Newcastle, NSW

I’m sitting in a cafe called Scottie’s, located at 36 Scott Street (cross: Zaara St.) in Newcastle, New South Wales. I’m a block from the beach, and can see the surf from where I sit against pillows made of beach towels, and container ships further out in the ocean.

I rented a car and left Sydney airport around 2:30pm, scribbled directions copied off Google Maps in hand. Naturally, the places I needed to see signs in order to follow the Google directions lacked signs, and I wound up going the wrong way on Route 1 for about half an hour before finding a gas station at which to stop. They didn’t have any maps, but they had a short, bespectacled, cell-phone-talking man in his late sixties with a heavy Greek accent taking a coffee break outside with the diesel driver who was filling up his 16-wheeler, and this accented man gave me directions. They amounted to, “turn around,” but coming from him were a series of exhortations to “stay the middle line!” and watch for signs to Newcastle. After assuring him about 6 times that I would “stay the middle line,” he let me go, and I hit the road again.

Speaking of road, one co-traveler earlier this week was opposed to my renting a car (in place of taking cabs everywhere), citing my unfamiliarity with driving on the left as being a risk factor for an accident. I’d like to take this opportunity to state that I had no trouble acclimating (just as in Japan 15 years ago), and after the first hour, I didn’t even have to remind myself to stay in the left lane. I only hit the windshield wipers by mistake once. One thing was less than optimal, though… the car I rented has a manual transmission, about which I was psyched originally, because I prefer driving standard. However, I failed to think about the fact that the gearshift would be on the left, and my bum left wrist is already feeling it. Happily, Byron Bay, an upcoming destination, is filled with acupuncturists, massage therapists, cranio-sacral therapists and all manner of alternative body therapists, so I am sure I can find someone to fix me up.

There was a rest stop on the highway, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a fast-food place next to the McDonald’s that was all organic and vegetarian, featuring gluten-free options, sushi and fresh juices, not to mention lavender hand lotion in the eco-friendly restroom. I bought an carrot-apple-ginger juice for the road, and a chocolate bar with chamomile, which I’d never heard of, so I had to try it. Verdict: kind of grainy, but I think that had to do with the chocolate itself, and not the chamomile.

What I’ve seen of Newcastle so far is cute (I haven’t seen much yet). I’m staying at a hostel, and am sleeping in a bunkroom for the first time since I was 21 or so. Things I need to buy that I hadn’t thought of: a towel and a padlock. Not exactly sure where to go for either, but am sure I will find something if I hop in the car and just drive up and down. Actually, I’m not that confident, since a lot of things seem to close at 5pm here, but I’m hopeful.

I’m planning on being offline for large portions of the day for the next couple of days so I can crank through some writing I’m overdue with for work; when I’m online I get distracted by other work stuff, and I need to get this done before 2.7 final launches next week (assuming all goes according to plan). The plan is to log in 2-3 times per day and check email, respond to skypes and let my mother (who worries about single female travel) know I’m safe. One of those times per day I’ll also post whatever I’ve written about the day before.

Upcoming itinerary is not set, but I’ll be driving north in general, toward Byron Bay, and depending on how soon I get that far, maybe up to Port Douglas (though the latter is doubtful). If you have any suggestions of places to see, stay or stop, email me at my name (jane) at my job (automattic.com).

This cafe is playing The Shins, yay.

I promised Matt I would take iPhone pictures (my regular camera battery died, and of course I forgot to bring the charger), so I’ll upload them once I find the cable.

My last post in 2.6?

For the past two months, I’ve used WordPress 2.7 for the posts I write on the development blog, and 2.6 for the posts I write on wordpress.com. Switching back to 2.6 always makes me cringe, since it means loading extra screens, and uploading a bunch of images to use elsewhere is a pain. Now that 2.7 is coming to wordpress.com, I am more likely to post here. I’m heading up the coast of Australia, so we’ll see if the switch to 2.7 on .com really does make me more likely to post. I leave Sydney today to head to Newcastle. Planning to drive slowly up to Byron Bay and hang out until my birthday, then drive back to fly home on the 16th.

Icons, Babies and Travel

1. Voting is in progress for the WordPress 2.7 icon design contest. If you have an opinion on how they should look, go vote.

2. Amelia is so freakin’ cute, I can’t stand it.

3. I head to Charlotte tomorrow for WordCamp on Saturday. I’ll have a table set up and will be taking suggestions/questions/etc. I may also do some usability testing during breaks or after the conference is over, since it ends relatively early in the day.

Cutest. Baby. Ever.

Sorry I haven’t been answering many emails, posting icon votes, etc. since Saturday night. Where did I go?

AmeliaWelcome Amelia Rainbolt Middleton, daughter of my friends Andrea and Tom. 55 hours of labor and a slightly worrisome last minute move from home birth to hospital birth (I drove a mean getaway car) later, she’s totally perfect. And clearly ready for her first WordPress blog.

Unexpected trip to Austin

A friend is having her first baby a few weeks early (pretty much now), so I’m hopping on a flight from SFO to AUS to help out for a few days before heading to Charlotte for WordCamp. Will be trying to do some 2.7 usability testing while I’m in Austin, so if you’re interested, let me know. Especially interested in testing with people who have to moderate a lot of comments on their blog.

Yay, baby almost here!

Am I a Platformist?

Recently, I posted a call on the dev blog for WordPress-loving icon designers who wanted to get involved with the open source project and design the new icons for 2.7. In the post I made it clear that the reason we were doing this was because of all the times I’ve had designers ask me how they could contribute to WordPress, since they weren’t able to contribute code.

I got about a dozen responses from clearly capable designers with good portfolios. One of them didn’t use WordPress, but Movable Type. I sent him what I thought was a nice email thanking him for volunteering, but letting him know that since he didn’t appear to use WordPress, we would be choosing from among the current users. He’s since written a blog post indicating that this was a divisive act. I disagree.

I wasn’t looking for the most badass icon designer. If that had been the case, we would have just hired someone outright, as we planned to do originally. The change to going with community volunteers was specifically intended to provide an opportunity for WordPress users to give back to the community and be contributors to the open source project in a way that hasn’t been open to them before. I was in no way implying that this non-WP designer’s work wasn’t good enough.

Substitute “icon design” for “coding a patch that will be used in the application.” The two are meant to be on par. My goal was to make the open source project not so code-specific, but to open up more avenues of involvement with the application. And as with the coding of patches, we generally have the best luck with people who use the application on a regular basis, are already intimately familiar with it, and have a vested interest in its improvement. The point was for the icons to be community generated (there will even be community voting on the completed icon sets), not just designed.

It wasn’t my intention at all to make this designer feel slighted, and I certainly appreciate everyone’s willingness to volunteer. I also didn’t mean for my response to carry any kind of one-platform-to-rule-them-all kind of tone. I’ve used Blogger, Movable Type and WordPress, and I like all of them for different reasons. I have friends who work for each company; I’m not part of the platform wars that sometimes spring up. I just feel that given the reasoning behind going the community volunteer route in this case (which, frankly, does carry some risk compared to simply hiring a professional), it would have been uncool of me to bring in a ringer. Which, given this guy’s experience level and the fact that he uses MT and not WP, he would have been. A ringer, that is. A designated hitter. As I said in my comment on the designer’s blog post, I’m just trying to give the existing WP community a chance to go to bat.

So does that make me a Platformist?

Shortcuts/Favorites Menu

One of the new features in WordPress 2.7 (currently in an almost-beta development state) is a feature we’ve been referring to as the Favorites Menu. The idea was that instead of having just a write new post/write new shortcuts menupage button on the Dashboard, there should be shortcuts for the screens you use the most accessible at any time so you have one-click access to those screens. The plan was to allow users to decide for themselves what would go into this menu via a configuration interface, but we weren’t able to make that happen in time for this release, so for 2.7 this will be more of a shortcuts menu than a favorites menu. That means we’re going to choose the 3-4 most commonly used screens and include those shortcuts in the dropdown menu. That’s where you come in.

For WordPress.com, we can see which screens get the most traffic, but for self-hosted sites running software from WordPress.org we’d just be guessing. Also, in some cases, even though a screen is accessed frequently, it’s only one click away in the main navigation anyway, so might not be needed in the shortcuts menu. With that in mind, the poll below lists some of the main screens in the WordPress admin interface. Please select the ones you would most like to have in the shortcuts menu. You can choose as many as you like, but please limit yourself to three or four or your vote will be diluted. If there is a screen we didn’t include on this list, enter the screens you want to suggest in the Other box. Note the poll choices use the navigation language of 2.5/2.6 so that people who haven’t downloaded 2.7 won’t be thrown by the new labels.

Future Publish

Some WordPress users know and use every feature of the application, while others stick to the few they know, missing out on potentially useful features because they either didn’t realize these features existed or they didn’t know how they worked. One feature that falls into this category is the ability to schedule the publication date/time of posts. This feature can be used to write something in advance that you want to publish later, or to write something belatedly and have it appear as if you’d written it sooner.

For example, I might write a post about something like the release of 2.7 in November before it actually happens so that I can take my time writing the post and have it ready to go live when 2.7 officially releases. I can schedule the publish time for November 10th at whatever time the release is due to go out, and my post will remain unpublished until that time. If I’m on a plane or in a car or otherwise not online when 2.7 is released, my post will still go live at the time I scheduled it. Yay!

Inversely, sometimes you might not have time to write something until after the fact, but you want it to be timestamped with an earlier publication date/time. For example, I’ve known students who use this feature to post school assignments “by the due date” if they finish a few minutes or hours after a midnight deadline but before the professor checks the class blog in the morning.

If you haven’t noticed or used this feature before, give it a try. When writing a new post, just above the Save and Publish buttons there is a small calendar icon and the words “Publish Immediately” followed by an “Edit” link. Clicking on the link will make the timestamp editable. Just change the date and/or time and click the OK button. If you choose a time in the future and then click on Publish, that’s when the post will go live. If you click Save, the post will remain a draft until you Publish it, regardless of the edited timestamp. If you choose a time in the past and click Publish, go check out your archives and you’ll find the post as if it had been there all along. Cool, right?

Now that you know how it works and how you can use it, maybe you can help us figure out how we can make this feature more obvious to new users, and what to call it. We’re spiffing up the Publish module on the Write screen, and are trying to find the right words for this feature, since so many people miss it currently. A couple of developers and I went back and forth the other day suggesting different labels to try and make it clear (without taking up a lot of space) not only that you can schedule the publish time, but that you can edit the timestamp after a post has already been published. We came up with a few ideas, but thought this would be a good opportunity to get community input.

If you want to give your opinion, take this poll. It’s short, and has 4 multiple choice questions about the future publish feature:
1. Did you know about this feature?
2. Do you currently use this feature?
3. Before a post has been published, the feature should be labeled: (choices provided in survey)
4. After a post has been published, the feature should be labeled: (choices provided in survey)

There are also a couple of multiple choice questions regarding where to put the search box and the new favorites menu. When we’ve collected 5000 responses, the survey will close, so go now and give us your opinion. Thanks for your help!  (When the survey has closed, links in this post will be deactivated.)

October 1, 2008 Update: The survey is now closed. Thanks to all those who participated.

Absentee Voters, Unite!

I know, I know, they hardly ever count the absentee votes because there’s enough of  a lead by one candidate to make the ballots irrelevant. This year might be different, though, so if you, like me, don’t stay in one place that long and are registered to vote somewhere other than where you’ll be on November 4, 2008, *please* take the time to either register as an absentee voter or change your voter registration to your current location (especially if you’re located in disputed territory!).

If you are unregistered: you still have time to register to vote. It’s fast, it’s easy, and not voting isn’t the most effective way to protest the system. Most states cut off voter registration in October to be eligible for the November election. If you need to register, check this list to see when your state’s cutoff date is. Or better yet, just go register to vote right now.

I know the electoral college seems silly sometimes, but given that an Ecotopian-style revolution seems unlikely anytime in the immediate future, voting will have the biggest impact right now. Do you want Sarah Palin running the country when McCain kicks the bucket? Do you want girls and women to die of back-alley abortions after more justices who want to make abortion illegal are appointed? Do you want us to continue wasting and depending on fossil fuels rather than investing renewables? You know the rhetoric, you might even spread it yourself. So get off your ass and vote this year.