Pound of Obscure

I first came across the idea of making work visible in Jim McGee‘s 2002 blog post Knowledge work as craft work, and the idea of “working out loud” in Bryce Williams‘ blog post When will we Work Out Loud? Soon! I have used both as guides not only in how I get my own work done but in helping others understand how to get the most out of Enterprise Social Networks.

Author John Stepper developed these ideas further in his 2014 blog post, The 5 elements of working out loud, and even further in his recent book, Working Out Loud: For a better career and life.  I have a feeling this book will join those other posts as guides to how I get work done. 

I encourage you to read the book, and to keep up with John over at his website. If you’re not convinced by this brief testimonial, check out John’s recent talk at TEDx Navesink.

 

Working Out Loud – a book, a movement, a way of life

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Ounce of Perception

The dividend of progress

In the lead up to the last US Presidential election (2012) I wrote a post entitled If the government were run like a business… in which I asked (and somewhat answered with more questions):

Most importantly, where do citizens fit into this model? … It seems reasonable to say that citizens are the shareholders, but what is their investment? How do you measure return on that investment? Are all citizens/shareholders equal, or do some hold more “shares” than others?

With the presumptive Republican nominee being who he is, the question of government as a business has been on my mind again, although this time around I’ve got a bit more reading and thinking on the subject under my belt. I still don’t have any answers, but I’ve got some more ideas I want to explore.

The title of this post was prompted by something that author Rutger Bregman said during an interview on the radio program To The Best of Our Knowledge – which, as I mentioned yesterday, includes several great stories about the future of work in the context of economics – specifically (and this is a paraphrase):

The universal basic income (UBI) is the dividend of progress

This frames the citizen (we’ll keep it at that for now) as a shareholder in the country. The citizen’s investment is whatever they contribute to the progress of the country; be that in a regular job, as an investor, or maybe as a volunteer. The return  on that investment – to the country – is the progress that results from their investment; in some cases this will be the creation of a product, an increase in treasure, or a service that improves infrastructure. (These are, obviously, very basic and simplistic examples.)

utopiaRealistsWhich, in the end, means that every shareholder – every citizen – receives a dividend, in this case as a Universal Basic Income. Yes, everyone. Including the wealthy. Of course, their contribution of treasure will increase as well, which will allow those contributing in non-financial ways (yes, those are valid, too!) to continue to make their own contributions to the success and progress of the country.

But but but…. That’s <gasp> re dist ri bu tion of wealth. Isn’t it? It all depends on how you define wealth, I guess, and at what level you consider the distribution and redistribution. (fwiw, I am likely making a complete mess of Bregman’s arguments and points, since I haven’t yet read the book on which this interview was based, Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-Hour Workweek; it’s on my Kindle waiting to be read.)

As it turns out I had been reading some stories and interviews about Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, this past weekend as I attended WordCamp STL 2016 and came across this quote from WordPress creator and Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg

We just look at the company as a whole. Maybe there’s a team of 4 people that throws off like $10 or $15 million in revenue. Or maybe there’s a team of 40 people that barely makes any money, or loses $10 or $15 million. Things basically balance out between them.

— An extended interview with WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg

So maybe it’s not a perfect analogy / comparison, but I can’t help thinking that Matt – and Rutger and many many others – just may be onto something here.

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Pound of Obscure

Some inspiration for the day.

 

Hold your fire —
Keep it burning bright
Hold the flame
‘Til the dream ignites —
A spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission

I hear their passionate music
Read the words
That touch my heart
I gaze at their feverish pictures
The secrets that set them apart

When I feel the powerful visions
Their fire has made alive
I wish I had that instinct —
I wish I had that drive

Spirits fly on dangerous missions
Imaginations on fire
Focused high on soaring ambitions
Consumed in a single desire

In the grip
Of a nameless possession —
A slave to the drive of obsession —
A spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission…

I watch their images flicker
Bringing light to a lifeless screen
I walk through
Their beautiful buildings
And I wish I had their dreams

But dreams don’t need
To have motion
To keep their spark alive
Obsession has to have action —
Pride turns on the drive

It’s cold comfort
To the ones without it
To know how they struggled —
How they suffered about it

If their lives were
Exotic and strange
They would likely have
Gladly exchanged them
For something a little more plain
Maybe something a little more sane

We each pay a fabulous price
For our visions of paradise
But a spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission…

A spirit with a vision

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Pound of Obscure

Rethinking work

Another interesting hour from To The Best of Our Knowledge.

Rethinking Work

American companies generate a lot of wealth. But Americans aren’t seeing much of it. Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff says that’s because today’s corporations are obsessed with one thing — growth. We’ll find out why our economy’s operating system is broken and how we can fix it, as we rethink work. Also, we’ll explore the six-hour work day and the case for a universal basic income.

I’ve recently completed Rushkoff’s Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus (highly recommended) and Dan Lyons’ Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble is towards the top of my to-read list.

I have been thinking lately about Universal Basic Income, and the interview here with Rutger Bregman has some useful insights. (Which means I’ll need to read his Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-Hour Workweek soon, too.)

The phrase that really jumped out at me, and which will likely become the title of a future blog post, was that “UBI is the dividend of progress”. Ties in nicely with my musings a few years back on the idea, If the government were run like a business…

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Pound of Obscure

WordCampSTL 2016

 

Although this blog is a WordPress blog, it is not a blog about WordPress. At least not exclusively. It is, however, at times a blog about blogging, and the web in general, which inevitably will include some discussion of WordPress and a wide variety of other tools.

wcstl_badgeToday is one of those days as I spend the weekend at Washington University of St. Louis with a hundred or so others interested in learning more about the WordPress platform and how we can use it for fun and/or profit. (Though to be honest, if you are doing it for profit you are probably having a lot of fun as well.)

WordCampSTL 2016 is my second WordCampSTL event, and my third WordCamp event overall, and I’ve been recently attending the WordPress Meetups in St. Louis, so I know a few of the WordPressers in the area. But I always meet someone new and learn something useful, and try to share what I learn. This isn’t going to be a live blog, but I will be updating it throughout the weekend.

Day 2

Why WordPress Works This Way

WordPress Core committer Aaron Jorbin discusses the philosophy behind WordPress and how this drives the project.

When you work as a lifeguard, everyone starts the season at the same time. Onboarding is easy. Real world, no one starts at the same time. Onboarding is tougher.

WordPress has contributors joining the project every day. To work on 12 year old software. You may never write code, but it is useful to understand why it works the way it does.

Contributing is NOT frictionless. There will be conflict. GRIPI

  • Goals. What is everyone’s goal? What is the project’s goal?
  • Roles. Each person’s role needs to be clear, and understood by everyone
  • Information. Does everyone have the info they need?
  • Process. Flow, and everyone must know it.
  • Interpersonal. It’s not interpersonal. Really, it’s not.

80% of the time it is an issue with conflicting goals. We need a unified project philosophy.

Philosophy Driven Development. Instead of test based, or whatever based, development.

WordPress = Democtratize publishing. Goal is not to be the “best”, but to make sure anyone anywhere can publish what they want. The WordPress philosophy:

* Works out of the box, as little config as possible required
* Famous Five Minute Install: an idea, to be able to set it up without technical expertise
* Emoji.
* Design for the majority. And that majority is not technical, so they don’t force tech things on users. But they are available. A solid array of basic features.
* If a majority of people want to off a feature, it shouldn’t be a feature.
* Menus in the customizer. The majority of users want to see changes before they go live.
* WordPress makes decisions, not options. Options are expensive. Too many preferences mean you can’t find any of them.
* Striving for simplicity
* Link pasting – highlight text and paste a URL onto the text (instead of having to go to the add link in editor)
* Deadlines are not arbitrary. Don’t delay a release for that “one-more-feature”, just push it to the next release. Set targets, and stick to it, even if the full feature set isn’t there.
* The vocal minority (the WP Tavern commenters :-)).
* Our Bill of Rights – the freedom to run the program for any purpose, to redistribute it, to modify WordPress and give away, and to study it.

Don’t just study the code, study the philosophy as well.

Business Panel

Moderator Chris Lema, and the audience, asking questions of people from different parts of the WordPress business spectrum, from freelancer to established design/development shops.

What is the biggest business challenge you face on a day to day basis:
* CF – Knowing what to do that day
* MB – Trying to figure out what you need to fix problems
* JH – Balancing customer requirements on schedule and budget with internal requirements for quality
* SP –

Communications
* SP – email to have a record
* JH – uses platform (TeamWork) to track everything. Sometimes you need a real conversation with someone
* MB – Make comms effective and efficient. Standards are important (e.g. onboarding / offboarding)
* CF – actually communicate, even if just “I”ll get back to you”

Biggest estimating mistake
* CF – comes from not understanding the full scope of a project
* MB – unrealistic expectations of time (misjudging dev and scope creep)
* JH – accurate specific scope SOW in writing before the work starts. Customers / clients often don’t read the notes. “I assumed that’s what web sites do.”
* SP – From not having access to customer sites to see scope of updating. Never again.
* Chris Lema – Here’s an example of a mistake: The estimate was just the back end, there was no front end work in the estimate at all.

How do you figure out if you’re ready to hire someone new
* SP – Haven’t brought anyone new, use freelancers, etc. The WP Crowd (http://www.thewpcrowd.com/)
* JH – we only use full time employees. Tend to bring in programmers, then get them up to speed with WordPress.
* MB –
* CF – I can’t say no. I love hiring contractors to help out with things, especially in the WP community.

How do you manage the pipeline
* CF – I suck at managing the pipeline
* MB – weekly meetings to discuss
* JH – “Your current customers are the best source of new business”. Balancing the pipeline, resource management is a challenge. Software – Pipedrive.
* SP – Tell them it will be 3 months before we can start. Referrals.

How do you set your prices?
* SP – line item. good, better, best. Once you have the estimate, push it across the table and be quiet.
* JH – Line item. Hours expected * hourly rate = fixed bid. Everything is custom, but it’s all WordPress, so 80% of an estimate is pretty much standard. The other 20% can be trickier.
* MB – Similar to JH line items for new work. Support is either included in the support aspect of a project or priced separately if it is more than basic support (e.g. requires developer work)
* CF – Flat rate bid, based on estimated hours. But “wild west” projects are fun, when someone calls up and needs something and you just do it and get it done.

Do you sell maintenance with the project( or after the project, or outsource it?
* CF – I let them know I’ll do it, they’ll need to pay for it.
* MB – yes. also try to include education of the clients.
* JH – we offer it, we offer to host it as well. Define in the SOW when the project is finished and maintenance begins. Standard rate and rush rate.
* SP – Yes. “When you get that ‘what is a URL’ client…”. Pipeline.

Payment
* SP – Third, third, third. Work starts on payment, first revision, on launch. No admin access and maintenance page until final payment
* JH – 40/40/20. The initial deposit is non-refundandable. They work with well established agencies, so not too much of an issue.
* MB – Support; if payment stops, support stops. Dev maintenance; work starts when paid
* CF – 50% before I start, but I start anyway (usually).

How big is your margin? (Kind of related to how much non-payment you get)
* CF –
* MB – 20-25%
* JH – 25-30%. A bit more on ongoing maintenance support
* SP – never go below 50%.

Hardening WordPress, Again

An update from Gregory Ray of his Hardening WordPress talk from last year. Winter is Coming, are you prepared?

A lot has happened in the last year. A lot of new things to discuss, but it all comes down to the same basics.

98% of WordPress security vulnerabilities came from 3d party themes and plugins.

Why me? It’s usually not personal, a vulnerable system invites attach. If you are not vulnerable, chances are you won’t see a deliberate attack.

Four aspects of security.

Prevent. A tradeoff between security and convenience. Consider the Aerie in Game of Thrones. Security for WordPress is not just about updating WordPress. Primacy of defense goes from the bottom of the stack (DNS) up. Network Admin -> System Admin -> Site Developer.  So many firewalls (network, server, web app, plugin), troubleshooting can be a bit of a slog; but when they work, they keep attacks away from the WordPress level.

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Protect. If you can’t prevent attacks from getting to WordPress, many steps to protect. Trusted software only, backups, complex passwords, no admin accounts called “admin”. The usual.

Layered permission. Separate users and server accounts, runtime vs. maintenance mode. The 5 minute install and auto updates require that WP can modify itself, you need to make sure permissions are managed. There will always be exceptions, something new breaks something old, etc.

Detect.

Recover.

Day 1

Code Review: Keeping Things Secure, Clean, and Performant

The importance of code review – it’s not “we know better than you”, but more “let’s work together to make sure this is successful.” By Ryan Markel of the WordPress.com VIP team.

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WordPress.com VIP, problem in one client’s theme could cause issues for other clients, or the site as a whole.

Copy pasta

Code reviews aren’t to delay things, but to make sure your launch is successful.

The more we review WordPress code, the better we understand how WordPress works. Code reviews were critical in helping the Calypso team learn and use Javascript.

Pull requests are like built in code review opportunities. No one mergers their own pull request.

Stay positive – comment on the code not the person.

Three reasons for code review:
* Better code,
* more people who understand it,
* self improvement.

Code review needs to become a part of your team culture, not something you only do on special occassions (e.g. major release)

Self code review is possible, but you need to make sure you put some space/time between your editor self and your reviewer self.

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The future of WordPress: five years out

Some words of wisdom from Chris Lema about the future of WordPress. Hint, it’s not the code, it’s the community. (OK, that’s a bit more than a hint.)

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WordPress can only continue to exist if you (WP developers) have a life outside of WordPress. Using WordPress to share your hobbies, to share your life. Don’t think you can’t be a part of it, just realize that you need to spend some time at it. Don’t feel bad you can’t do something immediately, think about what you can do over time.

It is only through this that we can discover what we need WordPress to do. You only find what’s missing when you try to do something you can’t do.

When it’s client work, chances are you’ll be looking for a workaround. If it’s for your hobby, you’re going to figure out how to fix it.

WordPress the code needs WordPress the community.

There is no rule that the better product wins.

Some great stories and flashbacks to technologies and brands that used to be ubiquitous, that people didn’t think were going anywhere. And some discussion of software owned by companies. As opposed to WordPress, the “people’s code”. (nts: that’s a great title for a blog post.)

Learn to say no, so that you have the time and space to have a life, to have a hobby, something you care about. Bring that the WordPress, you have the opportunity grow WordPress.

 

Lunch

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Insider’s Look into 4.5

Some thoughts and insight from Mike Schroder, release lead for WordPress 4.5.

It all starts with The Matt Chat. And ask your wife, and then your boss.

Choosing your crew
* Deputy
* Design (Mel Choyce)

The release is built by contributors, not the release lead. It doesn’t matter what the release lead wants to do, it’s what the contributors are interested and willing to work on. The challenge, and joy, of a volunteer effort.

* Smart Image Resizing
** Images up to 50% smaller
** Photographers involved, research first!

* Site Logo
** How is this different from a site icon?
** This solves the problem of hacking a logo into a site header
** Ported from JetPack
** Maybe it should be “Theme” logo instead of “Site” logo. What works in JetPack probably wouldn’t work the same in core
** It is now known as “Custom Logo”
** Late addition to the feature set, just a couple of weeks before beta

* PDF Thumbnail
** Core natively supports some resizing of .pdfs already, but has issues
** Ran into challenges
** Updating an established feature seems like an easy win, but sometimes you need to punt it to the next release

* Formatting shortcuts
** As they got into it they realized that they don’t have a full understanding of how bold and italics would be represented. There are different approaches and implementations of markdown, so those two were left for the future
** Only code shortcut made the release

Biggest thing WordPress needs – a better onboarding process for new users, from creating a site to getting it up and running.

Shared some thoughts on how he thinks the release process might – should – evolve in the future. Most notably a move away from a release lead responsible just for a single release to more of a product design team that looks at the evolution of the product across several releases.

 

Getting to Yes: How to Ask for the Business & Get Paid What You’re Worth

Not specific to WordPress, but some great info and insight into how to make sales a more positive experience for you and your customers. Some stream of consciousness notes, with just a little bit of editing.

 

The way we’ve chosen to manifest sales in this country is negative, that doesn’t mean that sales is negative.

Spending time talking to the wrong people. Talk talk talk, then they don’t bite. You need to qualify the people you are talking to.

The way to succeed is to not spend too much time with the wrong people. “Addition by subtraction”.

You need to understand what you are selling. What is your value proposition. What are people buying from you?

Your marketing message needs to be about more than your time. It’s not the product you’re selling, it’s what your customer can do with your product that you are selling. e.g. No one wants a drill, they want a hole.

Value proposition.

What is it that people are buying from you.

Interruption based marketing / advertising.

How about a consultative based approach. Based around asking / answering questions. “How can I assist you?” Create a buying environment.

Everyone likes to buy, no one likes to be sold to.

Create an environment where people want to buy from you.

Netflix series reference: “Occupied”

Was his reference / recommendation “sales”? Yes. You recommend stuff all the time, why not take the same approach with business?

Don’t devolve immediately into the pitch, engage in some conversation. Establish a relationship, help them realize what they need. A consultative approach to sales. A process of discovery, not a “here’s the product I want you to buy”.

An holistic approach, not a reductionist approach.

Your job is not to close. Meet people where they’re at, and offer them an opportunity to work with me. (They need you more than you need them.)

Sales relationships
* Vendor
* Supplier
* Consultative
* Trusted advisor (not talking just about phones, but about business)

Cold calling – how can I can get someone to marry me if we’ve never gone on a first date.

Getting paid what you’re worth –

* Make a clear firm offer
** What they’re going to get in a confident manner
*** no wishy washy “let me put together a proposal”
*** listen to what they have said and tell them what you think they need, and give them the bottom line
* Pricing – he doesn’t like the hourly rate.
** We don’t price right because we do it hourly
** We don’t have an idea of what the value is
** This comes across to the client

Check out Allen Weiss, The Millionaire Consultatn

Simplifying your business, more consumable, clear firm offer

Content Modeling

A talk by Teresa Lane from Wash U about the importance, and the value, of modeling your content so you – and your customers – can get the most out of it.

Three main results from modeling your content:
* Content representation
* Relationships between content
* Develop and communicate your site model

Content comes in many forms
* General info
** Big, broad scoped info
** Small, specialized pieces
** People (bio, pictures, etc)
* Forms
* Recipes
* etc

Avoic assumptions with specificity. Consider the wishes you get from a genie; the more specific you are, the more likely you are to be happy with the outcome of your wish.

“When we are conscious of specifics, our content is more effective.”

Four steps:

1. Dismantle the blob
2. PUll the pieces you want
3. Identify the purpose and use for each
4. Put the pieces back together

She went through several examples including a blog post, events, and recipes. You can be very basic, or very detailed. The trick is to be as detailed and discrete in breaking out the fields as you need to be, but not more.

Why do we need models?
* So DESIGNERS know what they need to build
* So DEVELOPERS understand how they need to build it
* So PARTNERS / CLIENTS know how to use the site

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Pound of Obscure

Though no one sets out to fail, failure is an essential aspect of learning. You can’t learn if you never fail. But it is important to remember that failure is but a means to an end – learning – and not an end in and of itself.

Failure should not be sought out, but when it happens you should squeeze it for all it’s worth and learn what you can from it. 

A quick thought on failing

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