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A Day in the Life of an Automattician

A number of my colleagues at Automattic have been writing “A Day in the Life” posts about how they work throughout the day. I took notes of one of my workdays a few weeks ago and am finally writing them up here. :)

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This is my desk. Yes, I cleaned up a LOT of stuff off of it before I took the photo. It’s not as dark and depressing as it appears in my office.

See?

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Ok, fine. It’s a really cloudy day today, so sue me. :P

Now without further ado, a day in my life at work.


7:00a: Get out of bed, shower, brush teeth and get dressed.

7:15a: Grab breakfast and coffee. Start opening all the P2 posts (one of our internal communication tools) I want to read. I’m up to 40+ tabs open now. Eat while catching up on team chatter in Slack (another internal communication tool).

7:45a: Uh oh – cat barf emergency with Roxy and the daily medicine routine for Pixel.

8:00a: My team chat which normally starts now is pushed back a little bit. Instead, I start reading all the P2 posts I opened in tabs. Have to also deal with another cat barf emergency. :(

8:20a: Team chat! Normally we do a video chat, but this time we do text only. I am bummed because my hair looks good for a change.

9:15a: Time for a break to relocate from my kitchen table to my office. Spend some quality time with the foam roller to work out some soreness in my legs from the long run I did the day before. Refill beverages.

9:30a: On Fridays, my team doesn’t do any ticket work from morning in our time zone until lunchtime, but instead we work on improving documentation for both internal / external sites. We update screenshots, write new copy, and create new documents if we find something missing. Also had a brief conversation with my husband as he was working remotely today.

9:50a: Finally get working on the docs project. Roxy still is having tummy trouble.

11:15a: Impromptu trip to the vet due to the barfing kitty.

1:00p: I got back from the vet, grabbed my lunch, and went back to work. I don’t normally eat at my desk, but as I was reading through documentation, it wasn’t a big deal to eat my salad and read documentation at the same time.

???: Taking another break to monitor Roxy (she had been dehydrated and got subcutaneous fluids and anti nausea medication) and had a phone call from the vet with test results. It happened pretty fast, so I’m not sure what exact time that all happened.

2:30p: Finish up the documentation projects I started this morning.

2:45p: Start working on some Guided Transfers. This process involves moving a user’s WordPress.com site to their own new self-hosted site. This involves a lot of work with hosts, FTP, and checking to make sure the transfer is seamless for the user.

3:15p: Took a break to return a phone call from my sister.

3:30p: Back to Guided Transfers and helping some of our Happiness Engineer trials in Slack.

5:00p (ish): I’m pretty sure that I ended my day around 5pm. All the Guided Transfers were completed and I had been caught up on all the reading I wanted to do today.


The great thing about working remotely and for a company like Automattic is the flexibility that we’re given to get our work done. There’s no time clock to punch, no “middle management” keeping tabs on your every move, no 8-5 workday. Ironically, I did have an 8-5 workday on this “Day in the Life” – but I also had the flexibility to take my kitty to the vet as soon as I could and there wasn’t an expectation that I would have to “make up” that time I missed.

I have coworkers who don’t even start their day until 10-11am and others that work in 2-3 hour chunks – it’s all what works best for each individual. The benefit of working where you live means you have coworkers around the globe and with the communication tools we use, everything happens all the time – a sort of organized chaos – and time ceases to be the primary focus of being productive. There was a great piece on our CEO Matt Mullenweg on how things work here that explains it much better than I ever could. :)

Are you jealous yet? We are hiring! ;)

So handsome.

My Best Friend

Chester. Cheezy Chester. Chester Man. Chezza Man. Silky Smooth. Silky J. Silky Johnson. Lando Calrissian. Ladies Man. Buddy Boy. Booka Man. Booka. Dooka. Asshole. Orange Bastard. El Tiegre de Naranja. Orange Man. Sunshine.

Chester went by many names. But the one thing that didn’t change was that he was one of the best friends I ever had.

I got Chester on Halloween 1998. He was six months old and at the Humane Society in Clay County, Iowa. The name tag on his cage: Mischief. Boy was that accurate.

I took this rambunctious orange tabby kitten home with me. My then husband K and I had lost the day before a three year old tabby to an accident. While that cat was more K’s cat than mine (the cat wanted nothing to do with me, really), I still felt a loss and a hole that needed to be filled. Love that I needed to give another cat.

Enter Chester.

I changed his name from Mischief to Chester because I’m the kind of person who gives cats people names. Since I was completely unoriginal, he was named after the then Cheetos mascot “Chester Cheetah” – lame, right? But the name seemed to suit him.

Remembering back, he was the naughtiest boy. In his twisted logic, if he didn’t see you then you couldn’t hear him. An assortment of his naughty behavior:

  • Making himself comfortable on top of the dinner plates in the cupboard.
  • Getting up on a table and throwing glass beads out of a decorative candle display. He’s toss one out, watch it clang down the stairs of our split level, lather, rinse, and repeat.
  • Sleeping on my spider plant to the point of it being squashed. He never dug around or did his business in it, just slept on it.
  • Playing “splashy-splashy” in the toilet. It sounds like exactly what you think it is. Stand on toilet seat, splash the water everywhere. Repeat.
  • Stealing the straw out of any fountain drink I ever purchased. Most of the time, knocking said fountain drink over in the process. I would only turn my back for literally 5 seconds and BAM! Straw was gone and Diet Pepsi would be running all over the table and floor.

He would sleep on top of the water heater. He’d get in the ceiling and run around in the rafters, then yowl when he got “lost.” He’d chase wet clothes into the dryer and got a couple of thumps on the head after I turned on the dryer. (that actually happened only once – after that I was super paranoid and would check the dryer for an orange cat before starting it)

He would play fetch with a teddy bear that was almost as big as he was. This started because he wouldn’t stop attacking my legs when I was on the computer so I threw this bear that was on my desk to get him to chase and beat up something other than me. He brought it back a minute later. So I threw it again. Brought it back again.

He’d steal balled-up socks and make little piles of them all over the house.

He’d knock the Christmas tree down in the most spectacular of fashions (running the full length of our L-shaped sectional couch and launching himself off the end of the couch onto the tree like a flying squirrel) and afterwards give you this look of innocence that we would eventually call the “hey, did you see that cat knock that stuff over? I was just here minding my own business” look.

Most cats meow. Chester never meowed. He’d make a squeaky chirp whenever he would carry around his bear or his sock and other times he would make this “merrarowll mowww” sound that he would sing to his sock. Yes, he had a sock – named Sock – and carried it around like it was his baby and sang to it. But he never meowed at us.

Chester, from the moment we brought him home, was my shadow. Wherever I went, he went. He was totally and completely a mama’s boy.

In 2001, K and I split up. He was from the town we were living in and my plan was to move to the West Coast (eventually). The day after I quit my job in Iowa was 9/11. So my plans were thrown for a loop and since I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up, I – with great sadness – decided to let K keep Chester.

Fast forward to late February 2007 when I found this comment on my then blog’s about page:

Hi,
I’m a cat lover too!! However, my wife has become allergic to cats and wondering if you knew anyone interested in a loving, fetching, orange male cat that goes by “Chester” If you know anyone I would be able to deliver, Thanks
K

At the time I already had two female cats in a tiny two bedroom townhouse, but I couldn’t let my boy go to someone else.

Thus on a Saturday, I spent 5 hours round trip driving in a blizzard to meet K halfway between his house and my house to pick up Chester.

Needless to say, the two girls were not impressed. Chester was like a stranger to me – but after a few days of hiding, I think he remembered who I was, because he was my big orange shadow again.

Tim and Chester became buddies and I fell back into being Chester’s mama. Gone were the antics of a kitten and now the assholery of an adult. He was super-picky about the litter box and would pee on the floor if the conditions weren’t up to his standards. He would get up on shelves and knock things off. He would make sure you saw him before he fully knocked things off too – the little jerk.

For the first few months we lived there, he would not jump on the bed. We had the joke that the “bed was made of fire” because even if we placed him on the bed, he’d be right off again in a flash. Then one day, he jumped on the bed, draped himself over my ankle, and fell asleep. Guess bed wasn’t made of fire anymore!

This brought on other “let’s lay on the mama” games such as “trapping mama’s legs” and “kitty backpack” – which sounds exactly as it sounds. I would be snoozing on my stomach, and he’d drape himself on my back like a backpack. Super adorable.

He would also high five. Like people thought we trained him to high five. He would just high five – no training necessary.

He also had the most amazing eyes. Gorgeous green eyes that he worked to his advantage. We always joked that he got away with so much shit because he was so handsome. And a giant flirt. He loved the ladies. :)

Then, once I started traveling for work he was having none of that business. Tim said he would destroy things, knock things over, pee everywhere – all because he was pissed I was gone. When I got home, he was sweet and lovey and would sit on me as soon as I sat down on the couch.

He was a trooper when we moved to Oregon. The girls we had to sedate, but Chester just hung out and rolled with the punches.

He was settling in nicely, when he suddenly he started to slow way down in the past week – we could see it in his body language and actions that he wasn’t feeling well. We took him into the vet and on Friday came back with the diagnosis of renal failure and diabetes. If it were just one of those things, we could probably treat it. But both? We cried and agonized and came to the decision that we couldn’t put the old man through all that for a possible 6 more months. He was already 16 and a half years old! What was the quality of life were we talking about here? Just so we could feel better about things?

We spent the past 24 hours hanging out with him, giving him all the wet food (which he loved) and treats he wanted, giving him all the pettings and loving that we could give him. I took some pictures of him today too – the one at the very beginning of the post was one of them. It perfectly captures his spirit and attitude.

It was with hearts full of love and sadness that we said our last goodbye to our Sunshine around 2:45pm today. He went very peacefully, without any pain, and with the two of us there until the very end.

It’s been so fucking hard coming home without him. Seeing little remnants of him still around the apartment: Sock. A wet footprint on the floor by their food bowls. A cat brush with orange fur still in it from the brushing we gave him earlier. Sitting on the couch without him sitting next to us. Giving Pixel her thyroid medicine (which always gets her treats afterwards) without having Chester lurking about wanting his own treat.

Memories. Ghosts. Feelings that don’t just fade away and cause you such gut-wrenching pain. Feeling like your heart was torn in two. Feeling like a part of you is missing. Wanting to cry and scream and curl up into a ball. It’s not fair. It sucks.

But it was his time to go. And anytime we lose someone we love so very dearly, the time we had with them was never enough. Ever.

This is my tribute to my best little furry friend. It says so much, yet doesn’t even scratch the surface of how awesome he was. I loved that little orange bastard so very much.

Here are some of our favorite photos of him. Rest in peace, little buddy.

Plugins: Taking Your WordPress Blog to the Next Level

This blog post is corresponding to my talk of the same name that I gave at the WordPress.com booth at BlogHer 2014 in San Jose!

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You’ve set up your blog with WordPress and you’re pretty happy with how easy it is to add new posts, add images to those posts, and publish them to your site.

But now what? You might think that it would be nice if you could notify your Twitter or Facebook followers when you make a new post on your blog. What about selling your cooking e-book to your readers? What to do with all this spam and how do you make sure your site is backed up in case anything happens?

There’s an answer to all these questions (and even more you didn’t ask): use plugins!

Plugins can extend WordPress to do almost anything you can imagine. In the official WordPress.org plugin directory you can find, download, rate, and comment on all the best plugins the WordPress community has to offer.

Now you may say to yourself, “Thirty two thousand plugins? How will I know what to use?”

That’s where I come in! I’m going to highlight my picks for the most useful and awesome plugins that are in the WordPress.org repository right now.

Spam Spam Spam!

I don’t like spam. You certainly don’t like spam. Heck, even Monty Python doesn’t like spam!

Nobody likes spam!
Nobody likes spam!

How do you stop the never ending flow of spam? Simple: you use Akismet. Akismet filters out your comment spam for you, so you can focus on more important things. Like writing your next blog post, or developing your new recipe, or putting the finishing touches on your photography book.

akismet

Akismet catches an average of about 7.5 million pieces of spam per hour. That means they’re stopping almost twice as much spam as there are people in Los Angeles every single hour.

Akismet is free for personal and non-commercial sites and there’s just a nominal cost for Business/Enterprise level sites. It’s the single most widely used WordPress plugin out there – because it works.

I Want It All!

You want to let your friends on social media know when you post something new on your blog and be able to comment on your blog using their social media accounts. You also want some amazing photo galleries for your images. You also want to have people subscribe to your blog and you want to know when those people visit your site. Then you want to customize your site, but don’t want to make your own theme.

You’re going to need at least a 8-12 different plugins to do all of these things, right?

Wrong! All you need to install is Jetpack!

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Jetpack is a single plugin that gives you the most powerful WordPress.com features, hooking your self-hosted WordPress site to WordPress.com’s infrastructure to take advantage of robust stats, easy social sharing, and a whole lot more.

Here’s just a few things you can do with Jetpack:

  • Install over thirty popular plugins with one click (and update them all the same way).
  • Engage millions of WordPress.com users, allowing them to interact with your site.
  • Boost your site’s performance by taking the load of these features off your servers.
  • Count on regular updates, enhancements, and troubleshooting from the same folks who build WordPress.com.
  • Work seamlessly with Akismet to stop spam from your comments and contact forms

All in all, there’s over 30 different features included in Jetpack. Plus, if you need help getting Jetpack up and running, the chances are high that you’ll get me helping you! :D

(Disclaimer: I do support for the Jetpack plugin. Plus, I think it’s pretty awesome!)

My favorite module is Publicize. Publicize makes it easy to share your site’s posts on several social media networks automatically when you publish a new post. It’s quite possible that you followed the link on my Twitter page to come read this post! You can share to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Path – all automatically when you publish a new post. Nifty!

You can see all 30+ features of Jetpack on the plugin website.

What Do You Mean My Site Is Gone?

In our ever-expanding digital lives, we’ve all had that “OH SH*T” moment when your hard drive crashed or you lost your smartphone and all the content on it was lost forever.

Made you feel sick to your stomach, right?

What would happen if your blog – the blog you’ve poured your heart and soul into – suddenly didn’t exist anymore? Yes, your web host might do backups of your site, but what if their servers had a catastrophic failure and they lost all your data? How would you recover?

Oh-no

Unless you’re really diligent with backing up your WordPress installation, database, and all media files, you would be in trouble.

Unless you used VaultPress.

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VaultPress makes it easy to keep an up-to-date backup of your site with both daily and/or realtime syncing of all your WordPress content. VaultPress also performs security scans daily and makes it easy to review and fix threats.

One of the features I like the most about VaultPress is how easy it is to move from one host to another by using an up-to-date backup to restore your site on your new server. My co-worker Pam can attest to the ease of the move.

Unlike the other plugins in this list, VaultPress is a paid-only service with prices starting as low as $5 a month. But, consider the cost of losing your site if you don’t back it up.

If you are also a Jetpack user, you can have a free 5-day trial of VaultPress through the VaultPress module in Jetpack. You can read more about this trial on the VaultPress blog!

I use VaultPress on this site and it’s great knowing that my data is protected in the case of catastrophic failure.

How To Make Friends and Influence People

No, no, no…I’m not talking about the classic Dale Carnage book. What I’m talking about is how to make your blog findable for other people on the internet. One way to help put your blog in front of new users is through the process of Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short. Wikipedia defines SEO as:

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users.

Now here are a number of plugins out there that will help with SEO, but the one I’m going to recommend is WordPress SEO by Yoast. It’s probably the most popular of the SEO plugins out there and with good reason; plugin author Joost de Valk is quite passionate about SEO.

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Don’t believe me? Go read his article titled “The Definitive Guide To Higher Rankings For WordPress Sites” and let me know if he missed something. Chances are, he didn’t.

WordPress SEO not only helps you write better content but also provides a number of features/customizations:

  • Page Analysis
  • Technical WordPress Search Engine Optimization
  • Meta & Link Elements
  • XML Sitemaps
  • RSS Optimization
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Edit your .htaccess and robots.txt file
  • Social Integration
  • Multi-Site Compatible
  • Import & Export functionality
  • Multilingual support

The plugin is free, but they do offer premium add-on modules to add even more features.

What Do You Mean “Make It Faster?”

You’ve built up your site and now you notice it’s not as snappy as it used to be. Must be your host that’s having the problem, right? Not necessarily. Your site may need a bit of a tune up.

What I mean by a “tune up” is to better optimize how fast your site loads. If you’re using Jetpack, they have a feature called Photon that acts as a CDN (Content Delivery Network), serving images off their servers rather than yours, which makes your site load faster. Neat, right? Bad news is that it only works on images.

Can you speed up your entire site? Yes, by caching your site.

Caching is critical to site performance, which makes it critical to the success of your site. If your site is slow to load, both your direct traffic and your search engine rankings will suffer. But here’s the good news: there’s a plugin for that!

The caching plugin I’m going to recommend is WP Super Cache. Sure there are other caching plugins out there, but if you want easy to understand instructions and a “set it and forget it” setup, you’ll love WP Super Cache.

If you want to read more about caching and why it’s important for your WordPress site, see this great article by WPMU DEV about the basics of caching: Article

Show Me The Money!

You’ve been blogging about a certain topic and have had so many requests for an instructional video that you decide to make one to sell on your site. Perhaps you want to sell your jewelry or sell the ebook of your recipes that you curated from your blog. Well, that sounds terribly complicated and that you will need to hire someone to set this up for you.

Not necessarily!

There are a number of great plugins out there for setting up your own storefronts, or eCommerce sites. Sure there will be a little more work than just simply activating the plugin, but the work will be worth it as you won’t need to give a cut of your sales to services like Etsy or eBay.

The two that I’m going to highlight are Easy Digital Downloads and WooCommerce.

easydigitaldownloads

Easy Digital Downloads is a plugin that allows you to easily sell your digital content – e-books, music or video files, and more. Since it’s only for digital downloads, the developers only added the features you need to get set up. Also, it’s 100% free to use with no license restrictions or expensive hidden costs.

Next, WooCommerce is the Swiss Army knife of eCommerce plugins – it can do just about everything. WooCommerce is the most popular WordPress eCommerce plugin and it’s free. The team over at WooThemes have worked hard to perfectly integrate it into your self-hosted WordPress website.

woocommerce

While it is free, they also have an extensive library of free and premium extensions to further expand the functionality of the plugin. This one you will need to spend some time configuring, but with a tool this powerful it’s understandable!

But Wait! There’s More!

Now these are what I like to call the “extra credit” of my talk at BlogHer. These are other plugins that I didn’t talk about at my presentation, but I feel are worthwhile to mention. I won’t go into extensive detail, but mention a little bit about each one.

  • Gravity Forms: Advanced contact forms that you can configure to your hearts content. Read Chris Lema’s post about why he thinks Gravity Forms is the best WordPress plugin EVER! (Premium)
  • WordPress Editorial Calendar: Plugin that makes it possible to see all your posts and drag and drop them to manage your blog. Useful for the blogger that wants to post on certain days of each week and this helps plan out your publishing schedule. (Free)
  • Edit Flow: Edit Flow empowers you to collaborate with your editorial team inside WordPress. Great for working collaboratively on content within a group of writers. (Free)
  • CMS Tree Page View: Adds a CMS-like tree overview of all your pages and custom posts to WordPress – much like the view often found in a page-focused CMS. Within this tree you can edit pages, view pages, add pages, search pages, and drag and drop pages to rearrange the order. (Free)
  • Featured Image Column: adds a column before the title (far left) and shows the posts featured image if it’s supported and/or exists. Useful if your theme uses featured images and you can check at a glance if you’ve set the image in your posts. (Free)

I hope you found this useful!

Let me know in the comments if you have other plugins that are your absolute must-haves!

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WordCamp Minneapolis

Today I gave my talk at WordCamp Minneapolis! My topic was about the right way and the wrong way to ask for help with your WordPress problems. However, I tried to inject a bit of humor into my slides…

I even got the hearty laugh I was looking for with the GI Joe slide. YO JOE!

It’s great talking to “my people” – the dumb nerdy jokes I say are understood and appreciated! I also was pretty proud with myself for not saying “fuck” anytime during my presentation. I think “batshit crazy” and “asshole” were the worst offenders, language-wise. #winning

Having a great time meeting new people and seeing old friends today. Looking forward to the afterparty at WestWerk tonight too.

WordCamps are amazing!!