WordCamp Buffalo

It’s not even seven a.m. On a Saturday, but I’m up and raring to go. It’s time for another WordCamp! And this one is organized by the meetup group I attend every month so it’s super-fun. Last night we had a wonderful dinner at Bada Bings in downtown Buffalo. While it was a dinner for the speakers, we got to go since we are wrangling volunteers.

One of the speakers and I were talking about WordCamps and how we love them so much. To me, they summarize what the WordPress community is all about. You attend and learn a great deal. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a developer, there’s always something to learn. Once you’ve gone to a few, you suddenly realize that you are teaching others – answering questions and sharing tips.

People are very friendly and open for discussion wherever I go. And I’ve been to WordCamps in Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Saratoga Springs, Hamilton, and New York City. So I think this is a common theme.

Anyway, I’ll probably write more about this later. I’ve gotta run and get to the venue to help setup. Maybe I’ll get to see you there! 🙂

2015. My Year as a Speaker

IMG_20150705_130437610We’re almost through January, and I’m still mulling over 2015, figuring out how I can move on and do better. This gets me thinking about my speaking endeavors. I’m much better at writing than presenting. I don’t even like it when people listen to me when I’m talking on the phone. So I decided to push my boundaries and become a speaker in 2015. I blame Kathryn Presner 🙂 She gave a very inspiring workshop on becoming a speaker while we were at the Toronto WordCamp in late 2014. To be honest, I’m kind of hoping that there will be an “After” post someday, with this acting as a “Before.”

I am a big believer in learning how to swim by jumping into the deep end, and this is reflected by the fact that I applied to speak at WordCamp Montréal. I have to admit, the auditorium was a bit intimidating.

Already shaking like jelly on top of an unbalanced washing machine, I learned a very valuable lesson five minutes prior to my speaking: When your computer decides to update, your presentation will freeze. Ack!!! Fortunately, a hard shut off can fix the issue, and I have prevented this from happening since then by shutting off my Wi-Fi an hour before I talk anywhere.

My friends and coworkers came to listen to me in Montréal. I wasn’t sure if that would be a good thing or not. Part of me just wanted to pretend I wasn’t really doing it. However, I found their support to be an incredible bonus. Everywhere I looked there were friendly, encouraging faces. Not only did I feel as if I would have full support and reassurance if I completely screwed up, but I also knew that the people who came to hear about my topic would benefit in the QA time thanks to the font of info. my Automattic buddies brought to the table.

After Montréal, I spoke in Toronto. The 2015 WordCamp was a completely different story from the year prior. This time I knew what WordCamps were about, and I felt very comfortable. I worked at the Happiness Bar until the very last second then headed to the room where I was to speak. It was relatively small, and I felt extremely comfortable. My content was good, I had good images (thanks to the fact that I hired my son’s girlfriend to make my slides pretty — Lauren, you are awesome), I had friends there supporting me, and I felt connected to the people that audience. It was a very positive scenario, and I could see myself becoming a speaker on a very regular basis.

Then flash talks at the Grand Meetup, our company gathering, hit. I completely lost it. I was shaky and far from confident. I ran out of time, I muddled what I wanted to say, and I left the room feeling completely insecure about presenting on a whole. I attended Luca Sartoni’s fantastic talk on speaking, and it was encouraging. Most likely I failed that one due to a lack of practice. Knowing the cause of my downfall was a bit comforting, but I wasn’t feeling overly confident.

When I hit the stage in New York, I knew that I should have felt completely comfortable because it was the same topic that I felt strong about in Toronto. I knew I had practiced, I had quality content offer, I had worked the Jetpack table and the Happiness Bar so I was comfortable with the people I met, but it ended up being the worst talk that I had done to date. The screen was positioned straight next to me, a few inches in front of what I could see. I couldn’t point anything without getting off the stage, and I got completely discombobulated. I forgot to say a good chunk of what I had planned to stay, and I did not portray confidence. It was very disheartening, and as I drove home, I was determined never to speak again.

This was unfortunate since I was supposed to speak at another WordCamp a couple weeks later. It went alright, but not fantastically. I started the talk by accidentally winging my clicker across the room, and I still couldn’t prevent my voice from shaking. The topic presented was for real beginners, and the “beginners” in this camp were much more technologically savvy than other camps I attended. They already had customers they built sites for. It was the wrong crowd for the talk.

Here’s the thing, though. When you are pushing your boundaries by speaking, then there is no better audience than a WordCamp. People are so kind and friendly and supportive. I love helping people, and I know what information I can offer to help other people. I believe in the efficiency of speaking to an entire room so one can educate 40 or 50 people in the same amount of time it would take to educate one. The concept is exciting, I just need to work a bit more on making it more natural.

Lessons learned?

  • Turn off the Wi-Fi an hour before presenting.
  • Don’t panic! Like I did in my two trickiest situations. In Montreal I was so focused on the fact that my presentation froze that I forgot I had a backup of it on a flash drive. In NY, when I couldn’t see my screen and my presenter notes were covering my images on my computer, I totally could have used the copy on my iPad to see what others were seeing.
  • Keep a tight grip on your clicker.
  • As a co-worker says: If your voice has a tendency to shake, grab a mug of beer before you go on:-) Jk – I don’t really recommend that. Wine is much better in that situation. 😉
  • Figure out your style. Some people do better with larger rooms, others do better with smaller ones. In retrospect, I think I am best with smaller rooms, and I think I would feel more comfortable walking people through steps in a process or telling an inspirational tale rather than doing a “Top 10” sort of presentation.
  • Recognize limitations. I am not great at slide creation. I can provide the content, but I have no concept of how to make it pretty. Hiring an artist to do my slides was a great investment. I felt more confident in my presentations when I knew the slides were nice.

Speaking in my future:

No, I’m not giving up on it. I definitely see the value of sharing information with many people at one time. I just need to put some time and effort into making myself better at it. Perhaps I will try it for one more year, and if I am still uncomfortable at the end of that year, then I can accept the reality that I was not made for it. For now, I still think it’s worth experimenting with styles and tweaking my content to find my best fit.

My First Contributor’s Day

IMG_20151030_120931811While I’ve been to numerous WordCamps, I’ve never been to a contributor’s day before. It’s pretty wild seeing people group themselves by strength and interest, dedicating a day to make WordPress stronger and better. Nothing like seeing the community in action. My group? Lesson plans. We are working on creating, testing, and fine-tuning lessons for meetup organizers and educators. Love it!

A Perfect Summer Day

Hudi playing the guitar

Hudi playing the guitarToday surrounding areas celebrated summer by holding town-wide yard sales. This coincided beautifully with a day off of work. We strolled around, iced coffee in hand, and wended our way through generations of people enjoying the beautiful weather and discounted goods. While we only came away with one pair of shorts (for a quarter), I found that the true treasure of the day was walking around with my husband and watching people interact with each other. So many smiles!

Now I’m sitting on the sun porch listening to my son play a song he learned on YouTube. Learning how to play the guitar is his latest hobby. Soon we’re off to a fish fry then perhaps we’ll catch the sunset at the beach. Who could ask for a more perfect summer day?

Hudi is learning to play the guitar.

How to Make a GIF

Who would have thought anything with the word “lice” in it could be cool and exciting? But there it is. LICEcap has become one of my favorite tools for fun and for work. The program allows me to make GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) in a heartbeat.

I’m a Happiness Engineer for WordPress, and people ask me all sorts of questions during my work days. Sometimes answering with a screen recording is easier than typing the steps of a process. For instance, what if someone wanted to add a list of their past posts within a certain post, and I wanted to show them a style of short code that would work nicely? Sure, I can tell them the code to use, but isn’t it better when I show how it works?

Like this?

Licecap

I also use LICEcap for fun, as you can see in Fireworks and Family, Friends and Food — My Life 🙂

So wanna know how I did it?

  1. I used LICEcap. And WordPress, of course. Both programs are free.
  2. Next, I downloaded and installed LICEcap.
  3. I opened LICEcap and moved the window so it was over the part of my screen I wished to record.
  4. I selected the “Record” option and named my Gif.
  5. I typed in what I wanted people to see then clicked on “Stop.”
  6. Since my downloads go to my desktop, I went there to find my new Gif file.
  7. I opened my browser and went to my post draft.
  8. Next, I selected “Add Media” and dragged my new Gif image in.
  9. When it was done uploading, I clicked “Insert Into Post.”

That’s all there was to it 🙂

But if I wanted to get fancier, I could have.

What if I wanted to annotate my Gif? No problem.

All I would have to do is complete steps 1-6 the double click the file. I’m on a Mac, so it opens in Preview as a bunch of slides. I add my annotations and save. Once that’s set, I finish off by completing steps 7-9.

What if I want to share my gif outside of WordPress? Well, for that I drag and drop my Gif file into my account on Cloudup.com then share the link. It’s just that easy.

Larry Boy Greets my Boys

PISTACHIO - VeggieTales.Box ArtThe other day I woke up with a VeggieTales song stuck in my head. Since my kids are 15+, this is not a common event anymore. It was a great way to wake up, though, and reminded me of one of my favorite interviews.

Years ago I interviewed Mike Nawrocki (VeggieTales co-creator and voice of Larry Boy), and he gave my kids a special greeting at the end of the interview. Although they are quite a bit older now, it’s still a family treasure:


A year or so later, he allowed Hudi to interview him (Hudi’s first official interview). Really great guy. Another reminder that a little kindness can make a great impact on others.

Here’s the song I had stuck in my head: