What Remote Work Means To Me

I finally did it.

I joined Crowd Favorite and the quickly growing percentage of the work force that is working remotely. Telecommuting. Working from home. There are many ways to describe it.  But I’ve done it.

My first brush with remote work was in 2011 when I was lucky enough to be allowed to work remotely 2-3 days per week as a developer for a large nonprofit. But to provide for my growing family I also was freelancing and working for an agency on the side. The freedoms that remote work bought me were taken by the number of hours I put in between the three jobs. I did that for a year before deciding that working three jobs wasn’t worth the “freedom” of remote work and took a well paying position in a company with four walls and no telecommuting allowed.

But now I’m back. As of Monday, I work 100% remotely. Honestly, it is still sinking in. But working remote means so much more than wearing whatever I want or getting to wear my smiley-face pants to work (these may or may not exist, I’ll never tell).

Being just three days into remote work my entire lifestyle has changed. My demeanor is easier, less stressed and more friendly.  People have noticed a change already. Here is a list of the changes I’ve noticed so far:

  • Diminished stress – Not having to fight thousands of other commuters on my morning and afternoon trips into the office has been a huge deal. Those trips used to leave me frustrated if not outright angry and in a bad mood coming into the office and coming home to my family. No more. I start and end the day refreshed and energized by work or rest. My wife has already made comments about this change.
  • More time with my family - This one cannot be said enough of. I got between 30 minutes and an hour with my kids each night before bedtime before remote work. Now I get several hours each evening and pretty soon will even get to eat breakfast with them and send them off to school each morning. I have energy to play with them and have intelligent conversation with my wife each evening instead of “going to bed. ZZZZZZZZZZZ.”
  • Communication – This one has been huge. Communication while working remote is key. Learning good communication skills has always been something that I’ve focused on and been aware of. Hopefully, this will begin to pay off not only for me, but for CrowdFavorite both to clients and internally.

I’m sure I’ll continue to find things that I love and that are difficult about working remotely.  The key for me is that it frees me up to live a lifestyle that makes sense and allows me to invest in myself and my family.

I’ve Joined Crowd Favorite

I’ve joined Crowd Favorite as a lead front end developer.  I’m super excited to be joining the company and have loved the experience so far.  Chris Lema wrote a very kind post about me and Pat joining yesterday.

In case you wondered, this was the reason for the “media blackout” (snickers at the thought of being that famous) coming from the blog.  It was self imposed as I was excited and knew that I would have a hard time writing while also not spilling the beans.  So, now that I’m well underway on this new adventure and the announcements have been made, I’ll be resuming my daily blogging challenge.

So my reasons for joining Crowd Favorite are many but there are a few in particular that I’d like to share.

Location. Location. Location.

While Crowd Favorite has offices all over the world, I will be joining the team as a remote worker. It is something I have done part-time in the past but haven’t done in several years.  To be honest, I missed it. The freedom and flexibility are huge things, but I honestly just get more done in my own environment. I fully understand the reasoning behind people who can’t, but I really am able to shine with my own equipment, space and comforts close at hand.

Perhaps the bigger pro to this new flexibility and a major reason for me seeking a new position in the first place is the desire to be near family.  We love Texas.  Dallas has been a big adventure.  I’ve personally formed many relationships with people here that have grown me personally and professionally.  I’ve even grown a rivalry between Dallas and Ft. Worth between myself and @cdils. But we’re 12 hours from my parents and 20 from my wife’s.  That’s just too far for us.  We want desperately for our kids to know and learn from their grandparents. But seeing each 2-3 times per year isn’t going to make that happen.  So we’re choosing to move just north of Atlanta, Georgia to be near to my family.  This will also allow us to visit my wife’s family much more often as we save the expense of visiting two separate locations.

We won’t be moving right away, but will probably be heading towards Georgia in June or July.  My wife is a middle school teacher and we definitely want her to finish out the current school year.  There’s lots we want to do before that time, but it is rapidly approaching.  I’m personally still part of the organizing committee for WordCamp DFW 2015 and will be addressing that with the team very shortly.  I want to help as much as possible and will be getting tickets to come to the event setup as soon as we announce dates.

The biggest part of this change in location and vocation is the lifestyle aspect. We simply want to live simply.  We aren’t becoming hyper-minimalists or anything, but we are making family and time together a priority. I’ll be working hard (I promise @chrislema), but I want to be able to take my daughters to the park or pick them up from school.  I want to do lunch as a family and help my wife more around the house.  I want to spend less time commuting and more time communing. This move, for me, is an investment in myself, my wife and my children. I’m working on my health, my weight, and my outlook. I want to work hard. I’ve always loved working. But I’m working early in my life to make sure I finish the race, finish it well, and finish it while teaching my family to run it the same.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. In Texas? Let’s grab lunch, a beer or both! :)

Staying Motivated On A Long Term Project

Long term projects are hard.

For instance, at my current job, I’ve been on the same project for almost a year now.  I’ve had smaller projects in that time, but for the most part, I’ve been working on our agency’s website redesign for a year.  I’ve redeveloped a single page template twelve times. TWELVE.  Staying motivated this long has been difficult.  But I have a great team surrounding me that helps tremendously.

But what about non-work projects? Personal projects.  Projects that don’t have a fantastic team surrounding them or any immediate gain? How do I stay motivated to create a business while also working a full-time job and investing 100% at both?

Cheating To Stay Motivated

The short answer is, you can’t.  You can’t give 100% of yourself to everything all the time.  Doing so will lead you to burn out and very poor relationships with family, friends, coworkers and more.  So what do we do? Cheat one or more of our commitments?

While this initially sounds like terrible advice that you don’t want your employer seeing you read, let me explain further.  We all have a limited amount of time, energy and focus to give.  It’s a limiting factor of the human experience.  We live in a 24 hour day and need sleep at night (some of us more than others).

If you give your employer all your time, energy, and life, you’ll live a very lonely existence as your relationships with family and friends will suffer and possibly die.  But if you give your family and friends 100% of your life, you’ll go hungry.  So where do you strike a balance?

This is a question that doesn’t have a flat answer for everyone.  Some people have great relationships with family and friends but only need to spend 5% of their energy on them. Some need more at 25% and their relationships are just as great.  Obviously, these numbers are purely made up and not an accurate depiction of time, but you get the idea.

But how does all this relate to side projects and building a business? That’s another portion that you have to take away from something else.  How can you do that without suffering consequences at home or work?  The answer is quite simple, actually.  Only work on things on the side that you are highly passionate about.  Don’t pick projects just to make money.

It’s the same principle as people who have hobbies.  Find something you love to do and devote time to it.  Yes, it can still be difficult and it can still be draining at times. But if you love something and are passionate about it, it helps restore you.  I’m passionate about empowering others voices.  The mission of WordPress to democratize publishing rings especially clear to me.

So creating products and services surrounding this mission is empowering to me and to others.  So when I devote a little time and energy to my side projects, my family and employer both benefit from it.  It relaxes me. It motivates me. It energizes me.  Those things get reflected in the rest of my life. I don’t devote major amount of time to it, but the little that I do gives back to other areas of my life just like work and family do.

That’s how I stay motivated. I’ve found a side project that I love and I don’t add it on top of my current responsibilities. I use a small portion of time from those other areas with the benefit of returning even greater productivity to them by the increase in creativity, motivation and energy.

***I am not suggesting you rob your employer by working on side projects during business hours.  Work hard during those hours and instead of checking email at night or thinking about what needs to be done tomorrow, spend time on your business. I bring my work home with me in many ways other than in a briefcase.  Stopping this and focusing on family or side projects helps me to stay motivated in all areas. Common Sense, folks. :)

A WordPress “Forced” Update

***Update – So several members of the Core dev team and Core security team have responded on Twitter and pointed out that the updates were always this way and that the Codex was incorrect.  It has been updated to reflect reality.  While this still causes some frustration on my part, I appreciate their quickness to both react and respond.  People like Mark Jaquith and Andrew Nacin were extremely helpful in pointing out code that could correct the problem and what the actual reality of the Core code was and is.***

I love WordPress.  The freedom it gives me in terms of both publishing and development has been wonderful.  It’s provided me a means to provide for myself and my family for almost 8 years now.  While I don’t agree with everything I see coming from the committers to the core and other areas, I very much respect them and the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears that they give without asking for a return.

But yesterday I learned of something that caused me to pause.  Then, as I thought about it and began to see details rolling in and more people find issue with it, it caused something very near to fear.  A plugin that is used by a large part of the community, WordPress SEO by Yoast had security vulnerability and users were being asked to update immediately.  Understandable.  While that plugin has not had the best history of updates as you can read about here, it serves a purpose in the community that is needed. But that wasn’t the scary part.  Plugins have vulnerabilities sometimes and we patch and update them.  The scary thing and what caught me most off guard was that the plugin was updated automatically by the wp.org team. Without my consent.

Read that last sentence again. Think about it a second.  While I am in favor of automatic security releases for core in most situations, I opt into those by choice.  I can also turn them off if I desire.  But this update was forced.  No opt-in.  While that may be okay to a blog user (but not this one) or someone else, I have clients, large and small, who depend on their websites.  Enterprise level clients expect to be in control of their applications and servers at all times.  In fact, we do a lot of convincing in my current role that WordPress isn’t a security vulnerability in their technology stack.  So when someone in the core team decides to override what is in the codex and force an update without my knowledge or consent, it is a problem.  It not only hurts my business and infuriates me, but it weakens my clients faith in the platform. Not only that, but it makes that next sell in the space that much harder.  If WordPress as a platform wants to move into the enterprise and application framework space as Matt Mullenweg has said it does, this is a terrible way to do that.

We may call this a “forced update,” but what really happened here is code was pushed to my servers without my knowledge or consent.  Most people would call this an attack.  The intentions behind it, while I can hope to assume that they were noble, do not really matter when we are talking about business and clientele.  While I do not want to cause drama or create a mob, this is something that must be addressed immediately by the core team and honestly needs to be made so that it never happens again.

The Passing Of A Broadcast Legend, Terry Dorsey

While I had something else cued up for today, I turned on my radio, as I always do on my commute, to Dallas country station KSCS.  Sadly, as soon as I tuned in I learned of the sudden passing of legendary broadcast Terry Dorsey. While I’ve only lived in Dallas for 18 months, Terry’s voice and time in my radio was an important one.  It helped Dallas feel more like home and family and culture not so far away.

Terry was the first person to welcome me to Dallas.  While I never met him, nor spoke to him, nor even called into the station, Upon arriving in Dallas one of the first things I did was tune in to the first country station I could find.  In fact, Terry’s voice was the first Texan voice I heard.  I hadn’t even pulled off of I-20 and made my way North with a car full of boxes and a terrified cat before his voice came through the radio and made me feel at home.

I listened to Hawkeye & Dorsey in the morning five days a week for the past 18 months.  I was genuinely sad when it was announced that Terry was retiring but, I understood the draw to take time to just be. While I knew Terry less and fewer years that so many, I am blessed to have been able to spend any time in Dallas listening and being entertained by such a great man who, as was pointed out this morning, was so unassuming.

So it is with a heavier heart this morning that I say so long, Terry.  You’ll be missed.  My deepest condolences to his family, his friends, and his colleagues at the radio station.  If there is anything that I, or I’m sure the people of North Texas, can do please do not hesitate to ask.

Getting Started With Easy Digital Downloads

I’ve used several WordPress eCommerce plugins.  From WP Gold Cart to JigoShop to WooCommerce, I’ve used most of what was out there for the past 7 years.  The one I hadn’t used was Easy Digital Downloads, by Pippin Williamson and crew, due to its relatively newness in the industry.

Man, I was missing out.

I’ve been doing a ton of research into eCommerce, WordPress, and different plugin platforms lately in order to get ready for a new business idea that has been slowly building steam over the past few years (Wanna be the first to hear?  Subscribe to my email list on the left!).  While the tools I had used previously all work and provide great support, security, and functionality, I simply wasn’t happy with them.  There just wasn’t that “WOW” factor.

So when I saw that Pippin had recently redone his website, I decided to take a look at it and his plugins.  Again, I’m not sure why I missed them for so long. Doh!

From the moment I installed and activated Easy Digital Downloads (EDD), things seemed to just work.  Upon activation, I was immediately greeted by a fabulous page detailing what the plugin featured and how to setup your first download.

While the base functionality of Easy Digital Downloads contains some awesome features, the true power of the plugin is in the community and extensions available to add functionality.  There are over 250 extensions in the EDD library that do everything from VAT MOSS (ugh) coverage to payment gateways to Zapier integration.

From the moment I installed and activated Easy Digital Downloads (EDD), things seemed to just work.

 Getting Started with Easy Digital Downloads

So the first step to getting started with Easy Digital Downloads is to install and activate the plugin.  You can do so by searching for Easy Digital Downloads in the wordpress.org plugin repo search bar in Add New Plugin.  Then click install and then activate.

One of the things that gave me that “WOW” factor for EDD was that after activation, you are immediately taken to a page that gives you simple instructions on how to get started.  It is crazy to me that not every plugin does this.  It’s such a simple thing to do and yet a powerful effect that makes me feel trust in the author that they know what they are doing.

Creating your first product to download is easy.  Simply hover over Downloads and click Add New.  Then simply add a product title, a description in the WYSIWYG editor and you are ready for the pricing details.  Depending on what kind of pricing you want, fill in either a fixed price or enable the variable pricing option and input those values.  You’ve got lots of options to add descriptions, download files, and more.

Next you’ll need to setup a payment gateway in order to take payments online via something like Paypal or Stripe.  EDD comes with Paypal Standard and a test gateway by default.

Conclusion

Easy Digital Downloads is simply a great product.  I’ve loved working with it so far.  While I believe that there are other eCommerce plugins that are viable solutions and will use them depending on my needs per project, I have selected Easy Digital Downloads for my new theme shop, Red Cloud Themes, and believe it will provide a great base for myself and my customers.  This post will be the first in a series of posts outlining helpful features, add-ons and tutorials for Easy Digital Downloads as I explore it further and possibly even write my own extensions.

It’s WordCamp Planning Season

This is one of my favorite clips from my childhood.

It is, in all actuality, WordCamp planning season. :)

One of my favorite experiences of 2014, outside of the birth of my second daughter, was the planning process for WordCamp DFW 2014.  It was incredibly rewarding on both a personal and professional level.  It was also incredibly taxing of time and energy. But the event was incredible and garnered a great many comments that it was a huge success.

I am incredibly excited to be part of the organizing committee again this year for WordCamp DFW 2015.  Carrie Dils is heading up our committee and the rest of the team has been filled out with some incredibly talented people who know and love WordPress.

We’re super excited to get started planning this year’s WordCamp DFW and we are going to have a kickin event.  You should come. Invite your friends.  More info to come!

It’s (Not) Time For WordPress To Automatically Update Themes, Plugins, And Core By Default

Monday, Jeff Chandler published a post on WP Tavern called, “It’s Time For WordPress to Automatically Update Themes, Plugins, and Core by Default.” I have a huge amount of respect for Jeff and the WP Tavern team.  I think they have a great handle on what is going on in the WordPress space and they are part of my daily rounds to keep up to date on WordPress as a product and community.  But I think there is a huge component missing from the article on Monday that is a major argument against the idea of automatic updates to themes and plugins. Continue reading It’s (Not) Time For WordPress To Automatically Update Themes, Plugins, And Core By Default

Having Focus

Lately, I have been having discussions with my boss about distractions and how to overcome them and the sensory overload that goes along with our new office space.  We recently moved into a new building.  They are some pretty sweet digs.  But we also switched from cubicles to bench seating.  You can check out the new look here. One of the coolest things about our new building is that neither the company nor our founder, Stan Richards, took on any debt.  In fact, we operate without debt.  Pretty cool. Continue reading Having Focus

Blogging Goals For March

As I sat down to write this morning, it occurred to me that I haven’t set any  blogging goals lately.  I have my yearly goal of blogging every weekday, but I haven’t set any short term goals. While I believe I’m doing fairly well in my commitment to blog, I’d love to start hitting some specific goals about blogging for certain audiences and on certain topics per month. Continue reading Blogging Goals For March