Remembering the Milk, Moving on to Wunderlist

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One of the things I love about working at a place like Automattic is being surrounded by like-minded folks obsessed about productivity. Our internal operations manual even has entire pages devoted to particular productivity apps like Alfred (<3) and Things. Much of the conversation is driven by my colleague Bryan V., who is the productivity master, but overall Automatticians are very much a productivity-driven bunch of folks.

I wasn’t always this way. Before I got my first smartphone (a Palm Centro in 2008), I relied exclusively on a hefty Day-Timer. Bulky and packed with Post-Its, business cards, and receipts, it nevertheless served me well for years – I ran my entire freelance writing career on it and somehow managed to accomplish way more than you’d think considering how limited a paper planner seems now.

Once I launched my social media/content marketing agency in 2009, though, whatever latent obsession I had with productivity and efficiency suddenly bloomed and I found myself trying out ever project management tool, task manager, to-do app, and calendar app on the market. Seriously, name a project management tool, and chances are, I’ve at least researched it. Especially after I began hiring contractors and other freelancers, my need to find the perfect productivity tool expanded, and I must have subjected my poor brain to a new tool every month. I somehow managed to get things done, but I was frazzled with the learning curve each new tool demanded.

Eventually, it dawned on me that the tool itself wasn’t the problem. I was the problem. What I needed wasn’t the perfect tool but rather the dedication to actually using the damn thing. Anyone halfway familiar with how productivity works understands that, but despite my college degree and graduate education, apparently that basic fact escaped me for years.

So I picked the app that seemed both the simplest and most comprehensive: Remember the Milk. I used it for a few years, moving it from my old Nexus 4 to my current Moto X and then my iPad. I even paid the annual $25 subscription fee for premium features, primarily the on-demand sync option. When I find an app that helps me get things done, I’m more than happy to pay the developers to help them continue maintaining and updating it.

Recently, though, I’ve been trying out Wunderlist, which I’d experimented with a couple of years before but somehow dropped. I don’t remember why, but the current interface on the Android is beautiful, yet still minimal. Unlike Remember the Milk, where all your tasks for the day are just thrown into one big list, I can view my entire day’s tasks on Wunderlist on one page, broken down into different categories. I can just focus on my Work tasks when I’m at my desk, but also scroll down quickly to view the Phone Calls list or the Emails list if I find myself with spare pockets of time during the day. I don’t ever have to leave that particular page.

wunderlist to-do app review

Plus, bonus: Wunderlist also has a handy-dandy Chrome browser extension that lets me add any page on the web to my to-do list, and even categorize it right within the extension.

I still have my Remember the Milk account, but I haven’t looked at it in several weeks as I’ve been resting out Wunderlist. I have a feeling it will be a keeper, especially since it’s free. There’s a Pro version, but it seems to be largely for businesses or freelancers, so while I’m happy to pay for an app I use all day, everyday, if I don’t need to, $25 is still $25.

The Business of Freelancing, Blogging, and Books, According to Author Jennifer Armstrong

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Marjorie R. Asturias:

Great interview with a full-time, working freelance writer, including a peek into her daily routine and how she manages to fit in writing books, writing blog posts, and pitching stories in her packed schedule.

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

First, I should note: I am not related to Jennifer Armstrong. But! I have followed her writing closely over the years — first during her years at Entertainment Weekly, and more recently as the author of books like Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted (Simon & Schuster), which offered a definitive history of the classic TV series. Her blog also happens to be a must-follow on WordPress.com: She gives glimpses into her current work (she’s doing a Seinfeld book next) and she’s refreshingly transparent about the business (and hard truths) of being a freelance writer in 2015. I spoke with her via email about the business of writing and tips for how she makes time for her own blog.

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Have you Pressed Publish yet?

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Press Publish in Portland, OR.

Press Publish in Portland, OR.

I’ve been on WordPress since at least 2007 (maybe earlier, but my aging memory doesn’t go back that far), but in all honesty my blogging journey was really launched on Google’s Blogger.com. In fact, it wasn’t until well into my tenure here as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic that I finally took down my Blogger site and moved everything here to WordPress.com. I still have a few self-hosted sites that I maintain (namely this one), though, and have been passionate about WordPress and its credo of open source software since I built my first, admittedly primitive self-hosted site in the mid-’00s.

Still, until I volunteered at last year’s WordCamp San Francisco, I’d never attended a WordCamp or even a WordPress meetup. I’d been evangelizing WordPress for years and built client sites exclusively on the platform, but the WordCamp universe always eluded me. It wasn’t just the fact that I was running a business, volunteering, taking care of a busy household with a professional spouse and 4 active dogs, and otherwise living a pretty full life – I still found plenty of time to attend networking events and even the occasional out-of-town client meeting or conference. But a local meetup of fellow WordPress enthusiasts? I dunno, it just didn’t appeal to me.

I figured out pretty quickly that it wasn’t so much the busy schedule that kept me from attending, but rather this perception that the meetups and WordCamps were all populated largely by technically savvy developers and designers, the kind of folks who literally spoke a different language and generally dwelt in the deeper parts of a software that I wouldn’t dare go.

Sure, I’d built plenty of sites, but I used premade templates and taught myself basic php — just enough to add a function or two, maybe tweak a design feature here and there. But my sites — all for small, local businesses or microentrepreneurs with miniscule budgets — were a result of some basic hacking on my part and a little help from a more tech-savvy developer friend.

I couldn’t imagine what I’d have in common with the folks who attended a WordPress meetup. I’m a writer. What do I know about plugin development and APIs?

Of course, now that I work closely with developers and designers in my everyday job, they’re not so mysterious anymore. Sure, 75% of what they talk about whiz right over my head (insert whooshing noise here), but my comfort level just being around them is so much higher now. I don’t mind asking questions, pleading ignorance, and sometimes even diving in and exploring some bits of code when it drifts by my desk. I have no desire to ever be a programmer, but it’s not quite the black box it used to be. Now, I’ve not only attended a few WordCamps but have even spoken at a couple of them. In fact, god forbid but I’m also part of the organizing committee for the DFW WordCamp coming up in the fall.

And yet.

I’m still a writer at heart. Not a content contributor or content marketer or whatever Fast Company uses now to refer to words or text strung together to deliver a message or tell a story. I like reading blogs, writing posts, and meeting other bloggers. One of the best features of WordPress.com is the Reader, which makes it so easy to keep up with my favorite bloggers and even discover new ones via the Freshly Pressed and Recommended Blogs sections.

And now, with the Press Publish series of WordPress conferences exclusively devoted to the storytellers and bloggers who use WordPress, I’ve found yet another reason to be excited about being a part of the community.

I not only attended but also spoke and helped out behind the scenes at both the inaugural event in Portland in late March as well as the most recent one in Phoenix this past weekend. The organizers packed each one-day event with a tight, carefully curated schedule of brilliant speakers and workshops, all focused on providing attendees with both information and inspiration on how they can become better bloggers and writers.

My own talks were on social media, DIY PR, and a little bit on how to make money from blogging (affiliates, ads, ecommerce). I’d like to think that most attendees found some useful tidbits of information from my presentations, but really, every workshop, tutorial, and speaker presentation was well-attended. I’m not sure that a lot of folks were especially interested too much in the monetization aspect of blogging, which is so alien to me, coming from a heavily PR- and marketing-focused universe where everyone wants to become the next Dooce.com and rake in a million dollars a year in advertising fees. In other words, I loved it. Thank god they only gave me 15 minutes for the monetization session. I don’t think I got more than one question about that topic in each city.

Yes. Writers. I so <3 that it was all about writers.

Automattic is evaluating the Press Publish series to see if it’s something that we can and should continue, but in the meantime the videos for each event should be online very soon. If you’re a blogger and are interested in attending a future event — assuming we have others — be sure to follow the event’s official site to get the latest updates.

Press Publish, Phoenix

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Marjorie R. Asturias:

I worked the event as well as part of my job as an Automattician and loved just about all of it. More thoughts of my own about the event, but in the meantime my colleague and friend Karen wrote a great post about it as well. Enjoy!

Originally posted on Karen Alma:

This past Saturday, April 18th,  I got to hang out with about 130 amazing bloggers and 13 of my coworkers at Press Publish in Phoenix, a new WordPress.com offering. The first one was in Portland a couple weeks ago.

I gave a 15 minute presentation about Blogging on the Go with the WP mobile app and spent the rest of the time at the Happiness Bar helping people with WordPress questions and issues.

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While I’ve been at my fair share of conferences and have enjoyed them all, Press Publish had a unique vibe that I can’t quite place my finger on. Perhaps it was the focus on blogging, the workshops about writing, and presentations about finding your voice. Perhaps it was the energy of notable bloggers like Kathy Cano-Murillo, Russ CrandallKatherineFritz and Emily Austin. Or perhaps it was the sea of smiling enthusiastic Automatticians (my coworkers at Automattic), I always…

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Overheard at the allergy clinic

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Patient: I’m planning on going to Beijing soon. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to China, not since I studied abroad there.

Nurse: Oh, do you speak Japanese?

To his credit, the twentysomething patient didn’t even skip a beat and said something like, “I speak a little Chinese, yeah.”

I guess you don’t really want to correct the lady about to stick a needle in your arm, but still. We are doomed.

Posted from WordPress for Android

Hispanicize 2015 – “Essential Extras For Your WordPress”

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If you missed my workshop on “Essential Extras for your WordPress” at the Hispanicize event in Miami last week, here’s the presentation for your viewing pleasure:

I’ve been told that the video will be available on Hispanicize’s YouTube shortly, so as soon as I hear about that, I’ll embed it here as well. I believe the SEO panel on Friday was also recorded, so hopefully that’ll be available as well.

The Weird Things I Find Oddly Amusing #3,539

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I used to write a weekly column for a local paper when I lived in Colorado. The town leaned heavily conservative, and being a liberal, proud feminist of color, I received my fair share of nasty letters and the occasional death threat.

I was still surprised, though, when an email landed in my Inbox an entire year after I’d already stopped writing for the paper and had moved back to Dallas. What surprised me wasn’t the content but the fact that this reader felt such a burning desire to hurl virtual flaming torches at me for a column I’d long since forgotten already. This much, I remember: it was about abortion.

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What I found most amusing was that he actually thought I’d be remotely interested in engaging him by responding to the email.

Er, no. But it does make good blog fodder.