WordCamp Rochester 2019

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.

Security  class at WordCamp Rochester

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.

Accessibility Session at  WordCamp Rochester.

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.

Automatticians attending WordCamp

Look closely at our earrings. Chris made Michelle a pair like my favorite ones he made me.

Good friends with matching earrings

Our Buffalo and Rochester WordPress friends meet Mollie.

Buffalo and Rochester WordPress friends.

Mollie and I appreciate the way this attendee grabbed some swag.

Mollie and Chrissie with a pretend witch holding 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.

A Meeting of Minds

My team – minus one who was with us in spirit and in our hearts

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!

I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

https://automattic.com/creed/

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. 🙂

Work Travels Sandwiching my Summer

My teammates in Atlanta

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.

My teammates in Atlanta
Jupiter – My Team at Automattic.

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.

Inspiration From Other WordPress Writers

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 […]

Travel in monochrome 2 — Rantings Of A Third Kind

I encourage you to read more from https://gunroswell.wordpress.com/. Love the regular postings with great images and awesome poetry.

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.

How to Use a Website to Tell Your Genealogy Story

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.

List of family names.

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.

I did this using the File Block.

File Block in the Editor.

Now my family can have easy access to those records and can download the file whenever they want.

Download button showing on published page.

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.

Family Crest

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.

Contact Form on Family Crest.

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.

Family photo and questionnaire on favorite memories and people in photo.

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.

Letters delivered through door mail slot.

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.

Icons showing social media.

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.

Showing how to schedule posts with the scheduling tool in the editor.

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:

Poem from the early 1900s
Letter from a World War II foxhole.

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.

Search widget on the site.

Those can even be color-coordinated to show the family branches.

Use colors to show family branches in the block editor for the paragraph.

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.

Showing sub menu items

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.

EggNog recipe showing shortcode

Grandma’s pancakes? A family favorite.

Pancake recipe

Dad’s chicken? All now shared family recipes.

Picture of Curried Chicken

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.

Menu showing sub menu items for recipes in gif

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).

Milestone and calendar widgets

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.

Chat box on website

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.

Showing how to add links

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/.

Weather history for December 25, 1947 in Utah.

And take a screenshot of the weather from that day.

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.

Maps of Hungary and NY

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.

Map with multiple locations highlighted.

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.

Screenshot of DNA Explained site

That’s what Roberta Estes did. She has a blog on https://dna-explained.com and one of my favorite posts on her site is the one in which she wrote a story in the voice of her grandfather, and actually travelled to the places his story took place in.

Speaking of voices, do you have audio recordings of family history? Or videos? (Other ways of adding video can be found on https://en.support.wordpress.com/videos/).

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.

Image of YouTube block.

If there are particular stories one might want to share, it’s also possible to turn a site into a hard-copy book for others.

Family Book

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.

You can do this using PayPal on a free site:

PayPal in draft

PayPal published

Or by using Simple Payments if you have a Premium or Business Plan:

Simple Payment editor
Simple payment final

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.

Poll setup

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.

User Role options

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.

User Roles explained

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.

Publicize

Sharing

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.

You can also create a newsletter for the family. Or highlight a podcast.

With upgrades, you can use plugins to embed and expand family trees or share information from some genealogy software you use. You can even get a domain that ends in .family 🙂

In this session I wanted to highlight could be done for free.

If you have ideas to share or questions on something you are wondering about implementing, please let me know in the comments. 🙂

Using Google Photos – One of my Favorite Tools for Blogging

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.

Thankful for Breaks

I’m six “thanks” behind for the month, and I’m thankful that it’s okay 🙂 There’s one of the six, haha. There have been many thanks over the past few days, but I was busy living life and enjoying time with family and didn’t have as much time to write. So this is a six-in-one post to get myself back on track.

I am thankful for:

One:

As noted, the ability to take breaks from work and writing to be with family.

Two:

Finishing a 11.5 hr workday on Tuesday to find the dishwasher loaded with the Christmas mugs from the year prior — so they would be all set for our holiday celebrations with the kids, who were arriving that night.

Christmas mug and decorations.

Three:

Listening to my mother-in-law playing hymns on the keyboard. She also plays the organ in church, and I love hearing her at home as well.

Mom playing the organ.

Four:

Having Star come to visit. She lives with the kids now, and it’s great to see her so happy with them, but it’s fun having here back here, too.

Five:

Video Calling. Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Facebook Video, whatever. It just makes the holidays and other times all the more fabulous when you can actually see your loved ones even though they live across the country or world.

Six:

Gutenberg. Yes, I know this one is not everyone’s favorite, but I personally love blogging with the new WordPress block editor. I find it a LOT easier to organize my thoughts and portray them on the page as I visualize them in my head.

Highlighted Blog #24 – Kat’s Thoughts

Often I will curl up on a day off and read through blogs. I particularly love reading a nice long blog post that broadens my world. Kat’s blog is one of my favorites for this. Through her writing, I gain insight into novels and get to armchair travel and learn about the world.

Trois-Pistole is a small town a few hours away north from Montreal. It is located on the shore of the Saint-Laurence river close where it falls into the ocean. Almost everything about the area makes you feel like you are at the seaside – the fresh salty air, the water full of seaweed, the seals […]

via Kayaking In Trois-Pistole — Kat’s Thoughts