Ten years later

Today is my 34th birthday. Ten years ago I was only 24, a few years out of school, and I bit off more than I could chew by becoming a freelancer.

Although it eventually led me to GoDaddy, that whole “running my own business” adventure didn’t end well. It was a rough period in my life, filled with stress, and it took a while to recover.

Jumping back into that world of startups and entrepreneurship is both exciting and nerve wracking. Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot over the last ten years. Or at least, I think I have? 😬

I watched how others operate. I took note of what I liked and didn’t like. I quietly thought about my own approach, if I were to ever jump into the world of entrepreneurship again, and filed it away for safe keeping.

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On migrating to WP Engine

My blog is now hosted on WP Engine. I’ve been impressed with the experience so far, including a migration process that went very smoothly – probably the smoothest WordPress migration I’ve ever done, to be honest.

Here’s how it happened:

  1. I set up my new WP Engine account and was offered a choice of data center location. Canada was one of the options. Bonus points for that! I’m tired of being stuck with either American or European servers.
  2. The automated migration worked without any hiccups. I followed the prompts, installed the migration plugin on my old hosting, and within a few minutes, everything was moved over.
  3. My last step was to update the DNS for my domain. The WP Engine control panel isn’t for beginners, but it’s intuitive enough for power users, and they have contextual prompts + links to documentation if you get stuck. I had no issue finding the IP address I needed to map my A records against.

I forgot to provision the Let’s Encrypt SSL certs after migrating, so there was a bit of downtime, but that was totally on me for missing a step. (Oops.)

Why the move to WP Engine?

With my recent career shift, I needed a new home for my blog, and for any future WordPress projects. I don’t have the bandwidth to look after a cPanel hosting account, and I’m comfortable paying a premium for top-tier support.

There are plenty of great managed WordPress hosting providers out there, but my mind immediately went to WP Engine.

They’re one of the longest-running players in the managed WordPress space. They were also the first MWP hosting provider I ever used, courtesy of their free hosting giveaway at WordCamp Toronto. I even had the pleasure of working on some walkthroughs for their control panel about a decade ago!

I also have friends and associates who work almost exclusively with WP Engine hosting, and I trust their judgment. 🙂

Who else did I consider?

Flywheel (owned by WP Engine), Kinsta, SpinupWP, and Cloudways were others on my radar. I also thought about giving WordPress.com a try. The first four are geared more towards agencies, and WordPress.com didn’t feel “power user” enough for me.

WP Engine was a happy middle ground. 🙌

Choosing a Community Platform: Community Leads Africa Summit 2022

The following is a write up of my session for the Community Leads Africa Summit.

My work in online community began as a hobby, building forums and fansites in the mid-aughts. In 2010, I started doing in-person events, meetups and workshops. 

For the last seven-ish years I was looking after content and community operations at GoDaddy. I just recently wrapped that up, and am once again diving head-first into the world of startups.

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Wrapping up at GoDaddy

This Friday, February 25th will be my last day at GoDaddy.

It’s been a hell of a ride.

Back in 2015, GoDaddy was looking for someone who knew online & offline communities, the web dev industry, and WordPress. The job description was a perfect summary of everything I had done up to that point, both professionally and as a hobby.

After a bunch of conversations (and several flights to Arizona), I joined the team as their first community manager for GoDaddy Pro, a partner program for web designers & developers.

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Optimizing your Community Operations

The following was presented to the Community OPServations group. Thanks to Tiffany Oda and Cassie Mayes for inviting me to share my thoughts!

Early in my career, at the recommendation of bosses and colleagues, I went deep on productivity methods.

Getting Things Done was the first I was introduced to. Then there was the Pomodoro technique, where you set a timer to do work in 25 minute increments. If that didn’t work, there were apps that monitored your browsing habits so you could police yourself.

And, yes, timeboxing — something I’ve done aggressively for the last six years – where we play Tetris with our calendars, shuffling around blocks of time assigned to specific tasks, in an attempt to create that “focus” time for finding our flow.

Years later, I read that what we actually needed was to be in a state of flow, with largely unstructured time, doing one thing. 

Still, none of these productivity methods solve the problem of having a finite number of hours in the day. Hell, I’d say productivity isn’t even the thing that we should be thinking about.

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A healthy community core

I’m heads down on a blog post about optimization. (Fun topic, eh?) In the meantime, I came across this great piece on growing healthy communities:

“Just like a tree a healthy community needs a core. A healthy core is made up of relationships strong enough and dense enough that there is trust and commitment. That creates stability. The core is the center of activity. It is where the heat is generated that then radiates out. If you’re new to this group, you’ll get a sense of how active the group is by observing activities that originate in the core. The core is also a center of gravity for the group’s culture and identity. It is where values, behaviors, principles and practices are role-modeled. How do we know how to behave in this group? We look to the people at the core and we start copying their behavior. In groups without core there is nobody to learn from.”

Community principle: Weaving from the inside out (Together Institute)

Have a great week!

What I’ve learned about web3 so far

person piling blocks

I was initially turned off by web3 because of the laser-eyed, diamond-handed cryptobros flooding Twitter with shitty JPEGs and Pepe memes.

It all struck me as juvenile “for the lulz” trolling. Crypto felt like a pyramid scheme built on fuzzy tech. I didn’t want anything to do with it.

Heck, even thinking back to the early days of Bitcoin, the whole thing felt like a gong show of FOMO. As the hype grew, the value grew, because supply & demand. It was a gold rush!

But why the hype? Why were people building custom rigs to mine a virtual currency invented by an anonymous creator? Did they really think it was going to replace fiat currency? That it was going to overthrow our modern financial system?

The whole thing felt like a prologue to a sci-fi anime from GAINAX.

Thing is, as time went on, more people I knew and respected moved into the space. In the last few years, especially, I couldn’t help but pay attention. And in the last few weeks, I went down the rabbit hole. I started reading up on blockchain tech, NFTs, DAOs, metaverse(s), et al.

To my surprise, I found it interesting. Hell, even exciting. Underneath the hype-fueled digital gold rush of day-trading monkey avatars lays the foundation of something real.

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Priorities for 2022

Here’s a belated welcome to 2022. I’m writing this from my standing desk, nursing a fresh bout of sciatica brought on by yesterday’s massive snowfall, and my subsequent shoveling. (Whoops.)

I haven’t seen a dumping of this magnitude since my college days in Kingston. Eastern Ontario is known for its aggressive winter. Seeing that much snow land here in Ajax was something else. Thank goodness I splurged on a snow blower two years ago…!

I used to write an annual blog post about my goals for the upcoming year. I stopped because I never stuck to those goals. I have OKRs and KPIs to juggle at work. Thinking about metrics, outside of that context, was just too much.

Still, reflecting on the year gone by, and thinking about the year coming up, is a nice exercise.

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Reflecting on 2021

Our baby girl arrived at 11:45pm on Christmas Eve. We were stuck in the hospital for three days under strict Covid protocols. It feels like it was only a few days ago, but also forever ago.

We keep seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, only to find another tunnel waiting for us. We hoped that we’d celebrate our daughter’s first birthday with friends and family. Omicron took that away from us, as it has for so many others.

Still, we’re among the privileged. I’ve worked from home since 2015. We bought our house in late 2019, only months before everything went off the rails. My wife took 18 months extended maternity leave. Her mom lives with us. We live in a safe and quiet neighbourhood with tree-lined streets. Waterfront trails are just a few minutes’ walk from our door. I’m looking out my window right now. Bare branches against blue sky.

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Choosing the right community platform

white and red piled sticks

The following is a summary of my presentation at the #CommunityLed2021 virtual conference. Join the discussion on Community Club.

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Hi! I’m Andy. I’m a Senior Product Manager at GoDaddy, looking after our customer community platforms: the GoDaddy Blog, GoDaddy Events, and GoDaddy Community forums.

Like many people in our industry, this all started as a hobby. In the early 2000s I was a teenager building forums and fansites. In 2009, I started hosting in-person meetups and events. Then, in 2015, I joined GoDaddy as the Community Manager for their GoDaddy Pro partner program.

Until I joined GoDaddy, all of the work was voluntary and unpaid. I had wanted to get into the Advertising industry, but graduated into the recession in 2009. Nobody was hiring. So I fell back on my self-taught web skills, hopping between roles in IT companies, digital agencies and startups.

Through those roles I learned a lot about gathering requirements, defining scopes of work, estimating timelines, and working with different stakeholders to bring projects online. That experience informs a lot of how I approach my projects today, including how I choose community platforms.

Tip: Start with a working doc. Your working doc is a single source of truth for all the prep work that goes into choosing your platform. Everything I cover in this guide will be a section within that working doc. Collaborate on the working doc with your team, and use it as a starting point in crafting your proposal.

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