Shop Class as Soulcraft

Shop Class as Soulcraft is a thought-provoking essay about the future of manual labor, work, and craftsmanship by Matthew B. Crawford in New Atlantis.

The craftsman’s habitual deference is not toward the New, but toward the distinction between the Right Way and the Wrong Way. However narrow in its application, this is a rare appearance in contemporary life…

While I heartily agree with this sentiment, in this piece Crawford seems to lump everything computer related into “information systems” as a departure from manual craftsmanship, and ignores a bit the manual craft of making software. It can be very much a manual job in the sense that you type the code into an editor and make it run. And isn’t just plug-and-play necessarily. Though some systems (cough, .NET) do encourage GUI-based software development. A true hand-coder I think is just as much a craftsperson as someone building a wooden table.

But craftsmanship must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one’s failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away.

My version of this is: “Does the website work?” It needs to work, especially on my phone, and load fast everywhere. My kind of heuristic.

The essay points out the permanence of certain goods: it is easier to achieve a long-lasting product with hand-made goods, probably, such as furniture or motorcycles or cars. A website is obsolete almost the moment you launch it. It probably won’t outlive you. A well-made table could live hundreds of years.

The concluding words are a great takeaway:

So what advice should one give to a young person? By all means, go to college. In fact, approach college in the spirit of craftsmanship, going deep into liberal arts and sciences. In the summers, learn a manual trade. You’re likely to be less damaged, and quite possibly better paid, as an independent tradesman than as a cubicle-dwelling tender of information systems. To heed such advice would require a certain contrarian streak, as it entails rejecting a life course mapped out by others as obligatory and inevitable.

Via Yegor M.

WordPress Core Responsive Image Support

Testing this plugin to improve responsive image support for WordPress is a great way for front-end designers and developers to get involved in core WordPress, modernizing the platform that powers almost 25% of the web.

Via WordPress › Update: Responsive Image Support for Core « Make WordPress Core.

Meet Twenty Sixteen

Lance Willett:

I won’t be involved in the new WordPress default theme this time around — excited to see Twenty Sixteen! (Recap by David Kennedy.)

Originally posted on David A. Kennedy:

Today, Tammie Listerintroduced Twenty Sixteen, the next default theme for WordPress, to the world. It’s designed by the Takashi Irie, who also created Twenty Fourteen and Twenty Fifteen. In his own words:

Twenty Sixteen is a modernised approach of an ever-popular layout — a horizontal masthead and an optional right sidebar that works well with both blogs and websites. It has custom color options that allow you to make your own Twenty Sixteen. The theme was designed on a harmonious fluid grid with a mobile first approach. This means it looks great on any device.

If you want to get involved, make sure you’re following the Make WordPress Core blog, and check out the meeting times for Twenty Sixteen.

View original

SSH Config for Slow Connections

Via Andy Skelton in 2010, proving once again that great advice is timeless.

With these lines in your SSH config file—usually in .ssh directory in your user home directory—you’ll enjoy a more reliable remote shell session.

# Do not kill connection if route is down temporarily.
TCPKeepAlive no

# Allow ten minutes down time before giving up the connection.
ServerAliveCountMax 30
ServerAliveInterval 20

# Conserve bandwith. (Compression is off by default.)
Compression yes

WordPress Edinburgh

I spoke with the Edinburgh WordPress meetup today via Skype video. It was a fun and engaging group! Thanks to Iain Taylor for inviting me to share about Automattic products and WordPress happenings, and for everyone’s questions and discussion.

Discussing everything from the new WordPress.com dashboard, Jetpack and Photon, to the Underscores theme and good plugins for custom post types, to the WP REST API.

Notes and slides on the WordPress Edinburgh Meetup.com page.

Looking Great on Video Calls

Tips for video calls and looking good on a webcam, via Lemony. A coworker shared this internally at Automattic a few months back, and I love it as a reference to look my best when on a video call such as a Google Hangout.

look-good-webcam

I also love this “googly eyes” trick from adulting for remembering to look at the camera on your laptop or monitor.

Speaking at ThemeConf

I’m thrilled to announce my part in ThemeConf, an exciting new conference “for developers and designers who make themes,” organized by Automattic and set in the beautiful landscape of the Lake District (Keswick, UK on September 2–4, 2015).

Recognizing the fact that I don’t make WordPress themes any more, I’m honored to attend, speak, and share a bit of a retrospective on my career in web design and development, including a few stories about how my career in WordPress themes kicked off in 2010.

On a sunny summer day in Winnipeg I sit in The Forks dining area eating delicious fish and chips, the proper way, straight from the newspaper cone. I’m here for the first ever meeting of the Automattic Theme Team.

I’ll talk about my journey of theme craftsmanship—the ups, the downs, the unexpected results. From meeting Ian Stewart for the first time on that hot and humid August day in Manitoba, to my first theme launch on WordPress.com, getting a premium theme marketplace off the ground, shepherding default themes for WordPress.org, to building a team of 30 people strong.

A journey of adventure and learning where my skills have expanded beyond what I’d expected—not just the technical path from web designer and developer to “front-end expert” and WordPress themer—but also writing, speaking, and leading.

I’ll share how in 2015 I’ve now become an apprentice again, in the field of software quality and testing. Working hard at finding tools, skills, patterns, workflow, and process in my new craft. Discovering myself, my passion, my community, and opportunities to learn.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 12.11.33


A special discount for my readers: use code lancetheme for 25% off the ThemeConf registration cost—which at only £49 for the conference and £99 with the workshop is quite a bargain!