Wine Tourism Conference Presentation


If you’re visiting my site after attending my presentation on Designing Websites for 2016 and Beyond, thank you and welcome!

If you would like to download a copy of my Keynote, here you go:

Wine Tourism Conference 2015 Presentation

If you’re more of a PowerPoint aficionado, I’ve got you covered:

Wine Tourism Conference 2015 Presentation

And lastly, if PDFs are more your thing, I’ve got that too:

Wine Tourism Conference 2015 Presentation

It was lovely meeting everyone and sharing stories over such wonderful wines and food!


Day in the Life of a Happiness Engineer




Over the past year or so, quite a few of my colleagues here at Automattic have written “Day in the Life of…” posts on their personal blogs about, well, what a typical day is like for a Happiness Engineer. If you’re interested in learning more about we work, given all the freedom that we’re given to set our schedules (mostly) and choose our location (anywhere in the world!), you can catch most (maybe all?) of the posts by checking out the [#a8cday]( tag.

I generally work Monday to Friday, although on very rare occasions I might pop into Slack or our ticket queues over the weekend for an hour or two. Since my husband works a standard M-F job, though, I like keeping my own work hours n sync with his.

A lot of my colleagues like to ease into their workday day by catching up on p2s, the ever-growing collection of internal blogs (organized by team and/or project) that all together represent the heart, soul and critical organs of our global, distributed organization. Bug report? It’s on a p2. Odd behavior in the network? It’s on a p2. Discussion about how we can expand our live chat availability beyond North American hours? It’s on a lot of p2s.

I, on the other hand, like to jump in feet first and immediately kickstart my day by live chatting with users right at 7:00 am. Live chat is an essential part of the day for most Happiness Engineers, and the amount of time we dedicate to the task on a daily can vary depending on one’s team and daily schedule. On my team (Phoenix, which is primarily responsible for assisting Business and Enterprise users of, we aim for a total of 5 hours of live chat per day.

Because I’ve been spending a lot of time managing the roll out and maintenance of our Google Apps integration and deployment, I’ve temporarily cut back a bit on my support load to focus on doing a lot of testing, QA, and debugging of the product, but I still try and dedicate a minimum of two hours of live chat a day. The morning hours in particular represent a busy time for our Business users, so we HEs who staff those early blocks typically juggle a steady flow of user chats.

Every now and then, I’ll get a user or two with a particularly tricky issue that requires some debugging and testing, or who may be new to WordPress or website building in general and who needs a little more assistance. When that happens, my shift might end up extending well past the two-hour mark. (I think my personal record for longest user chat was just over 2-1/2 hours.) It’s not very common for my shift to bleed so far into mid- or late morning, but just in case I try not to schedule anything in the next hour after my chat shift, just to give myself that much of a buffer.

When I’m chatting, I do very little else besides skim p2s.  We also have a very active Slack in-house community, and while I long ago decided that reading the backscroll of messages that happened overnight or over the weekend while I was away was a futile exercise, I still like to quickly glance through my favorite channels and see if there’s anything critical I should be aware of.

For the most part, though, if I’m not actively in a chat, I’ll keep an eye on our #livechat Slack channel. That’s probably one of the most active channels in our company, one that’s lit up nearly all hours of the day or night. If we get a question in live chat that we’re not sure of, that’s the channel we throw it into for assistance. A user’s post has odd formatting? We paste the link into the channel and ask anyone available if they are seeing the same thing, and if so, what they might think is causing it. (With over 300+ themes, and new ones being launched every week, it’s almost impossible for any one person to know the unique features of each and every one.)

Compared to the intensity and singular focus of live chat, the rest of the day tends to be a little bit more relaxed. Once my chat shift is done, I may take my four dogs out for long walks – also in shifts, natch, as I don’t like being dragged in four different directions – and then go for a long run to clear my head.

When I get back, I usually take the dogs out to the backyard for more playtime for them and stretching for me. Then, it’s back inside for a quick shower and snack before plopping myself in front of the computer again in my home office.

For the last few months, I’ve devoted most of my non-chat hours every day to responding to queries and bug reports about our users’ Google Apps accounts, so if you purchased one from us and had questions or issues with it, chances are you either chatted with me about it, or I’ve spent time helping another Happiness Engineer with it. I review our debug logs, create a surprisingly large number of spreadsheets to help me keep track of and investigate problems, and help our developers with fixes and patches. I’m not a developer at all, but I do love the problem-solving aspects of the job and relish the thought of troubleshooting especially tricky bugs. I may have never written a line of code (although I did take computer science in high school and created simple BASIC programs!), but I’ve learned to pick through the Google Apps API documentation and learn the basics of how an account is created. I put on a “Focus” playlist on Spotify, have my bottle of ice-cold water at the ready, and I can get lost in the debug logs for hours.

If and when I find the source of a bug, I’ll compile everything into a report that I’ll publish in a p2 post, cc-ing the relevant developer(s) and, if necessary, alerting the rest of the Happiness team in case it affects more than a handful of users.

I usually try to end my day by 4:30-5:00 pm Central, as that gives me time to tie up any loose ends, relax, and take the dogs out for another romp in the backyard before I start preparing their dinner. If B. catches the early train, he’s generally walking through the door a few minutes before 6:00, but if not, then he’ll be here by 6:10 or so.

Every now and then, I might log back in after we’ve all had dinner and are relaxing in front of the TV, but otherwise, I try to keep evenings free for just the family.

I know quite a few people might read this and think, “Wait, I thought you guys can work anywhere you want, whenever you want, and travel all the time?!” Well, yes, we do, and this year alone I’ve been to San Antonio, Portland, Phoenix, Miami, and Park City for work. Last year I traveled to Palermo, Italy; San Francisco; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; Park City, UT; and Kauai, all for work as well. I’m not sure where I’ll be next year just yet, but I do know that in January I’ll be spending a week with my teammates in Phoenix, and again for our annual company “Grand Meetup” in the mid- to late fall at an as-yet-undecided location.

Still, most of my work still takes place online, at home, surrounded by my motley crew of four-legged pups and, in the evenings and weekends, my husband. And that’s exactly how I like it, the soothing predictability and stability of it. Some of my colleagues choose to be nomads, working from wherever in the world they can find solid wifi and a decent cup of coffee. I traveled thousands upon thousands of miles when I was much younger, and once devoted months of my life to a big, life-altering backpacking trip that took me from Dallas to Australia and a dozen points in between. I grew up straddling two cultures and zooming between two continents. I know what it’s like to be a nomad. It’s an exhilarating adventure.

But now I also know what it’s like to settle down. To plant my feet on solid ground and keep them there for a while. I like the rhythm of our days, the million opportunities to sit in the backyard on a breezy summer’s day and enjoy the feel of my dog’s warm, happy breath on my neck. I like coming home at the end of a business trip and be welcomed into my family’s joyful embrace. I like waking up in the morning and knowing that my day is going to be like (for the most part!). For some, that may be a terrifying thought, but for me, a woman who had such a peripatetic life in the past, it’s the very definition of a happy life.

Automattic Grand Meetup 2015

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I can’t imagine working for a better, more amazing, more powerful company.

Originally posted on allmyfriendsarejpegs:

Once a year, every employee of Automattic (the folks behind get together in one place for a week. This time, we returned to Park City in Utah, which is home to the Sundance Film Festival. By this point, the company has grown to 400 people, based in locations all over the world; a number that is more than double that of the total when I first joined.

During the Grand Meetup, we spend the week collaborating on projects, eating together, drinking (a lot), teaching and learning new skills, making music, dancing, and generally getting to know more about the people that we spend a good chunk of our lives speaking to online.

It is a surreal, exhausting experience to be around that many colleagues for an entire 7 days, especially when everybody seems like a celebrity (to steal a friend’s phrase), and you know them better by their profile picture…

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Miranda Retort


Originally posted on Ryan Boren:

You have a duty to presume my innocence.
You have a duty to respect my right to silence.
You have a duty to preserve evidence.
You have a duty to be a fair witness.
You have a duty to treat me as a human being.

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Portable inbox acquired



It’s an odd fact of modern life – even with all the technological doodads and whatchamacallits we surround ourselves with – that the amount of paperwork we must deal with on a daily basis seems to be exponentially larger than that generated a mere generation ago.

In any case, that sad observation aside, I must get these folders.

Originally posted on All Narfed Up:

I finally have a set of Lightahead® LA-7550 clear document snap button color document folders, which I’ll use for my inbox in a few places:

  • Backpack: Coworking or traveling.
  • Suitcase: Traveling, papers to shred.
  • Car

Following GTD methodology, these folders will keep loose papers in one place when I’m away from my home office. When I return, I dump them all into the inbox on my desk.

When I’m on a trip, I scan receipts with my iPhone 6 into Scanner Pro, and those receipts can be shred safely. To keep the edges clear, I’ll label one of the folders accordingly.

Remember: If you don’t have an inbox, everything is your inbox!

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This is what a good dog parent would say


My foster puppy Peanut is going on a home visit/trial tomorrow with a potential adopter. The future pet parent, with whom I’ve been exchanging lots of texts this week about dog care, training, separation anxiety issues, nutrition, and the like, sent me this text tonight:


That’s exactly what I want to hear.

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Why books will always trump e-readers


People who need to possess the physical copy of a book, and not merely an electronic version, are in some sense mystics. We believe that the objects themselves are sacred, not just the stories they tell. We believe that books possess the power to transubstantiate, to turn darkness into light, to make being out of nothingness. We do not want the experience of reading to be stripped of this transcendent component and become rote and mechanical. That would spoil everything.

— Joe Queenan, One for the Books

Posted from WordPress for Android

Art Matters, So It Shouldn’t Be Free


In a previous life, I worked as a wind energy developer. It meant lots of long trips to exotic places where people are usually not (at least, not in great or even middling abundance): places like Sweetwater, TX; Minot, North Dakota; Ozona, TX; and Santa Rosa, NM. Don’t get me wrong — these are all lovely places with very kind, welcoming communities. But wherever there is plenty of wind to support industry-scale wind projects, there is typically not much in terms of population.

Anyway, I remember vividly one day trip I took to some North Texas county (I can’t remember which one anymore, but it was a very rural, remote area with a lot of trees and, as we soon figured out, not as much wind as we’d hoped) one spring day. The company I worked for had sent over a young intern named Adam from Irish HQ, so as an educational experience and for some company I took him with me.

During the long, two-hour drive to the meeting, we somehow got to chatting about artists (musicians in particular), creativity, and the bubbling tension between the need for these artists to make a living and the demand of their fans for free content. This was a post-Napster, pre-Spotify world, when Pandora was just starting to find its audience and YouTube was exploding with illegal uploads of both official and “unofficial,” fan-made music videos.

Adam believed that artists should make their work freely available on the Internet and suffered not an ounce of guilt from downloading copyrighted content without paying for it. He genuinely believed that because his generation (he was about 19, and this was the mid-2000s) had grown up accustomed to paying little or nothing for music, movies and books because of their wide availability on bootleg sites, they shouldn’t be expected to suddenly pony up for access to them. Sure, he was happy to pay a few hundred dollars for an iPod, but for the music and other content he would actually play on it and without which the iPod would just be an outrageously priced paperweight? Nada. When I asked him how in the world he expected these artists to survive and continue to create without compensation, he said, “They can get a full-time job and create in their spare time.”

Artists have always, always struggled for respect and an adequate income for their work. Distributing content without artist compensation is a longtime tradition — it’s why copyright law was invented in the first place. But with technology making it so incredibly easy to distribute any creative work on a mass, global scale, it’s become even harder for artists to control their work and earn a living wage from it. If even musicians with vast financial resources and the power and influence of corporate money behind them can’t make money solely from their creative output but must hustle to make themselves into a “brand”, is there much hope for the “independent artist” who would rather spend their time and energies actually making art and not shilling t-shirts and plastic wrist bands out of cramped apartments?

I could never convince Adam that artists deserve to be paid every single time their music is downloaded, their film is viewed, and their book is sold. But while the conversation happened nearly a decade ago, it stuck in my head and comes out periodically whenever I read articles like this one, which calls for basically an overhaul of society and more expansive public investment in artists and their art.

Despite what I just wrote above about the importance of compensating artists for their work, I’m of two minds about the idea of devoting public funds to support artists. The Depression-era programs put to work thousands of writers, photographers, filmmakers, and visual artists left an astounding legacy of documents, films, and artwork that serve as a rich repository of content about a particularly critical time in American history.

On the other hand, the content, while voluminous, wasn’t exactly created solely for the sake of art. As this article carefully points out, “Nothing was published that was not first approved by Washington and the entire process required that the author remain anonymous.” Government money is rarely offered without strings, even today, and while I consider myself fairly liberal, I hesitate to endorse any arts program or idea that relies so heavily on government largesse. Socialist art has rarely produced anything of lasting cultural value and more often than not serves as a propaganda tool. The artist should only ever be beholden to their creative impulse, never to an outside agency with its own agenda.

Still, I also don’t think that we can expect the “masses” (who my former political science prof often referred to as “asses”) to suddenly have a change of heart and refuse to download anything without ponying up a royalty to the artist. One program I find appealing is Ireland’s Artists Tax Exemption. Rather than requiring artists to submit exhaustive applications and compete with their peers for a limited amount of earmarked funds — a process ripe with bias and the stifling of free speech and creativity — the program offers a simple blanket benefit to all artists who make money from their work. It’s not a perfect program: the government is still the final arbiter of what it considers “of cultural merit” and thus eligible for tax exemption. But it does strike me as an easier and more liberal means of supporting artists by removing or at least minimizing the burden of supporting oneself through one’s art. Like everyone else in society, the artist must still organize her paperwork and receipts to prepare for filing the appropriate returns, but at least she’s not enduring the soul-sucking business of filling out reams of grant applications, writing one more goddamn essay about why her work should be funded, and gathering reference letters and budget forecasts.

I’ve not spoken to Adam since I left the company in 2006, but I wonder what he thinks now, a decade later and 10 years older, about the state of the music industry. Folks wanting unlimited free music have never had it better — I listen to Spotify all day long and have never paid for it. But as a writer who works hard for every word and every page, I’m terrified of what the future holds for creatives who want and deserve to be paid for doing what they love and doing it well.

The ‘great and cursed work’ that was the Encyclopédie – Ideas – The Boston Globe


Here’s the great difference between the Encyclopédie and the Internet, between what reading meant then and what it increasingly passes for today. While Diderot encouraged differences of opinion and perspectives among his closest contributors, he knew that all of them — from Voltaire to Rousseau, Baron d’Holbach to the Chevalier de Jaucourt — took the act of writing as seriously as did those who read it. No activity was more noble.

via The ‘great and cursed work’ that was the Encyclopédie – Ideas – The Boston Globe.