Potentially uncomfortable start to our trip

We started out on our trip this morning for a month long trip across most of the USA/Canada. We're going, in a large part, to visit my sister, her husband, and new Nephew in Alberta. Old enough we just left them in Nova Scotia! They were down visiting but will fly back before we make it there.

The first part of our trip involved taking the ferry from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick. Ella gets motion sickness in cars but on boats as well. So last night I stopped to pick her up some Gravol, anti nausea medicine. When we were a little bit from the ferry I pulled them out to give her some and started laughing pretty hard. I have her the package to read and she got pretty mad at me. I may have had some tears from the situation.

Come Join Me!

Come Join Me!

Here’s a good summary to get you started, but then I’ll throw in my custom pitch below!

Want to be part of making the web a better place? Come work for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, Jetpack, and WooCommerce. As a Happiness Engineer, you’ll work full-time from your home (with salary and benefits) to help people with their websites and blogs. It’s helpful to have some familiarity with HTML, CSS, and WordPress. Critical is a genuine desire to help people. Apply by following the directions on our Jobs page: https://automattic.com/work-with-us/happiness-engineer/

If you’ve read my blog before at all you’ll know that I love my job. I really learned about the internet when I started working in a call centre doing tech support for an internet service provider. From there I thought to myself why do these people want to be online? What are they doing on there? That led me to making websites which I eventually ended up doing as a career for a number of years. I loved it because I was helping people get online and promote themselves or their businesses. That led me to WordPress as I tried other options but this software became an awesome way to help them do it.

Now at Automattic I get to work for an amazing company and help people get online and make WordPress itself better. Our mission is to Democratize Publishing which to me is a noble goal. More about what we stand for can also be found in our creed. We are a distributed company, meaning everyone works from where ever they live. It wasn’t until a recent conversation I had with a friend talking about working remotely that I realized what a benefit that really is. I’m able to work with and talk to smart people from all over the world. We are a diverse group and I’m able to interact and learn from all these different perspectives.

If you’re not sold yet, I loved the company, the work, and the people so much that I encouraged the love of my life Jen to apply and go through the intense hiring process to join the company as well. I wouldn’t have done that if I had any doubts about this place.

Like any job there are always challenges and things which could be done better, but most is in our control to have input on fixing or directly working to fix it.

If this sounds like a company you’d enjoy working for and supporting some amazing people who use our products than help me in my personal mission to grow the number of Automatticians we have in Nova Scotia. Take a look at the map, we’re behind of many of the other Provinces, but we can catch up. If you’re interested you can still apply even if you don’t live here 😉

Reach out if you have questions or apply directly https://automattic.com/work-with-us/happiness-engineer/

Nova Scotia Summer

Nova Scotia Summer

While most summers we take a trip away from home and away from Nova Scotia that is only small part. We still love Nova Scotia and spend lots of time finding things to do here as well. 

We have a really great Muesum system here. There are 28 sites as part of it across the Province. In years past we buy a family annual pass which allows us access to all of them. We haven’t done that this year so far but we may still. 

This year, in partnership with our also awesome library system, they are piloting a Culture Pass. It works like borrowing an eBook from the library. Each library group in the system have so many available and people can borrow one for the specified time and use it to have access to the museums!

Yesterday we tried to borrow one for the first time to go to one of the museums but they happened to be all taken. I have access to two library groups and one has. 200 passes available with 6 people waiting for each and the other had 100 with 2 people waiting for them. Even though j was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to use the pass, it was also very exciting to see it getting so much use. Hopefully everyone borrowing them are visiting museums!

Our local library group also has a Summer Reading Club which I’ve written about before. The kids get to do activities and spend time reading to earn a pass to Upper Clemments Park. This makes another good day trip which we always enjoy as well. 

Today we are off on another day trip to do one of our favourite things and visit relaxing Nova Scotia Beach. Yesterday as part of your day we stopped at one as well. There are so many to choose from but today’s is one of our families top choices each year and we haven’t been yet. A few years back we started making a point of visiting new ones we hadn’t been to yet and I want to do that again soon. 

There are so many things to do and lots which don’t cost much or anything at all for families to do here. How are you spending your summer?

Playing on the Shore

Playing on the Shore

It was a nice warm day in the Valley today, so the kids and I went to visit the shore for a while. There is a neat little spot up in Black Rock I really like so that’s where we went. The Bay of Fundy has such huge tides though and it was in pretty far so we didn’t have a lot of shore to take advantage of.

The kids wanted to grab some rocks to bring home to make a foot print for each of them in the garden. You can see the results in the pictures. It turned out pretty neat.

Presenting WordPress

One of the goals I’ve been working on is to try and get out of my comfort zone a bit and start doing some public speaking. Being up in front of people is not overly fun for me, but I do see the good of doing it.

One area where I can see me potentially able to help people is by talking about WordPress. By no means do I know everything about WordPress, but I do have a pretty strong understanding of how it works, and I help people use it as my job as a Happiness Engineer. So far I’ve done two presentations on the topic. One I wrote about before where I did a WordPress.com 101 for a university business class. Last night I did one at a local meetup for Refresh Annapolis Valley. WordPress is a pretty popular topic because there was likely more people out last night than I have seen before.

My idea was to give an intro to WordPress and show people the basics of getting started. While preparing I went through creating so many slides with screenshots and taking people through the process of setting up WordPress and then working with it. Near the end I scrapped most of it and decided to go against a lot of the advice I had received and do a live demo instead. It still feels like the right move to really give people a feel for how to work through the WordPress dashboard but almost immediately backfired on me.

The talk took place on the same university campus and the guest internet connection is pretty locked down so I couldn’t load one of the pages needed to do the demo because it ran on a different port which was blocked on the connection. Thankfully the organizer fired up the hot spot on his phone and I connected to it and went through.

My intention was to record my screen so I could share it after, but once up there nerves took over and  I completely forgot to start it.

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One of the things I mentioned in my talk was the mission of WordPress which is as follows:

To democratize publishing through Open Source, GPL software.

One of people who has given me the motivation to start presenting in public is a team mate Mahangu Weerasinghe. Each year our company gets together and one of the things we do is each person has to do a flash talk while there. It is just a short, up to four minutes, presentation on anything you would like. His inspired me greatly and today an article about his story was published that is both inspiring itself and goes to the mission of WordPress. I encourage you to give it a read. http://heropress.com/essays/breaking-the-silence/

I’m sharing my flash talk below which is certainly less inspirational, but it shows how nervous I am in front of people I think and was my first time up in front of a group of people in a long time.

Morning Walk at the Marsh

Jen had the day off today, well at least until after school, so we took a bit of time this morning and went for a walk around the marsh.

The water had a skim of ice on the top in some places. The grass and cat tails were shimmering with a bit of frost. Our faces were a little cold when we were done, but it was a really nice way to spend time together.

Choosing Nova Scotia For Now

There has been much written about the state of things in Nova Scotia, and studies showing that things need to change now before it is too late for the Province. The topic has been on my mind for some time but reading the article this morning Rural Reckoning: Being young and looking for a future finally prompted me to write something my self.

The article is not ground breaking it’s a story we’ve heard over and over again, young people over and over again getting educated here and then having to leave to put that education to work. This article from a couple years ago Saying farewell to Nova Scotia for a reason has stuck with me, and this one looking at the Maritimes in general: How the Maritimes became Canada’s incredible shrinking region.

Luckily there are people who choose to to live here in Nova Scotia and come to make it work regardless if it is easy to do so or not. The Bluenosers by choice initiative showcases some of these stories. While I wasn’t born here in Nova Scotia I am from the Maritimes and have lived here most of my life. While I do love it really the one main thing that keeps me here is Family. Both my wife’s and my parents are both here and we both have siblings here. My kids are all in school and have made friends so to move them would be challenging, although each of them said they would move without much hesitation.

While we are fine here it is mainly because my wife is self employed and I have looked beyond the traditional employment options in the area and now work remotely with the distributed company Automattic. When I think of my kids and their future here I do get a little worried. While I do believe there will be more and more opportunities as technology advances and more companies begin to embrace the opportunity to have a remote workforce it still isn’t there for everyone by any means. Books like Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of Basecamp and Scott Berkuns The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work both illustrate two companies who are great examples of how this can work.

My honest belief is that for this Province to be sustainable it is going to take more remote type work and local entrepreneurs to create businesses here. The downfall for remote work here is that because of the shrinking tax base there has to be a different reason for you to want to live here. It’s not attractive for new entrepreneurs or remote workers to specifically set out to move here. We are one of the highest taxed Provinces in Canada and the level of services we receive for it don’t match that of elsewhere.

Nova Scotia has long wait times for health care. Our roads and infrastructure are deteriorating. Recently I went for a drive out past my old family home while taking my daughter to work at a well known large retail store. It started out in this rural location but has since grown to many locations elsewhere. The drive out there was appalling and I don’t know how the business owner hasn’t lost their minds. Each road, no matter the direction you take, leading to their place of business, where they employ a number of people and must bring revenue to the local area, are reverting back to dirt. Apparently the roads were so bad they were dug up, but instead of repaving them, the laid gravel down instead. So now you are driving along and hit dirt/gravel roads all of a sudden.

On my drive out there I immediately thought of this article by Nova Scotia’s previous finance Minister. In it explains basically that we don’t have the population to support paying for all the roads we have paved over the years. So especially our rural roads are going to end up falling a part and go back to dirt. For major highways we are going to have to move to a toll and pay per use system in order to afford to have them.

Then there is our health care system. There are still many families in rural areas here where they don’t have a family doctor. Wait times are long for procedures and people end up going to emergency rooms for things that they could regularly see a family physician for. So with a system already strained it is causing Doctors who are here to leave. They can go elsewhere, likely make more money, with less stress.

With the high taxes and the services we do have going down hill it is going to be hard to attract people to want to move here. Those of us who do stay are going to have to pay a premium for living here. At some point even families like mine who does love it here and values being close to family are going to have to make the decision. Is the benefits of living here worth the cost? For now at least they are. But as my kids get even older and get to the point where they are going to start their own lives and careers it might not be here. Maybe we’ll want to get them settled into an area where I can see an easier road to success for them before they reach that point.

It’s my honest hope that this doesn’t happen. But if my kids grow up and feel the need to move away from their home Province, my main reason of being here for family won’t be as valid anymore.

First Halifax WordPress Meetup

Tonight I attended my first ever WordPress meetup. When I found out that Alison and Tara were organizing a meetup in Halifax I was very excited. Seeing co-workers going to meetups and WordCamps talking with others who are either passionate about, or wanting to know more and learn about WordPress had me a bit envious.

It was a really great evening, the first talk was about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. This is a complicated topic that has a fair amount of confusion around it and they did a great job at laying things out.

Over the years I’ve helped people in person to use WordPress but it was really neat tonight to get to engineer some happiness in person and I look forward to doing more of it in the future as well. I’m far from an outgoing person, but I found it really easy to talk to everyone tonight and can even see myself doing a talk at some point.

One of the highlights of the evening for me was when I introduced myself and my job title someone said, “that sounds made up.”

Thanks again to the organizers and everyone who came out. I’m looking forward to seeing you all again.