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WTF Hockley, or Facebook and Instagram Redux

tl;dr I (re)joined Facebook and Instagram.

I used to be in both places. Then, almost a year ago, I wrote a bit about deciding to leave both social networks. Without rehashing that entire post, I’ll say that it came down to being opposed to the behaviors of the company.

In the past year we’ve seen that Facebook and Instagram have continued being less-than-perfect. Alternatives have sprung up such as Pressgram1. Google has started using personal data for explicit advertising, a la Facebook.

We’ve learned that the NSA is watching everything, regardless of company.

By the numbers, most folks are still on Facebook and Instagram when compared with alternative networks. Popularity isn’t everything, but it is something.

In the past several months I’ve had a few personal and a couple professional opportunities missed due to my non-Facebook and non-Instagram stance.

I’ve changed my mind. I’ve decided that while I still disagree with many things about how Facebook / Instagram does business, I suspect that the benefits of having a presence will outweigh potential downsides.

Was I wrong a year ago? Maybe. Am I right now? Maybe. Am I confident in those answers? Maybe.

We’ll see. Let’s be all social networky.

Follow my mobile photography on Instagramn (@hockleyphoto), or add me as a friend on Facebook.


  1. Which I will continue to use. 

Seattle Talk on November 14th: From Domain to Fame

WordPress has that famed five-minute install, right? Right. And with most modern web hosts, it’s much quicker than that by using their control panel.

But installing WordPress is but one step in the overall process of launching a new website. Regardless of whether your new online venture is for a hobby or a business, there’s a lot more ot launching a new site than just making WordPress run.

That’s the topic for a talk I’m giving in a couple weeks at the Seattle WordPress Meetup. Join me on November 14th at TechStars.

Seattle Skyline as seen from Gas Works Park

Before the launch, you’ll want to think about how the site is structured and the design. You’ll need to plan for the initial content (both static and dynamic) that should be ready to go while still under wraps. And there should be some preparatory work to ensure that when you launch, someone knows.

On launch day, several things need to happen, and if they’re done in the wrong order it’s not hard to make a potentially embarrassing mistake.

Immediately after the launch, you’ll want to be ready with additional content and promotional steps to bring folks to the site and convert them in some way… whether that’s to a subscriber of some sort, a buyer, someone who’s sharing your content, or whatever other action it is that you hope for your visitors.

We’re going to walk through this in Seattle. Be there… or don’t. :)

Build up a Twitter Account’s Credibility with Strategic Event Tweeting

I’ve had my primary Twitter account, @ahockley, since February 2007 and have arguably tweeted too much since then (65,000 tweets and counting, baby)! I’ve used that account for general conversations as well as photography-related discussions.

Earlier this year I created a separate account as I began to strengthen my online presence in a different area of my life: software quality testing. I launched the Kwality Rules blog and the @KwalityRules Twitter account. I followed some folks in the industry and used the account sporadically.

A few weeks ago I attended STARWest, a major quality conference, and decided I’d use this as the catalyst to boost the profile of @KwalityRules. Here’s what I did.

Before the Event

  • Find the conference hashtag ahead of time. About two weeks prior to the conference, do a Twitter search for the hashtag and see if folks are starting to use it. Send out a tweet with the hashtag indicating that you’re attending and are looking forward to connecting with other attendees.
  • If your Twitter client supports it, set up a saved search view for the conference hashtag and start monitoring it as the event gets closer. If your Twitter client doesn’t support it, perhaps you need a better Twitter client. I like Tweetbot (Mac, iPhone, or iPad).
  • Those people that are using the hashtag and seem to be saying interesting things? Follow them. Perhaps send them an @mention indicating that you’re looking forward to meeting them at the event.
  • If you’ve reviewed the conference schedule and identified particularly noteworthy or interesting-sounding speakers, see if they use Twitter. If they do, follow them. An introduction isn’t a bad idea; let them know you’re looking forward to their talk.

At the Event

Remember: you’re at an in-person event so you should do things in person. Don’t just sit in your room or the corner all the time on your phone, tweeting away. That said, don’t forget to tweet! Here’s how I made my presence known at STARWest.

  • Don’t forget to use the hashtag when tweeting about the event or anything that might be relevant to attendees.
  • Set up a keyboard shortcut for the conference hashtag if it’s more than a couple characters. At STARWest, the hashtag was #starwest. Because I’m a lazy guy, I setup a shortcut on iOS such that when I typed stt it expanded into the hashtag. Didn’t have to go to the second keyboard for the # symbol, etc.
  • That Twitter search that I suggested you set up in advance? Use it. See what others are saying and reply as appropriate. Chime in with your two cents.
  • Retweet others who share interesting things. Retweets are love.
  • Tweet out notable quotes, facts, or things you found interesting from presentations you attended.
  • Tweet if a vendor has an especially interesting giveaway or demo at their booth. What’s interesting? I tweeted about the Sauce Labs robot that was playing Angry birds:

  • Attend informal gatherings. If there aren’t any, start one. Tweet out that you’re going to be at a certain bar or coffee shop at a particular time for a meetup with attendees. Don’t forget the hashtag. Someone will show up. Perhaps many someones. Host a lean coffee in the morning before the activities begin.

The Results

What happened as a result of all my Tweeting? A few things.

I was called out right after the opening keynote (along with @g33klady) as having been a very prolific tweeter, and we were given prizes for our tweeting[1]. As she noted, it’s a major award!

More importantly, I connected with other professionals in the field, including several industry leaders who saw my tweets, engaged in conversation, and followed me. This is the real value, and where building your Twitter presence at an event will lead to long-term relationships that can benefit your personal and professional development.

Twitter + events = a powerful combination.


  1. Let me know if there’s an appropriate use for the phrase “Award-winning tweeter” somewhere.  ↩

Success: Pants Optional

Lots of folks talk the talk about being a new/revolutionary/distributed/non-traditional company or workforce, but who’s really doing it? And is it really working?

What about a company with:

  • over 100 employees
  • employees all around the globe
  • only one office, and it’s an office that’s rarely used, even by the folks who live in that city
  • every employee working from… anywhere. At home, in a coffee shop, a coworking space…. anywhere they have connectivity

Sounds neat… but you wonder about what this company makes and whether it’s successful.

That Company Is Real and You Can Learn From It

The company is Automattic… they’re the folks behind WordPress.com and they work with the open source community to build and maintain WordPress, the popular web platform that now powers over 17% of the internet. Things seem to be working out.

Experienced project manager, author, and speaker Scott Berkun spent over a year working with Automattic as a team lead for WordPress.com – and one of his terms for his employment was that he be allowed to write a book about the experience. That book is The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work, and it’s now available for purchase. I had a chance to read the book. The tl;dr summary is that it’s really good.

Stories Lead to Observations

There are a few ways Berkun could’ve gone with the book and I’m pleased with the approach he chose. Most of the book is narrative storytelling, relaying experiences (both specific and broad) that he had while leading his team as part of the larger organization. Some of these are specific to a product challenge faced, while others are broader topics such as company culture. As a team lead, he worked with a variety of personalities (on his team and others) and he provides interesting insight into working with various situations in the distributed workforce… something which might have been a quick water cooler conversation is different when your teammate is thousands of miles away.

Most of the narrative chapters contain little observations and analysis weaved into the stories. After several of these narrative chapters, the author interjects chapters that are intentionally higher-level… less storytelling and more analysis. Aptly titled “The Future of Work”, this series of three analysis chapters could stand on their own as a short business book… but interspersing them among the storytelling chapters provides valuable context. The stories support the conclusions and the conclusions aren’t as deep without having read the supporting stories.

Takeaways

I came into this book as someone who knows several Automattic employees; I was previously familiar with the distributed workforce and I knew a bit about some of the tools and processes that allowed it to happen. That said, I was curious about conclusions – what would an outsider say after a year as an insider, and how would it be said? I walk away with these key points being made or reinforced:

  • Personality and Skills Trump Job Titles – it’s important to hire smart people. Ideally they have a deep knowledge of a specialty but also a broad familiarity such that they can help with tasks outside that narrow topic.
  • Tools Matter – much like traditional workplaces require the infrastructure of an office, conference rooms, parking spaces, and centralized phone systems, a distributed and timeshifted workplace requires an infrastructure of its own. Text and video chat, group discussion software, and other tools allow for team members to communicate both with themselves and with the company as a whole. It’s not just that any tools are needed: good tools are needed. Automattic rarely uses email. There’s a section in the book about that… it doesn’t mean that Automattic doesn’t exchange text communications, they do it in different methods which seem to be more manageable.
  • It’s Really About Trust and Communication – while the methods and madness might be different when a company is in one building versus hundreds, ultimately the success of the organization and the teams within it depends on workers’ abilities to trust each other and to communicate. Whether that’s big-picture vision stuff or in-the-weeds details, communication is key, and faciliating that communication, regardless of environment, is essential for success.

If you care about how business is done, I’d highly recommend the book. If you’re a WordPress user and you want some insight into how the sausage is made, there’s a good bit of that as well. Scott Berkun is a smart man and a great writer, and The Year Without Pants is an excellent read.

A Book About a Workplace That Doesn’t Suck

Based on what I know about Scott Berkun and Automattic, I’m really looking forward to this book.

Order The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work via Amazon

Ambition and Passion

I made this comment in a private chat with someone and she suggested it should be shared to a wider audience:

Ambition/passion for something is essential. It might not be something that I’m passionate about, but folks that don’t have that drive for something, well, they bore me.