Blogging Dreams

I’ve blogged for 26 straight days. It has reaffirmed my love for writing, and I’ve had fun watching what has happened as a result. I’m going to write more about this later, but one thing I realized a few days ago centers on impact.

As a writer, you always want to make a difference with your words – be helpful. In the last month or so I’ve had a handful of people I really respect link to my posts or call attention to them on Twitter. One teacher even used one post in a college class.

I’m writing every day and making an impact. Call me a writer. πŸ™‚

Happy Birthday Skye

My daughter, Skye, turned six-months-old yesterday! It feels like I held her for the first time in the hospital just yesterday.

I love watching her grow in all the millions of ways she does each day. Notable recent milestones include having her first two teeth come in, discovering her toes and trying to stand even though she doesn’t have sitting or crawling down yet. πŸ˜€

The best part of being a dad so far? Discovering she has shaped me way more than I have her at this point. I think I expected that but not to this degree.

I can’t wait to see what she does next!

Hobbies and Screens

I have published a blog post each day for the last two weeks. That combined with reading a post by a colleague about the time we spend with technology, made me realize my life has slid into imbalance.

It’s controlled by screens and consumption.

Publishing words each day has reaffirmed my love for creating. Building. Making. It doesn’t matter what you call it, I like it. Writing consistently, even when I think I may not have anything to say, has forced me to find my thinking on subjects. I plan to keep at it.

However, it’s also made me notice that most of my creations happen in front of a computer screen, and as a result, I spend a lot of time in media consumption mode as well. I’m talking about things like scanning my feed reader, checking Twitter or browsing websites. It serves as fuel for what I create – things like WordPress themes, blog posts and open source contributions. However, I can’t help but think I can find a better balance between the digital world and the physical one.

I need a new hobby.

Outside of work, I play video games, write code for open source projects and pen blog posts. All those involve a screen. I use to do CrossFit regularly, but having a new, baby slowed that down. I’d love to find something that kept my creativity going, but lacks a screen.

I’m thinking of getting back into running or trying to learn guitar, two hobbies I’ve experimented with in the past, My colleagues have helped inspire this as well. During Automattic’s Grand Meetup, I watched dozens of them deliver flash talks on all kinds of subjects that they find interesting. These ranged from yo-yos to spy plane history and so much more. My wife knits and I adore all the “real” creations she makes.

Hopefully, I’ll find something that sticks soon.

Fatherhood, Family and Work

I identify with a lot of the issues brought to light via the column Paternity Leave: The Rewards and the Remaining Stigma in the New York Times blog The Upshot. Especially this thought from one of the dads in the piece:

β€œI would say she does a ton more than me, just with breast-feeding alone,” Mr. Bedrick said of his wife.

America’s culture surrounding parenting, family and work doesn’t seem to be involving fast enough to meet the needs of families.

Blogging Every Day

I believe writers aren’t born, they’re made. Word by word.

Lately, a few people I read/follow have taken 30-day blogging challenges. It’s got me thinking: Could I blog for 30 days or more? I’m about to find out. During November, I’m going to try to blog every day.

I think I can do it. I’ve blogged more recently, including 20 out of 30 days so far in October. I’m not going to do anything fancy: just use WordPress and Simplenote. Here are my rules:

  1. Posts must be to this blog.
  2. They can be scheduled ahead of time.
  3. They can take any format or length.

We’ll see if I make myself a writer. πŸ™‚

Why WordPress.com

Two weeks ago I moved this site to WordPress.com. Sure, it means I might actually have a chance of blogging more because I don’t have to worry about any of the technical details of running my own WordPress install. But what else does it mean?

In this post, I’ll dive into some of the other reasons I’m enjoying WordPress.com in my first two weeks here. Full disclosure: I work for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com.

Simplified Content

WordPress.com helped me simplify the overall structure of my site. Before I moved, I pared down my content in a big way. I consolidated two custom post types (projects and photo albums) and one other blog (a photo blog) into this site. Yes, I could have kept some of the custom post types, like projects, but I don’t need them for the amount of work I want to display.

Many people who have to choose between WordPress.com and WordPress.org think they need to be able to do anything and everything. But they don’t most of the time. That flexibility often comes with too much responsibility for them to handle or that they want to handle. Sometimes, this even includes web developers like me who just want to write a personal blog.

The Plugins I Need

When I self-hosted my site, it seemed I was always trying this new plugin or that popular plugin. At WordPress.com, I have all I need and not much more. I don’t have to keep an eye out for what’s new and what the best plugin is that does “A” or “B” because someone else does that for me.

What Backups?

Similarly to plugins, I also don’t have to worry about backups. On my self-hosted site, I used VaultPress to back everything up. It was awesome, and thankfully, I never had to restore from a backup, but I still paid for it. WordPress.com has me covered there.

Speed

I came from DreamPress, another service I enjoyed immensely (I still have a hosting account with Dreamhost). However, when you use WordPress.com, you know your site and the architecture behind it will be as fast as possible. A lot of people take this for granted when they sign up for a WordPress.com account.

Easy Theme Switches

I build themes for WordPress.com and that gets me excited each day so it makes sense I should try some out on my personal site. I plan to switch themes more often than I did when I self-hosted. That should be easier since I’m not building every single one and sometimes switching will be more about putting myself in our users’ shoes than anything else.

More Readers

When you write a blog, sometimes you feel like you’re on an island. I’ve only written mine since 2009, but the posts where you get comments or a stats spike are few and far between. Building an audience takes time, but with WordPress.com I have a better shot at a bigger, more passionate audience. Things like subscriptions, likes, sharing and more help with all that. We’ll see how it goes.

The Reader

I used Feedbin for more than a year after Google Reader went away. I liked it a lot, but it wasn’t perfect. The WordPress.com Reader isn’t either. I miss being able to group RSS subscriptions with tags, but I like its simplicity. It keeps me close to blogging and helps me discover great content – those are the important things. I’ve also been using it more on my iPhone 5s as a news source.

Conclusion

We’ll see how it goes once I get a few months behind me. Will I blog more? Will I have more visitors and comments? Will my topics be more varied?

Your Life Purpose

I use to be obsessed with the question: What should I do with my life? Heck, I even read the book. It’s still one of my favorites. What I didn’t realize was something Mark Manson points out:

What most people don’t understand is that passion is the result of action, not the cause of it.

For awhile, I waited for the thing to find me. But I had to find it – by doing.

Via 7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose. Hat tip: Derek Featherstone.

Moved to WordPress.com

Yesteday, I moved my this site to WordPress.com.

I talked about possibly doing that awhile ago, but since I joined Automattic a few weeks ago, I decided to take the leap. Why? Because it’s important to use the thing you help make. Dogfooding, as it’s called. πŸ™‚ I believe it will help me make WordPress.com even better than it already is.

I initially worried about making such a move. I really like to tinker with my site, and being on WordPress.com means I can’t create my own custom themes, mess with template files or install my own plugins. But maybe that means I’ll write more. I’ve picked up the pace recently so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the next few months.

Also, about the whole theme thing: I’m thrilled I get to create themes for WordPress.com now and want to switch themes more often. Experiment in different ways with what WordPress.com has to offer. Quick experiments are harder to do for any designer/developer on their own site when they can do anything. A few constraints here and there can push creativity. We’ll see how it goes!

Current Theme

I made a few simple CSS tweaks to Twenty Thirteen to make it even more accessibility-friendly, even though it already carries the accessibility-ready tag. Plus, some of them are just my personal preference. You can check them out on the Github repository, Twenty Thirteen A11y Plus. The readme file has instructions on how to use the theme on both WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Happy blogging!

IndieWeb Member

I’ve tinkered with my site a lot over the past weekend to make it more IndieWeb-friendly.

What does that mean? You can learn more about the IndieWeb movement on the site and read about its principles. Basically, you want:

  • Your content to be yours
  • To be better connected to all services
  • To  control how things work

These are novel concepts only because we’ve grown use to social networks and tech giants running the web. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I’ve tackled a number of things on the Getting Started page of IndieWeb Camp. I:

  • Joined the IRC channel.
  • Already had a personal domain and hosting. πŸ™‚
  • Set up web sign-in.
  • Already had WordPress ready to go for content publishing. πŸ™‚
  • Installed a link shortener plugin.
  • Started: Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere and automating it with IFTTT.
  • Already had a WordPress theme that supported basic Microformats.
  • Ported some photos from a photo blog to my own site.
  • Set up webmentions and semantic-linkbacks via the IndieWeb plugin. I’m pulling in mentions from Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus thanks to Brid.gy.
  • Cleaned things up a bit by removing custom post types on the site, adding a new favicon and fixing a few bugs.

The WordPress page was a great place to start.

Doing this wasn’t that hard, especially after listening to a recent talk on the IndieWeb by Tantek Γ‡elik. I don’t know yet if I’ll keep all this going as some of it may not suit my needs. This may just be an experiment, however, I do know one thing: I’m going to keep publishing on my own site.

Being a Dad

A few days ago, my daughter turned eight weeks old. So naturally, that qualifies me to write a post about being a dad.

Most of what I’ve learned and experienced isn’t anything new to most dads, only new to me. But maybe you’ll find some of this helpful or humorous.

What I know:

  • The first two days and first six weeks are the toughest.
  • My wife is amazing and I’m constantly in awe of what she did and what she continues to do.
  • One cannot store up on sleep before the baby arrives. People say things like, “Get your sleep now.” It doesn’t apply.

What surprised me:

  • Caring for a baby isn’t that hard with a bit of patience, logic and love.
  • Babies make loud noises in many ways.
  • Just how fast she has grown. That shouldn’t surprise me!

What I love:

  • Rolling over in the morning and seeing her face.
  • Having her fall asleep on me.
  • The way she grunts when waking up.
  • Also, sometimes I think she tries to get up from my lap, her bouncy seat or the bed. I have a feeling she has big plans.

When I look at her face and she stares at me with those big eyes, I imagine her saving up all the things she’ll say to me in the future. I know I won’t have all the answers, but I hope to have a few. Being a dad is the most important thing I’ll do. I’m excited for what’s always new and just around the corner.