The key to a super week

My wife gave me this little guy over the weekend for my birthday:

Superman figurine
Super guy

I’d like to get a Green Lantern one next, possibly Flash too … I think my wife has started something here …

The sound of wind on Mars

NASA InSight on Mars

NASA’s InSight probe has heard the sound of wind on Mars. Just think about that for a moment: the sound of wind on Mars!

Listen to Martian wind blow across NASA’s InSight lander. The spacecraft’s seismometer and air pressure sensor picked up vibrations from 10-15 mph (16-24 kph) winds as they blew across Mars’ Elysium Planitia on Dec. 1, 2018.

I played this for our kids this morning. Our son seemed to be impressed, although our daughter’s response was something along the lines of: “Meh, it sounds like wind … 🙄”. Kids!

If you’re curious about the InSight mission, the Oatmeal has a terrific explainer of the InSight mission that may work well for kids too:

The Oatmeal explainer of the NASA InSight mission

You can also find loads of images, and other information about the mission on NASA’s InSight homepage. NASA makes so much content available about their missions, they’re one of the reasons the Internet is so amazing!

Another great resource is the mission’s Twitter profile:

Birthday balloons on Twitter 🎈

Some platforms present a little something special on your birthday. Twitter has balloons that float up over your screen when you visit your profile page on your birthday. I get a kick out of seeing this every year! 😁

Feedback that inspires me to be a better blogger

Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

I enjoy blogging because I enjoy sharing things that interest me. My blog has a pretty modest following, and I like receiving feedback on posts that resonate with readers.

This evening, I opened Twitter for some reason, and noticed this wonderful tweet from Jamie Rubin, a writer, blogger, and stimulus for my Field Notes obsession:

What makes Jamie’s feedback so much more meaningful is that I’ve followed his blog for a little while now, and I have great respect for his writing just based on his blog. Feedback like this inspires me to be a better blogger, so I can do justice to such kind words.

Jamie’s latest blog post, “Inside My Notebooks“, will give you a terrific sense of what he writes about (if you haven’t read it posts already):

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Adam Jang

43

Chocolate birthday cake

Another year has passed, and it’s my birthday again! 🎉 Quite a lot has changed in the last year. Last year, I looked back on 2017, and where my path had taken me.

42

I pretty much ended my retrospective with the following:

While I don’t have all the answers (not even remotely), perhaps being 42 brings a few answers to the questions that I haven’t been able to answer so far.

42

Becoming an Automattician

The highlight of this year has been joining Automattic as a Happiness Engineer. When I wrote my 42 post, I had just been informed that I’d be joining a group of applicants in January 2018 to do a Trial for four weeks. It was a pretty intense four weeks, and when I emerged with an offer to join Automattic full-time, it was an incredible feeling.

Working at Automattic has changed my life in so many ways. To begin with, I work with incredible teams (both my immediate team, and the broader Automattic team) every day. We have a remarkable diversity of perspectives, opinions, skillsets, and backgrounds. In those times when I imagined what it may be like to work at Automattic, I don’t think I ever really anticipated being exposed to such an amazing team (you can join us too, we’re hiring 😁).

Automattic at Orlando in September 2018

Beyond the team I get to work with, I work from home, and I’m able to choose my availability for the most part. This means I can structure my days around my family, while taking into account where I can contribute more to our overall effort to provide high quality support to our customers, 24/7.

Join Automattic, see the world

Another benefit of working for Automattic is more frequent travel for our team meetup, and our annual Grand Meetup. This year our team met up in Rome for a week of workshops, sightseeing, and generally getting to know each other better. It was the first time I had met my team in person, and my first time in Rome. I enjoyed the trip tremendously.

Posing outside the Colosseum

In September, I joined several hundred other Automatticians in Orlando, Florida, for our Grand Meetup. It was an opportunity to meet even more of my colleagues, listen to inspiring speakers, and experience more of our company culture.

One of the many highlights of this trip included meeting Matt Mullenweg, our CEO. Another highlights was our evening at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Actually, there were so many highlights from that week, I’d probably need a longer list to do justice to the trip.

Automattic at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

An addition to our family

We also expanded our family earlier this year. Gina and the kids had been asking me about adopting a dog for a while. I’d postponed the discussion for various reasons including the fact that we both worked at offices (at the time), and a dog would be alone for too long.

That reason pretty much went away when I started working at Automattic, so Gina found us our new furry child. Her name is Nessi, and she’s a rescue who was found with her litter near their dead mother when they were just a few weeks old.

Nessi

It took a while for her to adjust to us in the beginning. She soon became Aaron’s best friend, and she adores Gina and the kids. Her rough start has left her with some pretty deep anxiety issues, and she’s scared of just about everyone outside our family.

It can be challenging at times because her response to a perceived threat is to become aggressive. We’re working on training for her, to help us better understand her, and how to reach her better. When her fear doesn’t overcome her, she’s cheeky, smart, and really playful.

Life, the Universe, and Everything

With everything that’s happened in the last year, I feel like I’m only just getting started with, well, almost everything.

My role as a Happiness Engineer has expanded beyond our core email and live chat support to one to one video support, buddying for new hires who do a support rotation when they start working at Automattic, and even buddying new Trials hoping to join us as full-time Happiness Engineers.

We don’t have a conventional hierarchy at Automattic, so you can pretty much choose your career path. It turns out I have a talent for training, as well as being a support professional. The work is varied, I’m always learning new things, and I have constant opportunities to apply skills acquired in my past careers to my work.

I love that I get to spend more time with our kids. I see them off to school in the mornings, I’m home when they return from school at lunchtime, and I’m around to help them out with homework in the afternoons (well, I’m still working on this part – it’s really easy to become consumed by my work).

Interestingly, even though we could literally work almost anywhere (we just need a relatively quiet workspace and a good Internet connection), I much prefer working from home. The thought of working at a coffee shop has a sort of romantic appeal, but I like being in my space. 🏡

As 2018 winds down, I’m looking forward to growing more at Automattic, becoming better at differentiating between work and my family time so I can spend more quality time with my family, and continuing with my efforts to learn to code that I started in earnest last year.

My focus has been on learning Python 3 the last few months. I really like the language, and I’m trying to build some consistent learning time into my regular schedule.

Next year is bound to bring more challenges, experiences, and rewards. I’m looking forward to it!

MarsEdit + WordPress 5.0

MarsEdit is my favourite blog editor for my laptop. I use it daily, mostly for work-related posts that I publish. It makes it so much easier for me to publish to a variety of blogs (we have a lot of internal blogs at Automattic).

The new WordPress Editor has changed how we write blog posts and pages in the WordPress dashboard. I’ve been using the new editor more and more, lately, and I like it a lot for the most part.

At the same time, I don’t see myself giving up MarsEdit anytime soon. It’s a terrific app that I haven’t appreciated nearly enough.

In the short term I am not planning to add much in the way of block-specific functionality to MarsEdit. As I mentioned above, I think that blocks are going to appeal more to web authors who are managing full-fledged sites, and less to bloggers who appreciate the streamlined workflow that MarsEdit emphasizes.

Daniel Jalkut

I don’t see any reason why MarsEdit fans should stop using MarsEdit with WordPress 5.0 out. For one thing, you don’t have to switch to the new block editor. You can install the Classic Editor plugin, and keep blogging the way you’ve been doing it till now.

The new WordPress Editor is great, but it hasn’t reach feature parity with its predecessor in some respects. One area that stands out for me is galleries. It doesn’t seem possible to create galleries that open into slideshows like the current version of the feature in the Classic Editor.

I just published a draft post using MarsEdit, and I noticed that WordPress will add the post as a Classic editor block (at least on WordPress 4.9.8 – my host hasn’t released the 5.0 update yet).

Given the changes to the editor, and how central this has become to the WordPress experience with WordPress 5.0, it can be worrying if your workflow is dependent on an editor that you’re much more familiar with, and comfortable using. I’ve been hesitant to use the new editor, too.

If MarsEdit is central to your blogging workflow, keep doing what you’re doing. I see the new WordPress Editor as adding another option, not precluding you from doing what you’ve been doing till now.

Daniel Jalkut wrote a post about MarsEdit and WordPress 5.0. It’s worth reading.

I like the new Twenty Nineteen theme, but …

WordPress 5.0 has been released, and with it the new default theme, Twenty Nineteen. I like the theme, except it doesn’t support a sidebar, and all my widgets look like they’re really packed in there when I test my site with the theme.

WordPress 5.0 “Bebo”

I’d love to have a theme that’s pretty close to this one, Independent Publisher 2, and that also supports different post formats. Ideally, I’d like to have a theme that provides better IndieWeb tech support too (such as Post Kinds), but finding a theme that does both isn’t that easy.

If you’re interested in what this release entails, check out the announcement post:

My blog is 14 years old, today, and it’s a big day for blogging

A cake for anniversaries

Today is a Big DayTM For Blogging, but probably only for me. Today is this blog’s 14th birthday! On 6 December 2004, I wrote my first post on this WordPress blog:

Where this chapter all began …

It was originally at a different domain, and has evolved over the last 14 years. I probably have a fair share of somewhat trashy posts, especially from my blog’s earlier years, and I’ve suffered some losses along the way due to rushed or poorly managed migrations from one server to another.

Still, after 14 years, I’m still blogging, albeit it somewhat erratically. Here’s the current state of my blog:

This year has been an interesting one for me when it comes to blogging. My day job as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic is focused on helping our customers build, maintain, and grow their WordPress.com sites. I deal with issues ranging from domain configurations, to custom CSS to tweak theme designs, to a little HTML to help structure page content better, to more involved WooCommerce store configurations, and a lot of troubleshooting in between.

Despite spending all that time focused on our customer’s sites, I’ve only published 148 blog posts of my own in 2018 (including this one). I seem to have surges of activity when I’m not working, or when I have something short to share using the WordPress.com Android app.

Regardless of how much I’ve shared this year, I’m really glad that I have this place of my own on the Web, wherever it may be from time to time. I strongly believe in the importance of having your own space on the Web that you own, and control (as much as you can when it comes to other people’s servers).

This is my home on the Web, weird content choices and all. Thank you for being part of it.