Goodbye Firebug

When it came out in 2005, Firebug was the first tool to let programmers inspect, edit, and debug code right in the Firefox browser. It also let you monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page, which was a huge step forward.

Saying Goodbye to Firebug

Another classic web tool says goodbye. Just like Thematic when it reached its end last year, I have fond memories of Firebug. I haven’t been in this business as long as some of the people I admire, but Firebug helped teach me a lot about web development. It’s how I learned to debug a website. Thanks for letting me view source in style, Firebug!

Staying Positive When Your Product Causes Pain

Sign with words: We Like You Too :).

I make and think about WordPress themes all day with the WordPress.com Theme Team. They control the appearance of a WordPress website, and it’s a heck of a fun job. Most of the time.

What I often hear from customers who use our products: “I just want to get it to look how I see it in my head.” Or something similar. People have a vision, and unfortunately, some levels of customization in WordPress can be hard without advanced knowledge or coding expertise. So ultimately, I can come away from many of these conversations and support tickets feeling like I’ve failed my customers. That’s true to some degree, of course. But how do you keep moving forward, releasing something better for people, if all you see is the negative?

You can’t. I want to share some tips on how to stay positive when your product can cause customers pain.

Search for wins too: My team spends a lot of time trying to detect challenges customers face and how to fix them. Naturally, this leads to a lot of, “Well, that’s terrible. No wonder the customer quit or became confused.” When you’re finding this stuff, look for the positive too. We have a “Random site” button where I can view a random site with a particular WordPress theme on WordPress.com. Sometimes, I look around until I find a nice-looking site, and explore it a bit.

Share the positive: Finding wins won’t help unless you share them. The support staff on our team drops cheerful notes about customers liking themes or features regularly. It’s a small thing, but it makes you feel good. Real good. Any product team needs those feelings in bunches.

Build a culture around finding and sharing the good: If you do this regularly, you start to feel like you’re winning regularly too. And it balances out that feeling that you’re failing your customers when you create something they struggle with. My team could always be better at this, but a few ways to start:

  • Share one win before every weekly meeting.
  • Start and/or keep product testimonials updated. It forces you to find the gold you know doubt have buried.
  • Have a place to collect the positive, and have it be visible so it’s obvious when it hasn’t been updated in a while.

Good luck in the product trenches, and stay positive out there!

Photo courtesy of Adam Jang.

Originally published on Automattic’s Design Flow blog.

Themers in a Photo – Grand Meetup, 2017 Edition

A few weeks ago, Automattic held its annual Grand Meetup. That’s where the company I work for gathers together in one place for a week to strategize, work and bond. Every year, we throw a party at the end of the week, complete with a photo booth. Piling into the photo booth (or in this case, photo area) has turned into one of my favorite things.

Many themers posting in a photo both, holding signs, silly props and wearing funny masks and faces.

Of course, we also took a serious one.

Group photo of the Automatic Theme Team

Between all the work, I had a bit of fun too. A few nice hikes, plus a ride up a mountain in a gondola. We saw a bear! Although, I didn’t snap a great picture of it. One of these days I’m just going to move to the mountains because I love it so much. 🙂

Here’s to another great year at Automattic, surrounded by awesome colleagues with a worthwhile mission!

Anna Ruby Falls in Georgia

Recently, my family and I visited Anna Ruby Falls in Georgia because my daughter, Skye, wanted to see a waterfall. We saw not one, but two, and it was lovely!

Quitting the Internet

Comedian Aziz Ansari on quitting the Internet, deleting a number of apps like email, Twitter and Instagram from his devices:

… Whenever you check for a new post on Instagram or whenever you go on The New York Times to see if there’s a new thing, it’s not even about the content. It’s just about seeing a new thing. You get addicted to that feeling. You’re not going to be able to control yourself. So the only way to fight that is to take yourself out of the equation and remove all these things. What happens is, eventually you forget about it. You don’t care anymore. When I first took the browser off my phone, I’m like, [gasp] How am I gonna look stuff up? But most of the shit you look up, it’s not stuff you need to know. All those websites you read while you’re in a cab, you don’t need to look at any of that stuff. It’s better to just sit and be in your own head for a minute. I wanted to stop that thing where I get home and look at websites for an hour and a half, checking to see if there’s a new thing. And read a book instead. I’ve been doing it for a couple months, and it’s worked. I’m reading, like, three books right now. I’m putting something in my mind. It feels so much better than just reading the Internet and not remembering anything.

I keep thinking about these words because I identify with them a lot. Ironically, I read them after clicking a link on Twitter, but I have been trying to cut back recently. Yes, that’s a link to me saying that on Twitter. I recognize this isn’t looking good for me right now, but progress happens one step at a time.

I’ve noticed as I’ve cut back more, my appetite for more purposeful reading has increased and my creative energy has felt freer. “Being in your own head” more has a way of making that happen. I started to walk and run more recently — I think as a way to literally walk and run away from the screens. I crave that space. I’m going to keep heading in that direction, small step after small step. Purposeful seems much better than aimless.