Isn’t it fantastic

Later that day, I asked Ive about an Apple design that shares the new campus’s formal simplicity: the circular “hockey puck” mouse that was included with the first iMacs. Many found it hard to control, and it is widely considered a design failure. Ive didn’t accept that description. He referred to different schools of thought about arms, wrists, and mice. “Everything we make I could describe as being partially wrong, because it’s not perfect,” he said, and he described the wave of public complaint that accompanies every release. He went on, “We get to do it again. That’s one of the things Steve and I used to talk about: ‘Isn’t this fantastic? Everything we aren’t happy about, with this, we can try and fix.’ ”

— Ian Parker, The Shape of Things to Come

I’ve been slowly working my way through the New Yorker’s recent piece on Jonathan Ive. A bunch of quotes have stood out, but this one in particular really resonates with me.

A Year of Saying No

One of my personal goals this year is to improve my focus.

However, I have an embarrassing confession to make:

I can’t say no.

Whenever I’m approached by a friend or a colleague to work on a side project, I’m usually pretty excited. I like helping people! Side projects are fun! But sometimes, I just don’t have time to give my full attention to another project. It’s at these moments that I experience a crippling sense of guilt. Saying “sorry, but I don’t have the extra time right now” becomes this huge, anxiety-producing task that I can spend hours stressing about afterwards. So most of the time, I say yes. And some of the time, saying yes means either doing the task half-heartedly, or sacrificing my actual job to work on something else for someone. Either way, I don’t perform well.

This is ridiculous. I shouldn’t feel this guilty about saying no. From a logical standpoint, I understand this. People will understand if I don’t have time. If I say yes and then can’t finish the project, or do a poor job, it’s honestly worse than just saying no in the first place. My brain understands this, but my heart doesn’t yet. So this year, I’m pledging to get over that, and to learn how to say no.

That doesn’t mean I’ll be giving up on this wonderful aspect of the Automattic Creed:

I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague [Full]

…It just means I’m going to learn when to say yes (and to what extent I can say yes to), and learn how to let go and say no, without feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt. This does mean cutting down on projects for friends and colleagues, and even WP core. But only by learning how to say “no” can I gain a better sense of focus this year.

Women, WordPress, & the Web — Two Years Later

Two years ago today, I published Women, WordPress, & the Web.

A lot for me, personally, has changed in the past two years. I got a lot more involved in contributing. I joined Automattic. I’m currently on a team meetup in Hawaii. Two years ago, I could have never imagined where I’d be today. Literally! I’m in Hawaii!

My experiences are not the industry norm.

A year ago, this retrospective would have been a lot more positive. But after the past few months, I honestly feel like there has probably never been a worse time to be a vocal, prominent woman in tech. Levels of harassment have escalated from casual misogyny and sexism to outright terrorism. Men in tech and gaming are organizing attacks on women who speak up. Just look at some of the harassing tweets Anita Sarkeesian receives in a week. Recently, Model View Culture CEO Shanley Kane’s entire family was doxxed after she criticized Linux leader Linus Torvalds.

Despite all of this, WordPress kind of remains a relatively safe haven for women in tech. This isn’t just an accident, or a fluke — the WordPress community, and most importantly, WordPress leadership, has carefully cultivated a culture of inclusion, acceptance, and diversity. WordCamps are adding code of conducts. People who say obviously shitty things are called out. The WordPress community team has been hard at work doing diversity outreach and event planning and creating opportunities for mentorship (More, more). Helen Hou-Sandí, a total badass and top WordPress contributor and committer, was promoted to Lead Developer this week. This promotion has so far gone off with nothing but congratulations and support, without people questioning her (impeccable) qualifications.

Quite honestly, you literally can’t turn around without walking into an awesome woman doing something great with WordPress. Women are designing, and coding, and supporting, and speaking, and leading. Seeing that kind of representation, from people who look like you? It’s incredibly empowering. It makes you want to become a part of the community, because you know that people like you have already been welcomed.

Sure, it’s not perfect. There are plenty of ways we can continue to improve. Outside of gender, we’re not super diverse. There’s still a lot more we need to do, and we need to make an effort. Jerks are still going to be jerks. Well-intentioned people are still going to fuck up, and we’re going to have to apologize and try not to do it again. We need to keep this in mind as we move forward to create an even more inclusive and global WordPress with a variety of diverse perspectives.

But as a woman in a world where our colleagues are getting doxxed, and swatted, and harassed on a daily basis, dealing with a couple microaggressions, some casual patronization, and the occasional inappropriate email feels like a cakewalk for me.

That said, given the current tech climate, the act of publishing this post is a significantly scarier idea now than it was two years ago.

I’m not sure where to leave this off. I hope this is the worst of it. I hope this is the one last hurrah of assholes in tech before things do get better. And I really, desperately hope that it doesn’t take an act of violence to turn the tides.

But for now, I’m going to enjoy some waves of my own with my amazing WordPress friends and colleagues.



My Top WordPress Pain Points

Don’t get me wrong — I love WordPress. But every time I set up a new site, the same issues keep jumping out at me. So in no particular order, here are some of my top WordPress pain points:

  • When you switch themes, the menu you’ve set to primary should remain set to primary in the new theme. More likely than not, if you’ve already set a menu to be primary, you want it to remain primary.
  • Same for widgets. When I switch themes, there should be a good way to easily transfer these over without having to go into your inactive widgets and reset them all. (Widgets are much more complicated, though, so I’m not sure there’s a good solution to this one. Maybe themes should be able to set a “primary widget area?”)
  • I want an image widget.
  • There isn’t an easy way to turn comments off on pages. Comments on pages should be turned off by default.
  • The first thing I do when setting up a new site (unless it’s a blog) is go in to my Reading settings and set a page as front. This usually requires a kind of irritating dance, since first I need to create a blank “home” page, then set it as front, and then I can start customizing the rest of my site. I want to be able to do this when setting up my site in the first place, and have WordPress generate a blank page for me so it’s ready to go when I’m dropped into my new dashboard.

Maybe 2015 will be the year some of these issues get tackled. :)

WordPress 4.0 “Benny”

I’m a little late to the party, but I wanted to mention that WordPress 4.0 “Benny” was released last week. As of writing this post, it’s been downloaded a total of 2,527,700 times.

The release revolved around polishing the way we manage and create content. There are a lot of things to love about 4.0, including my favorite new feature: previewing of embeds within posts and pages.

I played small role in a lot of different small design tasks during the release, including:

  • The design for the new plugin “cards”
  • Minor design tweaks to the new media grid and media grid attachment modal
  • A small Dashicons update
  • The design for the “About” page

If you’re already running WordPress, be sure to update your sites to 4.0.

One Year at Automattic


Today marks a year since I officially started at Automattic.

This year has been one of the busiest, craziest, and most rewarding years of my career. In the past year, I’ve traveled to Chicago, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Las Vegas, Rome, Austin, Seattle, and New Orleans. Joining Automattic felt like being welcomed into a big family. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the most talented, dedicated, and welcoming people I’ve ever met. My colleagues constantly inspire me, and push me to become the best designer I can be. I am incredibly thankful for their encouragement.

At Automattic, I can make a difference in the web, in the world — and since we’re fully distributed, I can do it from wherever I happen to be, whether it’s my coworking space in Cambridge, or the other side of the country, or even the other side of the world. I have total freedom and flexibility.

It’s humbling to know that the products I create touch thousands of lives every day. I am empowered to create great work and be the change I want to see. If I spot something that needs work, I can jump in and fix it myself. We’re trusted to make smart decisions and think for ourselves.

I can’t believe an entire year has gone by. Some days it feels like I only just joined our merry little band, and other days it feels like I’ve always been here. Here’s to many more years ahead of me.

(Of course, no one-year post would be complete without mentioning that we’re hiring.)

Frank Chimero on Massimo Vignelli

Design isn’t just battling ugliness. It’s also an unending fight for beauty, balance, consistency, and parity, because the world devolves into an ugly, imbalanced, inconsistent, and unequal place unless we are vigilant. Beauty has a role in the good life, so designers like Massimo chip away at their corner: visuals. I’m in that corner, too, with my tiny rock hammer.

— Frank Chimero, Massimo and Me

Time Tracking and Burnout

If we had a way of tracking these qualitative burnout factors, rather than merely the hours we spend on our work, we could better understand how much we’re pushing people, and how far our employees are from their own personal sweet spots. We could allocate projects in a way that best matches how people work, rather than treating them (both people and projects) as fungible commodities. If we had a tool that sacrificed hourly precision for holistic accuracy, we’d suddenly understand a lot more about our “capacity”.

— Geordie Kaytes, “Time Tracking: What Do We Think We’re Measuring?