SD Expo 2018 recap

This may come as a surprise, but I didn’t go to Portland solely to shop for fabric. The main reason I went was to give a workshop at SD Expo, a conference for support professionals.

My former coworker and current friend Andrea Badgley now works for Support Driven, the company that puts on SD Expo, and I was excited to hear that our flights arrived at about the same time. We took the train from the airport into the city together, and then met up with Denise, another Automattician for lunch at Deschutes Brewery. It was so great to see them again!

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Later, we went to the AirBNB offices and met up with some of the conference attendees and also toured the offices. Sounds weird, right? I was a bit skeptical about touring offices, but they were actually pretty cool.

The next day, we were up bright and early for the expo, which was held at an arena on the campus of Portland State University. Automattic was also a sponsor, so we set up our booth and I freaked out about my workshop, which was that morning.

My workshop was meant to help customer support agents get to the bottom of confusing questions from users. It happens. It was charmingly titled “I’m sorry, can you repeat the question? Getting to the bottom of what the customer is really asking”.

I didn’t finish polishing it until the night before I left for Portland. I work best on a deadline, and I know this, but nevertheless, I probably could have done without the stress. And I was also determined to tailor a couple of WordPress t-shirts to wear, but they weren’t getting delivered until that day. So yeah. Time management skills are definitely not my forte.

Since I was running a workshop and not just giving a talk, I needed an activity. I had a basic idea of what I was going to do (use low-tech scenarios to have people role-play customer and support agent) but I wasn’t sure how to execute it. I just couldn’t make it gel. But finally, about a week before, it came to me in a flash.

Fast forward to Thursday at about 10:45am. I’m walking towards the workshop room with my colleague Ainslie, who volunteered to help me demonstrate and keep things moving. There was a crowd of people waiting outside the room.

No, surely these people weren’t waiting to get into the room for my talk. Surely they were just…waiting in line for the bathroom? Or just chatting? Or were lost? Alas, my dream of having a half-full room for my workshop (just enough to not feel pathetic, but not too many to be overwhelmed) was shot down when all 48 seats at the tables were taken and another dozen or so people sat in chairs along the walls.

I nervously confidently got started, and fortunately, only had to talk for about ten minutes before the fun part started – the activity.

Looking nervous confident in the shirt I tailored (I can’t not talk about sewing a little.)

And also looking just like the nerd emoji. 🤓

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Uncanny.

The workshop part went like this…everyone divided into pairs. One person was the customer, and the other was the support agent. They were given an envelope with two sealed cards. The customer’s card detailed a problem they were having with a company’s product. The support agent’s card only said what the company was. The agent had to guess what the problem was, using techniques I’d discussed in my talk.

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In the demo, I was the customer, and Ainslie was the support agent.

Her card simply said “You are a support agent for ACME BOOKSELLERS”

I started out saying “I got a book to read to my kid, but I can’t read it!” She asked, “is there anything wrong with the book?” I clarified that no, the book itself was fine, the pages weren’t torn or anything. But I just couldn’t read the words. And YES, I can read.

After a few probing questions, she thought to ask me to spell a few of the words to her.

“B-O-N J-O-U-R”, I said. And voila! She figured out the problem.

Here’s what my card said.

The rest of the scenarios were similar, and you can download the set here, if you like.

The discussion was lively, and people ran through several scenarios in the time we had. The room got loud! So loud we had to borrow one of the participants to whistle for us.

There were still about ten minutes left, so I opened the floor to let people talk about their experiences either at the workshop or in real life, or if they had questions. Naturally I expected dead silence, but I was happy that we had a lively discussion with people asking questions and hands being raised and I got to call on people and pretend like I was a teacher and everything. It was fantastic.

But the best part of all was after. The people who came up to me to tell me how great it was, and how much they got out of it. It really made all of the stress worth it. But maybe next time I’ll start earlier. (Yeah right.)

I can’t talk about SD Expo, though, without talking about my colleagues’ talks. Denise gave a workshop on weekend scheduling that gave me a profound respect for the work she does at Automattic. Maureen talked about the concierge support we give to our Business-level users, and we got to do a fun Mad Libs activity. And Kathryn talked about her experiences in the WordPress community forums, which she’s been involved with for many years.

I also got to talk to potential Happiness Engineer candidates (you know we’re hiring, right?), pick the brains of other people who hire support teams for their companies, eat amazing doughnuts, meet some famous cats, and fly home first class. Not bad!

 

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10 years on WordPress!

It’s hard to explain how the decision I made on July 10, 2001 to document my marathon training literally changed my life. WordPress didn’t even exist yet. In the beginning, this blog was just an HTML page that I updated and each month I’d start a new page. (Not to worry, you can read all those posts here – I copied them into blog posts a while back.)

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Hand coded HTML
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Every website needed a splash page in 2003!

But ten years ago today, on July 11, 2008, I moved my blog to WordPress.com – for several years before that, it was hosted, uh, elsewhere. But once I met WordPress, it was love at first site sight.

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Finally on WordPress.com in 2008!

And of course, in 2013 it led to me working at Automattic. My dream job!

I don’t blog for a big audience. I blog to document my life, so I can go back and read it later. (I’m hopelessly nostalgic.) I blog because there was no way I was going to be able to keep three baby books going. I blog because I love photography. And I love to photograph my kids. I blog because I like to keep in touch with old friends.

And if it weren’t for WordPress, I surely would have given up long ago. And I wouldn’t have the amazing colleagues and friends I’ve made over the past four and a half years. I wouldn’t have a job I love, that constantly challenges me. I wouldn’t have Ziggy!

This is post 3,808.

Here’s to 3,808 more.

15 years of blogging!

Well, 15 years and a few weeks.

I started it because I wanted to document that I was training for a marathon.

July 10, 2001

“…one day, driving back from the beach, I told Kristina I might want to try to run the London Marathon. The next day, I decided to do it.”

The first year or so of posts were written in monthly HTML documents that I would update and re-upload to my site. From what I can tell, I didn’t buy the domain pyjammy.com until March 2002, so I don’t remember where I hosted it before that. Maybe Geocities. Or Earthlink. Or Prodigy. Ha ha ha! No, seriously.

Anyway, here’s what it looked like in 2002:

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Yeah, I had a splash page. Which was this huge graphic with mapped links. Soooo 2002.

At some point, I moved it to Blogger, I think. And then finally in 2008 I moved it to WordPress.com. The very same company I now work for! It was self-hosted for a while, and then in 2014 I moved it back here to WordPress.com, where it shall live forever.

This post will be the 3,619th post, which works out to 241 posts a year. Not too shabby!

On to the next 15!

In Dallas

I’m in Dallas now for work, helping out as Volunteer Coordinator of the DFW WordCamp. It’s really great to get to see how these events come together, since we’re working on organizing a WordCamp NOLA sometime next summer. This has been a great learning experience.

This is my second WordCamp ever – I attended the WordCamp in Dayton, Ohio earlier this year and gave a talk on Making Blogging a Habit. I…have not been habitually blogging lately. But I am going to take my own advice and just put something down and publish it.

  
  

Getting into the habit

Well, I can’t very well give a talk on Making Blogging a Habit and then just not blog, can I?

I should talk about my trip to Dayton. It was nice. The flight there was uneventful, as was the flight back, which nowadays is a pleasant surprise instead of, you know, just the way things should be.

The hotel I was staying in was attached to the convention center, so I didn’t see too much of Dayton, but dinner Saturday night was at an Irish pub in an interesting district not far from downtown.

I have to be honest, didn’t expect there to be a red light district (really red light 1/8 of a block) in Dayton, Ohio, but there you go.

I’m kind of skipping around here. Friday night was a speaker’s dinner, which was nice. I met some great people in the WordPress community, had a delicious meal, and got to see some of my coworkers.

A lot of people seemed puzzled by why I went all the way to Dayton for a WordCamp, when they happen all over the place. Well, there’s not one in Louisiana. In fact, guess who will probably be helping to organize one, one day? You’re looking at her. Dayton was a perfect first WordCamp for me. It wasn’t too big, so I didn’t feel too nervous about speaking.

(That’s a total lie, of course. I was petrified. I had assumed maybe 10 people would come to my talk, but it was more like 25, which filled up the small room.)

In the end, my talk went well, I got lots of great feedback from people, and someone even QUOTED ME in a TWEET during my talk! That was pretty amazing, I have to say.

Love that! I’m going to frame it.

Now I’m excited about the next one. Speaking, attending, organizing, whatever!