Making Things Again

For the past few years I’ve either been maintaining existing products at work, or working on compatibility with complementary products like making themes WooCommerce compatible.

This year I had the opportunity to work on something new, building something from scratch, and seeing as I’m still part of our theming team at Automattic, naturally it was a theme 🙂

We released 6 new themes, all with a similar but slightly different feel. They are aimed at creators of business websites, but as you can see, I’m using the Calm Business theme on this site!

Go check them out on WordPress.com – I’m pretty proud of what our team created, and the designs by Takashi are superb!

One last thing, they ALL support the new WordPress Block Editor! 😀

Out of Control

A recent, let’s call it a debate for the sake of giving it a name, led to a few heated words on Facebook. Assumptions flew left right and centre, and I’m completely guilty of that, and I’m pretty sure that there are at least 3 people pissed off with each other.

And you know what? I’m ok with that.

Empathy

The original point of what I put up was to encourage listening in order to practice empathy. That’s something that has been encouraged heavily at my employer in order to understand our customers better. It’s also been a wonderful tool to use when working with others. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to appreciate what it can accomplish if done properly.

Sadly in this case, that point seems to have gone largely unnoticed. Which brings me to the title of this post.

Social Disengagement

A lot of people have a lot of opinions about guns. (cue divisive thoughts)

And from what I’ve seen recently, it seems to be pretty much out of control on social platforms. A lot of these platforms have furthered the problem of disengagement, because they allow throwaway comments without allowing proper engagement.

In other words; less listening, more trolling.

On the post I put up there was only ONE person who actually addressed the point I tried and ultimately failed to make. And that person actually made an awesome point, they simply asked that

if by listening does it mean that the people you are listening to are experts?

That’s a great point and one worth discussing.

And perhaps that’s something we should all ask ourselves.

Are we so much of an expert on gun control, do we know everything about the left and the right, whose data is the best, and if listening to others matters?

I dunno, maybe perhaps this is the point:

who knows if you’ll even listen to this post?

Taking Breaks: 1 Week In

Well, 1 week into my break from Social Media and I thought I’d give an update/perspective on how it’s gone so far.

It’s been tough. I’ve found myself open a new tab in my browser and start typing the letters face… and then quickly close the tab. I’ve found the same thing on my phone, I’ve opened the FB app up a few times and realised, hang on, I shouldn’t be in here, and quickly hit the home button 🙂 Instagram has been the worst to leave alone, as well as Twitter. When the hell did I become so addicted to these platforms?

But the bottom line is, as the days go by, it’s becoming easier to ignore, I spend less time on my mobile and on non productive websites, and I’m feeling happier to be honest. I even found some time to go a music shop last week! That almost never happens these days.

Overall, things are looking positive, and I’m anticipating a better week avoiding the social stuff this week.

Social Media, Distractions, and Taking Breaks

I’ve been using social media pretty much every day of my life for the past 8 years, and I’ve been growing slowly dissatisfied with how much it has encroached into my life I’ve let it encroach into my life.

I have accounts with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, Youtube, LinkedIn, and who knows what else I’ve forgotten. And then there’s the work stuff which is essential, namely Slack and our internal p2’s.  The load of information is just immense if you combine personal and professional.

The problem with information, is that often it’s just noise. Very often, distracting noise. And I don’t like distracting noise, but often I get suckered into spending time there when I should be doing other things, like;

Spending time with my family.

Praying.

Connecting with my friends.

Working.

Relaxing.

So, I’m taking the month of August off from my personal social stuff. Don’t expect me to reply to anything on Facebook or Twitter, pretty much the only thing I’ll reply to of my personal stuff is my email, Whatsapp, and taking phone calls. I might read a few things once a week, but the only personal stuff I’ll be doing is blogging here.

I used to wake up in the mornings and be excited to read my Bible. Like an actual paper Bible, not some app on my phone. Now I just spend way too much time on Facebook, and stupid things like that. It was so much more fulfilling before all this.

So anyways, this is my attempt at detoxing from the social media world for a bit 🙂 See you on the other side!

Parting note: I love tech but I can allow it to takeover large chunks of my life at times, so no hating on social media platforms from me 😉

Canvas Theme for WordPress

As some of you may know, I work over at Automattic on WooThemes themes within the Themes Team. My primary project is the Canvas Theme. I’m currently in the middle of making it even more awesome, and I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is and set it to be this site’s theme of choice.

I previously used The One Pager, and it was great for a while, but I no longer want to generate leads from the site – I’m just going to be blogging for a while 🙂

So sit back, enjoy the posts, and keep an eye out for some cool updates coming to Canvas soon!

Thoughts on 2015

Yes, I know, another year in review type post…but for me this year has been profound in a variety of different ways.

Today I finish up my 2015 working year, and return in early Jan, but it’s also the end of the first 6 months since Automattic acquired WooThemes. It’s been quite a time of nostalgia for me, particularly yesterday when some framed photos of each year’s WooTrip arrived at the Cape Town office.

It’s funny how after 6 years so much has changed. I look at that photo of the 6 of us, and even though only 4 are still around, it’s pretty crazy and extremely humbling to see what has been accomplished since then.

Woo Photos
Woo Photo wall, I’m furtherest on the left in the top left framed picture.

 

When I joined Woo, WooCommerce was merely a thought, no code, just an idea. And we wondered when we would get to it. It’s funny how a single product can change a business and capture the embrace of a community.

It hasn’t been all roses to be honest over the past 2 years for me. There have been times where I’ve been unsure of things and my future, but I’ve sought prayer and wise counsel throughout and I’m grateful for those people in my life.

Probably the biggest change this year for me was the shift away from doing additional freelance work (outside of Woo). I did freelance work mostly for fun and if there were interesting projects, not as a “have to”. But looking back, I probably took on more than I should have, and that sucks.

It’s been well documented by several people that Automattic has a COI policy – and, I don’t think it’s bad, I actually think it’s great. For me, I’m pretty drained at the end of my work day these days, and I don’t want to see a screen! I just want to relax with my family, pickup my guitar, have a swim, see my friends, basically detach from the world of tech.

This has been a massive mindshift.

I used to be “always on” but now I try to focus all my energy during my work day and detach after hours. The funny thing about that, is I’ve found I’m a lot more productive these days. I feel more focused at work, I get more sleep, and I’ve built a more meaningful relationship with my wife and daughter.

All in all, it’s been a tough year (in a good way), but has been a very rewarding year. I honestly feel proud of what I’ve been part of accomplishing at Woo, and now at Automattic, how things have changed for me personally, and the outlook for 2016. It’s an exciting time and I’m looking forward to connecting again next year, whether it’s online or in person.

So, for now, I’m signing off. Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year period.

See you later!

Fixing Features First

I’ve always been fascinated by people who simply complain about things that are within their power to change, yet they don’t seem willing to actually make that change.

It’s like complaining about your countries president, and then not turning up to vote.

I’ve seen this often in the WordPress world, recently specifically about XML-RPC, and a few of those complaining haven’t contributing jack squat to core (other than conversations)

Something I don’t like about core is how authentication works with the WP-API. But…I’m actually trying, in my own time, to see if I can figure it out before I go wading into deep waters of emotional conversation on make.wordpress.org – too often people weigh in about features without checking their emotions or before attempting/suggesting a solution.

As a long time plugin and theme developer I appreciate customers who have tried to solve the problem first before complaining at me. I happily apologise when things are broken, but I’ll always go the extra mile for those who have shown initiative!

Perhaps rather try a fix first next time?

 

Native vs Hybrid

2 weeks ago I went to our annual Automattic grand meetup in Park City, Utah. It was a great experience, of which I will write about soon 🙂 But one of the cool things I did there was to take a class – an intro to iOS development with Swift.

I enjoyed the class and it was good to do something different from PHP and JavaScript, but more than that it helped me define something I have had trouble with for a while. And to be honest, I liked the style of how Swift coding works, it reminded me of my C# coding days – yes, I love C# more than PHP/JS even though I don’t actively use it anymore (cue haters)

I’ve been using Ionic to tinker with apps for a while now, and my role at WooThemes is primarily working in JavaScript. But, what I’ve been wondering is whether or not to make the switch to using native SDK’s for building free iOS apps.

My conclusion is that it really doesn’t make sense unless I want extreme control over memory allocation, as from what I can tell, getting an app up and running using a framework like Ionic, or React, would simply take so much less time, with no real performance differences, and most importantly it would leverage my existing JavaScript strengths.

So for now I’m going to stick with JavaScript for building iOS/Android apps – here’s to a 2015 release! 😀

Joining Automattic

After the recent acquisition of WooThemes by Automattic, I’ve officially accepted an offer from Automattic to be part of their team as part of the acquisition.

And so ends my 6 year journey with WooThemes, yet it carries on as I’ll still be working on WooThemes products like FlexSlider for the foreseeable future. Follow me on Github for any open source stuff I do in the future.

What does change is my involvement in side projects.

So, I’m officially making my jQuery plugin free as of 1 July 2015, and I’ll be selling off a bunch of my WordPress and software related domains and websites.

I’m also going to do a complete refresh of this site, the content will remain but it will be more blog focused, specifically on WordPress and JavaScript.

Here is a list of stuff for sale, preferably to people wanting to carry on with what I had envisioned for the sites, I’ll add links as soon as they go up for auction, mostly on Flippa.com

  1. GPLCode.com – Bid Now to Own!
  2. GPLMarketplace.com
  3. CapeGospel.com
  4. JoinWP.com
  5. WPJoin.com

Jeff.runs()

So recently I’ve taken up running. Not as a form of escapism as some people do, but more as a by product of becoming healthier and staying in shape. I’ve been on and off at the gym over the last year, and I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed my time on the treadmill more than any other activity.

I set a goal to do a half marathon next year sometime, most likely the 2 Oceans (my sister did an epic run this year of the ultra marathon, coming 70th!!) and today was the start of my journey. I ran the 10km Gun Run today, and had a great time! I managed to smash the goal I set, I was aiming for a sub 60 minute run and ended up doing a 53:11!!

The nice thing is I have experienced family members who I can chat to for advice as they’ve pretty much done every kind of half marathon there is! And after taking my uncle’s advice today – I ended up improved my overall time by 6 minutes – that’s massive.

So…as with most of my posts, there’s a little lesson at the end, and so I would encourage everyone to get advice from experienced people, and then try it out! You might be surprised at the result!