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.

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!

The Benefits of a Good Conference Introduction

Many technical conferences have no speaker introductions or very poor introductions. ¬†“Next up is, um *look at phone* Aaron who will be talking about, um *look at screen* The Next Big Thing”. ¬†While this does serve the benefit of helping people make sure they are in the room they intend to be in, it doesn’t do anything to help the crowd get ready for the talk or help the speaker get ready to deliver a talk. ¬†A good introduction on the other hand gives the speaker ethos.

Ethos is one of three components of persuasion that Aristotle identified in his treatise¬†Rhetoric.¬†Ethos serves as the ethical appeal. ¬†It’s the standing a speaker has. ¬†A good introduction explains not who a speaker is, but why they have the privilege of standing up there and presenting. When you introduce a speaker, you give them credibility. This allows them to immediately focus on logos¬†and to a lesser degree pathos. These¬†are¬†Aristotle’s categories for logical and emotional appeals.

At WordCamp NYC 2014, I introduced Boone Gorges, the keynote speaker. ¬†Let’s breakdown my introduction:

At WordCamp NYC 2010, John James Jacoby introduced our next speaker as a core committer to BuddyPress. Today, I get to introduce him as the lead developer of BuddyPress and our keynote speaker.

I am establishing him as someone with a history at the event and as someone with a prominent place in the community.

During the intervening four years, he has become a full time freelance developer, released dozens of free plugins to the WordPress community and has spent thousands of unpaid hours doing development work contributing to open source software projects.

Boone’s talk was going to focus on contributions to WordPress and the role that freelance developers have in the creation of WordPress. By mentioning his work as a full time freelancer and his contributions to the WordPress project, he can be seen right away as someone who knows about the topic. He has lived it.

He has accomplished all of this while also finishing 46th in 2014 National Crossword Tournament.

I knew that one thing Boone would mention was that he had been in the room this address was before, so I helped him establish this by mentioning his excellent placement in the National Crossword Tournament.

He secretly wishes that he has a masters degree in philosophy. He also grew up in Wisconsin, which is known more for its cheese and beer than the semi-pro football team that plays in Green Bay.

Boone isn’t just a developer, he is a person and someone who has studied philosophy. He also likes a bad football team 😀.

Please join me in welcoming our keynote speaker, Boone Gorges.

I create the expectation with the audience that we are beginning.  That I am leaving so they should cheer.

If you are planning a conference, you should spend some time thinking about the introductions. ¬†If you don’t know the speaker well enough, perhaps you can ask them to write a first draft. ¬†If you don’t know why the speaker is going to be getting up there, perhaps you should ask yourself why they are speaking at your event.

Portland WordPress User Group Presentation Upcoming

I’m going to be speaking at the March Portland WordPress User Group Meeting on March 18th at 6:00pm at Webtrends and demonstrating some of the features that are coming up in 3.0. I’m aiming for this to be¬†beneficial for both users and developers.

Right now, I plan on covering:

  • What the Multisite features mean to both users and developers
  • How to enable Multisite once you‚Äôve upgraded
  • How to add and customize custom menus on your site
  • How to add a custom post type

If there is anything else that you would like for me to cover, please comment on the post there. I hope to see you there!