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Switching to Android for a bit

This post is the yang to @joen’s yin. He’s a heavy Android user switching to the iPhone and taking notes so I’ll do the opposite. (You should follow his blog)

The last Android device I used as my main phone was the original Drooooooooid. And it was awesome. It had a physical keyboard, robot sounds, and one kickass boot screen. However, after switching to the iPhone, I’ve had zero desire to go back. After the Droid, almost everything on the iPhone felt very polished and high quality in comparison and has remained that way. I do love the Apple ecosystem and just how nicely devices play together.

Android has come quite a ways since I used it. I plan to fully dive in for at least a few months to see just how much it has improved as a cohesive part of the Google ecosystem (which I still like).

I haven’t totally been kept in the dark in terms of using Android devices. I purchased a Nexus 7 (the V1 where the screen would melt off) and used it heavily as a tablet as long as it remained functional (not long). I also use a Nexus 4 in my day job to test apps and sites on and Android device. That said, these brief experiences aren’t a great way to really get a feel of the ins/out of a device and it’s design patterns.

To pretty much directly quote @joen (with some key changes):

Starting today I’m an Android user. No, I wouldn’t call this a switch — call it a “soak test”. I fully expect to switch back to iOS — I’m actually eyeing an iPhone 6. That is, unless the experience of investing myself fully in the Moto X is so compelling that I have no desire to go back, which is entirely possible. I won’t know unless I give it a proper test. Since I’m in the fortunate position to be able to make this switch, there’s no good reason not to. I’ll be using my black and mahogany Moto X 2014 testing device. I don’t expect to be impressed by the camera. I expect to enjoy a bit of jank-free fluidness of the OS, even if I expect to turn off extraneous animation. I’m curious how I’ll enjoy the homescreen and its lack of customizability compared to iOS, and I can’t wait to see if the sliding keyboards in the Play Store are as good as better than they are on iOS. I should have some experiences to share on this blog in a month or so. Let me know any apps you want me to try!

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Chaos – Year One

tl;dr Chaos is pretty amazing. Automattic is, too. Enjoy the chaos. Thanks for making my first year at Automattic amazing.

Exactly one year ago today was my first day at Automattic. Starting that day, every day since has been a whirlwind of chaos. And I love it.

When starting at Automattic, I was greeted with “Welcome to the Chaos.” I chuckled naively and moved on. From then on, the phrase popped into my head almost daily (sometimes far more). I’ve come to expect last minute travel, flexible daily routines, and, more importantly, I’ve become comfortable with the unknowns.

A few of the unknowns

I had never touched SVN, terminal (mostly), a proxy, or anything remotely like our workflow when working on WordPress.com. This was an incredibly amount of new concepts to learn in a very short time. The best part is that we have documentation on how to do all these things via our internal guide so I could jump in and learn efficiently (and also be super duper overwhelmed). Now, I’m BFF’s with terminal, sort of like SVN, appreciate proxying our traffic (Thanks @koke), and am generally comfortable searching and discovering how to do things I’ve never even thought of.

I had no idea which hotel I was staying in when I arrived in Glasgow (and frankly didn’t care). It turns out (due to a mixup) our hotel wasn’t even booked for the first night, but in a matter of a few minutes, we had acquired a new place to stay for the night.

I no longer worry too much about time/day/month it is. I choose my schedule and love what I do. If I want to take a four hour lunch break, I am trusted to come back and work extra that evening. Heck, we don’t even track hours, but I suspect if we did, 40 hours a week would be well below average. I think this lack of focus on how many hours I work and “closing time” allows us to really focus on what we’re doing and end our day on a logical stopping point.

I find myself picking up and heading to various spots to work on a whim. In one day I may wander from my apartment to maybe a coffee shop, a coworking space, a park, the library, the Botanical Gardens, the Denver Art Museum, a bar, or even my friends’ apartments. I find this really helps with sanity and progressing on projects in general.

I break stuff all the time. Kevin Conboy told me at some point that web design is all about breaking and fixing stuff. This concept has always been in the back of my mind since then, but its been a pretty standard daily bit of chaos since joining. We’re pretty good as a company at breaking stuff, but we’re even better at efficiently fixing and improving that stuff. I broke VaultPress’s dashboard a few times and was quickly notified by whoever spotted it and without stress, hopped back into the code, fixed what I broke an push it live. I’ve never busted anything bad enough for an immediate revert, but we have a process for that in place if needed as well.

In general, I’m presented with new unexpected challenges daily. Whether it’s new software, workflows, locations, meetups, projects, whatever, I’ve come to be pretty dang confident that I can efficiently understand and react to and take advantage of any chaos headed my way.

Since joining

I’ve visited 10 cities across 7 states and two countries.

I’ve been to nine conferences, four of which I spoke at. I hadn’t done any speaking prior.

I’ve added 175 contributions via Github, had my Gravatar in one major WordPress release.

I’ve added 95 contributions across WordPress.com and VaultPress.

I’ve walked more than 2,009,052 steps (missing a month or so).

I’ve become friends with hundreds of brilliant people across the planet.

I’ve tried over 60 whiskeys (hard to get an exact number because I was drinking).

I’ve created over 90 blog posts on WordPress.

I’ve changed 176 of my passwords. 0 are the same.

I’ve acquired a slightly embarrassing amount of swag.

I’ve run into the Chairman of Height in five cities.

I met the particular individual who created WordPress a few times here and there.

My laptop has acquired 22 stickers.

I’ve gone through three phone cases (because they keep falling apart).

I’ve grown beyond measure as a designer and developer.

On Automattic

Chaos is kind of awesome. The chaotic lifestyle working at Automattic has presented me with has forced me to be present and confident in my ability  to adapt. I’m truly thankful at how amazing Automattic is as a workplace. I’m truly humbled daily by the group of brilliant friends I work with. If you think you’re up to the challenge, come work with us.

P.S. Sorry about the rambling. Zero editing was done in the making of this post.

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Living downtown

I find that I often get asked (mostly jokingly) by my friends to join them in the suburbs. After living in both, I much prefer living downtown. Here’s why:

  • I’m a five to ten minute walk from a huge variety of restaurants, entertainment, grocery stores, parks, and a bunch of other stuff. This is pretty important to me. I really only ever have to drive when I visit friends in Lakewood or Littleton.
  • I work remotely at Automattic. This means I can choose to work at home, at a coworking space, or really anywhere I like with wifi access. Living downtown gives me a variety of places to work with new scenery every day. It’s also a central meeting place for a few of my other coworkers so I get to see their awesome faces every once in awhile.
  • I’m very close to many of my friends. I’m also in a central point between many of my friends who live in the suburbs.
  • Living downtown encourages spontaneity for me. When someone messages me to see if I want to wander over to Rooster Cat or any of the zillions of bars/restaurants around, it’s no big deal for me to drop whatever I’m doing and wander down. I don’t have to move a car and park. Transit is usually only a brisk walk. There’s wifi at nearly every place so if I am still working, I can bag up my laptop and wander over anyway. Also, when we’re out at night, we can go from hangout spot to hangout spot quickly and often.
  • There are some awesome transit options available.The light rail goes to many of the suburbs. The free mall ride goes from one end of the city to the other. Uber is everywhere. Lyft is everywhere. Car2go is amazing and everywhere.
  • People downtown are extra awesome every day. There are some pretty unique people wandering around with some wonderfully eccentric attire. I don’t bat an eye anymore when I see a herd of skateboarders cruising down a hill or when a unicyclist is doing laps around the disco robot.
  • Delicious food is everywhere. When I’m meeting someone to grab a bite, we rarely plan ahead. We just pick a direction and walk until we get to something that smells amazing. This is another of my favorite things about being downtown.
  • Meetups abound. There are tech and webby meetups every day in Denver. Most within walking distance. Just this last Thursday I wandered down to a coffee shop for a Javascript meetup a friend told me about five minutes before it was happening. I also like holding monthly WordPress Happiness Hours at an awesome coworking space, Creative Density, once a month.
  • There are some pretty awesome events downtown. There are weekend markets, music festivals, and even crazy cool light shows. Two awesome ones running right now are Tuesday/Thursday food trucks in the park and the full street arcade, Oh Heck Yeah. I’m also pretty close to the Convention Center. I walked to Comic Con. 8)
  • There are people downtown! Lots of them! I have no desire to wall myself up behind a fence and be forced to drive somewhere to see friendly faces.

To be fair, there are some downsides.

  • It’s far less expensive for far more space in the suburbs.
  • The suburbs tend to be much quieter. Police, fire truck, and ambulance sirens are pretty common downtown. People also can be noisy when drunk downtown.
  • For the most part, there aren’t backyards. This means no personal grill (although many apartment complexes now provide a community grill).
  • Theft and vandalism is a real concern. I have yet to have anything stolen or broken into downtown. When I lived in Greeley, I had a car broken into and a locked up bike stolen. However, the skeletal remains of bikes perma-chained to fences is a pretty blatant reminder that you have to be wary of theft.
  • Many people are wandering around drunk at night. It’s not as bad it sounds. Most of the time I just see a group of wobbly loud people walk by. Sometimes I am in that group.
  • Parking is shit downtown. It’s a pain in the ass to park any car anywhere downtown. The two-hour spots are often full. The lots run $8-16 for a few hours. Oh, and Denver’s got a top-notch parking ticket staff. Make sure you feed that meter or move your car before the two hours is up.

I’m not saying city living is better than suburb living by any means. It just appeals to me.

Is there anything else I’m missing? Where do you prefer to live?

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With Ian Dunn, Matt Mullenweg, Kelly Hoffman, Brooke Dukes, Mel Choyce, and Ben Lobaugh (not in this photo).
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Hanging after An Event Apart Seattle

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th_s (THUNDERSCORES!)

This tweet from @zamoose really got me thinking about putting together a very sassy version of _s:

Check out th_s

Notable changes:

  • Grunt awesomeness (Autoprefixer FTW)
  • Stylesheet broken up into sections as laid out in the index
  • Normalize instead of reset (easy to include both as a choice to the devs)

Comboing editor and post styles

I’m still chewing on how I want to combo the editor and post styles without getting too crazy.

Thoughts:

  • using the heck out of placeholder classes like, %h1, and @extends simply nesting the editor
  • styles by importing and nesting it in a post class (kinda janky): .post {@import 'editor-style.scss'}
  •  fancy sass script maps (probably too crazy)

Any suggestions on ways to make this sucker extra slick?

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WordCamp St. Louis 2014

Here I am,  at the St. Louis airport several hours before my flight, hoping that the storm Titan doesn’t futz too much with my flight and reflecting on WordCamp St. Louis. First of all, I had a blast and was humbled to be there surrounded by some very smart people. It’s always neat to meet the people behind the twitter handles and IRC nicks of those I work with online. This trip started out bizarre and will end bizarre. This is the chronicle of my experience in St. Louis.

tl;dr WordCamp St. Louis was an amazing experience. I feel honored to speak and I learned a ton.

The arrival

It turns out that Konstantin Obenland and I had coincidentally booked the same flight to St. Louis which was super lucky. It was great to meet him in person and catch up on our various projects. When we left the airplane, we were immediately given Mardi Gras beads catching us by surprise. Sometimes, when you work remotely, you lose track of when major holidays are approaching. Both of us had forgotten completely about it.

We then headed for our hotels. My hotel was straight out of a Ron Burgundy daydream. I wish I had the foresight to bring a velvet smoking jacket. The greeter had a fake english accent. The furniture was old timey. The paintings followed you with their eyes. The rooms had names. First and last. There was even a bear.

The happy hour

The speaker happy hour was held at 4 hands brewery. We were given a gargantuan table that was filled with what felt like endless appetizers and beer. Meeting and chatting with the other speakers definitely helped quell my nerves.

https://twitter.com/coderaaron/status/439575164208943107

Getting there

I woke up at 4:30 or 5 and was simply wired. I figured I might as well run through my talk and tweak my slides a bit while I was up. Hopefully my neighbors didn’t mind me projecting to an invisible audience. I then quickly got read to go and decided to walk to the campus. Wrong choice. Google maps said ten minutes.

It would have been accurate if I could teleport. In reality, it was more like 40 minutes. Wah wah. I arrived on the Washing University campus a little later than I’d have liked via a nice lengthy scenic walk.

The WordCamp

I met dozens of super cool WordPress enthusiasts from all over and spent what little time I had chatting with a few people and then running to go see the room I would be presenting it. It was a pretty good-sized forum with pretty dang high-resolution projectors (as opposed to the usual 4 pixel wide variety). Then I ran back for the opening shebang. The energy in the main auditorium was electric. Everyone was clearly ready to get their learn on.

The presentation

My presentation was the first presentation in the Dev I track. I should also mention that this was my first presentation to a group of strangers in about a decade. Hehe. I actually left the room for a bit until it was about starting time to avoid psyching myself out. It was pretty packed.

Then I went back in and did my thing. After about five minutes, my nervousness was pretty much nonexistent and made it through with no noticeable hiccups. (At one point I threw the mic around a bit so, if you watch the video when it’s posted, sorry about the noise.)

The Q&A after was my favorite part I was met with a slew of excellent questions from all over the room.

Those of you who were there were a fantastic audience. Thank you for participating and for all of your excellent feedback.

Obenland has never seen the Wizard of Oz

Which is interesting because the name of his talk was “Options, and Transients, and Theme Mods, Oh My!” It wasn’t meant to be a reference to the movie. I will definitely be sifting through his slides later and gleaning what I can.

The Keynote

was wonderful. Carrie Dils’ presentation, “Spare a Square ,” was energetic, funny, and sent a powerful message. If you have the chance, watch it when it ends up on WordPress.tv.

The surprise panel

After Konstantin‘s awesome talk, we were both heading out the door (I was going to find a nook to take a quick cat nap) when Joshua Ray snagged us and asked if we would like to be in the developer panel starting in ten minutes. Panels are always super fun and we both opted in.

There was a minor seating snafu for the panel. The other panelists(?) got rolling high chairs. I improvised.

The panel went well and covered a pretty wide set of topics. Again, thanks to everyone who attended! Everyone involved learned something new.

WP-CLI + Epic Beard

Doug Stewart‘s talk on WP-CLI blew my mind. I now feel cheated knowing I could have been using it all this time. Again, definitely worth a watch when it hits WordPress.tv.

Post-WordCamp survey

https://twitter.com/coderaaron/status/439900516701593601

Dinner?

With Rachel Baker at the wheel, two other members of 10UP, Konstantin, and I went on an expedition to find some delicious food. Remember, this is Mardi Gras. Whoops. The first place was already closed. It had run out of food. The second place had an enormous wait. Next. We ended up at a sports bar, eventually and had some pretty good food and drink. It was really cool to catch up with them and eventually compare high scores in Threes.

The party!

It was at a beautiful venue on the fourth floor (except for the bullet hole Mike Hansen pointed out in the window). There was snacks, laughter, and whiskey. Need I say more?

And now

I’m still waiting to see if I will be able to leave this city today. If not, I’m going to try that barbecue place again tomorrow. It smelled super good.

Thank you, organizers and contributors, for all the work you did making this happen. Thank you for inviting me to speak. Thank you, Automattic, for sending me out to speak. It was a very humbling experience. It was awesome to meet everyone there. I can’t wait for the next one!

Bonus nugget of joy:

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YOURLS

I set up my own URL shortener last night powered by YOURLS. I know I could use bit.ly or any range of other services, but I like the ability to have my own self-hosted shortener with as much customization as I please. I can nab neat analytics and integrate it with my blogs fairly easily.

Setup wasn’t too tricky and if I hadn’t run into errors, it wouldn’t have taken more than ten minutes.

  1. Purchase and map the domain.
  2. Create a SQL database.
  3. Download YOURLS.
  4. Edit the config.php file with database details, username, password, and domain.
  5. Run the install.*
  6. Log in and enjoy.

*On installation I ran into an error creating tables every single time. I spent far too much time troubleshooting/reinstalling. Eventually, I tried logging in after the install error. For some reason everything is working swimmingly despite the errors.

m5l.co is now my personalized awesome short url domain.

I’m happy to answer any questions you have on any part of the setup.

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Top this, 2014!

2013 was indeed a year. 2014 is also going to be a year. Hopefully eighty thousand times better than 2013. The highlight for me was getting a kick-ass job at Automattic in October. Now let’s look at some numbers of things that I did the way 2013 would have liked best: Buzzfeed style.

1 phone shattered

Turns out it can’t survive a three foot fall if an iPad is body-slamming it to the floor.

1 WordCamp attended

I took every sticker.

2 email templates built

<table><vomit /></table>

2 make.wordpress.org projects contributed to

Seriously, I’ve been having a ton of fun.

4 conventions attended

Two of which involved space, Batmen, and many bars.

3 programming languages learned

That’s right. I know basic PHP syntax now.

4 coworking spaces… worked at

And all of them are pretty much exactly like this.

5 sketchbooks ruined

So many thumbnails.

6 hour Eclipse game played (and won)

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds fleets.”

8 states traveled to

Including Kansas: Kansas Simulator

10+ WordPress Happiness Hours

I learned so much about certain naughty themes.

12 websites designed and built

That I will admit to building.

14 Amazon.com orders

And about 30 missed UPS deliveries.

20+ games of Cards Against Humanity

HR Violation.

21 github commits

Expect a much higher number in 2014.

35+ Automatticians met

Which is kind of a big deal considering there are only eight in Colorado.

74 Pens penned

Can’t, won’t, don’t stop

420+ quarters used for laundry

So many black T-shirts.

600+ quarters spent at the arcade

Mostly on Stargate pinball.

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