There are many things I love about my job, and two of them are:
Getting to work with different types of technology, including new computers.
The average Happiness Engineer at Automattic works a machine hard. Long and hard. And to provide good support, we have to work as fast as possible while researching as much as possible. Soooo many tabs and browsers. This means it’s important to have workhorses (I mean computers) that hold up to our relentless boundary-pushing standards.
Fortunately the company realizes this, and we are eligible for new computers every 18 months. At that point, we can trade in our old computers or purchase them for the trade-in value. After four years of work, we get a treat. Instead of the Apple logo, we get to choose a Jetpack logo, an Automattic logo, Woo logo or a WordPress logo. I was actually happy with my computer and its performance so I pushed off getting my four-year special until after year five. I’m thankful for them all.
As I travel (mostly for company conferences, meetups, WordCamps, etc), I love to collect stickers. They bring back happy memories.
This was my first computer (now my husband’s), and it’s a happy one since it included trips to Barcelona (my first meetup ever), Perugia and Portugal (a place where my heart lies). Also featured are the Buffalo from the Buffalo, NY Wordcamp, as well as Toronto, Saratoga Springs and New York City Wordcamps. Good times, indeed.
This second compute of mine is not so sticker-populated, but it holds some of my favorites. That Ben Dunkle signature on the support sticker from the Buffalo WordCamp? Priceless. And the WordPress is my super power! sticker designed by Michelle Ames for the Rochester, NY WordCamp is one of my all-time favorites. Two GMs in Orlando are reflected as well as one at Whistler. If you don’t know what a GM is, check out this super fun podcast on the topic.
See the coke bottle? That represents the Atlanta meetup. You can see our Montreal meetup represented as well. And Hogwarts represents my time on the mobile support teams. You probably all know that Deer Valley is special to me since a bunch of our kids work there, and Jiminy Peak is my snowboarding heaven.
The Jupiter stickers represent my team. I especially love the glow-in-the-dark planet my former teammate, Raul, gave as a gift. Now he’s on another team, but we keep in touch, and I love his thoughtfulness represented there. I also love that card-holder. That comes in super-handy at conferences for those of us who never remember to carry our cards around with us :). Chris got that idea from an attendee at WordCamp Buffalo a few years ago, and I copied it.
And now a new era begins with my new pretty. As you can see, it’s been christened with a Jiminy Peak sticker. I need to add a backup of my superpower sticker I have, and at least one Jupiter sticker. And a card holder. If all goes as planned, there will be another Utah sticker and a Panama one within a couple of months as well. So exciting.
I know I have worked with some of you readers. Those interactions, and times spent enjoying time reading the work of all of you I follow are also treasures tied into this technology. Everyday gifts that make the world a better place. I thank you for that.
**For the month of November each year, I try to focus on something I’m thankful for each day. It is the month that holds Thanksgiving where I live, after all. Focusing on the positive and remembering the little things that make life great are things I should do more often. Last year I found that writing every day during the holiday time got a bit stressful. So this year I’m writing throughout the year and scheduling the posts to go out in November.
What’s in your cup? My friend Michelle loves to grab a mug and chat with members of the WordPress community. Last summer she asked me to join her. I don’t really like being put on the spot like this, but she’s a good friend so I agreed.
She has a real talent for taking situations like that and making them painless. To my surprise, I had a really enjoyable time yakking with her, and I’d encourage you to check out https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTJi_tq-LRj3zswLWylNh4w in general. She has some really great interviewees.
There’s a certain magic to WordCamps that is addicting (in a good way). WordCamps highlight the bond of the WordPress community, and I always walk away from one rejuvenated and inspired.
A WordCamp is a 1-2 day event (usually) that gathers WordPress fans together to learn more about WordPress, troubleshoot sites, network and work together to make the WordPress experience better for everyone. I have a perhaps better definition in a post I wrote almost five years ago.
I had never attended a WordCamp as an attendee until this Rochester WordCamp. I’ve been to WordCamps in Hamilton, Toronto, Montreal, Brooklyn, Boston, Buffalo, Rochester, Philadelphia and Saratoga Springs before, but I was always a volunteer, speaker or volunteer organizer. This time wanted to focus of the trip to be on visiting Hudi and Mollie so I wanted flexibility in my hours — thereby not signing up for anything aside from our ticket purchases.
The plan worked well, and we slipped into a site security session in the late morning with no guilt. That’s how these WordCamps roll. Come when you can, leave when you must. Very casual and friendly.
After the session we headed over to lunch where we sat next to a woman who commented on the fact that a European-living relative of hers just got a job at a company called Automattic. She wondered if it sounded like a legitimate company.
Nicholas (my colleague who was also seated at the table), Chris and I looked at her in astonishment. What a coincidence! We obviously were able to assure her that it is, indeed, a legit company. And we love working there so much that here Chris and I were taking our weekend day to self-pay and attend the WordCamp.
After lunch we went to more sessions. I was thrilled to attend an Accessibility session taught by our friend, Trevor (who runs https://coachesoftech.com/). He attends a lot of the WordCamps I attend as well. I’m always speaking or volunteering during his talks so I never get to hear him.
It was worth waiting all the years. So much good information I can pass on to others who are setting up their site during our support sessions. For example, I had never thought about colors and contrast in regards to the fact that we all see colors differently, but there are sites that help us assess our site’s accessibility such as http://siteimprove.com.
Mollie joined us for a session then headed home for a quick change. We met again at the after-party, which is always a really great event. It’s a time to make new friends and reconnect with friends we already have. We relax and catch up on each other’s worlds and geek out on WordPress topics.
Look closely at our earrings. Chris made Michelle a pair like my favorite ones he made me.
Our Buffalo and Rochester WordPress friends meet Mollie.
Mollie and I appreciate the way this attendee grabbed some swag.
After a delightful day we headed back to Hudi and Mollie’s house. It was so wonderful seeing our friends. I look forward to seeing a lot of them again at WordCamp US.
Are any of you going to be there? Let me know, and I’ll try to find you so we can yak in real time 🙂
If you are interested in connecting with the WordPress community in general – check out the following:
WordCamps – https://central.wordcamp.org/schedule/ – These are small conferences that occur around the world. For a small fee you get a day or two of classes, lunch, 1:1 help with your site at a Happiness Bar (at most conferences) and an after party 🙂 These tend to occur at locations annually.
Local Meetups – This is a free option for meeting others in your area. Generally you learn something about WordPress then get a chance to ask questions about your site.
You can go to https://www.meetup.com/ for local meetups. These are generally free and meet monthly. You will have to sign up for meetup.com (not our site), but it’s free, and once you are in do a search for WordPress in your area.
September darted right through a pretty pivotal week in the life of me. On September 15, 2019, I celebrated my fifth anniversary of working at Automattic. Little did I know, back in the day, that in five years I’d be celebrating the occasion while attending the Grand Meetup in Orlando, FL, where we merged 808 Automatticians from 72 countries into a hotel and embraced the rare opportunity to live, learn, laugh and share a love of WordPress together. In person.
Back when I was hired there were around 200 of us, and I thought that Grand Meetup was overwhelming. Interestingly, I found this meetup less overwhelming. The sheer number of humans allowed me to acknowledge that there was absolutely no way I could meet everyone so I had the freedom to allow myself to enjoy the company of whoever I was with whenever I was with them without stressing about leaving anyone out. If I couldn’t connect with someone, we agreed to meet in a video call in the future.
We stayed at a lovely hotel in Orlando, and it was brilliantly decorated — Our creed was everywhere!
The staff treated us like royalty, and it was very humbling to see all the amazing people there. My colleagues and the hotel staff. Talk about examples of customer service! Smile and greet others by name? Look them in the eye? Have patience? Listen fully before responding? All noted.
The company lined up incredible speakers who mentally challenged me and sparked a sense of creativity in me. There were embarrassing moments (results of exhaustion and too much people-ing) and moments where I could reach out to reassure others. We had times of intense work and times of relaxing with colleagues.
I tumbled through a gambit of emotions from elation and excitement to depression and homesickness with bits of times where I felt really smart and others when I wondered why I was even hired and how I was worthy to sit in the same room as others. I learned more about our products, tips for supporting others better, how to focus on maximizing my own talents so I can be there for others.
One of the things I love best about this company is how we do come from all over the world. I brought some US stuff for colleagues, and came home with some chocolate from Bolivia, chocolate from New Zealand, spices from Sri Lanka and wine from Portugal. Amazing! One of the best gifts actually came from Peru. My team lead brought the sweetest sweater for my granddaughter:
Again, I am so thankful for this job and experience. I also look forward to working every day, still. I’m going to stop blogging now so I can sign into live chat and start doing some support. 🙂
My summer was wrapped by work trips. I knew this, and thought it was a nice beginning and closure, but I’m blown away by how quickly everything happened.
It seems like just yesterday that I was with my team at a meetup in Atlanta, Georgia. And I didn’t even write about it (aside from a brief mention another post)!
This was partially because I knew social media was flooded with the summaries of the trip from my teammates, partially from my lack of time to give it due diligence, and partially because I didn’t have the words to focus on how much the meetup meant to me. I kind of still don’t have the words but figure writing something is better than writing nothing at this point.
I truly love my job and my team and my other colleagues. It’s not just the ever-evolving world of technology that fascinates me. It’s the people. My heart and soul back up what we offer. And though my job and this medium, I get to meet amazing people like those of you who follow my site.
Yes, I know, there are flaws. But I also see the inside story and know we have a committed team of people constantly striving to make it possible for people to tell their stories, share information and promote businesses. This is not a simple task since people do all this from their homes and on the road, using different networks, different browsers and different devices. It is pretty amazing.
Once a year my team gets together for a week of learning and bonding. The days are filled with general support as well as sessions for further learning and discussion on how we can improve on what we offer. And UNO. Lots and lots of UNO. In Atlanta this year I learned a lot more about WooCommerce and also learned how to troubleshoot in cases where plugin conflicts break sites (for customers using our Business Plan).
My teammates and I also got to spend time bonding at the pool and at meals. One day I even got to go to the Georgia Aquarium, which was a trip highlight for me.
Now I am writing this post from the airport on my way to the full company meetup in Orlando, FL. Tomorrow evening will find me at the kickoff party with almost 1,000 colleagues for a week of super-intense learning and bonding.
I’m flying out today because we realize it’s a bad idea to leave customers without support as we all travel, so a bunch of Happiness Engineers (myself included) offered to arrive a day earlier and stay a day later at the end of the week so we can cover support while our co-workers travel. And they are doing the same for the days we travel.
It’s a real treat to see my colleagues live. We meet each other at various conferences and as teams shift, but we mostly talk online while we work using Slack. There are some fun things we are going to do, and there are also various classes and seminars offered. I’m okay at CSS thanks to past meetups, but have a long way to go so getting better at that will be one of my goals for my week.
Later this week, on Sept 14th, it will have been five years since I was hired to work as a Happiness Engineer (tech support for WordPress.com), and I still wake up every day thankful that I get to work. It’s a blessing I don’t take for granted.
A couple of nights ago I had the coolest dream. It awoke the writer within me in its lucidity. It was a fantasy story in which we had a superhero and friends overcoming villains as they literally flew through a world that was devoid of color. Amazingly, when one connected hands with the superhero, color seeped into the scene.
Of course, there is the moment upon wake-up where one analyzes where dream thoughts came from. I realized that I not only dream in color, but I also have the capability of dreaming in monochrome.
And my dream came from a book I had just read — written by my colleague, Carla, (it’s not published yet, but when it is, it will be a treat for all). And it was also from a series of posts I read on WordPress. They were written by Gun Roswell. An example of one is:
Travel in monochrome 2 — Rantings Of A Third Kind
“See the world in black and white, and a few greys too!” Gun Roswell Travel in monochrome When travelling around the world World, this nice round blue orb you were on to hurled Hurled, like a whirl wind out of the blue Blue, as is the colour of the sky’s hue Hue, derived from the […]
As I’ve been pulled back into thoughts and explorations of story line that result from that dream, I’m once again amazed and inspired by all the WordPress community brings. Thanks Carla, Gun Roswell, and all the others that inspire. You make life so much richer.
From Feb 27-March 2 I had the privilege of talking about website creation while working at the WordPress.com booth at RootsTech 2019. Genealogy is so interesting, and the stories that come out of research are incredibly fascinating. During the conference I gave a talk about Using a Website to Tell Your Genealogy Story.
All the options I am writing about here can be done using a free WordPress.com plan. It’s important to note that one of the great reasons WordPress.com is perfect for compiling genealogy information is privacy policies. Entire sites can be private, or a site can be public but certain pages and posts can be private. This is described more on our privacy support page.
Disclaimer: The examples I used are not factual. Parts of some are, but I mish-mashed/fabricated names and geographical locations for the sake of privacy.
How can a website and/or blog help you tell your genealogy story?
Take a moment and think about the information you would like to share with others if you were writing a book. What is most important for you to pass on?
With websites, if you can dream it, you can almost always make it happen.
When I was a child, I remember learning that my aunt was delving into our family history. This was at a time where people didn’t have ready access to computers so she was doing all her research by scrolling through hard-copy records. It was an amazing gift for our family.
I saw the list of names, and it was kind of cool.
That is something that can be shared. After many trips to a copying center where I copied stacks of documents and mailed them to family members, I can really appreciate the thought they they can go to a site and download a copy easily.
Now my family can have easy access to those records and can download the file whenever they want.
What else can we do?
Something that really stood out to me when I was a child was the visual of our family coat of arms.
How I loved seeing this. It made me feel like I really was a piece in a big puzzle — a part of something awesome. Not only did I have a family, but we had a common goal. Yield not to adversity.
I want to share that on my site so all our family members can see it. But I also want to know more about it so I’m going to ask family members for input then share responses in a future post.
This adds more to my genealogical story.
Last year while I was here at RootsTech I was talking with a person about the Contact Form, which I used to create that response form. The person came up with the idea for using it for photos from family events she could not label. Brilliant.
A comment section can be used for that as well. Create a post with an image of a special event (maybe last year’s reunion?) and ask people to share their favorite memories from the event. The same can be done with the image of a person.
Decades went by and technology changed. As did family reunions. I bet you can relate. Years ago it was all about playing with cousins seen once or twice a year. Relatives sometimes kept in touch by phone or an occasional letter, but communication wasn’t constant. Reunion time was spent re-creating the family connections and re-discovering common interests.
But then social media happened.
Suddenly reunions weren’t about re-meeting but became more focused on bonding. This opened opportunities for stories about family history. Very cool stuff. Suddenly, the names on that original family tree became real.
Another person from last year told me they were taking advantage of the option to schedule posts so they could write a post for each family member they were close to. The posts would come out on the family member’s birthday. What a gift to that person, and to the rest of the family as well, as they get to know a relative better.
This bonding can happen with a website, too. As family members talk, share treasures and reminisce, the bond grows stronger.
Imagine how this can build over time! Unlike a book, a website can continue expanding, and facts can be edited and added on to as time progresses without having to go back to a printer.
Think of the things you might share:
Poetry from a century ago? A letter written from a WWII foxhole? Now treasures an entire family can appreciate.
With the search tool on a website, the treasures are easily found. And the menu is also a handy tool for sorting. You can set categories to highlight different branches of the family tree.
Those can even be color-coordinated to show the family branches.
With WordPress.com, people can have more than one site on an account. Some families might choose to have a site for a father’s line and another for a mother’s line (or other family members). These sites can be interlinked from the menu as well.
Searches and menus are very handy tools for telling a genealogy story in an organized fashion.
As with a book, aesthetics are important and you don’t want to overwhelm people who come to the site to learn about family treasures. You can use sub-menu items to highlight other fun family items for sharing.
Uncle Charlie’s famous eggnog recipe? Great memories.
Grandma’s pancakes? A family favorite.
Dad’s chicken? All now shared family recipes.
One of my favorite parts of this sort of sharing is that you an access these recipes even while traveling so the next time your family gathers at the beach house or on your ski vacation, the treasured recipes are right at your fingertips.
Aside from recorded posts and pages, there are also other ways families can share experiences on a website.
One family I know has a book club. This can be organized through a website, and you can add a calendar showing the date of a meeting.
There is even a countdown Milestone Widget you can add to a site to note the event. (This is also handy for family reunions).
When the time comes, there can be a group chat about the book.
Even if a family is spread out across the country, it’s still entirely feasible to start a chat using a widget to discuss a book or talk about other topics, without ever having to leave the website.
In this screenshot I used the tlk.io widget for chat.
Someone can take notes and write a summary post for the family who couldn’t join to see. In that summary, there can even be a link to the book discussed
Links are one of the greatest features of a website and can be used to really enhance a genealogical story. They can be used to add details to a family story. Birth records, descriptions of hometowns, public records of events a family member was written up in.
If other family members have websites highlighting their own lives or their businesses, links to those sites fill in the gaps in the family story.
When content on a page comes from research, links are great for citations and footnotes. A simple click will lead people to original resources.
Sometimes there is nothing to link to. That’s okay. There is a tool built in to WordPress.com that you can turn on. It’s called related posts. These lead people to other posts you have written that connect to similar topics.
For example, in a post I wrote recently, I mentioned Mor Mor sewing pockets for my cousin, and the related post at the base of my current post was my article about Mor Mor from when she died. Of course, when I went to grab a screenshot, that option no longer showed. Ah well, here is another example:
Another handy way to help people experience the story you are sharing is to use images and documents to make stories real by grabbing screenshots of information you don’t want to link to that might add to a story. For example, if you wanted to write a story about a family trip on Christmas day from decades ago, you can go to a site such as https://www.weather.org/weather-history/.
That way your readers will have more of a connection to the story but don’t actually have to break away from your page by following a link.
You can also connect people to stories – past and present – by using maps.
If I read a story about my grandfather from Hungary, I would think it was interesting. But if I followed a link to a page that told me about the history of the area and the cultural treasures of the area then looked at a map to see where Hungary was located in relationship to where I live, then I will feel more connected.
That’s great for stories from the past. It’s also handy to have maps that show current family connections.
Adding a map to a site shows other family members where you live. If you are traveling to an area, check the map to see if anyone is close. It’s great for a coffee and catch-up.
Of course, this would all be voluntary so only people who want their locations showing would have it there.
In addition to adding maps to specific stories, you can put maps on separate pages showing where family members came from in case anyone wants to take a tour through their family history.
Back in the early 1990’s I interviewed my grandmother, asking her story of the past. It was a Christmas gift for my extended family. Now I can take the cassette and convert it to an mp3 and add it to the website so we can hear her voice regale our family history.
We have videos of my father-in-law preaching from years before he died. Now we can embed them into a website so our children and grandchildren can seem him and listen to him.
I don’t have those recorded and embedded yet, but I do have examples of some fun family treasures.
I added that audio with an audio block and the video with a YouTube block.
Perhaps you want to share your book with others and need them to help cover costs. Or order shirts for a family reunion.
Gone are the days where you have to call relatives and wait for checks to come in the mail as you meticulously keep a list of who gets what. You can now take payments and orders right through your website.
If you have the Business Plan, you can even use a plugin such as Woo Commerce to add a cart and take orders that are drop-shipped.
Not only that, but if you wanted to create some special swag for reunions you can find the most popular items or designs by setting up a poll on your website.
So many things you can do to share your story!
On a serious note, one question I get asked a lot is this:
What happens to my site when I’m no longer around or are too busy to maintain the site?
On WordPress.com, it will remain an active site until it’s cancelled. It’s recommended that one uses the User Role options to add a trusted few people as Administrators. They can then keep the site going if the site creator is no longer able to work on the site.
Remember you are not alone.
You probably know this even more than I. Your genealogy story has so many facets. With our user roles, others can contribute to the family story, and you can still have the final say regarding what is actually published. A site can have admins, editors, authors, contributors, and of course, followers. Each who can contribute in their own way.
Followers can still comment and take part in polls. Contributors can submit research and stories for others to approve. Authors can submit stories and research and edit their own work. Editors can provide content review, and Admins can do anything.
There are many other things you can do to tell your genealogy story. And sharing the work to get your genealogy story told can stretch across platforms.
With Publicize and Sharing tools, you can share your work to a Facebook page, Twitter feed and other social media platforms.
There are many other things you can do to tell your genealogy story.
If you have relatives who aren’t comfortable with browsers, they can follow the site by email so they are updated whenever you create a new post.
Can I just tell you how much I love Google Photos? The tool makes my blogging life so much easier. In my last post, I highlighted some of my favorite pics of my husband from this past year. Know how long it took me to find those photos?
About two minutes.
To use Google Photos you sign up for a Google account. Then you download the app onto your mobile device. It’s in the Google Play Store for Androids and the iTunes App store for iPhones.
When your images show up in the app, you can sync them to your account so you can access them in a browser. Or share the images with friends, or send it to WordPress so you can create a blog post on-the-spot-using the WordPress app. Here is a screencast from my iPhone showing how it works:
You can also change it so the images auto-sync in your app settings.
Once the images are in my computer browser, I can play away. For instance, I can choose a date to find images from the past or I can search a person or a location. I can even use the tool to fine-tune my results as seen in this screencast:
For yesterday’s post, I searched for images of Chris then focused on the past year. When I picked out my favorites and clicked on the dots on each image to select it, I downloaded them and dragged them in to my WordPress media library. Then I used the /Classic block>Add Image>Create Gallery options to show the mosaic.
I’ll leave those images I quickly, randomly chose because they kind of make me giggle 🙂 Especially that one of Hudi in the goggles, right after the word “Laugh.”
Other benefits of Google Photos:
1. When I go on a trip, it marks my locations and when I get home, it notifies me of a “book” it made of my travels, using its algorithms to find the perfect pics of the visit away. That saves me tons of time.
2. It auto-enhances images and offers the changed shots as suggestions. Sometimes the results are stunning. If not, it’s easy enough to delete the suggestion.
3. It’s great from creating albums to share privately with people. This is really nice when we record dance class clips or want to share certain images with friends that, and we don’t feel like emailing or Drop Box-ing. Select the photos then choose to create a private album and share then type in their email address. That’s all there is to it!
If any of you have any other tools or tricks to suggest, I’d love to hear in the comments. For me? Well, I’m off to go back to my images and take a trip down memory lane. The images are making me happy.