Embracing Gutenberg

Embracing Gutenberg | WordCamp Rochester 2018 from Andy McIlwain

Gutenberg is the new WordPress editor. Right now, it’s available as a plugin. As of WordPress 5.0 — the next major release, slated for November — it’ll be the default editor for posts and pages.

Gutenberg development began early last year, with the first prototype made available in February 2017. Since then, development has chugged along at a steady pace. We’re now sitting on the cusp of version 4.0.

So that’s great, but what does it mean for us users? The ones who are building websites, publishing posts, and assembling pages within WordPress?

In my opinion, it all comes down to one thing: Gutenberg gives us a new way to think about content. We don’t need to think of posts and pages as monolithic entities of text and code. We can view them as compilations of blocks.

Keep reading…Embracing Gutenberg

Organizing for inclusivity & diversity

WordCamp Toronto 2018 is taking place on Saturday, December 1st.

We published a planning survey early this week and we just released the call for sponsors last night.

Our call for volunteers and speakers will go up in the next week or so.


I haven’t co-organized a WordCamp since going on hiatus in 2016. I did six WordCamps back-to-back from 2011 through 2015.

By 2016 I felt completely burnt out.

Fast forward a year and I felt the itch to start hosting meetups again. So I did, in the east end, as a monthly roundtable user discussion.

Why the itch to return?

WordPress is central to what I do for work, and I feel like co-organizing meetups and WordCamps is a great way to volunteer in the community.

So when I attend other WordCamps around North America, I can’t help but think about what’s happening in Toronto, and what we could be doing differently.

And on that note…

We need more inclusivity and diversity.

The organizing team has been a boys club since 2011.

I know I’m part of perpetuating that.

I didn’t think much of it in the past, because it felt like we were just a small group of buddies putting on a good event.

But, in hindsight, I realize that we may have been obliviously exclusionary.

Just take a look around the city: HackerYou, Canada Learning Code, Camp Tech, and LearnWP are all local, WordPress-related organizations with talented, whip-smart women at the helm.

Can we really say that we’re home to Toronto’s WordPress community when such a big chunk of the people who are using WordPress aren’t represented?

Let alone Toronto itself, one of the most diverse and multi-cultural cities in the world?

That’s my $0.02, at least.

I’d like to keep hitting on this topic in the coming months, especially with the rebooted speaker series. (More on that next week.)

Keep reading…Organizing for inclusivity & diversity

Thoughts on WordCamp for Publishers 2018 + WordCamp Niagara 2018

A couple weeks ago I attended two WordCamps back-to-back: WordCamp for Publishers in Chicago, and WordCamp Niagara in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The two WordCamps were catering to very different audiences, but they were both alike in that they focused on smaller niche groups.

Publishers catered to (surprise!) people working with WordPress in the media. Niagara, on the other hand, catered to a crowd of local users.

These smaller camps are great for community-building.

I like these smaller camps because they encourage more connection between attendees. You’re likely to have something in common with the person sitting next to you.

At Publishers, it was that we were trying to solve the same problems with our day-to-day work. At Niagara, it was that we were mostly from the same region.

I left Chicago with lessons from editors and developers that I could apply to my work on the GoDaddy blog. I left Niagara with new connections to local professionals.

I also left with a bunch of additional thoughts and takeaways, summarized after the jump. Let’s go!

Keep reading…Thoughts on WordCamp for Publishers 2018 + WordCamp Niagara 2018

A dozen ways to plan content for your website.

Content is hard. It’s one of the biggest hurdles that keep site launches from happening on time. It’s hard for developers, who are stuck waiting for content from their clients. It’s hard for the clients, who haven’t thought about content before.

I talked about the content bottleneck last year at WordCamp Maine. My goal was to help web professionals embrace content in their projects.

This time I’d like to talk about planning for content when you’re the one responsible for producing the content.

Keep reading…A dozen ways to plan content for your website.

Feeling overwhelmed? Try zooming out.

I’m not great at verbalizing my thoughts. I get lost in the words, disappearing down tangents, hitting roadblocks in my thinking half-way through a sentence.

Speaking drains me emotionally. I feel it when I’m presenting to a group or having an intense conversation. It’s overwhelming. And when that feeling hits, all I want to do is get out.

Writing, on the other hand, feels cathartic. It provides space. There’s an opportunity to gather my thoughts before plunging in. And once I do, I can step back — I’m not trapped in the moment.

In the last few weeks I’ve tried to pull this concept of “stepping back” into my day-to-day life with the phrase zoom out. Something bad happens? Zoom out. Heated argument? Zoom out. Angry? Annoyed? Upset? Zoom out. Feeling overwhelmed? Zoom out.

It’s like using Google Maps. Zooming out reminds me to think about the big picture. And suddenly the overwhelming things feel much smaller.Zooming out also helps with thinking, constructively, about alternatives.

Imagine you’re driving down a road and traffic looks pretty bad ahead. So look at your map and zoom out, knowing there’s a good chance you have other routes to choose from.

I’m not suggesting that zooming out is the right answer every time. Sometimes we need to stay zoomed in, down in the weeds, focused on solving the problem that’s in front of us.

But when we start feeling overwhelmed? Try zooming out.

Keep reading…Feeling overwhelmed? Try zooming out.

New places, new routines.

I’m settling into a new routine this week.

Every morning, after taking the pup out for a walk, I hop on my bike and head down to Nostalgia Coffee Co., an independent coffee shop in the Topham Park neighbourhood of East York.

I get my coffee (large dark roast) and sit outside for a few hours of reading and writing. It’s the best part of my day. These early hours are my most productive – the west coast isn’t up yet and I avoid Slack until lunchtime.

I’m starting to recognize some of the regulars. My guess is they’re folks from around the area who, like me, have made this part of their daily ritual.

There are the seniors from Canadian Macedonian Place across the road, jaywalking through traffic without a care. Then there’s the Parkview families coming up from St. Clair, dogs and kids in tow. And every now and then I’ll spot a cyclist riding north from Woodbine.

Nostalgia is a warm and inviting space filled with quirky memorabilia. One wall is covered in flyers and cards from local residents and business owners. The opposite wall is full of menu items scrawled out by hand with colourful chalk.

I feel like these little brick n’ mortar establishments are responsible for keeping communities alive. Starbucks refers to them as “The Third Place”, and while Starbucks does a good job of mimicking the experience, they can’t replicate it. Not completely.

Not everyone appreciates that people like myself popping into these “Third Places” for a multi-hour working session. Some cafes are pushing back, banning laptops and covering outlets.

But that’s fine – there are plenty of other places that’ll embrace us, and I’m happy to spend my money with them.

Sidenote: As a remote worker, Nostalgia is more of my Second Place than my Third Place. I work from home, so Nostalgia is one of my few chances to get out of the house while still getting work done.

Keep reading…New places, new routines.