Finding a home for your content

I’ve been blogging on WordPress.com for over nine years and I’m very happy with my decision to become both a WordPress.com user back then, and a WordPress.com (Automattic) employee in 2015.

Continue reading “Finding a home for your content”

AMA: How to be a better blogger

Since the AMAs are coming in very fast (but please keep them coming!): I’m going to start answering these one by one (following my own advice below).

Sunil Kapil writes…

“I really love your blog and read it regularly. I also liked your this year talk in GTAC about flaky tests.”

“I am also as Tool/Automation engineer and write blog time to time. I find it hard to figure out which topic should I cover and how to organize the content of my blog. would like to to know, if you have any tips about that.”

My response…

I’ve had quite a few people ask me about this topic. There’s a great Mark Twain quote that I love that applies well to blogging:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.”

So, following Twain’s advice, the secret to getting ahead with blogging is to start writing small blog posts frequently, and the secret to starting writing blog posts frequently is make them as small as you possibly can so that the barrier to publishing them is so low you’ll keep wanting to do it.

Rather than trying to organise the content of your blog up front, just start writing and let it flow. Imagine a riverbed gradually forming over time: a river doesn’t know where to flow before it’s started: at first the water just flows anywhere and everywhere, but over time a pattern or channel will emerge so you can follow that to shape your blog’s content. Be sure to use tags and categories so you can see what you’re writing about and what people are looking for.

The best topics I have found to start writing about are exact problems you’ve faced in your work and how you went about solving them, even if you haven’t fully solved them, because chances are there will be lots of people with those exact same problems at a point in time.

Once you start writing you may get questions and feedback, so make sure you use that to shape what you write about next, this will become your riverbed.

I also like the idea of strong opinions; weakly held. So find a topic (bonus points if it’s contentious) and write a particularly strong view on it, but be very open to feedback and changing your mind on it, even if it’s in the next blog post you write.

I’ve found the actual blogging platform doesn’t matter as much per say, but the thing that does matter is the channels which you use to spread your ideas. One reason I love WordPress.com so much (where I work and where this site is hosted: shameless plug) is every post of mine is automatically publicised to LinkedIn, my @watirmelon twitter account and to over 600 email subscribers. Use this power to spread the ideas of what you’re writing about.

I’ll conclude by paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln: the best thing about blogging is it comes one blog post at a time.

An Automattician To Be

I am excited to announce I will be starting as a full time Excellence Wrangler for Automattic working on WordPress.com from this coming Monday.

Improve the quality of the WordPress.com experience through testing and triage. Your work will inform product teams to act on the top priority issues facing our users. Tasks include automated UI testing, creating and executing test plans, effective issue tracking and triage, and identifying and monitoring quality metrics.

I’ve dreamed about working for Automattic/WordPress.com for a long time (I first wrote about working for Automattic in 2008), and with their newly created Excellence Wrangler roles this really is a dream come true.

WordPress is superbly simple yet beautifully powerful software that powers 24% of the Internet (including this blog), not only for blogs like this but sites for businesses, artist’s portfolios, hobbyists and giant media organizations like CNN and TIME.

Some amazing facts about Automattic and how I was hired:

  1. Automattic are 100% distributed with 395 staff across 36 countries all working from home or wherever they choose.
  2. I have already worked for Automattic for almost 3 months on a paid trial, where I was given a real project to work on in my spare time. This is a requirement for all new hires at Automattic. I can’t overstate how great this is, as it gave both Automattic and myself real exposure to each other before committing to a full time job. It now makes taking on a new job without a trial seem too daunting.
  3. Automattic does their entire interviewing/trial/hiring process via asynchronous text chat (Skype/Slack), including the final hiring discussion with Matt, so I have never spoken to a person from Automattic. Whilst this may seem unusual at first, it’s representative of how the company works in such a distributed way, and it’s a great way to eliminate all prejudice/bias from a hiring process as it’s all about what value someone can add, not what they look or sound like.
  4. Everyone who joins Automattic full time spends their first 3 weeks on support, regardless of their position. I am looking forward to this next week as it will give me broad insight into how WordPress.com is used by real customers by working as a ‘Happiness Engineer’: Genchi Genbutsu.

I can’t wait to be a part of the future of WordPress.com, so stay tuned for more updates as I begin this exciting next stage of my career.

Five organisations I would love to work for (geography aside)

I believe that it’s a good idea to keep a wish list of companies that you’d love to work for. This is not just to make sure you keep an eye out for opportunities at these companies, but also to discover what it is that makes you want to work at these companies. This makes it easier to chose other jobs that have some of those same qualities.

Your wish list also guides you to make decisions that open up opportunities at these companies, whether that talking to your work collegues about what it would be like to work there, or doing a LinkedIn search to see if anyone in your ‘network’ already works there.

Your wish list doesn’t even need to be realistic. None of the companies on my list are based in Brisbane, and only two are even based in Australia. I’m pretty much set on living in Brisbane; I love it for many reasons. The main reason is the proximity to my family and inlaws. At the moment, no job could be better than that.

But here’s my list:

  1. Threadless: I think this article pretty much sums it up. I also love this other quote about when they were deciding on how to make more money: We’re like, “we should give them stickers because stickers are awesome.”
  2. Atlassian: They make rock solid products (Confluence, JIRA…), aren’t afraid to take on the big players, and strongly support open source. I also love their mission and culture.
  3. Automattic: – Any wordpress user would know why I would love to work for Automattic. They advertise jobs such as Happiness Engineer and state that… everyone who joins Automattic, regardless of position, does support for 3 weeks.
  4. The Big Issue: Not only do The Big Issue support a great cause: homelessness in Australia, but the magazine is a really good read too. There’s no other mag that I enjoy reading more. This is truly a dream job though – they only have a full time staff of… three!
  5. 37Signals: Who wouldn’t want to work with the creators of ruby on rails and the authors of Getting Real? They also write one of my favourite blogs. But the real reason is that they really dig writing skills, and I dig that.