Water and Establishing The Work Space

I’ve always been horrible keeping my workspaces tidy and organized. Everything is right here on the desk. I can get to everything I need, though, sometimes, I have to dig through a layer.

It’s unprofessional, stressful, bad for everyone. There’s no sense of peace while working, which is the a fair amount of time. While I’ve known this for sometime, I started thinking about this more after visiting the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver.

The entire garden is beautiful, but particular, I was drawn to the Scholar’s Study and Courtyard. A classical Chinese Garden is actually a home for a scholar and his large, extended family. The scholar, as best I understood it, was a high-ranking, elite position at that time. Entire families would work toward trying to get one of their members to attain that position, which, I suppose, is akin to a cabinet minister (if you know more or could clarify, please do drop a comment).

Within the home, the Scholar had a dedicated study and courtyard and I wanted to rebuild the one in Vancouver in my home.

Of course, once normal life began after the trip, while the idea was still floating in my head, I have yet to build a Chinese garden within my house.

When visiting Portland last month, I visited the Lan Su Chinese Garden, which is similar to the Vancouver garden, though I must admit, I was more taken by Vancouver. The thought returned, but of course, nothing came from it.

Then today, a thunderstorm rolled through Austin. The sound of the rain, the thunder, reminded me of the water in the garden and the thought returned yet again.

Making our home and workspaces peaceful and comfortable is important, though it is easier to forget that things can be better and easier still to just let the days roll by without taking actionable steps. Time to start, eh?

Kraft and Kraft Cheese: Friends Forever

I like cheese. It comes with the territory with a last name like Kraft.

Even since I was young, being associated with Mac and Cheese or Velveeta is just part of the gig. There was never much to it until I heard of Twitter, and one day, decided to sign up with the user name that matched what everyone called me: Kraft.

I’ve spilled enough bytes on that, namely in my recent flash talk at Automattic‘s last all-company meetup and then in a recent article written about me and other Twittergängers published by Digiday.

Recently, after the latest article went out, I received a fun note in my inbox from the public relations firm that works with Kraft Foods/Kraft Cheese asking for my address and noting they wanted to help our family out with grilled cheese after seeing this tweet from Vanessa and to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day tomorrow:

I’m not one to turn down cheesy things from Kraft, so sure. Let’s do it.

Kraft Cheese BoxThis morning, I paced back and forth, waiting for UPS. The e-mail said promised by 10:30 a.m. The minutes ticked by, slowly, slowly, slowly. I couldn’t handle the wait.

Then, finally. UPS delivered an overnight package. The return label said “Kraft Foods Global”. I ripped open the box to find a note and a cooler full of cold packs.

Letter from Kraft Cheese

Kraft Cheese OpenAfter opening the package, jackpot!

Cheese! Golden cheese!

I kept pulling out package, after package. Sliced cheese. Kraft Singles. Colby Jack. Cheddar. Mozzarella. Monterey Jack. Swiss. Havarti.

It can’t stop. It won’t stop.

It was beautiful.

Kraft Cheeses

Thank you, Kraft Cheese, for being a good sport about a random guy in Texas having the kraft Twitter handle and for providing us with lunch.

Making Grilled Cheese

Catalina Eating Grilled CheeseKid tested. Mother approved.

Er, wait, wrong brand. Don’t tweet them.

Help Test The Next Version of Akismet!

Akismet, the spam-filtering software by Automattic, is gearing up for the big version 3.0 and use your help. For some folks who report bugs or give solid feedback, they’re going to throw in some exclusive, limited edition swag too. Full details on their blog.

Giving the release candidate a spin on this site, I’m excited for the upgrade. While there are other features that will make life easier for folks getting started, the plugin provides nice stats on how effective it has been in saving you time.

Akismet 3.0's Setting Page

Akismet 3.0’s Setting Page

Akismet 3.0's Stats Page

Akismet 3.0’s Stats Page

I’ve been using the free, personal account for years now. Seeing the stats like this and how much spam it has saved me from having to manually moderate, I think I may have to reconsider ignoring the upgrade prompts.

A Day As A Happiness Engineer

Commonly, I’m asked “What is a Happiness Engineer?” and saying “support” doesn’t feel right with my pre-Automattic notion of support work.

Just sit right there; I’ll tell you the story of my Monday this week.

After walking into the home office whenever it was we finished breakfast, I logged into our systems and reviewed my notifications. They include the same types of notifications any other WP.com user would have, plus notifications for anytime someone mentions in any of our internal blogs either my name or one of the terms I added to our “automattchers” list.

After that, I replied to a number of users who wrote in via the Jetpack contact form for the rest of the morning.

After lunch, I had a Google Hangout with our Partnerships team, which work on integrating third-party services to WordPress.com and Jetpack—our Publicize feature being one of the most seen examples of this work. I join them to be aware of anything new/different that the rest of Happiness should know about and vice-versa—making sure nothing big is missed on either side. Also important, it gives me a fun excuse to get some face time with folks in the company I might not interact with day-to-day.

After replying to a few more users, another HE saw a particular user’s site was using our development mode feature, but wasn’t sure which way it was enabled. I whipped up a quick plugin to add a notice to the site explaining how dev mode was enabled.

Next up, there’s been a relatively minor, but damn annoying issue that cropped up between Jetpack and a small number of hosts. An engineer from one of the hosts and I Skype-chatted for a bit, which was great. He was able to isolate the right log containing the error and I was able to write up a quick patch to fix it up. The awesome Jetpack devs checked and committed it for Wednesday’s launch of 2.9.

With that solved, back to replying to users for the rest of the day.

After dinner, I met up with the other coordinators of the 2014 WordCamp Austin. We reviewed over 80 applications for presentations and fleshed out a schedule for the weekend. This isn’t part of my job, per se, but we all love WordPress. 🙂

Whew, what a day. Except the next night too, where I joined fellow Automatticians in hosting a happy hour for anyone who enjoys WordPress in Austin, after-hours things are atypical (5:30 is when the kids can’t contain themselves from rushing into the office).

So, “support”, as I pictured it before joining the team, mostly from my interactions with CSRs at places like AT&T, doesn’t fit the model of support at Automattic. The depth that we dive into issues is one reason our hiring standards are as high as they are for “support”. There are no “tiers” of support. If you have a complex, difficult issue, you don’t need to ask for “Tier 3 Support”, you already have it.

If something like this is appealing to you, we’re always hiring the best.

Did Austin Police Illegally Arrest The Jogger?

On Thursday morning, Austin police officers arrested a young woman after she jaywalked against a light near The University of Texas campus, charging her with Failure to Identify and the formal term for jaywalking.

There are many valid questions about the event: Is the jaywalking/pedestrian safety initiative a good use of officer’s time? Is the West Campus area the area in most need of such an effort? Should APD focus more on jaywalking, drivers, or cyclists? Did the police treat the woman properly?

I understand the facts as given by APD to be correct, though additionally noted that the individual was wearing headphones while she was running.

The thing I find particularly interesting is the question of is the arrest itself illegal? Going back and forth with a few random folks about the incident, and this issue has come up a few times.

In Texas, you are not required to provide your identity to police officers, except in a relatively narrow scope—when you’re under arrest. (Now, if you lie about who you are, you can get in trouble at other times.)

Courts have ruled that you can’t be arrested solely for Failure to ID if you refuse to offer the information, but this is the context of a traffic stop. In conversing on Twitter about this, a Dallas lawyer pointed this out noting that Austin PD [sic] was successfully sued for this:

First, the lawsuit mentioned was against a Williamson County Sheriff Deputy, not APD, and it should be noted it wasn’t in the context of a traffic stop.

Jaywalking is defined in the State’s Transportation Code. I’m not a lawyer, so I’m plain-text reading the following.

The Transportation Code has specifics on the authority of peace officers to arrest someone for a violation of the “Rules of the Road” subtitle, which includes the walking against a don’t walk signal law.

The law specifically says a peace officer can arrest someone without a warrant for a traffic violation and that the peace officer can release the arrested person if they agree to appear before a judge. When you get a citation for a traffic stop in Texas, that’s what you’re signing: a notice that you agree to appear before a judge.

To me, this makes sense that, at least in some form, you’re “under arrest” when stopped for a traffic violation. The passengers of the car aren’t, but if an officer sees you commit a traffic violation, the detainment is “special” in some way. My lawyer friend disagrees:

He may be, and is likely, right to some degree—namely like a search of your car isn’t allowed without permission, warrant, or a new cause (not just that you were committing a traffic violation), I’d think. I haven’t heard back from the lawyer.

Some of the relevant citations:

An officer who arrests a person for a violation of this subtitle punishable as a misdemeanor and who does not take the person before a magistrate shall issue a written notice to appear in court showing the time and place the person is to appear, the offense charged, the name and address of the person charged, and, if applicable, the license number of the person’s vehicle.


To secure release, the person arrested must make a written promise to appear in court by signing the written notice prepared by the arresting officer. The signature may be obtained on a duplicate form or on an electronic device capable of creating a copy of the signed notice. The arresting officer shall retain the paper or electronic original of the notice and deliver the copy of the notice to the person arrested. The officer shall then promptly release the person from custody.

This reads, to me, that you can be “arrested” for a traffic violation, you can make a promise to appear before a judge, and then be promptly let go. While under this “arrest”, I would have to provide my identity for the promise to appear, as it is required by law to include my name and address.

This sounds like the plenty of times I was given a ticket in my younger years, so while it might not be an “arrest” as the term is commonly understood, it does seem to meet the standard of the failure to ID offense.

In either event, a plain-text reading of the law makes sense to me that if you’re pulled over for a traffic violation (whether as a driver of a car, someone walking across a street, or a cyclist), you have the obligation to provide your identity (verbally at least) for the sake of the summons, if nothing else.

All that said, I disagree with the argument that the arrest or the charge of Failure to ID is illegal.

Video of the part of the arrest, which seems mild in my opinion:

For full disclosure: A friend of mine joined APD about 18 months ago. He wasn’t involved in the situation and we haven’t spoke of it.

Featured Image Credit: flickr/conner395 licensed under Creative Commons.

Flash Talks

At Automattic, we have an all-hands “Grand Meetup” once a year to bring the entire company together under one roof. It’s a crazy week in various ways, but one particularly fun part are the flash talks.

Everyone in the company from the guy who started yesterday to Matt gets up in front of everyone and gives a 4-minute talk on whatever they want to share.

Some of them are funny, others informative, some are completely random semi-off-the-cuff, and others are well-crafted well-timed presentations.

The joy in this is that you get to learn a little bit about all of your coworkers, their humor, what they care about, their preferred drink, or experience a piece of their creativity.

With 200 people, the process took a long time. I admit, I snuck out more than one time during them to call home to check-in. Thankfully, we record all of them and post them on an internal blog (which is a great way for new folks to “meet” some of the old timers a bit faster).

Even though it took a great amount of time, I loved them. It is a relatively quick way to build community and know quirks about your coworkers that we’d often never see working remotely and with so many people. I have a coworker who loves roundabouts (traffic circles). I’d never know otherwise, which is a shame, since anyone who loves traffic circles is a-okay in my book.

Or the guy who sings as Kermit the Frog to his kids?

Or the gal who found animal-lookalikes for everyone’s Gravatar?

Or the guy whose cancer research in a previous job was freaking amazing (and way over my head)?

The next time you’re part of a team that has a retreat, throw these in. When I was president of my fraternity in college, I wished I knew what I know now about flash talks. It would have been such an easy win for building community to give each member 5 minutes (or more, depending on the size of the group) to just talk about whatever they wanted to share.

I don’t know if this is kosher or not, but check out my flash talk from last September about living life with the @Kraft twitter handle.

featured image photocredit: flickr/laffy4k.