A Sabbatical from Speaking in 2018

Normally, when a year comes to a close I start to brainstorm about talks and presentations I want to give in the coming year.  I copy over a doc in Simple Note and start pruning off talks I've already given or ideas that no longer excite me and add in new ideas where I feel like I have something to add. This year is a bit different since I'm going to focus my energies elsewhere and will not be giving public presentations in 2018. I still intend to contribute to the conversations around technology, but in a different way (read on to find out more).

What's driving this decision

I came to this idea after spending some time re-evaluating how I spend my time. The talks that I prepare generally involve about an hour for each minute I present. In 2017 I gave presentations at WordCamp Lancaster, Pressnomics, WordCamp DC, and WordCamp Philidelphia. Overall, I spent nearly one hundred hours preparing for and delivering these talks. When I think about my hopes for how the web moves forward, I wonder if those 100 hours couldn't be spent doing something with a bigger impact.

Additionally, I don't bring a lot of diversity to the table. I'm a mid 30's cis-gendered white-passing male.  There are plenty of us in technology. If I move out of the way, that can hopefully make space for someone to bring a different viewpoint to the conversations.

What I'm doing instead

I still love public speaking and want to help some newer speakers give great talks. I thus intend to volunteer and donate my time helping some speakers. If you have enjoyed any of the presentations that I have given and think I might be able to help you, please send me a DM on twitter (my DMs are open). I'm going to give preference to people that bring some diversity that I don't bring to the table. I'm hoping that as 2018 comes to a close, I can say that I spent 100 hours helping new voices in the conversations around technology.

Thirty Four

Today I’m still three years away from another prime birthday, but this is my ninth semiprime birthday and my ninth Fibonacci birthday.  That last Fibonacci birthday was a bit of a bigger deal though.

I didn’t publish my post about thirty-three. I spent the day fairly exhausted after having my brother visit, and for a while when I get exhausted I tend to get fairly down emotionally. I need to get better with sleeping. Maybe I’ll try that as a thirty-four-year-old.

As a thirty-three year old, I really threw myself into making art. I painted, I drew, I burned wood.  I often struggle to love anything I create, but every once in a while I do. Lately, I’ve mostly been doing watercolor sketching in bars, painting with a brush attached to a Dremel, and burning small pieces of wood. It’s fun to experiment with things that are so different than how I spend my days. It’s important to step away from the computer. I’m glad I found an outlet for me to do that in 2016.

Professionally, thirty-three was the year I was honored with the opportunity to be the deputy lead of a WordPress release. Helping do that will forever be an important accomplishment and one of my most important contributions to WordPress.  I also switched jobs (again), moving back into media and publishing. I’ve also added to new events to my volunteer schedule, taking a (broader) role in WordCamp US and being a part of the inaugural team around WordCamp for Publishers. The role I have as a part of the Model UN I help organize has evolved yet again and I’ve switched into a senior staff role that is less focused on the day to day running of a department and is now completely focused on photography, technology, and helping where it is needed during the actual event.

Thirty-three had challenges. Every year does. These challenges won’t magically go away with me turning a year older. Today is really just another day, it just happens to be the anniversiry of the day I was born.  So I guess I’ll drink to that. 🍻🥂

Aaron’s Rule for Better Meetings #6

An addendum to my initial list of rules for better meetings.

  1. All Meetings where product decisions get made need to include a designer and an engineer. It’s important to provide multiple perspectives when making product decisions, and none of those decisions should be made without engineering and design having an opportunity to explain their perspective on benefits and costs.

photo: used under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Original: #WOCinTech

My Three Headphone Strategy

For a few years, I’ve lived with what I call a three headphone strategy. It’s an understanding that I use headphones for multiple different purposes and it is near impossible to have a single pair of headphones that fit all purposes. I wear headphones while working, while on the go, and while traveling.

On the go

While Walking around the streets and transiting, I often have headphones in. Lately, it is mostly listening to podcasts, but I also listen to music and occasionally talk on the phone. So I need something that won’t get in my way, gives me quick access to volume and pausing, and also doesn’t completely block the world around me. I also want something that iff I lose, I’m not going to be too upset. I’ve used both wireless and wired headphones.  My current headphones are the JLab Audio Epic Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Sports. They do a good job of holding a charge, pair quickly, and the sound is good.  I also have a pair of Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear Earbuds Headphones with Mic/Controller RP-TCM125-A as backup.  I’ve had multiple pairs of the Panasonic earbuds over the years, mostly due to a constant ability that I have of losing them.   

At My Desk

Working in an open office means there are constant distractions and having headphones helps. Here, portability is less important than quality sound. I tried multiple pairs a few years ago, and ended up with the Sennheiser HD448 Closed Circumaural Hi-Fi Headphone. These have held up for five years of office changes and still sound great.  Part of the reason they sound good is that I also use a FiiO E7 USB DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier. It’s one of the best investments I made towards high-quality listening. This setup is much more stationary than any of the other times I wear headphones.

On an airplane

When flying, I care most about blocking out sounds, with quality and portability still being important. For me, the Bose QuietComfort 25 are by far the best option in this regard. They pack up into a case that easily fits in my bag and include space in the case for extra batteries. Without batteries, they still sound great, but the active noise canceling no longer functions. Since I added these to my travel bag, I can’t imagine flying without them. To me, they are as neccessary as something to read. They are comfortable enough that even on long flights I don’t need to take them off and I can also fall asleep with them on.

That’s my headphone strategy, what’s yours?

Fall Conferences – PHP Madison and WordCamp NYC

Today I get to announce two conferences that I’m speaking at this fall. The first is here in NYC and is the 2015 WordCamp NYC.  I’ll be giving a talk entitled:
Lessons from Science Fiction and Fantasy we can use in Creating Websites.  Here is a short synopsis.

Science Fiction and Fantasy can teach web creators many valuable lessons. From seeing how Daleks with too narrow of a goal always fail to understanding the Klingons value of honor, to hundreds of other we can become better web creators by borrowing lessons from Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Next, I’ll be traveling to Madison, Wisconsin for the first time in almost 10 years to present “How Not To Build A WordPress Plugin” at Madison PHP.  A short synopsis of this talk is

WordPress has a powerful plugin architecture that enables you to build almost anything on top of WordPress. This power though can lead to anti-patterns that slow down sites, confuse users, and make it hard to scale. Let’s look at the wrong way of building plugins so you can avoid these traps.

Tickets for both events are on sale.  If you are either one, make sure to say hi!

Thirty Two

For the fifth time, I’m an integer power of 2. I don’t remember much (or anything) from when I was 2, but I’m sure I was excited to play with trains. I also don’t have many memories of being 4, but I know I attended the Niles Park District pre-school and owned pretty awesome linen suit. When I was 8 I was excited to fall asleep with my clock radio listening to the White Sox games. I also started the 3rd grade, my last year at Stevenson Elementary. At 16 I started working as a lifeguard. That summer I went to my first outdoor concert and got my driver’s license. It was the first summer where I regularly stayed out late and was also the age I first heard about Northern Michigan University. Power of 2 years have been pretty good.

31 was also a good year. It was the year I moved in with my love, the year I spoke overseas for the first time, and the year I was trusted with commit to WordPress core. On both personal and professional levels, 31 has been a good year.

32 is shaping up to be another good year. Professionally, I’m going to be giving the keynote at WordCamp Philly (and speaking at some other exciting places to be announced), and will be working on some exciting things. Personally I’m excited for all the travel I have planned and to spend my first summer as a Jersey resident heading down to the shore.

This is going to be my last power of two birthday for a while which makes me wonder what things will be like when I’m 64.

Five Years of Contributing to WordPress Core

Five years ago today, my first patch was accepted to WordPress core. Oh how the time has flown.

This last year has been one of my most exciting years as a part of the WordPress contributor community. At the end of September, I was given commit access to WordPress Core. I was excited to join a group that includes some of the smartest people I know, while also being terrified at the responsibility being handed to me. It’s been fun so far.

One of the coolest things in WordPress core that I worked on this year is the “Log Out of Other Sessions” button on the bottom of users profile screens. This seems like a simple button, but adding this iteration (which was a part of the 4.1 release) was the result of live user testing I organized as a part WordCamp San Francisco 2014.

In celebration, I made two commits to core today. One of them was to start user testing WordPress with PHP 7. I’m excited to see how we perform vs. the nightly builds there. The other introduced a new version of grunt-patch-wordpress which is one of my favorite parts of WordPress that I’ve been able to spearhead.

I’m lucky to share my committiversary with my partner who got her first props one year ago. I’m even more lucky that WordPress helped me meet her.

Five years of contributing is a long time. I’m especially happy that five years in, I’m more excited than ever to help build the software that powers so much of the web. Here is to another five years!

PHP UK – Here I come!

In just about two months, I’ll be making my international speaking debut when I present “Modernizing the WordPress Toolbox” at the 10th Annual PHP UK conference in London.

I’ll be talking about how updated we have updated the WordPress toolbox and build process from what would be considered antique at best.  I’ll also talk a bit about where it’s going to go and how our philosophies align with our tools.

This will be my first time speaking at a PHP specific conference and my first time speaking outside the USA.  I’m excited.