Still decompressing from a long week with colleagues at Automattic’s 2019 Grand Meetup in Orlando. You’d think after seven of these things I’d remember not to overbook myself (FOMO is real, y’all) but I spent most of the week feeling rushed and mentally exhausted. It was intense. Normally I come away from meetups feeling energized and ready to work, but this time, I left feeling overwhelmed. There’s a lot of *stuff* going on at work these days, and I think all of that overflowed into my GM experience.
That said, I hung out with some of my favorite people, made new friends, sang with the Automattic band at the closing party, spent some time meditating, and caught an absurd number of shiny Pokémon.
I also set aside two days after the meetup to spend by myself at Disney, which gave me some time to rest and ended the week on a positive note. Post forthcoming with those photos!
I’ll be honest, this was a rough trip. I know it’s hard to feel bad about visiting tropical climates in March; that part was definitely A+. And I always enjoy meeting with my colleagues and spending time with them in person.
Travel-wise, I got off to a rough start. My first flight out was canceled due to a winter storm, so I spent an extra day and night at the airport hotel. I was already anxious about the trip and kind of homesick to begin with, so the extra time to sit around and wait didn’t help. My rebooked flights were packed, of course, and added an extra flight to the mix, so that was frustrating.
When I finally did get going, I just felt off. When my second flight of the day landed in Miami, I stood up and felt like I was going to pass out. Thankfully I didn’t, but that feeling of lightheadedness persisted throughout the trip. (More about that later.)
I did appreciate the change in scenery, though, and our meetup home at Palm Cay was perfectly situated on a white sand beach. I felt like we spent the time productively with team building, problem solving, and plenty of laughs.
What a week! From the guest speakers to an advanced development class to meeting new people to Harry Potter world to playing Pokémon to touring Disney Springs, it’s hard to say what was the best part of this year’s Automattic Grand Meetup.
I tried to split my time between my new team and my old team when I wasn’t attending class or various presentations and sessions. These events have gotten so huge that it takes some serious effort to find and hug every person I know over the course of the week, let alone have meaningful conversations.
I made new friends raiding in Pokémon Go, and spent most of my downtime wandering around Disney Springs. I had a great one-on-one with my new squad lead at the Star Wars VR experience, and now I think all one-on-ones should involve shooting Stormtroopers. XD
Automattic arranged a special event dinner at Harry Potter World at Universal Studios mid-week. That in itself was impressive, but the afterparty remained my favorite. Epcot fireworks, the ever-present photo booth, and the Automattician-powered band was a great way to round out the week. Just when you think your colleagues couldn’t get any more brilliant, they get on stage and blow you away with musical talent.
And of course, there are the pictures; my favorite souvenirs:
Well, I’m finally at the bottom of the ride. I came home from our meetup on Sunday afternoon and promptly crashed for several hours of much-needed sleep. Thankfully I had the foresight to take a couple days off to recover. Monday was spent in a time-zone-befuddled daze, and yesterday was spent in Bangor for appointments.
…okay, maybe I’m not entirely at the bottom of the ride, but I’m getting there.
Most of the meetup itself was spent planning and thinking and brainstorming, which explains the relative lack of pictures this trip. Sticky notes lose their visual appeal after one or two photos.
Up at 3:30 am to catch my flight. Joy.
Hello, San Diego
It’s windy on this boat.
A little time with family
When in San Diego with five hours to spare…go to the zoo!
Pretty fly for a pink guy
The kids struggled with my absence more than usual, and I’m feeling the sharp divide between work and motherhood. Pulled in multiple directions, it’s hard to know if I’m doing enough on either front. But it was good to spend time getting to know my team, and I enjoyed working against the backdrop of ocean air and spring sun.
I met up with my aunt and cousins for lunch on my last day, and a late flight out afforded me the chance to have some alone time in the city. I wandered around the San Diego Zoo, taking pictures of the animals so I could share them with the kids.
All in all, a successful meetup, but I’m glad to be home!
At work, we were recently asked to examine a common problem among bloggers of all types: how to get more views.
As someone who has been blogging since before it was called “blogging”, web traffic is still a bit of a black box to me. Any success I’ve had has been the result of persistence and longevity, and I’ll admit to feeling like an imposter writing about the subject.
That said, looking at past traffic stats for my personal blog, I’ve picked out some of the things that have helped increase my readership over time. Here’s what I recommend based on what I’ve learned:
Post quality content, frequently. I notice I get more traffic during months where I blog at least once a week, and I try to make at least one new post each month, minimum.
Offer freebies. Wallpapers, themes, step-by-step tutorials, code, or a coupon; make the reader feel they’re getting something tangible for their time. The most popular posts for any of my blogs are how-to guides. For example, one of my most popular recent posts is a comparison of print-on-demand services I’ve used, with the intent of helping other potential print-on-demand customers.
Get involved in an existing community centered around your topic of interest. For example, when I wanted to get into WordPress themes, I joined the Theme Review Team. When I wanted to promote my fanfic, I started interacting with more fan blogs on Tumblr. This allowed me to make new friends and connections, which leads me to…
You get what you give. Promoting others’ work can often help draw attention to yours (and it’s just plain nice!) Ask to interview someone who works in a related field and post the interview on your blog, or write a review of a piece of work you admire. I wrote a brief post highlighting the artists I chose for my fan art wall project; it felt good to spread the word about other fan artists, and the post got several views from the fan community.
Use word of mouth. Ask your friends and family to have your back. A genuine request for help is usually answered favorably, and your friends may have connections you didn’t know about.
Promote your work.. This is obvious, but don’t be shy about promoting yourself via email, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, or other relevant social networks. Utilize your blog’s sharing tools (tips: Jetpack | WordPress.com) to cross-post to different audiences for more views. An example tweet from my blog:
The week before last I met up with 570-ish of my Automattic colleagues in Whistler, British Columbia for our annual Grand Meetup — and what a Grand Meetup it was! I’m still tired and I should have posted this a week ago, so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves:
Crossing the border
Coffee with Tim before my flight
My kids always send friends to keep me company
It’s all about the conference name tag and the endless coffee.
In many respects, I feel like I’m still new, still learning the ropes. It’s rare that I look at my work as a “grind”; it’s a challenge, and there are definitely times when it’s more stressful than others, but most days I wake up, don my work outfit (ahem sweatpants), and face the day with excitement.
The company has grown so much since I first joined (to the tune of about 380+ people!) but I still feel particularly close to my team, and for that reason I’ve been sheltered from many of the “growing pains” that come from a company’s rapid development from startup to bigger business. It’s not always easy, but we keep it light, and keep on keeping on.
Every five years, Automatticians have the option to take a 2-3 month sabbatical, which is what I’m doing in a couple weeks! It’s a great benefit, and one of the many reasons I love working here, but I can’t help but think of how much I’ll miss the people I work with, and how weird it will be not to think about my job for several weeks.
The day after the U.S. election, I flew to Barcelona for a team meetup. It was a bittersweet trip; on one hand, I was happy to have the distraction of travel, for the opportunity to escape to a foreign city and immerse myself in something that wasn’t U.S. politics.
On the other, I wanted to be with my family. I wanted to go home, curl up under a blanket and hide.
The election results were a frequent topic of conversation throughout the meetup, but we didn’t let it completely overshadow our fun. Besides, the trip itself threw its own interesting obstacles our way; lost (then found) wallets, viruses, a stolen laptop bag, and only one fluent Spanish speaker in the group, which made for some unique exchanges.
Hotel Praktik Bakery
Casa Sera, our home away from home for the week.
View from my room.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a…oh, right, it’s a bird.
The obligatory “We really do work on these trips” picture.
Barcelona’s architecture brings its A-game.
Catalonia Sq. at night
La Sagrada Familia
Cathedral windows lit by the sun.
I could get into church if it involved this many rainbows.
Ceiling or alien spaceship? You decide.
Gaudi was a busy guy.
View from the Nativity Tower.
Walking in the park.
The tile mosaics in Park Guell are my favorite thing.
Views of Barcelona from Park Guell.
The cool kids.
So much color!
Gaudi knows how to dress up a ceiling.
It wasn’t an easy trip, but as always, the people and the city made it worthwhile. Until next time, Theam!
I walked a 5k, I got not just one but two tattoos, I saw coyotes and beautiful mountain scenery, and painted my own version of said scenery. The afterparty included tasty drinks and dancing. There were lots of meetings (so many meetings) and lunches and dinners and discussion, and now my head is full and I want to sleep for a week.
I’ve never been a runner. I will probably never be a runner. I tried Couch to 5K once and got about a week into the program before I decided to save my knees and walk instead.
But I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately (thanks Pokémon!), and my endurance has improved. Each year, Automattic does this world-wide WordPress 5k, and this year they’re donating to a good cause, so I figured what the heck; let’s do it!
I was with a small group of other walkers, and I had my trusty Pokémon to keep my mind occupied when I wasn’t chatting with my walking buddy (who was also playing Pokémon). It was chilly and rainy (45℉/7℃), but the scenery was beautiful and the company made it so much fun.
I may have found myself a new Grand Meetup tradition. 🙂