On Work, Life, and Leaving Automattic

Thank you note to Automattic, the best place to work.

I’m fortunate to have spent most of my adult life at Automattic. You see, it was my top choice for a company to work for back in 2007, and in retrospect I’m so proud that I ended up here.

Automattic is a very real representation of my life, the way I’ve lived, loved, and gone about my days. A way of living that, in some regards, I started in middle school.

A little background: up until high school I attended a Montessori school. Like all schools, they have to teach a predefined curriculum, but this doesn’t stipulate how teach it. For us it meant a lot of “free project time” where we’d work on any subject we wanted from a grand list.

We could either work on a project or goof around.

While I’d struggle to get started, I took great pleasure in seeing these projects come together. Some of our finished papers were ledgers, detailing how the Roman empire worked or gave an overview of all the religions currently present on earth.

Every time I’m doing spring cleaning I come across these masterpieces and I can’t bear myself to throw them away. Many even had spiffy title pages!

Work, Life

Being able to manage your own time and work on projects you actually care about are for me the fundamentals in a healthy work-life relationship. It gives you the power to lead a life that’s true to you.

In a world where 1’s and 0’s are just shuffled around, there’s no need to commute to work. Any screen around you is now a computer. The time you save working from wherever you are instead of wherever you’re supposed to be is time saved to pursue your passions and lead a more healthy and productive life — both professionally and personally. This means more time for family, friends, pet-projects, but also time to do excellent professional work of better quality.

Humans are not great at dealing with stress in the workplace. If you’re able to prioritize your work yourself, in an open environment like your home, it means that the time you save is your time. You decide what to do in your own time. Maybe you go make a delicious cup of tea, or you spend another hour reviewing and perfecting the code you just wrote.

Here’s the kicker: However you spend your extra time, both your life and your work will benefit.

Tea reinvigorates the soul and makes you less stressed or more alert. Perfecting your craft makes you more confident and instigates pride. Whatever you do with your own time, make it worthwhile and true to you.

Leaving Automattic

Imagine having time to “Always Be Charging”.

I spent 7 years working for Automattic. It’s a testament to how great of a workplace it really is.

I’ve managed my own time.

I’ve been able to pursue projects I like.

I’ve been able to switch roles within the company multiple times.

I’ve travelled the world*, met coworkers and people from the larger WordPress community.

I’ve been able to practice speaking in front of audiences at conferences and company meetups.

I’ve not had to stress about time or money.

I’ve learned valuable communication and leadership skills.

I’ve had time for friends and family when I needed them or they needed me.

I’ve been happy.

I’m leaving Automattic for personal reasons. While I love it here, after 7 years and most of my 20’s I want to do something different. Maybe work some place where they don’t have it all figured out, and help them get there. Maybe I’ll pursue creative projects that inherently don’t have any monetary return. I want to travel and learn more about other ways of living your life.

I also wouldn’t mind going to Mars. Just saying.

I’d like to thank Matt Mullenweg and Toni Schneider who believed in me and helped me grow as a person through all these years. I’ll always be grateful to you, and I only wish the very best for you and Automattic.

To all my fellow Automatticians** that I’ve grown so fond of over the years: thank you for making my everyday life at Automattic fun, inspiring, creative, and life-changing. You are some of the most talented people I’ll ever meet, and I know that you’re on the right path. Keep making the world better.

Thank you.
– Isaac

PS.

* Some random pictures, because why not

** Slang for a person that works at Automattic, also commonly referred to as A12n or A13s in addreviated singular and plural forms, respectively.

PPS. Automattic is hiring.

Light, Color, Work, and Sleep

Graphic with the text "Sleep." on it.

By now it’s fairly well-known: the type of light that now surrounds us dramatically changes the dynamics of our sleep/wake patterns.

It was not long ago we relied on nature and most importantly the sun in everyday life. Each sunrise marked the beginning of a new day with new opportunities, conquering the night and its dangers. Each spring signified the return of the life-giving properties of sun light: plants would thrive, food would be plentiful. The sun has a central role in many pre-historic as well as current religions — from the Egyptian Pharaohs being the sons of the sun God Ra, to, conspiracy theorists will have you believe, Jesus or Moses in Christianity being direct metaphors for the sun. Whatever you believe, it’s clear that the sun has made an impact on humans and still does to this date.

For the most part of our existence, our light has come from inducing heat onto different types of flammable materials, thus creating light: fires, candles, or the thread in light bulbs.

Today we’re surrounded by digital displays and light sources that emit neutral to cold light. LEDs consume a fraction of the electricity compared to a traditional light bulb and since so little of the energy is lost to heat they’re also efficient. The simple no-nonsense build of LEDs means they can be used for 2-3 years straight before they break*.

Los Angeles street lights before and after the switch to LEDs

Image via Gizmodo.

Even though LEDs sold now are made to have a warmer tint than in the beginning, the change is still pretty apparent. Above is an illustration of what L.A. streets will look like after they’ve made the change.

Work & Sleep

Many times our computer and phone screens are omnipresent in our lives. No matter what time of the day, these screens will have an almost blue-tinted glow. It is believed that this is one of the main reasons why our gadgets disrupt sleeping patterns. Think about it, how many times have you stayed up late trying to fix that one elusive bug? Browsed Reddit aimlessly? Watched episode after episode of [insert vaguely funny TV show that did too many seasons here]? All without feeling any significant exhaustion?

Our devices create a constant, self-induced state of jet lag.

To combat the effects of having daylight-tinted lights around us, we can make sure to buy fixtures with a warm light and change the tint of any digital displays we have to have a warmer color. When we do need neutral light we should make sure to use it sparingly and refrain from turning it on after sunset.

F.lux preferences paneFor your computer, try F.lux. It’s an app that determines your current location and automatically changes the screen temperature to a cozy 3400k (supposedly the equivalent of halogen light) around sunset. You can set it up so it transitions slowly over the course of one hour so you can get eased into it.

Since installing it I’ve been feeling a lot less stressed during the evenings. The warm light is also much less straining on my eyes.

Being in Sweden currently, the sunset is actually around 17:00 at this time of year, and just a month or two ago it was as early as 15:30-16:00. For me it’s then more natural to set F.lux to adjust my screen a little later as it’s not a hard sunset and I’m typically awake for quite a while longer. I’m currently using 41.3833° N, 2.1833° E — the latitude and longitude of Barcelona, Spain. This gives me an extra 1-1½ hours of “daylight”.

Monitor color temperature comparison between 6400k and 3400k (rough example)

Above is a rough comparison of what a normal monitor of 6400k looks like compared to 3400k. If you view this on a normal laptop or mobile device it should give you a pretty good understanding of the difference. However, and I feel the need to stress this, the white point being so warm is actually not distracting. It only takes a short while to get adjusted and when you have, you don’t want to go back.

Get F.lux

Go ahead and install F.lux right now, it’s a free download and it just may help you both work and sleep better.

* Footnote: Over three years ago I changed the bulb of my outdoor porch light to a very bright (and at the time fairly expensive) LED bulb with an array of smaller lights. Most of the time it’s left on. To this day it shows no signs of breaking.

I’m an IRL Troll, and I’m not proud of it

Orange Troll Face

It was a pleasure to troll.

Those of you that I’m the closest to know this about me. I sometimes find pleasure in deliberately saying something offensive or out of line, just to see the reaction and to not be so dull.

I’m usually a very harmless and very cuddly little troll that wouldn’t hurt anyone, but every now and then I indulge in the sacred arts of the Troll.

To clarify, I’m not an actual troll. I don’t tend to use racial slurs in YouTube comments or pose as a nazi or claim I love the NSA.

Rest assured, if I ever troll you in real life that means I feel very close to you and am able to poke fun at you. No one likes an acquaintance Troll.

I’m a Product Designer

Mural in Copenhagen, DenmarkSince 2010 I’ve been the Team Lead and part time designer for the Mobile Team at Automattic. My role changed a bit over time and while I learned a lot, after three years it was time for a change.

A week ago I took on the role as designer on the Data team. The Data team is working on things like the Stats panel, Notifications, and sharing options. For me, this means thinking about ways to make publishers and readers alike happier whenever they come back to WordPress.com.

My passion for creating thought-through experiences through pixel perfect design was the reason I got into the web design business in the first place. First with a small web studio, then as the co-founder of IntenseDebate. After TechStars and getting acquired by Automattic in 2008, I spent another two years focusing on the design aspects of IntenseDebate and other services around WordPress.com.

Working with the Mobile folks at Automattic is one of the most challenging and fun experiences I’ve ever had. They’re all great guys, and very good at what they do. I found myself spending all my time thinking about ways we could improve on the mobile WordPress experience as well as how to make the team function the best it could.

I realized not long ago that I was so caught up in the mobile side of WordPress that I stopped having ideas and streaks of inspiration for other sides of what Automattic does, and where the industry is heading at large. Sure, I’ve been opinionated and very vocal about things like front-end editing, having a great onboarding experience, or about the need to figure out how to to give readers better content — just to name a few. But it’s about staying ahead of the curve. Very rarely did I have a “Heureka!” moment.

Maybe I should soak in the tub more often.

The last few days I hung out with the lead of the Data team, Martin Remy, in Copenhagen, Denmark. We ended up walking around the city and hanging out in cafes while talking about the state of things. Both within the team and WordPress.com at large. Being the “new” guy I was glad I was able to provide some perspective on past decisions and brainstorm about the future.

I can’t wait to get to work on some of the things we discussed.

Heart statue in a shady district in Copenhagen, Denmark

I’ve been with Automattic for 5 ½ years now, and I’m still growing as a person. I’m still challenged and allowed to try new things. It’s a great place to be.

If you think you have what it takes, we want you to join us.

Tokyo Memories: Where My Feet Have Been

IMG_1477

I recently spent a few weeks in Tokyo. The Mobile Team at Automattic had a meetup there and so I took the chance to explore a bit on my own before everyone else arrived.

Once I had arrived in Tokyo itself I made a horrible realization: ATM’s don’t take MasterCard. Or at least none of the ones within a 4 block radius of that train station did. It was only later I learned that VISA is the way to go when traveling in Japan, but that you should always carry cash. So I found myself stranded at a smaller train station in Tokyo in the middle of the night wandering up and down streets with my luggage in the pouring rain, trying to find an ATM that would work.

Eventually I managed to hail a cab that claimed to take my credit card. The next problem was the address, since I was going to an Airbnb home: in Japan streets usually don’t have names, and houses rarely have numbers.

Hand gestures, broken english, and off we went.

Upon arrival the card failed to work. In fact all my four mastercards failed to work. Until I tried swiping the card in the opposite direction.

Much rejoicing, happy Isaac, happy cab driver.

After hours of getting lost I arrived at the airbnb, where the next surprise awaited: no central heating. My room’s only heat source was a heat fan you can turn on for increments of time, and of course it was not turned on when I arrived. My first night in Tokyo I built a tent out of a mattress, a pillow, and a blanket, right in front of the fan to try and direct the air flow towards myself and make a first attempt at drying my clothes.

IMG_1485

Tokyo is an amazing city. My second time there, the fascination returned quickly. It’s truly inspiring being somewhere that, to a westerner, is a much different take on what a highly developed metropolis can be. It’s not all good. there’s a huge disconnect in between people. You never feel like you can just start talking to a stranger on the street, no matter the circumstances. Everyone seems to keep to their own. But there’s still, magically, a sense of community. This feeling that you’re all in it together. There’s respect and tolerance. You never feel threatened or looked down upon. People seem to genuinely care about others around them, even if they’re complete strangers, even if they would never talk to each other.

Face masks.

IMG_1117

I ended up wandering a lot the first few days. My colleague Jorge and his lovely girlfriend Esther arrived a few days later and Esther made sure I saw something note-worthy. We went to the temple and saw ice sculptures. Later we found an Irish pub and racked up a hefty bill. That was a good day.

Once the whole Mobile Team had arrived, the pace changed quite a bit. The team got together to work on a set of smaller projects. Some of us were feeling under the weather. Once I had a consistent fever I ended up staying in my room for a few days. Eventually I emerged, but with a lingering cough. So I got myself a face mask. It only seemed right.

Radiolara Index

radiolara-index-vienna-icosah

I’ve been a member of Neonmob some time. Sara convinced me to sign up, I’m staying because of the (sometimes) amazing art and the great and addictive UI on the site. Neonmob is basically a card collecting game for the 21st century.

The most impressive set I’ve seen featured on Neonmob so far is called “Radiolara Index”.

The Nanobot Projects are a series of militaristic, medicinal, and agricultural trials utilizing nanotechnology in twelve different cities. Each city specializes in its own form of nanotechnology, and certain Projects are defensive or offensive responses to the Projects of other cities. The Radiolaria Index describes many of the elements that make up these Nanobot Projects.

radiolara-index-paris-icosah

radiolara-index-geneva-icosah

radiolara-index-helsinky-tetra

radiolara-index-glasgow-hexa

radiolara-index-oslo-tetra

radiolara-index-berlin-dodeca

radiolara-index-barcelona-dodeca

radiolara-index-reykjavik-myria

All pictures above from Radiolara Index.

The process of creating these micro-organisms is pretty amazing. If you’re interested in creating your own little creatures or just looking for inspiration, you should check out how Radiolara Index was made. It’s a rare insight into the world of 3D renderings and how apps can work together to create highly polished artwork.

Istvan has made a lot of other great renderings and illustrations, here’s a sample of some of his other work.

chen-celikovsky-attractor
From Math:Rules – Strange Attractors

caustic-icebergs
From Caustic Icebergs

crystallized-asteroids
From Crystallized Asteroïds

Check out Istvan’s work over on Chaotic Atmospheres!

All pictures Copyright Chaotic Atmospheres, permission to use was obtained.

Disappointment and Reinvigoration

Last year I vowed to blog more. My target was to blog more than I did the previous year. In reality for 2013 I would have had to blog more than once per month to reach that goal. Not that far-fetched it would seem.

Disappointment

Except it was. In 2013 I published a mere 10 blog posts in total, mostly due to a long stretch of no posts published at all. I can blame work, I was seriously busy those months, but at the end of the day it’s not an excuse. I had plenty of time in between to play games and do other random things, I could’ve spent an hour here and there to write a post. Even if it would be about something silly, even if it would be short.

Every new year means another chance to redeem yourself. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the past and dream about the future. Resolutions aside, it’s good to be able to stop and think about where you’re heading. What you hope to do. What you need to do. What your future looks like.

Reinvigoration

I will post more than 50 posts in total during 2014. I will move somewhere I like. I will find a charity I want to promote and donate to.

I will not become a better person, I will simply be more true to who I actually am.

All I can do is be me, whoever that is.
Bob Dylan

All I can do is be me, whoever that is -- Bob Dylan

How to never lose form content in your browser

Lazarus Form Recovery Example Screenshot Google

We’ve all been there. You’re typing up a long comment on that blog you like or maybe you’re entering shipping details so you can get that über-geeky but yet somewhat fashionable and undoubtedly funny t-shirt already. Your browser decides it’s time to bash it’s head against a wall for a while and subsequently die. When you revive that S.O.B. (Son Of a Browser), your [comment/shipping details/whatever else] are long gone. You curse the day software maker X decided not to auto-save your content, and as the rage flows through your veins like a stream of hot lava down a meteor crater in the Hadean time period you may be inclined to do one of the following:

  1. Accept your fate and begin typing up your content once again. Likely in a more brief fashion than before, and most probably also by trying to physically hurt your keyboard (note: computer peripherals are stationary objects, unable to feel emotion).
  2. Throw your pen/coffee mug/mouse/computer into the wall and call it a day. Maybe pick up carpentry. You start by creating small wooden shelves for your plants and in time you may move on to making plain looking coffee tables (that don’t work).

What if your computer peripherals could live? What if coffee tables are not your true calling? What if you just wanted the darned thing to remember what you were typing?

Lazarus Form Recovery Logo/SymbolLazarus Form Recovery

Lazarus is one of those hidden gems that everyone needs but few have heard of. It’s a must-have for any one of the browsers it supports – as soon as you install it you can forget about it. Next time your browser freaks out and eats your content, you’ll be ready. It sits quietly in the background and saves what you type securely. To retrieve anything, just go to the page you were on last and click the icon above the field to recover your data.

Install Lazarus for Chrome

Install Lazarus for Firefox

It literally takes 10 seconds to install, so do it now!

Also:

Lazarus
an abbreviation of Eleazar, whom God helps. (1.) The brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany. He was raised from the dead after he had lain four days in the tomb (John 11:1-44). This miracle so excited the wrath of the Jews that they sought to put both Jesus and Lazarus to death.
Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary

Samsung Galaxy S3 PSD Template

Samsung Galaxy S3 PSD Template

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is one of the most sold high-end Android devices on the market which makes it perfect for showcasing apps and websites. This is a simple PSD template based on a device shot of the app, but still has all the bells and whistles:

  • Embedded instructions.
  • Screen size at exactly 720x1280px which is the screenshot size of the device, with guides and a smart object to help alignment.
  • Two shadow options and a reflection.
  • Bundled backgrounds.
  • Three slices for easily exporting device shots.

Download PSD Template

Download Samsung Galaxy S3 PSD Template (zipped .psd, ~11MB)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You’re free to use the artwork and modify it however you want for both personal and commercial use.

Information

These instructions are also embedded in the PSD template itself.

  • Right-click on the Smart Object the PSD opens to in the Layer palette and choose Replace Contents to fit your screenshot snugly in the frame.
  • The guides in the PSD are fitted to be exactly 720x1280px.
  • There are three pre-set slices in the PSD, two for exporting the entire device with padding and one for exporting the screen only.
  • There are two device shadows included: one that indicates a device balancing on it’s edge and one for when it’s laying flat on a surface.
  • There are backgrounds bundled, disable all to get a transparent backdrop.
  • A device reflection is also included. Use in moderation!

I, for one, welcome our Android overlords.

Hopes & Dreams

This year I vowed to blog more. It’s something most of us want to get better at, and when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve it seems like a reasonable promise to make: “in 2013 I want to blog more than I did the previous year”.

Given that I published only a handful of posts in 2012 it seems reasonable.

Blogging is however not an easy task. Especially when you’re posting on a site that bears your name. It’s your credibility, your personal brand. “Anything you say can, and will, be used against you.”

Therefore I’m approaching this goal in a very humble way. I only want to post at least one great post every month. One that I don’t mind being quoted from, one that I feel reflects my beliefs and hopes, one that I can truly stand for. In between these posts of great insight and clever interpretation there’ll be a lot of posts about music that I like. Blog posts and articles I found to be interesting. Comments on the news as they change the world. Pictures from my life.

Here’s to 2013, the year of blogging.