Archive for the ‘Accessories’ Category
No matter where you are in the world, you’ll find people working on WordPress.com: Developers deploying lines of code. Designers tinkering with themes. Engineers working one-on-one with users to help make their websites just so. (Want to join in? We’re hiring.)
One cool thing about Automatticians? We care about WordPress.com so much that we’re always thinking about ways to make it better, online and off. Here’s a glimpse at the 230 Automatticians around the globe — and things we’re working on and thinking about right now.
We blog about WordPress (naturally!)
At Automattic, we’re constantly communicating, breaking and fixing, and iterating and improving. Communication tools like the P2 theme, Skype, and IRC channels allow ideas and conversations to flow at all times, while our own blogs are spaces to reflect on and share the things we’ve learned.
In Moscow, Code Wrangler Konstantin Kovshenin works on the Dot Org Team, writing themes and plugins and contributing to WordPress Core. On his personal blog, he shares tips, code snippets, and even videos of his talks at WordCamps, like WordCamp Sofia 2013 in Bulgaria.
Colorado-based Automattician Greg Brown works on search, natural language processing, and machine learning; his team wrangles data (and launched the Related Posts feature last November). On Greg’s blog, you can follow his recent posts on Elasticsearch, indexing, and the future:
Humans express their dreams, opinions, and ideas in hundreds of languages. Bridging that gap between humans and computers — and ultimately between humans — is a noble endeavor that will subtly shape the next century. I’d like to see Elasticsearch be a force in democratizing the use of natural language processing and machine learning.
We blog about the web and technology
Over in Taipei, Taiwan, Growth Engineer Ben Thompson focuses on attracting new users to WordPress.com, and improving their experience, on Team Triton. Ben actively writes about technology from a strategic perspective at Stratechery, like his recent thoughts on messaging on mobile, and his follow-up piece on this week’s Facebook and WhatsApp deal.
On ebeab (or eight beats equals a byte), Marcus Kazmierczak publishes newsletters about trends around open source, web development, Linux, and more. Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Marcus works on Team Tinker — a team focused on creating new products — and covers more than just your usual technology news: his latest edition dives into the world of crypto-currency and Dogecoin, and past editions focus on productivity and hacking and security.
Over on the east coast of the US, Sheri Bigelow (who snapped the images you see in this post) is a New York-based photographer and designer who strives to make the WordPress.com theme and customization experience the best it can be, and shares techniques and ideas on her site, Design Simply. We especially like her tips on photography workflows and themes.
This week, Ian ponders the principles of good design, but he also writes on general best practices and other interests, like writing. If you’ve not seen it, Ian’s talk at WordCamp San Francisco 2013 resonates as an inspiring, big-picture, yet personal talk on themes and web design.
We blog about other stuff, too
Automatticians write about all sorts of topics — from tread desking to fatherhood to musings on love and life to gaming to reading and writing. And even if we’re not working on WordPress.com, we bring the same curiosity and motivation to our other passions — and find that much of what we do and enjoy here overlaps in side projects.
Isaac Keyet, a Product Designer living in Sweden and working on the Data Team, writes on a variety of subjects. In his recent post on light, color, work, and sleep, he talks about the types of light that affect our sleep/wake patterns (and recommends f.lux, an app that changes your screen temperature to best fit your location).
Karen Arnold, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and works on the Happiness Team, started a blogging class as an experiment for a homeschooling group. (Karen also led a workshop last fall at the Digital Family Summit to teach kids and their families how to get started blogging on WordPress.com.)
Further north in Quebec, Canada, Kathryn Presner, a member of the Theme Team, recaps her experience mentoring students at Ladies Learning Code. Being a Happiness Engineer and WordCamp speaker, educating others is nothing new to Kathryn — it’s a perfect example of open source education in action, and how the skills and passions of Automatticians aren’t restricted to “the workplace.”
Are you interested in working alongside these and many other talented folks? We’re hiring for numerous positions — consider applying!
At WordPress.com our raison d’être is to do everything we can to help you make your blog the very best it can be. Over at The Daily Post we’ve got daily writing prompts to give your muse a friendly nudge, we publish articles on how to grow your traffic and community, as well as tips and advice on how to take great photos, no matter which gear you choose.
We’ve compiled a ton of great material into three new ebooks, made with love, for you. And, they’re free. They come in three fetching formats so we’ve got you covered no matter whether .pdf, .epub (iBooks), or .mobi (Kindle) is your jam.
365 Writing Prompts
So you want to write but you have trouble getting started? Writers’ block a perpetual, unwelcome guest? With 365 Writing Prompts we’ve got a different writing prompt to jumpstart your muse each and every day of the year. Looking for more writing inspiration and practice? Be sure to check out our weekly writing challenges.
Chock-full of inspiration, technical tips, and practical ideas you can apply right away, Photography 101: The basics of photography and the power of visual storytelling will help you take and make beautiful photographs and school you on post-processing so that your work can shine, no matter whether you’ve got a monster-sized DSLR or a trusty cameraphone in your pocket. If you’d like more practice with your camera, c’mon over to The Daily Post and participate in our weekly photo challenges. We provide the theme each week, you interpret it with your camera as you see fit.
Grow Your Traffic, Build Your Blog
Most of us write, shoot, and blog for the love of it, though it’s always a great feeling to get a Like or a comment, or participate in a great conversation with someone who shares your interests. If you’d like to attract more traffic and nurture a community around your site, take Grow Your Traffic, Build Your Blog: Tips and Tricks for the Tenacious Blogger for a spin.
Every so often, we sit down with an Automattician to help you get to know the people who build new features, keep Automattic’s wheels turning, and make WordPress.com the best it can be. In this installment, we’re delighted to introduce you to movie buff, comics geek, and Mobile Engineer, Sendhil Panchadsaram.
Thinking about applying to work at Automattic? We’re hiring.
Hi Sendhil! Tell us a bit about what you do here at Automattic.
You’re a Microsoft alumnus. How did you find your way to Automattic?
A friend of mine (and fellow Mobile Team member Dan Roundhill) had encouraged me to apply in 2012. He told me that Automattic was looking to grow their Mobile Team and he thought I’d be a good fit. At the time I politely declined because I was working at a startup. About a year later the startup came to an end and I gave him a call…
“The biggest highlight for me is that I get to work on an app that’s used by so many people out there in the world.”
What do you like most about developing the WordPress iOS app?
The biggest highlight for me is that I get to work on an app that’s used by so many people out there in the world. One of the coolest things for me was when I was talking to someone I just met and they mentioned that they had the app on their phone and they were a user.
Another highlight is being on a team of people who are extremely talented and devoted to the app and to our users, and who also happen to produce great work. It’s fun to go back and check out the work my co-workers have done — I always learn something new from them.
How’s life as an Automattician been so far?
I love the culture here — the fact that Automattic is a company that is incredibly flexible, and trusts its employees to get their jobs done wherever and whenever we want. I didn’t realize how much I would appreciate being able to work where I want and when I want, but now, after having done it for a year, I absolutely love it. It’s so nice to be able to schedule work around my life, rather than the other way around.
How do you structure your day, given this flexibility?
A “typical” workday for me starts by checking Skype to see if anything urgent came up or needs to be addressed right away. We don’t really use email all that much at Automattic as we’re huge fans of internal blogs we call P2s, but I’ve set up my P2s to be delivered to my inbox to make it easier to keep track of what I’ve seen.
It’s so nice to be able to schedule work around my life, rather than the other way around.
After dealing with email I’ll usually check our GitHub repo for any interesting activity. Sometimes I’ll chime in on certain issues, re-arrange issues across milestones depending on where we are in a release, or review some code. After this I’ll usually start to tackle some of the open issues for the current release myself and do that for a few hours.
During the day different things will come up that will alter my routine. Sometimes it’s a co-worker wanting to chat about an issue, or user requests for help. Other times it’s our team chat getting really interesting.
What would you say is the most unique thing about working here?
I’d have to say our meetups. Every team at Automattic will have a few meetups a year where the team will fly out to a location picked by the team to work on projects together for the week. It’s always fun to me that people who haven’t seen each other in a few months can land in a foreign destination, pick up right where they’d left off, have a blast, and enjoy each other’s company — all while at the same time being productive.
To me, it’s always been cool that Automatticians look forward to interacting with their co-workers around the globe. Whenever I travel around to different cities I always like to look up other Automatticians nearby, and will try to meet up with them — it’s fun every time.
You may also enjoy Five Minutes with . . .
- Jetpack Lead Tim Moore
- Happiness Engineer Kathryn Presner
- HR Lead Lori McLeese
- VIP Global Services Manager Sara Rosso
- Growth Designer Dave Martin
- Design Engineer Mel Choyce
- Happiness Engineer Steve Blythe
Last month, we highlighted bloggers writing about mental health issues — and it struck a chord with many of you.
Lots of you commented that you also write about struggles with mental health, and were hoping your blogs would be a medium to help you connect with others and a safe space for talking about sensitive issues. There are two features baked into WordPress.com to support both goals.
Unfortunately, there’s still a good deal of stigma around mental illness, making many of us uncomfortable being public about our struggles. Leaving a public comment on someone’s blog isn’t always easy on fun posts, let alone on something as fraught with judgement as mental health.
Putting a contact form on your blog gives readers a way to connect with you privately. They can share their own stories and offer support without having to reveal more than they’re comfortable with to the internet at large.
To insert a form into a post or page, click the “Add Contact Form” button at the top of the Visual or Text Editor to pull up the form builder, which looks like this:
You can edit the fields, delete them, or add more — it all depends on what you’d like your form to say and do. As you create the form, you’ll see a preview of it right in the form builder. When you’re satisfied, click “Add this form to my post.”
(Note: when you click “Add,” the form tool will convert your form to code and you won’t see the actual form in your editing window. Don’t worry, your form is there — to see it, save your post and preview it.)
In its simplest version, a contact form could simply provide space to input a name and note. You can even decide not to make fields like “name” required, to give people the option to be totally anonymous.
In the “Email Notifications” tab of the tool, you can set the email address you’d like to use to receive responses (the default is the address you use with WordPress.com). You can also review responses in your dashboard.
Using a contact form protects your privacy as well as your reader’s: if you blog anonymously or pseudonymously and would prefer not to list an email address on your blog, it allows readers to get in touch without revealing your identity.
Sometimes, you need to write or have updates to share, but you’d only like family, friends, and/or regular readers to be able to view them. For these truly sensitive posts, take advantage of privacy settings.
You can set entire blogs to be private and password-protected, but you can also control access on a per-post basis by password-protecting individual posts. Head to the “Visibility” settings in the publish box (at left), select “Password protected,” pick a password, and give it to those you’d like to be able to see the post.
If you need to go further, the “Private” option makes the post invisible to all but WordPress.com users who are Administrators or Editors of your blog (here’s a rundown on user roles if you need a refresher).
To cultivate a community or collaborative blog, you may choose to make the entire site private and password-protected. To set a blog to be private, head to Settings → Reading in your dashboard, scroll down to “Site visibility,” and select “Private.” Visitors will get a pop-up notice prompting them to request access, and you’ll have a safe community where you all know one another and can share stories out of the public blogging eye.
For really active communities, try a theme like P2, which allows a blog’s users to post and comment from the home page, and has real-time commenting. It’s how we collaborate internally at WordPress.com and is great for conversation-oriented communication.
By starting a blog to write about your experiences, you’ve already taken a big step toward becoming part of a community that can be a worldwide support network. We’re happy WordPress.com offers additional tools to help you carve out and control a supportive, safe space.
Love…it comes in different shapes and sizes, and means so many things to so many people. On this auspicious day we wanted to show our love for the myriad ways you express love on WordPress.com.
Versed in love
be here now — with you
driving down snow-covered streets,
evening armchair talks
be here now — with you
pea shoots, tomato fragrance
worm ends in rich soil
be here now — with you
laughing together, today,
with crinkled-eye smiles
be here now — with you
this moment, this moment, this,
enjoying the gift
Love in photographs
Photographer Steve McCurry has traveled the world, capturing stories in photos along the way. His gorgeous photo essay of couples, It Takes Two, explores relationships “evident in their gestures of caring, their body language, their eyes.”
Photo by Steve McCurry
Over at venerable photography blog, Time Lightbox, the beautiful portraits of husband-wife photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson and Martine Franck communicates the beauty of a life-long love in the photo essay, Love Through a Lens.
Love stories, in print, on film, and IRL
Moving back to reality, blogger Kim Pryor shares the origin story of her relationship with boyfriend Chris and explores boundaries and privacy around love in the internet age in her piece, Introducing the Boyfriend over at her blog Pryorities.
Meanwhile Megan at write meg! reminisces about her first crushes — on the male characters in the novels she read as a younger woman — and recalls how the relationships in her reading helped teach her about relationships in real life.
No matter how you choose to celebrate, Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at WordPress.com!
Designed by Tom McFarlin, Mayer is a straight-forward, solid blogging theme, built to get out of the way and get you writing. Mayer‘s authoritative typography and clean layout will give your words staying power, while its responsive layouts ensure your message gets across whatever your reader’s device.
Like all professionals, writers and bloggers need the right tool – and that’s Mayer.
Axon is a bright canvas highlighted with pops of color. Sidebars can be set to the left, right, or removed entirely, and Post Formats are given the attention they deserve, indicated by bold, sharp icons on every post. The navigation is never far away, as the dynamic menu holds to the top of the screen while scrolling.
Perfect for photography, travel, or any sort of portfolio site, Axon will frame your message in the best light.
Mayer and Axon are both premium upgrades. Check out each theme’s showcase by clicking on their screenshot above, or preview them on your blog from Appearance → Themes.
Most bloggers display their latest posts first — reverse chronological order is the classic blog format, after all. Many WordPress.com users, however, choose to build a static front page — a homepage — that creates a website feel and brings your long-term content to the front.
A well-designed homepage has always been a staple of major websites, like The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation — a WordPress.com VIP partner. You don’t have to be a large company or non-profit organization to see the advantages of a homepage, though. Artists and other creative professionals enjoy the benefits of portfolio sites and personal pages to showcase their talents. Increasingly, so do personal bloggers across a wide variety of niches. To give you a taste of what a homepage can do for your blog, here are some sites that use this option in a smart, creative way.
Claire, the Seoul-based kindergarten teacher behind Groovy Bow Sequence, put together a sleek-looking homepage for her travel-focused personal blog.
She uses Moka to great effect. The theme offers the option of adding a splashy post slider to the homepage, enticing visitors to click on Claire’s striking landscape images and read her posts, while still maintaining the easy navigation and streamlined look of a fixed front page. While sites with a homepage often still feature a blog section, Claire has opted to forego one altogether, presenting some recent posts on the homepage itself, and letting the rest be easily accessible through the sidebar menu.
Writer-blogger Alexandra Corinth deploys a homepage — and especially her site’s primary menu — to direct readers to her various writing projects, from her young-adult books, to her multi-genre portfolio, to her personal blog.
She chose the clean, easy-to-navigate Suits, and kept most of the theme’s out-of-the-box look. The focus here is on her content, and her homepage is a distraction-free zone — visitors will only find an author’s portrait, along with a short bio tucked into a Text Widget in the sidebar. They can then quickly decide which section of the site to explore first.
Dan, the blogger behind redstuffdan, is a retired expat living in the southwest of France. His blog is mostly about his art — a mixture of photography, digital art, and painting — and he’s opted for a homepage to showcase his creations. Right beneath a short introductory text to his site, visitors quickly plunge into a colorful tiled gallery full of Dan’s art. The gallery’s composition can be modified whenever new material is uploaded — just because the page is “static” doesn’t mean it can’t be updated and refreshed.
For the rest of the content on redstuffdan, which was built using Able, the sidebar gives visitors easy access to the site’s top posts and pages, most recent posts, as well as to older content through monthly archives.
Up From The Deep is the labor of love of Mark Ellinger, a musician-turned-photographer who chronicles the gentrifying streets of San Francisco’s grittiest neighborhoods. Creating a homepage allowed him to highlight the different types of writing on his site: a blog to which he uploads new photos regularly, as well as long-term project pages, like the ones on the Tenderloin and Mid-Market neighborhoods.
The homepage layout features a selection of images that whet the visitor’s appetite, and its primary menu leads not only to the site’s main content, but also to an extensive bibliography page and a Prints page, where interested readers can order copies of images from Mark’s website.
Creating a homepage
If you’d like to try out a front page that isn’t populated by your latest posts, setting one up is a breeze. Go to the Settings → Reading tab in your dashboard, and select “a static page.” Then, choose your desired page from the “Front page” drop menu, and you’re set. If you wish to add an optional blog section to your site as well — where your posts will be displayed in reverse chronological order — specify a separate “Posts page” in the second drop menu. Note that you can also set up a homepage from the Customizer, where you’ll need to go to the “Front” panel.
Looking for more ideas for your homepage? Here are a few more examples to inspire you:
- Haley the Wonder Dog, a resource site for owners of dogs diagnosed with cancer.
- The Lovecraft eZine, a popular horror fiction ezine that puts Oxygen‘s Showcase Page template to excellent use.
- H. G. Robert, a minimalist site showcasing the work of a soon-to-be-published author.
Russ Crandall established his blog, The Domestic Man, to chronicle his culinary and gardening adventures and a lifestyle modeled after the Paleo diet, which focuses on natural, unprocessed foods. Over the years, his recipes have evolved to focus on fundamental, traditional, and historically relevant meals.
Today, we’re happy to announce the release of his cookbook of the same name, The Domestic Man, which pairs recipes with short histories of dishes — and mouth-watering full-page photographs. The cookbook is for both novice and experienced chefs, Paleo eaters looking beyond the traditional Paleo diet, and people who want to test out the Paleo way.
We chatted with Russ about the blog-to-book process — and his food photography tips, too.
Tell us how your blog was born.
My wife and I moved into a house of our own in 2008. Having spent the past ten years living with roommates or relatives, it was the first time I had a kitchen all to myself, and I started getting interested in cooking. It was also the first time I had a backyard, and I decided to try my hand at gardening. I started chronicling my cooking and gardening adventures as a side project, and in 2010 The Domestic Man was born. Over the years, I decided to focus the blog exclusively on gardening.
What’s the story behind your blog name?
Initially, it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, that I’m a man doing (and enjoying) chores that were traditionally not assigned to men. A few months later, I adopted a Paleo-style diet in order to address some serious health issues I’d been experiencing for several years. After changing my diet and focusing on traditional recipes, the blog title began to take on a secondary meaning: that humankind has become domesticated, and we have lost touch with our lineage.
Pesce al Sale (Salt-Crusted Fish)
Up until recent history, we’ve passed down traditions and skills — cooking included — from generation to generation. It’s been an inherent component of the human condition for millions of years, and we’re not doing it any more.
For people who don’t know much about the Paleo diet, can you talk more about it?
The Paleo diet is a way of eating based on scientific study and evolutionary evidence to figure out the optimal diet for our age. Essentially, the diet focuses on whole, nutritious foods like animal-based proteins, vegetables, and fruits, while avoiding foods that are detrimental to our health like most grains, legumes, and processed foods. My interpretation of the diet is a little different than a typical Paleo diet in that I’m more lenient when it comes to rice and dairy as long as they don’t negatively affect you.
The Paleo diet is counterintuitive to current cultural norms; low-fat, whole-grain diets have been promoted as the key to health for the past fifty years, despite the fact that our health has been in serious decline ever since we started vilifying meat and fat (which was the result of shoddy nutritional science). Current science shows that when sourced from healthy, pasture-raised animals, foods like meat, eggs, and fats are some of the best foods we can eat.
When first feeling out the diet, I discovered I was eating what I like to call June Cleaver meals: meat, starch, and vegetable. That got me thinking: most traditional meals follow that same pattern as well! So I started incorporating traditional and international foods into my diet and on my blog. Classic dishes like bangers and mash, beef bourguignon, lamb vindaloo, or even a bowl of pho are perfectly Paleo in my book.
How did the book deal come about? Do you have advice for food bloggers who want to publish?
Writing a cookbook has been something I always wanted to do. I recognized that no one in the Paleo community had written a book on traditional foods — everyone seemed to be trying to invent new recipes instead of looking at the way we’ve been eating for thousands of years.
So I sent book proposals to some publishers, offering to write a cookbook based on traditional foods. After a couple months of negotiating, I signed a contract with Victory Belt Publishing, the publisher that has released nearly all of the bestselling Paleo books to date.
My advice to food bloggers who want to publish in the future is to start practicing now. If you focus on writing the best posts you can, with the best recipes possible, the cookbook part might fall into place. Publishers are looking for authors who are already creating quality products.
Was the blog-to-book process what you expected? What challenges have you faced?
Writing a blog post is very different from writing a cookbook recipe, and I found out very early on that I wasn’t equipped to deal with the standards and attention to detail that comes from writing a collection of 100+ recipes all at once. I wasted a ton of time learning how to write a proper recipe — time I could’ve been using to develop new recipes (or sleeping).
A friend and I photographed the book ourselves, which was another challenge. We tackled the photos in two different two-week stints, often cooking and shooting about seven dishes per day. It was a lot of fun, but long hours — we usually went from 8 am to midnight every day between prep, cooking, shooting, and grocery shopping. Dealing with leftovers was also quite a challenge! I ended up making quick trips to work to drop off food that didn’t fit in the fridge.
We love the photography on your blog. Do you have photography tips to share with others?
Shoot using natural light. I’m such a stickler for natural light that I only cook and shoot blog recipes on the weekends. That’s why I only post one recipe a week; it’s more important for me to take quality pictures than to have more content or a larger online presence. There are artificial lighting solutions that can mimic natural light, but we just don’t have space for lights. I shoot all of my photos in front of one small window as it is.
Shrimp Ceviche with Tostones (Twice-Fried Plantains) and Guacamole
Photography is the same as all of the other arts in that the best way to get better is to mimic the greats until a style of your own develops. If you’re making a mashed potatoes recipe, do an image search for mashed potatoes and figure out what pictures you like the best, and then try and keep those pictures in mind when you take your own.
Although having a nice camera helps, it won’t make your photos that much better. I upgraded from a $500 camera to a $2,000 camera and was disheartened to find that it didn’t make all of my pictures perfect. Style and composition are more important than having the best equipment. Think of your camera like a musical instrument: the best guitar in the world can sometimes make a bad song sound good, but it can’t turn a bad song into a good song.
Thanks for chatting with us, Russ!
Today, a broad coalition of interest groups, websites, and people around the world are joining together to fight back against government surveillance. We’re supporting the “Day We Fight Back” on WordPress.com and have created a banner that you can easily add to your WordPress.com blog to get involved, too.
The “Stop NSA Surveillance” banner shows support for this important cause and provides a link to a page of resources to help visitors to contact members of the US Congress to support much needed anti-surveillance legislation. For more information, please visit thedaywefightback.org.
How to add the banner to your site
Here’s how to add the banner to your site in three steps:
- In your WordPress.com dashboard, go to Settings → Protest NSA Surveillance.
- Click on the checkbox labelled Protest Enabled.
- Click on the Save Changes button for the change to take effect.
The banner will remain on your site until midnight on your blog’s time zone. Here’s what it will look like:
Today, we’re launching a refreshed sharing and reblogging experience. We’re bringing both visual and functional improvements to how reblogging, sharing, and liking posts on WordPress.com works. Let’s take a look at some of the changes we’ve introduced.
We’ve redesigned reblogged posts for clearer attribution and more intelligent excerpting. If the reblogged post contains pictures, those images now really shine — even in the reblog.
To accompany the new reblog design, we also crafted a brand new Reblog button to show next to the Like button, and both have a fresh, clean look:
Speaking of new buttons, we also overhauled your blog’s social sharing buttons:
With a more subdued, streamlined feel, these buttons lend your posts’ footer an airier, lighter look. They now also share the same visual style as the Like and Reblog buttons.
We replaced the previously-used graphics with an icon font — which means the new icons look great on any screen, regardless of resolution, even when you zoom in. In fact, if you have the Custom Design upgrade, it’s now easier than ever to customize these buttons further. Changing the color of an icon font is as simple as one line of CSS.
If you miss the colors, we made an extra-colorful option for you, but still kept things simple:
To select this gorgeous, round version, pick the “Icon only” option from your dashboard, by going to Settings → Sharing.
We really hope you enjoy these improvements!