Category: Experiences

2017 WordPress resolutions – mid year check in.

Late last year I wrote down my 2017 WordPress resolutions. These were the goals I set myself (for better or worse) that I would like to achieve this year.

As we’re just over halfway through the year I thought it might be interesting to take a look back and see if I’ve made any headway on any of these items and whether I need to make some drastic changes for the next six months.

A more stable work environment.

If I think about it I have not yet quite achieved the ratio I had set out to, but there is some good news. I can’t remember when last I worked past 23:00 and I’ve even had some weeks where I didn’t have to catch up in the evenings at all. I have not yet been able to carve out time for plugin development though, so that is something I want to work on more. I can still be doing better with my project estimation so I’m constantly evolving that process.

5 for the future.

To be honest this has worked out, but in ways that I never could have imagined. Due to an unexpected set of circumstances I am the lead organiser for WordCamp Cape Town this year. I am enjoying this tremendously as I am really looking forward to putting together an even that could change someone else’s life as it did mine in 2015. I also recently joined the WordPress community team as a Community Deputy, meaning that currently I assist with vetting new WordPress meetup groups as well as hold Meetup orientations.

I still want to start contributing to WordPress Core as well as Calypso, the WordPress.com product, so I am looking forward to the the newly announced New Contributors meeting. I’ve also started learning React in order to look at contributing to Calypso.

REST API powered plugin

This one is still coming, as I’ve decided to build it using React for the admin sections (similar to Jetpack) so I need to finish my React fundamentals course first.

Twenty Seventeen theme

Sadly this won’t be happening this year, but I am getting a lot of experience using Twenty Seventeen on the WordCamp Cape Town site, so perhaps that counts?

WPHackerCast

This will also not be happening, however another podcast idea has revealed itself which is a much more exciting idea and one that will benefit way more people, so watch this space.

So, not to bad as far as I can see. I think I’m pretty close to completing at least 4 out of the 5 before the end of the year. I’ll check back in December and see how it went. How’s your year going? Any goals you’ve set that you’ve either achieved or are on your way to do so?

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Reflections on ‘me’, version 4.0

Today I reached a milestone in my life, what is otherwise known as the ‘big 4 0’. I turned 40.

It’s been a bit of a recurring joke in my household that I’ve been dreading the day, more so because I tended to make (half joking, half truthful) comments about the fact.

Now that the day has come and gone, if nothing else, I’m happy that it is here.

I’m not usually one to make a big deal out of my birthday (in fact for my 30th I pretty much hid away from everyone) but I’ve found that I’ve actually been quite happy to let people know that I’m turning 40 today.

Looking back at the last 10 years of my life I can’t help feel that I’ve accomplished quite a lot in a fairly short space of time. I got married, moved house, changed jobs, became self employed, sired two boys, opened my own martial arts club, discovered just about the best open source community out there (that’s you, WordPress peeps) learned a bunch of new skills and learned a whole bunch about myself along the way. That’s not to say things were plain sailing, but I can say with certainty that I definitely handle failure and misfortune better than I used to. I still have my bad days, but I don’t believe they are as intense or drawn out as they used to be.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a mid life crisis (although my wife might disagree) and I’m hopeful for the future in that I really do feel like I am where I am supposed to be right now, in order to take the next big steps for the next 10 years.

So roll on 50, I’m looking forward to looking back at another decade with a smile on my face.

For now, I’m just going to enjoy my Whisky and go play some Shadows or Mordor!

 

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WordCamp Cape Town 2017

WordCampCapeTown2017

So last year I blogged about my list of resolutions for the new year. As with most resolutions it was a long list of the things I want to do differently in the new year, with very little grounding in reality. Reading that post now I can’t help wonder how I thought I was going to manufacture all that extra time!

Two days ago I sat staring at all the Make Slack channels I had joined in the course of the year and the realisation dawned that I was trying to keep too many fingers in too many pies when it comes to contributing to WordPress.  It struck me that I had to choose one (or maybe two) avenues within which I want to contribute back to WordPress this year and focus my spare time on those.

What I didn’t realise then, but I do now, was that I had already made the decision of what to focus on this year, merely by my actions last year, things that had already been set in motion during 2016. Once I realised that, it was very easy to leave all the other channels and look ahead to my journey with WordPress in 2017 with renewed purpose.  That purpose, building the community.

Which leads me to the real point of this article, an announcement I’ve been sitting on for a few weeks now and one that I’m happy now share with the world. I’ve applied (and been accepted) as the organiser for WordCamp Cape Town this year. It is a role I didn’t expect to take on until 2018 but circumstances have sent this my way and I’m happy to take on the challenge.

I’ll be blogging about my experiences here, mostly to record the journey from my own perspective but hopefully to educate and inspire others to either join, start or become a part of their own WordCamp’s around the world.

So here’s looking forward to WordCamp Cape Town 2017. Hopefully I’ll meet you there and we can share a WordPress story, or even just a coffee.

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4 WordCamps in 4 Months

WordCamp

Last year at WordCamp I decided I would speak at the next one, this year I did just that. So when I heard that there would be 3 new WordCamps happening in Africa this year (one in Johannesburg, one in Nairobi and one in Harare) I decided on the spot I want to attend all three.

In deciding to do this I realised that, with my attendance of WordCamp Cape Town in September, I’d effectively be able to attend a total of 4 WordCamps in 4 months (Johannesburg in November and Nairobi and Harare in December). The downside (as always), finding the money to do it.

As a self employed developer finding $2000 – $3000 to cover flights, accommodation and general expenses for the three extra trips is not easy. As such I am reaching out to the greater community, in Africa and internationally, to assist me in my plan.

Over at Elegant Marketplace I developed a really small plugin (that was released for free) which simply adds a ‘Next’ and ‘Previous’ link at the end of every blog post. For the month of November I’ve changed the pricing model to a ‘choose your own price’ option, with a minimum of $2 and a suggested price of $5. Elegant Marketplace has kindly offered to give me the full proceeds of the sale of this plugin for the month of November, waiving the usual management fees I pay for my other products.

If I can get 600 people to buy this plugin I’ll be able to cover the costs of my trips. Even if you never use the plugin, or you could really write one your own, I’d appreciate your support in making this trip possible.

You can read more about the trip and how it came about in my Elegant Marketplace blog post or you can just go ahead and buy the plugin here.

Thanks.

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A friendly challenge to all WordCamp Cape Town 2016 Workshop Speakers

It’s Sunday morning 11 September and I am still coming off of the high that is WordCamp.

However, one thing makes me sad. Due to constraints the day 1 workshops were not filmed. While I do understand the logistics of this and why it was not possible, I gets me thinking that it would be amazing if there was some way to still capture this information for those who attended, or better yet, those who could not make it.

And then it hit me. We live in a digital age. There is nothing stopping each and every workshop speaker from taking an hour of our their day, recording their own session and uploading it to YouTube.

So, if you were a workshop speaker on day 1 of WordCamp, I challenge you to redo your workshop in the comfort of your home or office, record it and share it with the world. If your workshop was fairly seamless ( we’re looking at you Konstantin 😉 ) then it will be really easy. If, like me, there were things you could improve to help fit it into 1 hour, then make those changes and record your session.

I’m letting Steve and Danielle off the hook, I’m not sure they could record their talk and recreate the magic without an actual audience. 😉

I also already know Chris Muller is off the hook, as his team filmed his talk for him. So Chris, you are first up, upload the video, share it and inspire the rest of the community to record theirs.

You can expect mine by the end of the week!

Filed under: Experiences, WordPressTagged with: ,

WordCamp Cape Town – Day 1

So day one of Word Camp Cape Town is over. It was quite a whirlwind of a day, but I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.

My WordCamp experience actually started on Wednesday night, at the VIP dinner. Here I got to meet and chat with a bunch of folk from the local WordPress community who I had only ever ‘met’ online. It’s quite a thing to already have a relationship with someone and then only meet them in person for the first time (I wonder if this is how new Automattic employees feel at their first company meetup?) The vibe was great and I had some amazing discussions with some awesome people.

Today kicked off (after the obligatory 1 hour 20 minute drive from the outskirts of town) with my ‘Extending WordPress’ workshop. It went pretty well, there are some things I could have done better and some things that I nailed, but all in all I had good feedback. It’s always great hearing that people finally understood a specific concept because of your talk and one or two people mentioned that to me, which was amazing.

After that I sat in on Seagyn’s advanced talk on Continuous Integration, Unit Testing and Integration testing. I got to play with Travis-CI and I am excited to start implementing this knowledge into my development work flow

After lunch I decided to stay on the advanced developer track and thoroughly enjoyed Konstantin Obenland’s Settings API workshop. Being able to watch an expert at work is an amazing thing, and Konstantin ‘live coded’ his Settings API example with only one bug (which he fixed in record time) causing him a few moments of quiet contemplation. And I do really mean moments, in the time that it would have taken me to figure out the problem, he’d already figured out the problem and the solution. Amazing stuff.

The day ended with a really fun and interesting talk from Steve and Danielle. I really enjoyed the way that made the entire workshop interactive and interesting. I would have easily listened to a workshop on how to increase your site speed, but they presented it in such a way that they actually made me excited to just go and learn how to do it myself. Well done guys.

Other things that stood our where how many of the local Divi community were present, where ever we ran into each other the obvious topic of conversation was Divi 3.0. I even had the chance to speak to some non Divi users and discuss the theme and its merits with them. I am definitely looking forward to meeting all the Divi Users that are at WordCamp tomorrow at our unofficial Divi Meetup.

All in all day one was pretty special. What inspired me the most was  how full the three different tracks were, I’m looking forward to seeing and interacting with everyone in the single regular sessions track tomorrow

 

Filed under: Divi, Experiences, WordPressTagged with: ,

Remembering ‘Why?’

It is said you should start with ‘Why?’ Over the past few weeks I’ve gone through some drastic changes in my life. These events have forced me to stop and evaluate why I do what I do and if it all makes sense.

Please bear with me for a moment while I explain. About 2 and a half years ago I opened up a martial arts school in my home suburb. I’d been training in the art of Gracie Jiu Jitsu for almost 7 years, but I was tired of the constant 30 to 40 minute travel to (and then again from) the academy. I was a dedicated student however and I figured that if there were people like me living where I did that wanted to train, If I opened my own school I’d have training partners I could train with closer to home. This could then grow into a business and I could turn my hobby into my job.

Fast forward 2 and a half years and last week I closed the school down and turned it into something resembling a ‘jiu jitsu study group’. The plan of turning my hobby into a business soon meant that I had lost sight of the ‘why’ I opened it in the first place, the ability to train close to home. I was so wrapped up in the administration, marketing, teaching and everything else that goes along with running a school that I had forgetting to get some training in myself. It was a hard lesson to learn.

This has given me fresh eyes with which to look at the reasons why I first became a software developer. I didn’t do this because I want to have my website listed on a top 5 list or because I wanted to sell plugins or be able to say that ‘I was the lead developer on that big website’. I didn’t even do it to work with specific markets or sectors of industry. I became a software developer for the simple reason that I like writing, be it code, a technical document or a tutorial or a blog post. I’m not what I would call a ‘creative’, I can’t draw or design something to save my life. What I can do is develop software that solves a specific problem or write an article or tutorial that helps someone achieve a specific task.

The honest truth is that I shouldn’t be working as a freelancer. I should be working for a company, where I am simply a small cog in a bigger machine. I am not cut out for the administrative tasks that come along with working for yourself. I barely even remember to bill my clients sometimes. But the reality of my unique situation means that I cannot, at the moment, go and work full time for a company. And it means that I am also currently failing as a freelancer. So where does that leave me?

Well, as I did when I restructured my jiu jitsu school into a study group, I will share the same quote that defines my current state of mind.

In the words of Jocko Willink, “Get up… Dust off… Reload… Re-calibrate… REENGAGE… and go out ON THE ATTACK…”

Today I launched my Patreon at http://patreon.com/jonathanbossenger. It is an attempt to re-calibrate myself and my development/writing services in such a way that I can continue to do what I love without the immediate need for fulfilling client requirements. In short I hope to build an audience of interested parties who are prepared to support me now for any plugins and tutorials I have already written or that I plan to release in the future. It will eventually mean that I can ditch the need to find client work and focus on what I do (pretty) well, write code and tutorials for others to use.

I trust you will consider supporting me.

UPDATE: So since launching this Patreon I’ve had some success with my plugin sales and I’ve decided to close the Patreon. The web development world isn’t yet ready for this kind of crowd funding. Since doing this I’ve noticed a few other developers are trying it out themselves, and I wish them well. I’ve just realised it’s not for me.

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Getting ready for 2016

Digital Resolutions.

2016 sees a new direction for me. For the first time since I started programming in 2004, I will be 100% self employed.

This doesn’t mean that I have always been employed by a boss for the last 12 years. There were some attempts at working for myself in the past, but each time it was at the request of someone else. This time it is a decision I have come to after much consideration and planning.

I am quite looking forward to this new direction. It will no doubt come with its struggles, but I get to focus on one of the things I like the most about working in the digital space, namely working with clients and solving their problems via technology.

To prepare myself for this new journey I have made a few digital ‘resolutions’ for 2016.

1. I will not reinvent the wheel.

Open source content management sytems have come a long way since I started custom coding CMS’s in 2004. With the worldwide adoption of WordPress as the CMS of choice and the multitude of top quality free and premium themes and plugins available, there really is no reason to develop a website from scratch any more. More often that not, when discussing various user requirements for a website, a quick Google search will reveal that (to coin the Apple catchphrase) ‘there’s a plugin for that’.

So my plan is simple. Instead of writing all the code myself, I will build on top of the shoulders of giants. Similar to what my colleague Ross has done over at Shopcreatify, I will be offering my services as a website ‘fitter’. A digital foreman if you will. I’ll get my hands dirty every now and then, but first and foremost I will use tried and tested themes, plugins and services, developed by experts in their respective fields, to deliver amazing web and mobile solutions to my clients.

2. Back to school

One of my secondary goals for 2016 is to spend as much of my free time as possible learning new skills. Not specifically development skills (e.g. new languages and/or technologies) but skills that will allow me to bring a more rounded service to my clients. A large part of this will be a focus on digital marketing. This isn’t just to be able to provide basic digital marketing services to my clients, but also to grow my own marketing experience, both for my digital business and the jiu-jitsu school I run.

4. Personal projects

There are a couple of personal software projects that I am keen to build on and grow.

A few years ago I wrote a piece of web based software to help a client (and my jiu-jitsu instructor) manage his students. This has huge potential for all the other martial arts gyms in South Africa and I just haven’t had the time to develop the idea to a point where I can offer it to multiple clients.

I am also part of a family run business with my wife. There is a lot of scope for converting manual processes into digitally driven ones and I am keen to get my hands dirty making our lives easier by improving our processes through automation.

3. Family man

The primary reason I am taking all of the above steps is to be able to spend more time with my family. Over the past four years I have been working on site at a great local development company but time with my family suffered, due to the hours I was busy with the various things I was involved in. Starting off on my own will hopefully give me some flexibility to spend a little bit more quality time with my family.

I’ve never been one for new year resolutions, based purely on the fact that most people never see them through. So I don’t really want to call these resolutions, the are life decisions I have made (for good or for ill) that I plan to live on a day to day basis.

I can’t wait to see how 2016 turns out.

 

 

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Digital Marketing Workshop

As an entrepreneur, small business owner or freelancer, one of the most important skills you need to have, after being amazing at what you do, is digital marketing.

The biggest learning curve I had as a developer was when I launched my Jiu Jitsu school. I soon learned that ‘If you build it, they don’t necessarily come‘ and my journey into digital marketing begin. I was truly amazed at a) how much could be accomplished with a good digital marketing strategy and b) how easy it is to do it wrong.

If you are in the same position as I am and you want to leverage technology to promote your business or you want to learn how you market your business better online, I highly recommend the Digital Marketing Workshops hosted by Mashup Marketing. The next one is on the 4th of November.

Whether you are a small to medium business or simply an individual responsible for marketing duties but lack digital experience then this workshop is definitely for you. If you are just passionately learning about digital marketing then feel free to join as well. The digital workshop will help you understand what digital marketing is all about and equips you with the knowledge and tools to help you grow any business online.

 

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Word Camp Cape Town 2015

So this year I was fortunate enough to attend my first Word Camp.

I’ve been meddling (at best) with WordPress for the better part of the last decade, I’ve set up a few blogs and sites and even completed some custom development using WordPress as the base but I’ve never been someone who was ‘focused’ on WordPress or the WordPress community. This year I decided to take a deeper look into what makes the local WordPress community tick. Boy, what a ride it was.

Day one dawned a typically early spring Cape Town day, namely rain. After getting out to the awesome venue that is the River Club, we got to mingle with some of the attendees and pick and choose our selection of ‘swag’. I wasn’t sure what the protocol was, so I just grabbed a few interesting items, my favourite of which was the USB power banks supplied by FNB/Paypal. A spread of coffee/teas and muffins awaited us while we milled around the entrance area, and then onto the workshops we went.

I chose to attend all the developer workshops and I wasn’t disappointed. From Brent’s talk on Varying Vagrant Vagrants to Pippin’s ‘Commitment to Backwards Compatibility’, each speaker was interesting, knowledgeable and insightful. I especially enjoyed Justin’s talk on the WordPress API, mainly because how interesting and funny he was at the same time, even after a 16 odd hour flight.

Day two was more of a typical conference day, with everyone seating in the auditorium, cinema style, listening to the talks of the day. Our’s MC’s were the always funny Derick Watts and the Sunday Blues who had the crowd in stitches in between each talk.

The talks on day two were just as interesting as day one, but the two that stood out for me the most were Drew’s ‘It takes a Village to make Wordpress’ and Bruce’s ‘The Age of the Digital Superhero’. Not that all the other speakers weren’t great (they were) but these two resonated with me on a personal level.

The last talk ended with the words ‘f*cking awesome’ which was apt, as this was the feeling I had when I left WordCamp. I met some amazing people and was inspired as a developer, both and a personal and a technical level. WordPress has come a long way in the past few years and it was really great to see and meet so many people who are developing, using and growing WordPress as a platform.

Special thanks go to Hugh Lashbrooke, who put all this together and was super friendly every time you chatted to him, even though I am sure he was buzzing from the nerves of running such a huge event.

And finally, thanks to all the amazing WordPress users and developers I meet, who made me realised that there is something special about belonging to an open source community.

I’ll definitely be back next year.

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