BlogJam 2015

When I first found out about the BlogJam conference that was being planned for Halifax I was very excited. Reading about many of my co-workers who travel to WordCamps and other conferences related had me a little envious. Just the lead up to the conference is what lead me to discover the new WordPress meetup that I attended last month. Allison, one of the meetup organizers, presented at at the conference and her involvement let me to the meetup.

Getting myself to a WordCamp is still something I really want to get to, but having a conference solely related to blogging it is amazing. Getting to interact with other people who are passionate about the same thing as me is a wonderful experience.

The day started right from the beginning on a high note. A friend from University and I made arrangements to travel with each other to Halifax together. Alex is really one of the smartest, kindest people I have ever met and it was so nice to get to chat with him and his life.

For a first year conference I was extremely impressed with how the whole day went. The organizers did a phenomenal job planning and executing it. The presenters they arranged, including the keynote speakers were all top notch. I found it hard to choose between the sessions, but the ones I ended up going to were all informative and well done.

The big thing I took away from the conference as a whole was that it is good for me to take a step back and look at the big picture sometimes. Because of my job it is easy for me to get caught up in the tools that people use to really get to their end goal. While the WordPress software itself I feel the best tool available to do that, the people using it don’t care so much about the tool as they do about getting their message out.

That’s the best part about WordPress, is it’s more than just the software it’s the mission behind it, to democratize publishing. Everyday I get to assist people with that mission, it just so happens that it’s by helping them use WordPress.

Week Seven Summary

This past week has been birthday central for us. We’ve celebrated so many birthday’s it’s crazy. I believe there has been 7 birthday celebrations I’ve been a part of. Some of those are duplicates for people where we had a small get together and then an actual party, but it still caused me to give in and eat more treats than I normally would have.

This week I didn’t track my eating either. It started right at the beginning of the week with the snacks, so I though I would feel better not tracking it. For the most part I stayed good though and when I did snack only had small portions. Besides the extra treats I still did good with the rest of my eating. My runs also went really well.

Five days of running with one day being short but fast, then a few quick 5k days. Saturday I did my last long run before the Valley Harvest 10k which is next weekend. Figured I would push it for distance instead of speed, but keep the pace at what I want to do for the race. 11k was pretty manageable but I figured that was far enough. I’m glad I stopped because my legs were pretty sore later on.


Last week: 197lbs
Now: 195lbs
Lost: 2lbs

Even with my treat eating I was still able to drop a bit of weight which is great news. I’m 10lbs from the original goal I set for myself but I still have one last week before the race to lost as much as I can. I’m going to try to eat as well as I can but for running I plan to only do probably three 5k runs. Then take a couple days off before the race.

We’ll see where I end the eight weeks in terms of weight. Even after these eight weeks are over I’ll still keep working because my true ideal weight I’d like to be at is 175lbs. That’s 20 more than where I am right now.


Best Note Taking App

Since early in my computer use I’ve used a basic text editor to leave notes for myself. With years of Windows use it used to be Notepad. I’d have text files saved in directories all over my computer. This obviously didn’t scale very well and it was hard to find anything again when you needed it later on.

Eventually I got a little better and would move them into all one directory and try to name them descriptively so I could track them later. Still I’d resort to the command prompt and the findstr command to search the directory for files with the search word(s) in them. It worked, but not real pretty.

This also didn’t lend well for any sort of collaboration. It would still mean emailing back and forth and then updating text files on my computer. Then accessing files when I was using other computers became a pain. I’d run FTP software and VNC software so I could log into my computer at home to view things. This worked pretty well, but still ideal and there was a lot of overhead involved.

When I started being more mobile and having a smart phone it would be real nice to be able to have all these notes on the go. Many times I would email myself something just so I’d be able to access it later easily from my phone. Then I started testing out different Note apps. I tried a few but was never really satisfied.

Then when I started investigating Automattic I found Simplenote. This was almost exactly what I was looking for. It makes it effortless for me to sync my notes from any of my devices. There are apps for Mac, iOS, Android, and of course the web app. No matter what I’m using I always have my latest notes. I can easily share notes with others so that we can each edit them and see the others changes. I can search, tag, and roll back history of notes if I need to.

For me the one thing that is missing is a list function where I can have a list an easily mark things off as they are done. This is usually used for shopping lists that my wife and I can each edit and add things to then cross them off as they are picked up. I realize that something like this would take away a bit from the “simple” aspect of things, but it’s something I use all the time and would love to have it built in my favourite note taking app.

Each of the apps has just recently been updated so there is no better time to give them a try.

I Will Never Stop Learning

This afternoon I was came up with an idea of something I wanted to do with an internal tool at work. It didn’t quite do what I was looking for unfortunately, but I wasn’t sure if that was the case at first.

Chatting with the main developer Timmy Crawford on the project we realized it didn’t work, but that it could be a good thing to have. I’ve been wanting to learn how to work with Github for some time but just never have. Timmy took the time on, my whim, and helped me through making my first pull request making the needed changes and getting the new feature live. Thanks so much!

In the end it was only a few lines of code, and it took a few tries to get it right, but I now have code I contributed to running in production that is used by most of the people I work. Even if they don’t use the feature we added, it’s there available to them and that’s a cool feeling.

The project was also in CoffeeScript which I have never written in before, so that was a learning curve. It turns out CoffeeScript doesn’t like ternary operators with the question mark colon syntax. That was one of the tries that didn’t work :-) So x = test ? a : b; needed to be x = if test then a else b;

All in all it was a really fun evening, even if I did get a bit of dirty looks from Jen because I was on my laptop so long when we have house guests over, ooopps.

New Project Idea

It’s really strange how when things get really busy that’s when I want to come up with new projects to take on. Recently a friend opened a new business. It’s Racers Rec Room which is basically going to be a place you can book parties and race on a large six lane slot car track.

It’s a lot of fun and they go pretty darn fast. The main downfall that he is having right now is that the lap counter and computer system he is using for games is a little bit old. It was a DIY setup that he purchased but it is running on old Commodore 64 system. Not that it wasn’t fun to see it in action and reset and load the software up for each race, but it would be a fun project to rebuild too.

The hardware setup wouldn’t really be that difficult and it would be a great reason to experiment with an Arduino system which is something I’ve wanted to mess with for a while. I figure that would be a relatively easy way to hook up the lap counter circuitry to a usb input and then I could play with the software part.

Does anyone have any good tutorials out there that would help point me in the right direction to getting started with something like this? What Arduino package would you start with?

Happy Birthday Caile

September is a busy month in our house for Birthday’s. There’s Noah, my Father In Law, Alexandria, and today is Caile’s day! My little Caile turns eleven today.

She’s growing into a wonderful person with a great sense of humor, compassion, and a little smarty pants as well. Tonight when we were driving together and she was teaching me a bit of French. It’s almost pumpkin people time here and they are starting to set them up, but none of them have any heads yet. So she was teaching me sentences and conjugating verbs. Sentences like these:

Il n’a pas une tête (He doesn’t have a head). Je ne ai pas une tête (I don’t have a head). Il a une grosse tête (He has a big head). Il avait une tête (He had a head).

She thought I was pretty strange asking how to say all these different sentences and figured I probably wouldn’t ever be able to use them. Ha, I showed her, I used them in this post.

She’s also more organized than me. The other day we were rushing out the door to go meet the rest of the family. As we were driving she asked me, why are we rushing? It was 10:20, so I told her, we need to be there for 10:30 we’re going to be late. She laughed at me, it doesn’t start till 11:00. Guess who was right.

Happy eleventeenth birthday Caile!

Love What You Do

It’s coming up on the one year mark from when I started my Trial with Automattic and I’ve been working full time here for about ten months now. Looking back on my past jobs and places I’ve worked I really don’t remember a time where at this point I wasn’t looking for other opportunities. Not this time. There isn’t any part of me that wants to be looking to move anywhere else. When I realized this I thought I should sit and think about what makes this company so different for me.

There are the obvious things that you can see when you read the benefits on the Work With Us page, and although those go to show that they do value you as an employee and want to keep you happy, that is really only a small part of it for me.

One of the biggest things for me is that I’m doing something I really am passionate about. Helping people get online. The mission of WordPress in general is to democratize publishing. That is a short statement but very powerful. The goal is to make the same opportunity to have your message available online to everyone. WordPress already goes a long way to make this happen, but there is still along way to go as well. Automattic is dedicated to working towards this. Whether it is by offering the free plan to everyone on, working on getting the software available in many more languages, or by dedicating as much time and effort as we do contributing to the open source project.

One of the things that really makes me proud to be a part of is when it come to freedom of speech. If everyone is going to have the same opportunity to publish their views, that is going to end up including people who have views you don’t agree. Automattic goes above and beyond to fight for the rights of all people using the service. One example of this is scoring perfect on the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) Who has your back report. You can see some other examples on our transparency reports Hall of Shame.

Even though we all work remotely and I’ve only met a handful of my co-workers in person so far, the people that get hired here are amazing people. The hiring team and process do a great job to make sure the people hired are going to be a good fit.

When I was sick and in the hospital I received many well wishes. A co-worker from Scotland had a lovely plant delivered to me  and my team sent flowers as well. This in addition to everyone letting me know not to worry about anything. Take as much time as I needed and things would be covered. They were genuinely concerned with me getting better.

That’s an example of when something major happens and everyone showing their support. This also goes on in little ways every day. Everyone is willing to take the time needed to help you solve a problem, work something out, or even listen to you vent about something work related or even something outside of work that has you frazzled. The support I see given to me and to everyone else is outstanding.

A lot of these things come back to the Automattic Creed which I’ve previously written about. People here believe in and and live it.

I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.

When I did my Trial I had a Buddy, a full time employee who would be with me through the process to help me in what ever way they could. It meant a lot to have someone you knew you could count on to ask anything. I’ve been a buddy to a few new employees who were doing a support rotation after they were first hired, but currently I have my first Trial Buddy. It is exciting that now I get to be the person to help pass on the things I’ve learned to someone else in this bit more formal way.

I will never stop learning.

That’s the first line in the creed. There is so much to learn here in general, let alone that it is in the tech industry which is always evolving and changing. There is no way I could ever get bored unless I purposely avoided trying to learn new things. Automattic helps make this possible as well. Reimbursing for books, courses, and encouraging learn-ups between co-workers.

Trust. From the minute you’re hired you have the same access to everything as every one else. You’re free to make decisions and do what you feel is right. As a Happiness Engineer most of that centers around ensuring what you’re doing is best for the person I’m working with, or the people in general who use our products.

Automattic values their employee’s happiness and well being as well. That’s why there is so much flexibility left in terms of schedules and vacation policy. It comes back to being trusted as well. Recently I approached our Events Sponsorship manager with not much notice about us supporting an upcoming local conference BlogJam. She made it work and we were able to help out the conference. This is great for me as it is the first year it is running and selfishly I want to make sure everything goes well so it can be around for more years and just get larger and better.

Just the other day I was reminded in another way the value us when a co-worker was doing a support rotation, where one week you give up your usual role and spend it doing support instead. It is similar to the first three weeks when anyone is hired. They were working doing live chat and one of the users was abusive, intolerant, and making just rotten comments in general. When the lead of our Happiness group found out about this he personally refunded this person all the money they had paid us for services and emailed them directly letting them know with such an interaction they were better off not being a customer with us and asked them to move their services elsewhere.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this done, but it really shows they value all the employees and aren’t going to allow someone just because they are paying to treat people here like that. Luckily this is not a common occurrence as the vast majority of people I interact with are no where near like that and appreciative of the support they receive.

This ended up being a bit longer than I expected, but if you’re still with me think you and Automattic would be a good match, we’re hiring, come work with me.

Choosing Nova Scotia For Now

There has been much written about the state of things in Nova Scotia, and studies showing that things need to change now before it is too late for the Province. The topic has been on my mind for some time but reading the article this morning Rural Reckoning: Being young and looking for a future finally prompted me to write something my self.

The article is not ground breaking it’s a story we’ve heard over and over again, young people over and over again getting educated here and then having to leave to put that education to work. This article from a couple years ago Saying farewell to Nova Scotia for a reason has stuck with me, and this one looking at the Maritimes in general: How the Maritimes became Canada’s incredible shrinking region.

Luckily there are people who choose to to live here in Nova Scotia and come to make it work regardless if it is easy to do so or not. The Bluenosers by choice initiative showcases some of these stories. While I wasn’t born here in Nova Scotia I am from the Maritimes and have lived here most of my life. While I do love it really the one main thing that keeps me here is Family. Both my wife’s and my parents are both here and we both have siblings here. My kids are all in school and have made friends so to move them would be challenging, although each of them said they would move without much hesitation.

While we are fine here it is mainly because my wife is self employed and I have looked beyond the traditional employment options in the area and now work remotely with the distributed company Automattic. When I think of my kids and their future here I do get a little worried. While I do believe there will be more and more opportunities as technology advances and more companies begin to embrace the opportunity to have a remote workforce it still isn’t there for everyone by any means. Books like Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of Basecamp and Scott Berkuns The Year Without Pants: and the Future of Work both illustrate two companies who are great examples of how this can work.

My honest belief is that for this Province to be sustainable it is going to take more remote type work and local entrepreneurs to create businesses here. The downfall for remote work here is that because of the shrinking tax base there has to be a different reason for you to want to live here. It’s not attractive for new entrepreneurs or remote workers to specifically set out to move here. We are one of the highest taxed Provinces in Canada and the level of services we receive for it don’t match that of elsewhere.

Nova Scotia has long wait times for health care. Our roads and infrastructure are deteriorating. Recently I went for a drive out past my old family home while taking my daughter to work at a well known large retail store. It started out in this rural location but has since grown to many locations elsewhere. The drive out there was appalling and I don’t know how the business owner hasn’t lost their minds. Each road, no matter the direction you take, leading to their place of business, where they employ a number of people and must bring revenue to the local area, are reverting back to dirt. Apparently the roads were so bad they were dug up, but instead of repaving them, the laid gravel down instead. So now you are driving along and hit dirt/gravel roads all of a sudden.

On my drive out there I immediately thought of this article by Nova Scotia’s previous finance Minister. In it explains basically that we don’t have the population to support paying for all the roads we have paved over the years. So especially our rural roads are going to end up falling a part and go back to dirt. For major highways we are going to have to move to a toll and pay per use system in order to afford to have them.

Then there is our health care system. There are still many families in rural areas here where they don’t have a family doctor. Wait times are long for procedures and people end up going to emergency rooms for things that they could regularly see a family physician for. So with a system already strained it is causing Doctors who are here to leave. They can go elsewhere, likely make more money, with less stress.

With the high taxes and the services we do have going down hill it is going to be hard to attract people to want to move here. Those of us who do stay are going to have to pay a premium for living here. At some point even families like mine who does love it here and values being close to family are going to have to make the decision. Is the benefits of living here worth the cost? For now at least they are. But as my kids get even older and get to the point where they are going to start their own lives and careers it might not be here. Maybe we’ll want to get them settled into an area where I can see an easier road to success for them before they reach that point.

It’s my honest hope that this doesn’t happen. But if my kids grow up and feel the need to move away from their home Province, my main reason of being here for family won’t be as valid anymore.

Week Six Summary

It’s been coming for a while, but this was the first week where I didn’t do any evening workouts. My big change this week was I started actually keeping track of my eating. Counting calories is no fun and I’m sure I’m not really accurate, but I did track everything I ate and used best guesses with the help of the My Fitness Pal app.

My goal was to eat 1600 calories a day and I was able to average that for the whole week. There were some days where I was a little below that but others where I was a little above. The funny thing is, leaving last week out of it, this is pretty much the same way I’ve been eating all along. Previously I just didn’t track it.

Counting calories always confuses me anyway. In My Fitness Pal it gives you your goal calories and that is what I tried to stay close to. But then if you had exercise it it basically gets you to eat more calories. Is that right? I just kept eating the original goal and trying to stay close to that number.

My running wasn’t great this week. I only got in four days of running. I did try a couple of short days where I only ran a couple of kilometers but tried to do it fast. One day isn’t shown in the image below, because my technology wasn’t working great, but I’m pretty sure I kept a sub 5 min/km pace for the two kilometers. Yesterday I was able to get in another 10k run. It’s looking like my 10k pace is going to stick around 6:00 min/km but I’m hoping I can lower that a bit in the next couple weeks.


Last week: 201lbs
Now: 197lbs
Lost: 4lbs

It feels really good to get below the 200lb mark again and to see the scale actually go down again too. It really confuses me though because really I’m confident I ate about the same as previous weeks but worked out less and now my weight is starting to go down again. It’s all very strange to me, but I’ll take it. I’ve conceded that I won’t hit my goal weight in my desired time frame, but I’m going to keep pushing forward anyway. Two weeks left and 12lbs to hit the goal I wanted. I might come pretty close but 6lbs a week at this point is a lot of weight to lose.


Here’s the day that I had the technology issues. Not completely accurate but I still went fast :-)


Sweet Sixteen

In just a few more hours it will officially be Alexandria’s sixteenth birthday. My baby girl is growing up so fast it’s crazy. My birthday’s are one thing to make me feel older, but when think that she is now old enough that she can get her license and drive a car it is overwhelming. Where did the years go? They seem so fast and yet so long at the same time.

Today we started the celebration. She had a couple ideas of what she wanted to do for her actual birthday party with her friends. A few years back the movie Hotel Transylvania came out right around her birthday and she and some friends went to see it. As it turns out the sequel  to it just came out and she almost choose that for her party with her friends. Ultimately she decided something else so instead we went as a family to see it today. It was a pretty cute and funny movie. Jen and I laughed as much as anyone else I’d say.

Alexandria you have grown into a beautiful woman and I love you very much. Stop growing up on me already though, I’m not ready to have you getting this old.