Saturday, October 30, 2010 in site stuff

feed issues

If you have no idea what an RSS feed is, you can skip this post.

If you are subbed to my blog at atypicalife.net/blog/ then you may have been experiencing excruciatingly slow updates to the feed. That’s cuz I , uh, sorta moved the blog, internally… even though it technically exists at the same address. the feed, however, does not.

Oops.

I updated feedburner to reflect this, and hopefully if you had subbed to that, it sorted things out for you. If not, then please re-sub to this feed address:

http://atypicalife.net/feed/

It should redirect you to the Feedburner one anyway, then we’ll all be happy.

Or something.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 in I'm a computer geek

Things I learned in Open Source

There’s a few things I’ve learned over the past couple of years or so because of my direct work with volunteering to contribute to WordPress, and more specifically, WordPressMU.

For those of you who stumbled in here, hi. :) This is my personal not-work, not-WordPress blog. For my regular readers and family members whose eyes glaze over when I tell them what I do, a little background:

This blog runs on WordPress. Specifically, WordPress MU, the version that allows you to have multiple blogs. I spend a significant amount of time volunteering by helping people out. I answer forum posts mostly, I write some blogs posts, and our money-making is because we (Ron & I) get hired by people who have questions about wpmu or need us to set things up for them. WordPress is software known as Open Source. Anyone can contribute. Yes, anyone, even you. Yes, it gets checked over first. Most of the people writing each new version are unpaid.

I’ve been a long time user of WordPress. I was one of the many who switched from Movable Type 2.5 when they changed their licensing, and I haven’t looked back. So I started as a curious user, much like the readership of this blog. Some would say, “But Andrea, you’re smart and geeky, so you have a leg up already!” Yeah, and I’m married to Ron, so maybe I have a couple of “unfair advantages” but to me, if someone else wanted to get where I am now, they can too. And especially if you are a woman – we need more in the community.

I remember the first time I wandered in to the WordPress forums. It was a veritable snake pit of geek pissing matches. Flame-proof suits needed to be worn at all times. Word from above was generally a shrug and a “the community will work itself out” and for the most part it does. And yes, sometimes I’ve given just as good as gotten.

But eventually I became involved in higher-up conversations with popular and recognizable names and discussed things like, “How can we make newcomers more welcome? How can we make this area more helpful?” Aside from the trying not to freak right the heck out because you’re having a work-related conversation with someone you have long admired from afar and wished for a chance to even speak to, let alone have them recognize you, and also trying not to think of this is something affecting roughly twenty million sites, well – the pressure and immediate need kicks in and you just get down to it. Because it’s for the good of all, really, and you do realize that even little ol’ you can actually… help.

Huh. Imagine that. Even me, a stay-at-home homeschooling mom in the wilds of New Brunswick, Canada, can affect change.

So what can YOU do? If you’re using WordPress and can get around fair enough, you know enough to help someone. And if you’ve been hanging around the edges of the Cool Kids table, are drinking the kool-aid (mmm purple) here’s some insider tips on how to be a productive contributor.

1. Check your ego at the door. Remember the cartoon, “on the internet nobody knows you’re a dog”? Yeah. If you show up in the middle of something like a forum post a dev chat or whatever, those in charge don’t know you from a hole in the ground. Just showing up is not enough. You are judged on your contributions to the project itself and how you behave in the community, nothing else.

2. Try to minimize the fangirl squeeing. I have done this myself, and yes, it’s hard not to gush. take cues from the other person. Are they reserved? Be reserved. maybe allows a bit to shine through and keep it to a couple of sentences if you want them to know how awesome you think they are.

Weirdly, being on the other side of this is.. uncomfortable. My mom thinks I’m awesome too, but she’s my mom. having met other people I consider to be famous, and see them to be real people (just like me!), relate to them as if they were… you know… just like you. Because they are.

On the other hand, if I’m jazzed to meet you and you’re jazzed to met me? AWESOME! Squee-fest ahoy!

3. Don’t be married to the code. If you can actually code and you submit a patch, people will look it over. Actually, they will rip it apart and examine it within an inch of its life. They may kill it, change it and rewrite the entire thing. And even if you write the most poetic code in the history of code, someone, somewhere will find a problem with it. (even if they are crazy). So don’t take it personal.

If you look at your code and think it’s crap, but maybe it might help, submit it anyway. Coders also love to teach other coders. Set your code free.

Also, there may be a section of the code you love and adore. It will invariably be rewritten. Open source is an evolving, ever-changing thing.

Okay, maybe weep in your beer for an hour, but then get over it. Move on.

4. Don’t be That Guy. Yeah, that one. If you get someone’s attention, try not to monopolize it. If someone is helping, offer something in return. Say thank you.

If you have a beef, try to keep it professional. If you disagree, fine. State it appropriately, name your concern, outline how you feel it should be addressed, find the proper channels. People do not respond to anger, threats and ranting.

That works for anything, really.

5. Be awesome. I’m sure you’ve thought at some point “wouldn’t it be awesome if..”? Well, if it’s something you think you can do, however small, then do so. It will help someone at some point.

My other internal rule is if I’m about to post something because I’m ticked off, I go do something else instead.

6. Watch and learn. Or, more importantly, show others with your attitude that you are willing to learn, because they are willing to teach. Stand back and observe things like dev chats first, before diving in and responding at every comment.

If you don’t know code, that’s okay too. be willing to learn something. I code like I speak French: terribly. But I learned where to find what I needed, I learned how to read code, if not write it, so when I copy/paste code and it borks I can fumble around and figure out why.

Je parle encore français terriblement, même si je peux lire un peu.

7. We all have a say, so say something. Majority usually rules, and sometimes it’s the same old voices screaming in the wilderness. New perspectives are needed all the time.

Practical things you can do at any level to help WordPress:
– Help someone else where you can. If a friend of your has a WordPress issue and you think you can help solve it, do so. Even if it’s just showing them how to use something or helping them find somewhere to get help. We all started somewhere, so if all you know how to do is update your blog, you are still ahead of some people.
– Write. Figured out how to do something? Write a blog post about it. Chances are, it will help someone reading or searching.
– Write docs. So many people do not realize the WordPress Codex is editable by *anyone*, yes even you, just like Wikipedia. if you see outdated information, please login and update it. Someone will check it over. It takes far less time to correct a page you see outdated than it will to make a forum post complaining someone should fix it.
– Rate and mark plugins. In the official repo, there are sections on the right side to mark a plugin as working or not in whatever version. If you can take a few minutes and mark these, it helps everyone.
– Say thank you. if you have a favorite theme or plugins, take the time to find the author and even leaving a comment to say “Thanks, I love this!” is worth ten times the amount of comments they get saying “Help! It broke! Fix! Now!”. (I’ve loosely paraphrased an actual email here.)

In the end, this is free software. You have the freedom to use it how you wish, and you are not obligated in any way to contribute anything back. If you are interested, I hope I’ve given enough tips here to inspire you. All they cost is a bit of time and the rewards are many indeed. In the end, what makes WordPress so great is not just the core team – their jobs are made infinitely harder with no feedback and no contributions from people just like you and me. And, like us, this is where they started too.

Sunday, November 22, 2009 in I'm a computer geek

Trip wrap up Day 1

Before I forget it all and the family gets sick of hearing me re-tell it, I have to take the time to write down all the little tiny parts of my trip. Other than waiting in airports, it went fast. NYC is go go go all the time.

Sunset at the airport

So we sat in the Bangor airport for a while, then got hurried onto the plane in record time. Our original flight had been canceled, so we were taking a side-trip to Philidelphia, and then another plane to NY. It was kinda rocky. Spent some time in the Philly airport. It was meh. Angry grumpy people everywhere, but the weather is not the ticket counter lady’s fault, buddy.

Then we walked out onto the tarmac into the wind and some rain to get on the dinky plane. Everyone move on back, there’s only seven passengers and we have to weight down the back. By this time I’m tired and woozy, so  when we are up in the air, rollicking away, and I see the stewardess twirling her hair furiously, then smacking herself in the head – well I just closed my eyes and prayed real hard.

view

The hotel was this artsy-fartsy one that looked like your crazy aunt with a serious art fetish decided to try her hand at the hotel business, just for kicks. Our room was slightly bigger than the one we have here at home. The bathroom reminded me of one of the later scenes in Sid & Nancy. Had a great view of the alley, and the place was across the street from the Museum of Sex. Welcome to New York.

hotel bathroom

Morning came far too early, but by the time we wandered to the front door we saw people we knew. So we desperately clung to them… er, I mean tagged along… as they found the nearest Starbucks. The heavens opened and the angel choir sang. We made our way to Baruch college, and I’m glad we had people to walk with, as the buildings are so tall it’s disorienting not seeing where the sun is. I would have gone speeding off confidently in the wrong direction.

So – college halls, crowds of people showing up milling around the registration room, door not open. “HI!” “OMG!” Not enough time, too many people, hot beverages in hand. Doors open, the rush occurs. Find the right table to register at, more hellos and ohmygoodnesses and smiles, big huge smiles all around. Hugs galore.

Ron and I exit as soon as we can, I’m up first and we need some quiet. I get all settled, look at the half-dozen people in the room and panic out loud. “Oh God, I was worried there’d be tons of people in a huge room. What if this is all there is?” no worries, they tell me – Opening remarks are going on, people are still in registration, and fair enough – in about five minutes the room starts filling. And filling.

My room

I pace myself slower than usual only to find about halfway through I need to go way faster. We speed thru the rest. :D Some people leave, some people arrive, as I have another session hot on the heels of the first one. Then I am done and realize that I’m starving and I need to pee. Ron has enough time to relax before his session, so we find a quiet place to sit. A guy I had been talking to by email joins us to give an overview of his site. One guy pases by and does a double-take back to give me his card (“We’ll talk later!”) and another joins at the end after Ron heads to his presentation.

Ron discovers he has no slides though, and does his presentation off the top of his head, with only his three headings to go by. Miraculously, he manages and people get something out of it. I can’t even remember what we did next, other than talk, but eventually we made it back downstairs for lunch to find most of the food gone. While Ron excuses himself, I stand in line for a coffee with a sandwich for me, and manage to snag a kosher sandwich for Ron. “Here,” I say handing it to him, “you’re Jewish.”

While in line, another person outlines his idea for his site. We find a place to sit and again, we eat while this guy talks. Somewhere in there, someone not in my session mentions they saw on Twitter that my sessions seemed to be really good. OMG, I say to myself, I forgot all about twitter. I hope online and check out the backchannel, following the conference tweets. I blush furiously with no one to see me.

The rest of the afternoon Ron and I attend different sessions, which in hindsight was not a good idea given we had no direct communication between us, and the sessions were scattered between floors 5, 8, 11 and 13. Toss in every time I went somewhere, I found a new person to talk to that wanted to talk to me too. :D

But finally, we are all aligned, get back with a group and go back to the hotel. We call home & get them to call us right back ($2 right there).

After that, we ditch our coats and go to a bar. Yes, Ron & I went to a bar. We had food though, and more talking, this time with fellow devs, and eventually found out where the rest of the crowd was on the roof. Far less hot & noisy up there. And, you know, it was the roof. Great time on the roof because it’s just our crowd and we can hear. The city is gorgeous, the buildings climbing into the foggy clouds, full with raindrops and mistily blurring the lights up high. It’s picturesque to degrees I can’t even explain. Various big names are leaning on the railing with the NYC light in the background and my camera was back at the hotel. On purpose. I was enjoying the moment and participating in it, instead of capturing it.

But still, even now, one teeny tiny part of me wishes I had captured just one picture. :) Not just because of any “OMG, I got a picture of Matt/Mark/Andy!” but because it was just so gosh-darn photogenic and would have made and awesome picture.

My voice was giving out and Ron & I were both tired, so we leave early and head back to the hotel to try and get some rest. I fall asleep watching Mythbusters.

Thus endeth the first day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 in I'm a computer geek, working at home & loving it

In a word: awesome

So much to tell you , and I’m not even sure where to start.

In our daily work day, we use a branch of WordPress called WordPress MU. It has mainly one dev, a guy in Ireland called Donncha. He has a blog here, and a really nice photoblog here. Over the past couple of years both Ron and I have become friends with him, as well as a few other people who work for Automattic, the company that runs wordpress.com (the hosted version of wordpress). They were in Quebec for a semi-annual retreat/meeting and since it was within what we’re willing to drive, we dropped in. (Well, D asked us if we’d like to as well…. we don’t normally go around crashing parties. Though the cookies probably helped.)

Being able to do this?
This was fun
Awesome.

And this part?
Ron, me, and Matt
Awesome.

The guy sitting there on the right, if you don’t recognize him, is Matt Mullenweg.

We stood around and talked an awful lot about work. It was pretty epic. There’s something inspirational and motivating about the energy of being around people who truly love what they do. We met a lot of other fabulous people, some of whom said, “Oh I’ll see you in New York, too.”

That’s right – Ron & I are also going to New York in November to speak at WordCamp NYC.

And that’s awesome.

Meaghan and Emma went with us, and Emma handed out quite a few Free Hugs, which everyone thought was awesome. Me getting only one pic of a hug? Not so much on the awesome side. :D

I know this is a brief post, and I am skimming over quite a few details. Some for privacy reasons, but mostly because I know if I start then I’ll head on over to the Freaking Out portion of my brain.

Like I did when I was telling my mom on the phone Sunday. :D I can freak out about things after we come back from New York.

Plus? When you meet people you look up to and admire and they say, “Oh, I know you! You’re famous!” well, that is all kinds of awesome.

And more than a little strange. :D

(NEW YORK! I am going to New York City, in Manhattan, to speak at what is shaping up to be a large conference. WOW.)

Thursday, April 3, 2008 in I'm a computer geek

Tech talk

I’m about to start my work day again, in between laundry loads, checking the stove and feeding people. Looking up at my list on the whiteboard, I realized I juggle about 6 clients at once. A couple are long-term and the rest float in and out as things come up. I’m finally making some huge progress on some things, with a lot of it finishing up at the same time. There’s some vastly different sites I’ve been working on, all really cool implementations. Also? I think I’m getting used to saying “web developer” when someone asks me what I do.

You know, in addition to all that other stuff. :D

Havign said all that, when it comes to clients and other websites I work on, it’s much easier to start with an existing theme for wordpress and tweak around that. I’ve wanted to try out some premium themes for a while now, but don’t have the funds to do so. One designer, named Addi, is running a contest to give away a developer’s license for his themes – worth $500.

Can you imagine the havoc I’d wreak with that? :D

All I have to do is write and entry and link back to him and I’m entered in the contest. I could have put this over in my other blog, WPMU Tutorials, but I have some readers here who also may be interested, or just curious. Speaking of WordPressMU, I really want to try out one of the Original Premium News theme as a main blog page on WPMU-based system. I think it would work perfectly as a portal to the rest of the site and the member blogs. Actually, the rest of the themes make me think of all sorts of sites I could use them on…

Contest closes on my birthday too! I think that’s a sign.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 in I'm a computer geek, linky love

The $5 theme club giveaway!

For the WordPress users in my audience, I have an interesting giveaway today. Small Potatoes is a great theme designer who recently started a paid theme club. Over the next year, he will release at least one new theme a month to club members. His themes are good. Really good – both in design and coding.

The best part? The theme club is only FIVE BUCKS.

Even better?

There’s a giveaway contest! But hold your clicks, you don’t have to go anywhere – I have FIFTY – that’s right, 50 – free memberships to give away. Leave me a comment saying how much you love new themes, and I’ll send you the details. Isn’t this awesome? Tell all your friends and link to me if you can to help get to word out.

And if he ever gets to this end of Canada, SP is already invited to stop in so I can feed him. Poor boy is too skinny, working so hard.

Note: if your blog is hosted at WordPress.COM, you can’t upload your own themes there. not even with a paid upgrade. You need a self-hosted version of WordPress to install more themes.