Little corners

“You loved September Issue? I didn’t know you were into fashion.”

I’m not. I just love hearing stories and learning about things I don’t know much about. A documentary about the making of the September issue of Vogue was fascinating to me. I’ve watched it a half dozen times.

I’ve always worked at tech companies and been surrounded by people who think that getting ahead means you have to follow all the cool thought leaders on Twitter, read all the books on how to increase productivity and be a better manager, meditate every day, share all the articles with coworkers, listen to the advice of the Tim Ferris’ of the world, and try all the apps. Keeping up with all that is too much and trying to do so won’t make you better at your job. I think that staying in our own tech little bubble is harmful and it stifles creativity.

Instead, take a look around outside the industry for inspiration. Get a glimpse into a little corner of the world you haven’t ever visited, learn about new sub cultures, or anything new or niche. This can be in the form of physical travel, a non work-related book, or my favorite source: Netflix documentaries. I have a collection of the latter below with a brief summary and how I related to each.

Some of my favorites

  • September Issue is a documentary about the making of the September issue of Vogue magazine. I love everything about it, especially Anna Wintour and learning about Grace’s job and seeing the amazing photographs she produces. I learned the importance of editing, saying no, and killing your darlings.
  • Indie Game tells the stories of a few independent video game designers. I don’t play any video games and never really have, but seeing how these people worked and what they had to go through to create and launch their games on their own was really eye opening. I can now relate better to some of my video gamer co-workers 🙂
  • First Position is a documentary about group ballet dancers from all over the world who are trying to turn their passion into a career that pays money. I learned that ballet clothing companies make clothes that cater to light skinned people and the young woman from Sierra Leone in the film has to make her own modifications. Diversity and inclusion isn’t only a tech issue.
  • Barkley marathons is this totally bonkers trail running race that takes place in Virginia. The guy that started and “runs” it is a chain smoker and changes the entry fee based on what he needs more of; for example – a white button down shirt. Also, the race is 100 miles long, not marked, the start time is random, and only 16 people have ever finished it. Brutal! But I did learn some things about people and project management, mostly what not to do.
  • Piece of Work shows a behind the scenes look of the late comedian Joan Rivers. Everyone always focuses on her face and profanity, but this documentary shows her as a real, hilarious, workaholic human. Comedians user test their jokes! 
  • Bonus: Truther Love is a super wild Longreads story about a truther online dating site. There’s someone for everyone.

Balance the thought leader blog posts with something outside the tech realm. Get out and find a new little corner of the world and you just might be surprised.

Looking forward

One year turning into the next is exciting. I feel filled with hope and reenergized. It’s not about resolutions; I don’t really make goals. If I want to do something, I’ll just do it. It’s more about the feeling of knowing there’ll be new places to explore, relationships to grow, things to make, ideas to form, and lessons to learn.

Cheers 🎊

Sketch notes from WordCamp Denver

I went to my first WordCamp this weekend in Denver. What’s a WordCamp?

WordCamps are informal, community-organized events that are put together by WordPress users. Everyone from casual users to core developers participate, share ideas, and get to know each other.

It was a great to see coworkers from far away places and talk to real live users and developers of WordPress and especially WooCommerce. I also sat in on quite a few talks and sketched some notes on my iPad.

CritiquePress
Sonja Leix and Meg Delagrange critiqued websites that were submitted by a few brave conference-goers.

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eCommerce Townhall
Caleb Burks of WooCommerce and Pippin Williamson of Easy Digital Downloads answered any and all questions the audience had about eCommerce and selling things online.

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Accessibility Testing
Robert Jolly gave a great talk about accessibility and testing for WordPress development.

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Marketing and Growth Townhall
Tracy Malone and Amber Hinds answered everyone’s marketing questions.

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Forms that Don’t Suck
Steve Wells and Jessica Wittmier told us how to engage users with forms that aren’t terrible.

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Business Townhall
And Vi Wickam, Miles Kailburn, D’nelle Dowis, and Gordon Seirup ended the first day with a great Q&A about all things business.

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design.blog

At Automattic, we have an online design magazine at design.blog. It’s something that our Head of Design, John Maeda created and it has become a joint effort across all the designers and design lovers I work with.

Every Thursday we publish a new issue, which involves 2-3 articles from design leaders and a brand new homepage created by an Automattic designer. This week, it was my turn! I used the Paper app on the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil to illustrate the cover. It was really fun and actually made me want to get back to my ink and watercolors doodles.

Design.blog cover:

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Individual images:

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Press:

Turn your brain off

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I turn my brain off.

I was recently explaining my strategy when mountain biking  up a seemingly endless hill. I ignore the voice in my head that says to stop the second it becomes too hard. I only stop after its nagged me a few times. This helps me get better at climbing and eventually I’ll only have to stop three times on the way to the top. And then two. And then one day I’ll make it up without stopping at all. 🙌

I do a version of this while descending. I try to only brake a little bit after my scared brain wants* to. Then I try to add a bit more time to that. And then a tiny bit more. This is my way of getting a faster and also helps me become more confident to shred the downhill sections, through rock gardens, around berms, over drops, or whatever comes my way.

Easy to say, hard to do.

*Notice it says ‘wants’ and not ‘needs’. I’m not trying to hurt myself. I’ve done that already

Apex Park

More mountain biking with coworkers! This time we parked our cars strategically so we got to bomb downhill. Michael ate some dirt, but otherwise it was a great time.

Cuteness, in all its versatility

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Loved the gorgeous trail views of North Table Mesa and Denver in the distance from this ride, so good! There were good falls had, and I learned to bunnyhop while a bunny hopped by… omgwhatsocute.

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Hail on a Mountaintop in Evergreen

My coworkers Sheri and Chris were in town for a meetup and stayed a few extra days. She took some great pictures when we all went mountain biking in Evergreen at Three Sisters with Michael and Emi.

Cuteness, in all its versatility

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This ride involved an almost immediate fall on my part 🙂 and hail at the top of the mountain which I didn’t mind at all. Oh, and Cactus Jack’s pretzel bites are a must.

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