8 Years on WordPress.com

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8-years

Totally geeky and egocentric stat but I’m very proud to be a WordPress.com blogger. I haven’t had this particular blog on WordPress.com for all 8 years—it’s been just a few, but I was within the first 700 users to sign up in the beginning.

Since then this blogging service has grown up just a bit: see a live look at activity across WordPress.com.

The Move to WordPress.com

I switched this site to WordPress.com last weekend — it had been self-hosted since 2005, on Dreamhost.

Things went very smoothly — I followed instructions in the WordPress.com Support documentation and in various dashboard screens, and they were very helpful. I especially was impressed with the Google verification steps and how easy it was to add MX records for my Google Apps integration.

Probably the most annoying thing was waiting for propagation after updating nameservers, but there’s not a lot I could have done about that anyway.

A few hiccups:

  • Old email subscribers: I had to email my old list to ask them to subscribe again on WordPress.com (I was using FeedBlitz before).
  • Link importing: I had to split up the OPML file to import with categories, otherwise I’d have a flat import with no categories.
  • I used Textile on my old blog, so I had to run a small PHP script to update the content in posts/pages to plain old HTML.

The plugins I’m going to miss the most are:

Continue reading

Still Learning Dvorak

Quick update on my progress typing with the Dvorak layout (see original post first if you missed it). I am now averaging 65 WPM in my drills, though I am a bit slower in real usage.

Last week I blanked out my keyboard with stickers to force touch typing using Blank Keyboard Stickers in white from 4keyboard.com on my Mac keyboard.

I first considered getting the droolicious Model S Ultimate Silent Keyboard from Das Keyboard, but since it’s a bit pricy I opted instead to use the stickers as a low-cost first step.

Today I changed the keyboard settings on my Mac to use “Dvorak” instead of “Dvorak – Qwerty ⌘” to force myself to relearn my keyboard shortcuts.

So far, so great.

Learning Dvorak

To work smarter and faster at my craft, I took the plunge and switched to the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard.

At our Automattic company meetup in September Matt handed out paper copies of The Dvorak Zine, a fun, well-written treatise on why Dvorak is better than the traditional QWERTY keyboard layout. I read it on the plane ride home, played with Dvorak settings on my laptop a bit, and vowed to make the switch during my next extended time off work.

Here is the timeline from my switch.

1. September 16th, 2010: Read The Dvorak Zine.
2. November 22nd, 2010: Started practicing with Master Key during a week off from work.
3. December 3rd, 2010: Removed QWERTY from my keyboard settings.
4. December 9th, 2010: Finished Master Key Dvorak drills (set to 40 WPM goal).

For fun, here are some stats as of December 9th, 2010 based on my Master Key drill results.

My tips and recommendations: Get Master Key, add Dvorak to your keyboard settings, and practice. Then remove QWERTY from your keyboard settings and use Dvorak for everything you type. Pace yourself and be patient. Keep practicing and don’t give up.

For more on Dvorak, see Matt’s 2003 classic: On the Dvorak Keyboard Layout.

Update December 14, 2010: My goal with learning Dvorak is to get faster and more efficient at typing than I was with QWERTY—with which I type 75 WPM with accuracy. The 40 WPM mentioned in the timeline was during drills used to learn Dvorak; that speed is not the end goal.

Update December 28, 2010: This week I passed the Master Key drills again with the speed goal set at 50 WPM. My average speed is approaching 60 WPM.

Update January 17, 2011: Now averaging 65 WPM, see notes in Still Learning Dvorak.

Update November 22, 2011: An update on my Dvorak learning experience, one year later: Dvorak Redux.

I'm Joining Automattic

These last few months I’ve been working, and not writing. I’ve been busy launching new sites, helping clients, and finding new opportunities. One such opportunity came in January.

Since starting simpledream web studio I’ve told people often that I’d like to be a freelancer for the rest of my career. I love working from anywhere—in the RV, co-working at Spoke6, in my home office.

That said, I have kept an eye on a few companies I’d love to work for: companies dedicated to open source software, that allow for location-independent employees, and have a great reputation in the industry. Automattic ranked high on that short list. When Matt Mullenweg contacted me about working with Automattic, I jumped at the chance.

I’m proud to announce that they’ve offered me a full-time position, and I’ve accepted it. I feel I’ve found a perfect match with the fine folks driving WordPress.org, WordPress.com, BuddyPress, Gravatar, Akismet, IntenseDebate, PollDaddy, and many other great projects.

Why would I love working for Automattic? It’s a distributed company: I can work from anywhere. They work on exciting, innovative projects. They are a prominent and active member of the open source community, and I want to be involved in that. There’s room for me to learn and grow. My day-to-day schedule won’t change much—I’ll be working a similar schedule and setting my own hours.

I’m stoked about my position as “Theme Wrangler” with Automattic. I’ll be working on web design and development projects, mostly revolving around themes and WordPress.com. I’m sure I’ll also use my Spanish and French skills since people all around the world use Automattic products.

If you want to learn more about Automattic, explore Automattic.com. And if you’re looking for an engaging job with smart people, check out the Jobs page and How We Work.

What’s going to happen to simpledream?

It’s been a great run! Five successful years managing my own business is easily one of my best and most fulfilling accomplishments. I learned, grew, and prospered as a consultant and contractor. The lifestyle I dreamed of—traveling around the US with my wife and working remotely–became a reality. The business, simpledream web studio, enabled that to happen.

I’m closing down the business soon. I’ll be helping to migrate my clients to new companies, passing them on to the capable hands of other web designers and developers.

I’ll be keeping the simpledream name, domain, and site alive as part of my personal brand. I plan to continue posting here about web design and development, web standards, and—of course—cool stuff going on with WordPress themes.

Stay tuned!

Project Update: AZ-Birding

I am proud to announce the recent launch of AZ-Birding.com, a custom reservation system for Arizona-based professional birding guides. I was involved in every step of this project from planning and prototyping to web design and development.

azbirding

AZ-Birding.com, a free service of WINGS, launched in February 2009. I have worked with WINGS since 2005, and this latest project is exciting since it brings focus to Arizona (as compared to WINGS worldwide presence) and enables anyone to hire a local birding expert to explore the state’s wonderful birding specialties.

The site’s main focus is taking reservations, so the majority of the work revolved around managing calendars, the reservation process, and the guides’ availability with a custom CakePHP web application. The CakePHP app has two parts: public-facing pages with reservation forms and guide information and an administrative area for WINGS to manage all the details.

The goal for the administrative aspect of running AZ-Birding as a service was simple: automate the process as much as possible. To do this, the app has built-in functionality that runs automatically to produce reminders, late notices, and feedback requests (sent out to clients after their birding experience is over). This automation reduces the office workload for WINGS while ensuring a high-quality, consistent experience for clients. This hands-off approach safeguards against common situations where an administrator would have to step in and take action, like when a birding guide might be out of the country—or offline for a few days—and cannot respond directly to a reservation request.

The pages that don’t pertain to managing reservations are managed with WordPress. This decision was based on two realities: much more development time and effort would be required to cook up a CakePHP-based CMS, and WINGS is already familiar with the WordPress product and interface as the content editor and producer of the WINGS blog, Wingbeat.

As an added bonus, the site also tracks the latest Arizona bird rarities—meaning WINGS can post alerts when rare or special birds are sighted in Arizona. The home page and the “Latest Rarities” page both feature these alerts (entered into WordPress as blog posts) as well as custom data delivered by eBird, a free service of Cornell Lab or Ornithology. For example, the eBird data feed for “Notable Sightings in Arizona” not only brings more value to the AZ-Birding website as a birding resource, but it also provides potential clients with an idea of what to look for—hopefully enticing them to place a reservation if they see something that excites them. All the bird-related content on AZ-Birding is geared towards providing a reason to book the short-term tour with the service’s expert birding guides.

Two people contributed to this project outside of simpledream, and I owe them thanks. Sam Devore did the heavy lifting on the data modeling and backend CakePHP setup, and also contributed greatly to the project planning efforts, including work on user actions and workflows during the planning stages. The AZ-Birding logo (inspired by the gorgeous Elegant Trogon) was designed by Julie Hecimovich.

See the official announcement from WINGS, view all the screenshots on Flickr, and read more details in the simpledream portfolio.