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Alex Has Nice Hair

I'm a WordPress Developer, based in Los Angeles. I run a Digital Creative Agency, called DigiSavvy. I can't resist a Hendricks… Oh, and I've got some nice hair.

A Rule of 5 to Live By…

Many of my colleagues who work with WordPress have, by now, no doubt  read Matt Mullenweg’s post regarding giving 5% back to the WordPress open source project. It’s a notion that has inspired a lot of discussion already and I don’t think I have much to add to it. I can contribute to the noise, however.

From a literal standpoint, 5% can be tough to make sustainable.

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”

— Creighton Adams

The fact is that there are so many ways we can contribute to the thing we make a living off of that is, essentially free. You don’t have to be a “Nacin” you can just be you and contribute in your own way.

While just as important, if not more so, to growing adoption of WordPress, the community around it is a big responsibility. It takes a lot of people a lot of time to organize meetups, WordCamps and other related events. And these folks are volunteers, too, just like those contributing to support forums, UI/UX and bug-squashing.

I haven’t contributed anything to core at this point, but I have contributed to community building around WordPress and that’s been a rewarding thing. One thing I try to tell people who attend meetups or WordCamps is that the things you come for at these events don’t have to end there. You can go and take them out into the world and make your own contributions.

I look to a friend of mine, Roy Sivan. The guy basically didn’t hire me for a job a few years back, I’m not bitter though! I  hadn’t seen him for a couple of years after that interview where I didn’t get the job. Then he started coming to WordPress events; then he started contributing in online communities; then he started speaking at events, including his first WordCamp, in LA. He’s going to speak at another WordCamp and will no doubt spend countless hours online contributing his thoughts and opinions and helping people and will likely make some core contributions at some point, if he hasn’t already.

More than squashing a bug or committing a patch the WordPress community has big sharp claws that pull you in. People are often amazed that they’ve been “outside of the loop” and “had no idea” such community existed. But it does. And you can take part. You don’t have to organize events; you can attend them, learn from them and then share what you know. You can speak, tutor or donate your services and time.

This post isn’t about any perceived slight against community building. I think all methods of contribution to the WordPress project are thankless in their own special ways. But in whatever way you contribute take note of the ripple effect that YOU have in the community. Maybe the things you do gives the community the next person that does something or says something great.

It doesn’t have to be 5% either; I think the ability to take ownership of your stake in the project you make a living from is enough. Whatever that ownership means to you is just fine. For me, I’m going to keep helping nurturing my local community; getting more folks to share and take part and, who knows squash a bug or two and submit a patch at some point. Boom!

What will your 5% look like?

The Struggle of Being Nice to Yourself

I have a site with a domain “Alex Has Nice Hair.” It’s tongue-in-cheek, sure… Actually, no; I have great fucking hair. It’s that fucking nice! Okay? But seriously, one would think that I would be nice to myself.

But I’m not.

The clichè that we’re our own worst critic is true. However, I’ve somehow taken this concept to new and exciting heights and one might even say I’ve made a national sport of it…

Let’s start with the basics. Am I happy? Yes. I am happy. But… Oh that BUT! That fucking “but!” It’s that but that gets me locked inside my own head. Each time I get to this point where I’m having to say “Dude, lay off yourself buddy. You’re doing what you can” I get frustrated because I should know better. But I forget that I do and so I beat on myself.

I was having breakfast with my buddy, Chris Tolar, and he gave me some encouragement and a reminder that I’m doing pretty damn okay. I don’t know why it sounds better when these words come from someone else, I imagine it’s for the same reason a sandwich tastes better when someone else makes it for you (except if it’s from Subway).

I’m not the only one who struggles with being nice to oneself either. Lots of us are in that boat, too. And we forget that we’re happy; we redefine happiness by ridiculous measures, often comparing ourselves to others. One of the simplest traps to get caught in; yet we do it on a “wash, rinse and repeat” cycle. I don’t think it’s for a lack of self-love or self-worth… I truly think we simply forget to be happy; we forget that we are pretty fucking great.

I heeded the kind words from Chris; and heeded more kind words from my gal, Melissa, too. I held onto these words and I really, really tried to hear them and get what the words meant and I tried to remember. Yes, I am happy… And a number of reasons why I am happy and that I shouldn’t be such a dick to myself.

Going full-time freelance has been scary, hard and great. Running my first marathon was hard, scary and great, meeting someone new and slowly letting them in has been… Well, you get the pattern by now, don’t you?

Day in and day out you’re probably working on someone hard and you probably don’t always have the answers. Many other days you probably feel like a hack; you probably feel like a poopy-flavored popsicle stick which, as we all know, is the most useless flavor of them all!

An old friend of mine, Seth Perles, once said to me: Brother, “assume competence.” You can translate that “fake it until you make it.” Often we’re in this place of assuming competence; of finding our way when we don’t know what direction to go. We don’t have the answers yet each day, we find a way around or through these challenges, or we don’t; we ask for help, gather a brain trust and we “figure that shit out.” And when you do “figure it out” don’t harp on the fact that maybe you couldn’t have done it on your own; focus on the fact that you realized two or more brains were better than just your one. Focus on the fact you had the strength to say “hey, I don’t have all the answers and I don’t fucking know.” Because you know what? That is hard to do. It’s okay, buddy. We’ve all been there, several times… Daily, even. Just be nice to yourself.

Lastly, can you and I make a pact? Just between us, okay; let’s not look to others and try to define our successes and failures by what others have done or are doing. Let’s keep it focused on what we’re doing and where we’re going. I’m fortunate to know a lot of friends who are great at what they do and experience a large amount of success doing what they do. These folks have been at it twenty years; ten years and more, some less. That’s great. Learn from them what you can, they have some great advice to give you. Please remember, most importantly, to be nice to yourself; if you keep working hard good things will happen, but you gotta keep working and while you’re doing all that working and hustling, be sure to pat yourself on the shoulder once in a while and crack open a beer and salute yourself.

Okay, my work here is done. I’ll make you a promise. You keep being nice to yourself; if I catch you slipping up on that, I’ll remind you. But, please, be sure to do the same for me. I’m the World Champion of self-deprecation. Thanks!

The Thing About Networking

I’m probably the last person you’d want to listen to when it comes to networking. I don’t feel comfortable doing it, even though it’s an essential part of business and personal development.

Why do I feel so “odd” when I network?

It’s not “natural” to me. Different people from different backgrounds, who otherwise wouldn’t be hanging out, get together in a room, make small talk, discover things they have in common all for the sake of progressing their business agenda. That’s oversimplified, but that’s how I feel about it all. I’ve done BNI networking groups; I’ve done Chambers of Commerce. I get “sold” on right away. Meaning, people like to tell me all about themselves, ask me about what I do and how what they do applies to my business. Being Digital Creative Agency, even a smaller one, you can imagine that A LOT of businesses can do something for me. That’s great, I’m happy about that. The hard sell bothers me, is all. Since I don’t like it, I don’t do it.

I kinda suck at networking, so I shouldn’t really be talking smack about others who “I think” are doing it wrong.

I’m a bit of a goofball; I’m not shy and, frankly, I’ve been known to make people laugh. What I’m good at is disarming a room with some well-timed jokes and wit. Jokes and small-talk, with a smattering of self-deprecation, is my “calling card.” It’s worked well for me over the years. I network by talking to folks, making them laugh and finding out what they like. It doesn’t generate business, but someone thinks I’m likable at least. I’ll take that.

How Not to Network

Now, while I don’t know the ins and outs of networking and doing it right I know what doesn’t work. How about that?

Don’t seek someone out because of who they’re connected to, to further your own agenda. People easily see through that sort of bullshit really quick. They’ll nod and smile… maybe and disregard your attempts at “networking” and “making a connection” and they’ll likely get red-faced when they find out you attempted to use your “new connection” to connect with an influencer you both know.

Don’t seek someone out who is an influencer and then talk their ear off about your “cool thing” that you’re doing. By going into your pitch right away, you’ve basically devalued your conversation to one little morsel and that’s the thing you’re trying to sell. I don’t know about you all, but if I wanted that type of treatment, I’d go buy a car!

Treat people like people; don’t “pitch them” right away. Give it time, man! Make a genuine connection; make a freaking friend! We all know how to do that, right? Crazy things happen when you’re a genuine person that actually cares about others. It turns out that those folks you care about, care about you, too. It’s a crazy idea, I know.

Lastly, leading off your conversation with “I’m kind of a whiz at…” or “I’m a guru at this…” You get the point, right? I know this is cliche, but if you have to tell someone how much of a bad-ass you are at something; how you’re a guru at xyz then are you really? Are you telling the other person, or just padding your ego?

Oh and don’t, don’t, don’t “validate who your connections.” If you have to do that, then you’re doing it wrong. Plain and simple.

How I Think One Ought to Network

Be yourself, if you do nothing else just please, please be yourself! Even if yourself is a dick, at least people will know what they’re getting and accept that you’re kind of a dick. People respect that a lot more than someone trying to bilk them for a Rolodex of influencers. Just be yourself.

Ask people about their life, what they’re working on and LISTEN! At WordCamp LA, I truly heard tell of some amazing stories. One guy, Kevin Michael Gray, has such a story and I’m going to dig deeper and find out more. But he reached out to me and said: “I’d like to grab a beer and find out more about what you do.” See what he did there? He wants to know about what I do. Of course, I’m going to ask what he does and what he’s got going on as well, because not only is it polite, but because the guy is pretty cool, I naturally WANT to know more about him.

Don’t be a dweeb. Now, I’m not going to say I’m an authority on this topic. I’m a bit of a dweeb, but my mom says I’m cool and there are folks who agree. That said, being a dweeb, to me, means that one has a need to “prove” their competencies to people; they need to build themselves up and talk about their “neat-o project.”

Some of the brightest people I know are the opposite; they’re humble and they don’t have a need to talk about how awesome they are because they just ARE that way. There’s a lot of people I look up to that fit that mold and they’re from all walks of life, doing all sorts of things. They community build; they run multi-million dollar companies; they build things that people use; they teach the leaders of tomorrow; they excel at life in more than a few ways. You know what? They don’t need to tell anyone about it.

Give more than you take and try really, really hard at that. The world has a funny way of paying you back for all the things you give. It’s a crazy notion that has humbled and amazed me on more than one occasion.

If you’re a dweeb, you can turn it around. Just be yourself, give and listen…

WordCamp LA 2014

Screenshot 2014-09-06 21.51.19

Just ahead of 7am here and with a warm cup of pretentious coffee from an obscure region of the world, I can push my frames up to the bridge of my nose and start typing. WordCamp LA 2014 is officially in the books and we’re going through all the stuff and things that need to be wrapped up. All in all based off of the great feedback and all the folks I met this weekend who took something with them I think WCLAX 2014 was pretty damn awesome! Self hi-five!

I appreciate the community so much. I appreciate all the support we get from so many people. I appreciate that this is bigger than any one person. I appreciate that this will go on even if we aren’t around to help, because there’s an awesome community who will pick it up and take it further. I appreciate our sponsors, volunteers, speakers and my fellow organizers for making this thing happen.

Adam Silver sums up a lot of what I feel after a WordCamp here.

This is a post that could go on forever. I think I might just break it down into a couple smaller chunks, though…

For now, I’m just a guy sitting in his chair spinning around with the biggest and goofiest smile on his face.

Thank you everyone. Y’all make it so easy to want to do this thing called WordCamp. =)

Appending Markup to Slides in Soliloquy

This is a simple little snippet. On a project I’m working I had a need to include social share buttons with each item in a carousel slider.

Anyone who asks me knows that I’m a big fan of Soliloquy, from Thomas Griffin Media. I’m a fan because it’s a simple solution with some nifty add-ons and does what I need it to without too much fuss.

With the 2.x update Soliloquy added some filters to their plugin, making adding your own markup to your slides easier.

/* Filter to Append HTML to Slides
============================================= */
add_filter( 'soliloquy_output_slide', 'tgm_soliloquy_custom_html', 10, 4 );
function tgm_soliloquy_custom_html( $html, $id, $image, $data ) {
 
 $slider_id = $data['id']; // Get Slider ID
 $slider_img= $image['src']; // Optional; Getting Image URL from slider object
 
 if ( '1937' != $slider_id ) return $html;  // If the ID doesn't match the one we want to modify, return the default HTML output. Change 1937 to your slider ID.
 
 ob_start(); ?>
 
 // Your Custom Markup to append goes here.
 
 

$data[‘id’] grabs the value of the ID slider you wish to target. You don’t need to do anything with this if you plan on appending custom markup to all of your slides.

Since I’m targeting only one slide I’ll be using the conditional statement below.

if ( ‘1937’ = $slider_id ) return $html;

Plugin your own slide ID in place of 1937.

We’re using an output buffer to hold our markup, clean it up/sanitize it and then appending it to each slider object.

Give it a spin on your next project.

Trinkets n Stuff

image

Stationery shops always make me think of my late grandmother… She’d take me into Stockwell and Binney, in Ontario, as a kid. Whenever I see a stationery I buy something… Usually pens pencils. Always puts a smile on my face.

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