A New Role

In 2010, I used WordPress for my company’s blog posts. My boss made the site already, I was just typing words into the post editor. This WordPress thing seemed easy enough to use!

In 2011, I used WordPress to start sites anytime I needed them. It was only five minutes to setup, then themes and plugins could take care of all the work for me after that. WordPress.com was even faster and easier: I could focus on content!

In 2014, I used WordPress to help thousands of other people make sites on their own. I was a Happiness Engineer at Automattic; one of the greatest jobs you could ask for. I was getting paid to teach WordPress all day!

Now in 2017, I am going to use WordPress again to make custom sites for clients of Makespace!, a web design agency here in Louisville.

Automattic is an amazing company and leaving it was no small decision. Moving from a support role to a development role became my top priority in the last few months, and right now the dev team at Makespace is a better fit for me to succeed.

We use WordPress for most of our projects at Makespace, so all this time will continue to serve as valuable experience. I plan to be involved in the WordPress community as well: the Louisville WordPress meetup, WordCamps, facepalming at the WP Tavern comments, etc.

Thanks for all the support everyone has given to me in this change! It’s been a great 7 years of WordPress and I hope to contribute even more in the next 7.

Interviewed for the LA Times

I was interviewed about my experience with Automattic’s awesome parental leave policy for an article in th Los Angeles Times. Ended up not being too important to the article, but it’s still cool to see.

Why so few take paid parental leave by Natalie Kitroeff

A day after Alex Gustafson’s wife gave birth to their daughter in December, he officially began the 12 weeks of fully paid family leave offered by Automattic Inc., the San Francisco tech company where he works.

A couple points of clarification for my side of it…

Automattic is based out of San Francisco, but we’re fully distributed. You can work from anywhere you like. I live and work in Louisville, KY. We’re also hiring.

12 weeks of paid leave is also just what I took. The policy is more flexible that that. You could easily arrange more unpaid time, and potentially more paid time. You can spread that time out over more spurts instead of all in one go. All it takes is a bit of communication with your team lead and our lovely, helpful HR folks. We communicate all the time anyway so the whole process is easy. Having a new baby is hard enough.

The article is still worth a read, and isn’t really meant to be about Automattic. Natalie did a great job and it was pleasure to chat with her.

Switching to Colemak

Automattic has an abnormally high density of non-QWERTY typists. Matt types Dvorak and pretty vocally supports everyone taking the time to learn a layout that will help us be efficient and ergonomic. Not everyone sees increases in speed, but its very common to see reduction in wrist pain after switching away from QWERTY.

As part of the new year resolution phase, a lot of Automatticians decided to finally make the jump to either Dvorak or Colemak. Since I’m on paternity leave, I thought I might take the same leap. In 2014, I briefly attempted a switch to Dvorak but with some frequent needs for fast typing it wasn’t very successful. While the baby doesn’t let me have long periods of concentration for any serious projects, 20 minutes of typing practice here and there, along with a cold turkey approach, was something I could accomodate.

Colemak, I Choose You

My previous failure with Dvorak was the biggest reason I chose to try out Colemak this time. Learning the following facts helped seal the deal:

  • Only 17 keys change from QWERTY to Colemak (33 change with Dvorak)
  • Many of the ones that don’t move are low-frequency keys you’d have a harder time practicing anyway
  • Punctuation largely stays the same, so it doesn’t really require practice
  • Z, X, C, V all stay the same making it easy to not change my shortcuts for undo, cut, copy, and paste.
  • My Macbook already had the Colemak keyboard layout pre-installed, which I had no idea was the case.

LearnColemak.com

My first steps were using Chuck Smith’s Learn Colemak in 9 Days lessons. They’re not anything too crazy, just a prompt followed by a plain HTML textarea for you to type in.

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The biggest downside to these is that there’s not much by way of stats or validation as you go. If your browser has spellcheck running, that’s what you’ve got. It’d be easy to make a mistake and never know it. The upside is that they’re free, simple to use, and get the job done. I completed the lessons in five days instead of the proposed nine and got good enough to stop switching back to QWERTY.

I sent a message of thanks to Chuck and he replied saying how fun it was to receive so many brief messages from new Colemak typists. I guess I wasn’t the first to email him while still typing uncomfortably slow.

Typing Club

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Once I felt comfortable touch-typing in Colemak, I started using the lessons at Typing Club. Right now everything there is QWERTY-focused, but you can turn off all the aids and just use it as typing prompts. I really liked how you got little mini updates on words while you typed in addition to the final stats at the end. I liked their design enough that I went back and did all the QWERTY lessons too, just keeping it in Colemak. Things like “jfjf fjfj dkdk kdkd jkjk fdfd” are simple in QWERTY but really challenging in another layout, so I think that was actually time well spent.

Beyond

Once I completed the prompts at Typing Club, I found myself regularly typing upwards of 45 words per minute with occasional moments of true speed. I was now an average typer who happens to use Colemak, which is not a bad start. However, since I’m used to typing several thousands words a day for work at an average of over 70 wpm, this was nowhere near the end.

Since then I’ve had daily bouts of typing practice, mostly using news articles and blog posts as prompts. Combining my reading desires with my need to practice just seemed efficient. Most recently, I’ve started trying to catch up on the lore of the Magic: The Gathering universe. Those stories are simple fiction that don’t require much consideration, so they make for good prompts. I can focus on the typing and I’ll assuredly still catch the plot.

The last hurtle is really thinking-and-typing more often instead of typing out words I’m reading. While I can now type out a prompt upwards of 50wpm, thinking about my own words and typing is always much slower. I’ve got several blog post drafts going, so hopefully that will provide me enough practice to rejoin the elite typists’ speed.

Talking Calypso at WordPress Louisville

A couple weeks ago we launched the New WordPress.com, a project we code-named “Calypso” at Automattic.

If you’d like to hear more about Calypso, I’ll be speaking about it for tomorrow’s meeting of WordPress Louisville.

The meeting starts at 6:15pm on Tuesday, Dec. 8th. Hosted by Mirazon Group at 1640 Lyndon Farm Court #102, Louisville, KY, 40223. It’s free to attend, but it’s helpful if you’ll join the WordPress Louisville meetup and RSVP to the night’s event. If you have any questions, please comment here or join the #wordpress channel in the louisville.io Slack.

Launching the New WordPress.com

It’s been really fun at Automattic as we built the new WordPress.com. It’s cool to manage a WordPress site so quickly and beautifully. On top of that, it made building the WordPress.com for Mac app a reality. I’ve been beta-testing the app for a month or so now and have been really pleased with it.

If nothing else, seeing that W in the dock is pretty cool.

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When I’m on my big monitor at home I usually have the reader tab open at the smallest width on the side of my screen. It’s a quick way to have a lot of information at-a-glance and also see notifications quickly from all our company P2s. With that up it makes it easy to also create new drafts, because the new editor is so fast to load and autosaves quickly too.

The cool thing about this launch is that the product today isn’t really so different than it was yesterday. If you’ve been using WordPress.com over the last year and a half, you’ve been watching the product be built and released bit by bit. But what is different is that it’s now open source. Anyone can view the code, contribute to it, and use it to make the next cool thing in the WordPress community.

Some required reading if you really want to dig into this launch:

“You’re going to go somewhere to work with your coworkers? Why?”

Been thinking a lot recently about how my child may experience life differently than their peers. My coworker, Kraft,  has a great post on that topic:

What will the children of Automatticians and other remote worker be like when they enter into the work force? Will they accept the typical working experience or will they balk at the assumption that work is done best from a central location? Will they struggle to enter the work force when they expect to be able to be at home for lunch every day, or available to step out of the office for five minutes to hold a baby like a generation ago people taking a smoke break.

via Future of Work and the Future Generation – Brandon Kraft.