last exit sign battery.
  • Have fire inspector come back to do live safety inspection.
  • Hook up ipad/square reader/cash drawer/receipt printer when Tinkering Monkey stand arrives.
  • Sell or donate remaining old coolers in bar area.
  • Get signoff from building inspector on the handrails and concrete pad at bottom of ramp.
  • Paint touchups.
  • Weekend effort to sell stuff, donations following week for anything still here.
  • Buy or build tables and chairs/benches. Leaning toward build.
  • Order a blender.
  • Finish off counter.
  • Scrape old decorative paint from windows.
  • Re-do passthrough countertop bc painter painted over my special countertop surface, argh.
  • Order trash/recycling/compost containers for bus station.
  • Get art for walls.
  • Order last round of pans.
  • Order eco-friendly to-go supplies.
  • Order a bunch of miscellaneous other stuff.
  • Meet exterminator today.
  • Health inspector visit today to check progress.
  • Better Hometown Coordinator form City Hall visit today for same reason.
  • Order food and drinks for opening.
  • Place ad for employees, interview, hire.

It’s supposed to rain this weekend, but I’m thinking I’ll see if I can round up any of the locals who’ve offered to help to do a mini-work weekend. If I can get a couple of people with pickups, we could get lumber for tables and haul some stuff away for donations and/or trash. If I can get a couple of people with tools (and comfort using them) we can build two farm tables and seating benches to go with them. And a few people to help clean stuff, sell stuff, and generally get things ready. 🙂

Here’s hoping that this time next week we are inspection-ready, or have already passed.

Until next time!

 

Things I Bought Today

  • $225 worth of stainless steel shelving units
  • $500 worth of fire suppression service
  • $4 worth of electrical blocking plates
  • A $50 fire extinguisher
  • $15 worth of air filters
  • $7 worth of glass scraping tools
  • Not-yet-known fees for electrical work

Giant Jitterbug To-Do List

Over the next week or two there’s a bunch of stuff to do. Off the top of my head, here’s a chunk of it.

To meet fire/live safety and building codes:

  • Add additional piece of stainless steel between hood and wall/ceiling
  • Fire caulk between steel and hood
  • Service fire suppression system 5/8
  • Repair fire suppression microswitch (electrician) 5/8
  • Purchase additional fire extinguisher for kitchen 5/8
  • Move dining room fire extinguisher to opposite corner
  • Relocate exit sign (electrician) 5/8
  • Get signoff on new handrails, replacement breakers
  • Get hood cleaned 5/7
  • Replace all door handles/locks
  • Replace battery in other exit sign
  • Test all bulbs in exit/outside lights
  • Add fire retardant layer to counter paint
  • Ditch outdoor cords with exposed plugs
  • Pour 5′ square concrete “landing zone” at end of ramp

To meet health code:

  • Have entire kitchen pressure-washed 5/7
  • Clean coils of all coolers/freezers 5/7
  • Get rid of unsuitable equipment (some just not commercially rated, some not performing to code)
  • Buy behind-counter ice/sink/water equipment
  • Scrub all pre-existing equipment with degreaser and then bleach
  • Re-caulk floor moulding
  • Steam clean/scrub grout in bathrooms, storage room
  • Scrub all rooms/walls/surfaces
  • Seal/paint counter cabinet with fancy/toxic non-porous chemicals (adiós, enviromentally-friendly milk paint) (Coats: 1 2 3)
  • Find a compromise between health dept request for a locking door on food storage room and the fact that such a thing breaks fire code due to location (wish we’d known that before putting in the locking door as told) Put a bell on it! 5/8
  • Replace dining room tables
  • Replace pots, pans, utensils that are too worn or non-degreasable
  • Massive caulking spree
  • Paint all walls and ceilings
  • Replace plastic shelving with stainless steel 5/8
  • Purchase food storage containers
  • Replace coffee machine (drip, not espresso)
  • Additional covered trash cans in bathrooms specifically for “feminine hygiene waste” because the state of Georgia thinks menstrual blood and any paper or plastic products associated with such are hazardous waste, while urine and fecal matter are a-okay

Functional

  • Purchase coffee and tea service items (steaming pitchers, demitasse cups, loose tea brewers, etc)
  • Storage shelves 5/8
  • Build or buy new tables/benches/chairs
  • Get 2-3 comfy chairs for couch area
  • Order bus tubs/cart, and trash/recycling/composting receptacles for self-clearing
  • Order outdoor composter
  • Fill iPod with music
  • Get adapter for iPod to hook into existing speakers (or get better wireless ones)
  • Order stand, cash drawer and receipt printer to go with iPad/Square reader (and roll eyes that total cost is about 5-10x a regular cash register from Office Depot)
  • Order baking pans, utensils, pans, knives
  • Order new worktable and shelves/cabinet for dishes/pots/etc
  • Set up vendor accounts, place first orders
  • Order to-go supplies
  • Submit bus bench design
  • Make new sign
  • Get a desk and filing cabinet for back room

Aesthetic

  • Replace chairs
  • Coffee table
  • Move cabinet by couches
  • Art for walls
  • Pick paint colors for areas other than front counter
  • Paint everything
  • Decorate

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.