Checking in, just after sunset, on day one of our team meetup in Honolulu.
I have always been a fan of outstanding web series, mostly because I’m amazed at what can be accomplished on an independent budget with no film or television restrictions, like Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2.
Just yesterday, I stumbled across The Sky High City of SteamPuff from Steelehouse and am thoroughly impressed with this steampunk-inspired animated web series. Judging by the amount of views this video has amassed in the past three weeks, this web series need a lot more attention, so please help them get the word out! We need more outstanding animated web series like this!
If you’re looking for something to share with your friends over the holiday weekend, look not further than Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2. It’s an incredible independent production, the sequel to Mortal Kombat: Legacy, and something which is far better than any of the major studio films from the Mortal Kombat franchise.
Shellfish Allergy Superman with allergic reaction fists!
Automattic is a globally distributed company, which means that most of us work from home all over the world. Often times, folks ask me how I can separate my work life from my home life as if it were some sort of monumental task. Fortunately, that is not the case, and while not every trick may work for every person, here are a few tricks that help me separate my work life from my home life.
Separate Browsers: Use separate browsers for work and personal, not just separate browser windows, use completely separate applications. When I use Chrome, I’m at work. When I use Safari, I’m doing anything but work.
Different Devices: Use completely different devices for work and non-work. It’s nearly impossible for me to do my work from my iPad, but I can do almost anything else from it, so I spend most of my non-work time on the iPad.
No Unified Inboxes: Make your work email ignorable when you’re off work. Since I spend most of my non-work time on either my iPad or iPhone, I use the Gmail app, which despite modern conventions in email consumption, still (thankfully) does not offer unified inboxes (each account is separate). This allows me to easily ignore my work email if necessary. If the Gmail app ever offers a unified inbox (like almost every other email app), I’ll probably use separate email apps. Note that I do use Airmail on my computer with a unified inbox, since I’m typically working when on my computer, and it’s just easier that way.
Control Communication Sources: Don’t mix work communications with personal communications. We use Skype a lot at Automattic, so to me, Skype is work. Skype is a popular communication outlet for family and friends, but not mine. If my family or friends want to get in touch with me, they have plenty of other ways to reach me. Skype is not for them. Similarly, I never use my work email for personal things.
Know Your Boundaries: It’s okay to bring some work home, especially if it helps you to avoid dwelling on it all evening. Sometimes, frustrating things happen here at Automattic, like they do at any workplace. It could be a disagreement with a co-worker, a user who wants something that’s impossible, or even an ad network that thinks it’s totally ok to not pay us for their ad impressions for over three months. If I didn’t share these things with my wife, I’d just stay frustrated and dwell on them all evening. Some people say that you should never bring work home with you, but that’s usually the worst mistake you can make if you’re trying to free yourself from it.
So, that’s how I keep my work life from affecting my home life, even though I work at home. Do you work at home? If so, how do you keep the two lives separate?
Three years ago, I became a Happiness Engineer at Automattic, focussing on WordPress.com. I had a lot of fun with my colleagues, helping folks learn to use the greatest free blogging platform ever. Fun fact, WordPress.com is both free and a business, we have bills to pay, and businesses need money to operate. A few months back, I made a big switch from our Happiness Engineering team to a team we call Rads (Revenue and Ads), so that I can both have a hand in the financial stability of WordPress.com and keep the terribly horrid, tasteless, and distracting ads that have become all too common elsewhere away from your free blog.
Rads is led by Jon Burke and features the talents of Egill Erlendsson, Marcus Kazmierczak, Derek Springer, and our celebrity designer shared amongst teams, Joen Asmussen. As part of the team, I provide support for WordAds, our advertising program for WordPress.com bloggers, and work directly with ad networks for a variety of things. That last bit is fun and worth a whole post itself. Let’s just say that some networks are very good at what they do, while others have absolutely no clue.
Part of the work I do with ad networks is handle bad ad reports. We strive to provide only family-friendly advertising on WordPress.com, and we have contracts with our ad networks to provide just that. If we ever receive a complaint about an ad that is not family-friendly, I make sure that the ad (and sometimes the ad network itself) is immediately removed from WordPress.com.
Now, I know some of you who are reading this, and you’re going to ask, “Hey James, didn’t you just tell us how you never use ad blockers last month? Are you trying to trick us into viewing the ads on WordPress.com?” Goodness no, and shame on you for asking. You should know me better than that. I have never used ad blockers, because there are free sites that I rely on whose only source of revenue is from ads. I want them to stay in business, so I don’t block their ads, or I purchase some sort of ad-free subscription if available. Anyway, there’s also an advantage to this for my job now. As a daily “consumer” of ads, I know what kind of crap is out there, I know how annoying that crap is, and I can make sure it never winds up on WordPress.com. I can also immediately investigate the possibility of running newer less-distracting ads on WordPress.com as newer ad technologies make themselves known.
So, now you know where I am. I spend every day working with these awesome people to keep WordPress.com free and to keep lame ads away from your free blog.
WordPress 3.7 has been released. I know I’m getting to this a bit late, especially since over half a million of you have downloaded it so far, but I feel a need to point out why WordPress 3.7 is so awesome.
WordPress 3.7 includes a ridiculous amount of under-the-hood things which might go unnoticed, but I really want to highlight the new automatic updates. From 3.7 onwards, WordPress will automatically apply all minor updates (anything that’s 3.7.x), which means that you’ll immediately receive all security and stability updates. That’s a big deal. As long as folks upgrade to 3.7, and the WordPress team continues to be awesome about security fixes, there will never again be an insecure WordPress installation (unless the blogger disables automatic updates, which is just silly and negligent).
All users can now safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.
If you’re a WordPress.com blogger, you have nothing to worry about, as you’ve technically been running WordPress 3.7 for a while now.
I don’t use ad blockers, because there are some sites I rely on or enjoy reading, and those sites rely on ads to stay in business (servers are expensive, the staff needs to eat, etc). If they offer a paid option to remove ads, I pay it. If not, I want them to stay in business, so I don’t block their ads. With that said, there are plenty of “good” sites out there which are simply flooded with ads. I simply choose to not follow or frequently visit those. I can get my reading in elsewhere. For example, the news sites where and advertising sidebar (sometimes even multiple sidebars) take up the entire right half of the screen. I mean, how is that even a thing?! I just refuse to read anything on those sites, it’s distracting, and simply crazy.
There’s a lot to hate and a lot to love about advertising, and so many factors that have contributed to a rather rapid shift in the industry. In the early days, contextual advertising used to be the leader. Are you reading a post about camping? Great, here’s an ad for a campground in your area, or maybe you want to buy this tent from Amazon. Those were great times, as the ads kind of contributed something to the article, sort of a “related content” experience. It turns out, that doesn’t pay well anymore, at all, to the point where it may not even worth it. Simply put, advertisers are willing to pay good money for their ads to be seen, not to simply wait around for the chance that someone will write about a Fiat, Chromebook, or whatever product they’re selling. In a way, that’s nice because you could run one unrelated ad and make the same amount as you could with four contextual ads. I’m not saying I directly recommend one over the other, but one unrelated ad could make a site owner a lot more money than beating me senseless with contextual ads ever could.
There are lots of other ways to advertise now too, which is also contributing to a rapid price shift. Some site owners will go to where the money is, and some will go with whatever doesn’t inconvenience the reader. Site owners can make a killing off of interstitials (those “click here to continue to the article” ads), but those make me close the window and look for a similar article elsewhere. Others can still make a killing off of related affiliate links, like Uncrate. Others thrive off of sponsored content, like Quartz, where whole posts can be advertisements, but are easy to identify and therefore easy to ignore, or they actually could be well-written articles. Others have struggled with income from time to time, but do their best to stay afloat on a very minimal ad-to-content ratio, like The Verge.
In short, I don’t use ad blockers, as I value the sites I read which need ads to stay in business. In turn, I don’t bother to read sites which are insanely cluttered with ads. There are plenty of non-obtrusive ways to advertise. Sometimes that means you’ll make less money than if you had provided a Whac-A-Mole-like banner ad experience, but maybe it’s worth it? I don’t use ad blockers, but I don’t have to follow your site either.
This post was inspired by What’s Your Take on Advertising on Blogs? by WordPress.com support forum superstar, timethief.
(Disclaimer: To anyone who read this post, thank you. The words above are not necessarily indicative of the views of Automattic, WordPress.com, WordAds, or any of their affiliates. If you feel like quoting me for any reason, please know that this is simply my personal opinion. k thx bye)