Posts in Category: Japan and Travel

The ElectNext workation in Lake Tahoe

ElectNext team dinner in TahoeElectNext team dinner in Tahoe
ElectNext team dinner in Tahoe13-Sep-2013 11:58, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 320
The ElectNext team at Maggie's PeakThe ElectNext team at Maggie's Peak
The ElectNext team at Maggie's Peak14-Sep-2013 03:34, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 8.0, 4.3mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
Granite Lake, along the trail to Maggie's PeakGranite Lake, along the trail to Maggie's Peak
Granite Lake, along the trail to Maggie's Peak14-Sep-2013 02:18, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 8.0, 4.3mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
View from the top of Maggie's PeakView from the top of Maggie's Peak
View from the top of Maggie's Peak14-Sep-2013 03:15, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 8.0, 4.3mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
 

I’ve been with ElectNext for a little over a year, and this past week was only the third time since I started that everyone in the company was in the same place, and the first time that it was for more than a day. There are currently 7 of us, roughly equally divided between New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. So a typical workday entails a good amount of time in Google Hangouts, which is a great tool for keeping a distributed time on the same page. But there are a couple things for which there is no substitute for spending time in person: one is building team relationships (here’s a great article on building distributed Agile teams), and the other is brainstorming around challenging problems. As good as Hangout is, and tools like RealtimeBoard, there’s still no substitute for a team putting their heads together in person around a whiteboard or big easel pad.

We rented a 4 bedroom/7 bed house on the north side of Lake Tahoe, right across the street from the lake. This was a workation, which means we put in at least as much work time as usual. But we also enjoyed our evenings and our surroundings. We each had a turn preparing dinner, and sat down most nights around 8:30 to eat, staying at the table until late into the night. And we took the day off on Friday for a hike up to one of Maggie’s Peaks.

Click the album cover below to see more great pictures!

2013 - Lake Tahoe
2013 - Lake TahoeSep 10, 2013Photos: 26
 

WordCamp Nashville 2013

Update: here is the wordpress.tv recording of my talk. It spent several months featured on the wordpress.tv homepage:


A Minnie Pearl poster from 1944, at the Station InnA Minnie Pearl poster from 1944, at the Station Inn
A Minnie Pearl poster from 1944, at the Station Inn20-Apr-2013 09:45, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 4.5, 9.584mm, 0.125 sec, ISO 1600
Eric Brace and Peter Cooper at the Station InnEric Brace and Peter Cooper at the Station Inn
Eric Brace and Peter Cooper at the Station Inn20-Apr-2013 10:14, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 1600
Video: a clip of Eric Brace and Peter Cooper playing "Nobody Knows" at the Station InnVideo: a clip of Eric Brace and Peter Cooper playing "Nobody Knows" at the Station Inn
Video: a clip of Eric Brace and Peter Cooper playing "Nobody Knows" at the Station Inn20-Apr-2013 18:44
 
Nashville's life-size replica of the ParthenonNashville's life-size replica of the Parthenon
Nashville's life-size replica of the Parthenon22-Apr-2013 02:21, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 125
Spring in NashvilleSpring in Nashville
Spring in Nashville22-Apr-2013 02:42, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 8.0, 4.3mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
Mike Toppa presenting "Clean Code" at WordCamp Nashville 2013Mike Toppa presenting "Clean Code" at WordCamp Nashville 2013
Mike Toppa presenting "Clean Code" at WordCamp Nashville 201320-Apr-2013 11:18, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D7000, 5.6, 68.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400
 

Spring is conference season, and I’ve given four presentations in the past four weeks: two in Philadelphia, one in Nashville, and one in Washington DC. Each presentation was different, and I did most of the preparation outside of my regular work hours, so I’m looking forward to not doing any more presentations for a while 😉

I already wrote about the first presentation – Knowledge Slam, and a few days after that I headed to Nashville for their 2nd annual WordCamp. I also presented at the first one last year, which was my first time in Nashville. For both trips I was there for only a couple days, but I was able to get out and see some of the city each time, and I have to say it’s a great place. It’s a small, clean city, with very friendly people, and has culture and arts you’d normally find only in a bigger city… as long as you like country music.

My friend Caryn from grad school lives there now, and after I arrived Friday evening, I headed to the Station Inn to meet her, and see a show by Eric Brace and Peter Cooper. I’d never heard of them before, but Caryn was a fan, and after hearing the first song, so was I. Here’s a version of that song – “Ancient History” – that they recorded for Couch by Couchwest:

…If you liked that, I recommend the album.

The WordCamp was great. It had 3 tracks scheduled – one for beginners, one for users, and one for developers (a 4th was actually added on the fly, to accommodate the variety of skill levels in the beginner track). I spent the day in the developers’ track. Something I was excited to see in several of the presentations was a wider focus, showing WordPress as part of a broader ecosystem of development tools, as opposed to being the only tool in a developer’s toolkit. This came across especially in the talk about using WordPress in an enterprise software environment (unfortunately there is no information about this talk online), and Nathaniel Schweinberg’s talk on debugging strategies (many of which apply beyond WordPress).

My Clean Code talk was scheduled between those two, which was perfect, as the 10 techniques I presented are ones which you can apply to any software development project, not just WordPress. My talk went really well, with lots of good questions at the end. We even went over our scheduled time (normally that’s not allowed, but I was right before lunch, so it didn’t take away from anyone else’s speaking time). Here are some of the tweets people made during my talk:

Tweets about the "Clean Code" presentation at WordCamp Nashville 2013
Tweets about the "Clean Code" presentation at WordCamp Nashville 201311-May-2013 16:31
 

Right before I came to Nashville, we finished working on the WordPress plugin for the ElectNext Political Profiler, so I took the opportunity to debut it at the start of my talk. The plugin relies on PHP in the WordPress plugin, and 3rd party javascript to dynamically inject into the WordPress site the political profiles generated by a Ruby on Rails application running on the ElectNext servers. It’s actually a great example of the importance of having clean and consistent coding practices across platforms (otherwise such a project would quickly become a nightmare to maintain).

Here are my slides, as well as the recording of my talk I made with my Flip camera (a professionally recorded version should be available on wordpress.tv sometime in the next few weeks is now on wordpress.tv)

WordCamp Nashville: Clean Code for WordPress from mtoppa

WordCamp Nashville

People arriving for the start of WordCamp Nashville, at Watkins CollegePeople arriving for the start of WordCamp Nashville, at Watkins College
People arriving for the start of WordCamp Nashville, at Watkins College21-Apr-2012 09:55, Canon Canon PowerShot SD780 IS, 3.2, 5.9mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 320
My dependency injection talk at WordCamp Nashville (photo by Patricia Melton)My dependency injection talk at WordCamp Nashville (photo by Patricia Melton)
My dependency injection talk at WordCamp Nashville (photo by Patricia Melton)21-Apr-2012 00:56, Canon Canon EOS 40D, 4.0, 70.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 1600
@rfair presenting "Less, JS, and WP"@rfair presenting "Less, JS, and WP"
@rfair presenting "Less, JS, and WP"21-Apr-2012 16:07, Canon Canon PowerShot SD780 IS, 3.2, 5.9mm, 0.04 sec, ISO 400
 
The Otto and Nacin show - @otto42 @nacinThe Otto and Nacin show - @otto42 @nacin
The Otto and Nacin show - @otto42 @nacin21-Apr-2012 12:09, Canon Canon PowerShot SD780 IS, 3.2, 5.9mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 250
@ryngrn presenting "Child Theme Frameworks"@ryngrn presenting "Child Theme Frameworks"
@ryngrn presenting "Child Theme Frameworks"21-Apr-2012 11:06, Canon Canon PowerShot SD780 IS, 3.2, 5.9mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400
@studionashvegas presenting "The Blank Screen: Overcoming Fear of Pressing from Scratch"@studionashvegas presenting "The Blank Screen: Overcoming Fear of Pressing from Scratch"
@studionashvegas presenting "The Blank Screen: Overcoming Fear of Pressing from Scratch"21-Apr-2012 10:11, Canon Canon PowerShot SD780 IS, 3.2, 5.9mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 400
 

I’ve traveled coast-to-coast across the US 4 times, but until this past weekend I had never been in the South (except for a brief visit to UVA many years ago). I was in Nashville for only 48 hours, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The first thing I noticed was how kind and polite everyone is. The driver of my shuttle bus from the airport pointed out all the sights as we drove into town, and he seemed genuinely interested in what everyone on the bus was planning to do that weekend. I spent the day on Friday with my friend Caryn, who I hadn’t seen since we finished grad school 16 years ago. She showed me around town, and it was great to catch up.

This was Nashville’s first WordCamp. The organizers did a great job pulling it together, and they clearly had a lot of local talent to draw upon for their speakers. Coming from Philly, I think I was the only Yankee among the speakers – I felt honored to be included (Nacin, coming from DC, is a borderline case 😉 ).

I was in the developers’ track all day. The first two sessions were design focused, and here’s an excellent summary of both presentations. They were followed by the Otto and Nacin show. They are both deeply involved in the development of WordPress, and they gave a preview of features in WordPress 3.4. Their talk was the most popular of the day in the developers’ track.

I was up next after lunch, and my talk went well. It was an advanced topic (dependency injection) so I drew a smaller crowd. But I got some good questions towards the end, and some good tweets:

@rfair's tweet about my session
@rfair's tweet about my session29-Apr-2012 19:40
 

Here is a non-technical summary of my talk.

Russell Fair wrapped up the day, and he did a great job of sharing his experiences using LESS with WordPress.

I didn’t get to see Joel Norris’ WordPress bootcamp presentation, but from what everyone was saying, I believe he gets the prize for having the most popular session. He stayed in character as a drill sergeant for almost the entire session. And he was in costume – here’s a photo.

The speakers dinner and the after party were both a lot of fun. I learned a lot chatting with Otto and Nacin, made some new friends, and my friend Caryn was able to come too, so it was a great evening.

If you want to read more, WP Candy has a great review, and they also have links to many of the presenters’ slides. There’s also a great photo pool on Flickr. Here are my slides:

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