Support is Sexy

Since I began my job in March, I’ve had a hard time calling myself support. It isn’t that I don’t feel like support is an honorable job, because it is. It’s more that I feel like I do so much more than support our users. I do everything from training our new employees, to creating and editing both internal and external documentation, and even what amounts to business consulting over live-chat to help some of our users build the best web presence that they can have. Something about using the word support has always felt a little. . . a little less than what I do.

Maybe it’s a personal hang-up, but I’ve been the Director of Sales and Marketing for various organizations and a successful business owner. I never once thought of what I did as support. I trained support. I helped support do their job. I’ve just never really thought of what I did as support, until last weekend.

On October 18th, I attended a conference called UserConf, which has really changed the way that I see myself and what I do. This was a conference for a new breed of support. The modern breed of kick-ass, hard-working, super-smart, super-dedicated, and amazing support. These are the people that take start-ups and make them trustworthy. These are the people that you reach on the other end of the line, or email, or chat box, or twitter. These are the people writing the documentation to use their products. They are recording the videos, driving the product with suggestions, and helping you (with complete empathy) to change the world one pixel at a time. These are my people.

UserConf was more about the how of support and less about the why, with the exception of one presentation by Rich White of UserVoice. Rich touched on how acquiring users is no longer the road to success. It’s retaining users, and growing them, that holds the key. It’s showing real people that you are real. That you are trustworthy, helpful, empathetic, passionate, and in control. The only way that your start-up will set itself ahead of the pack is by providing the best customer experience. Loyalty drives us, and without support, we are nothing.

All of this is to say that I’m mighty proud of what I do. Just because I couldn’t previously accept the word support for what it is, doesn’t mean that I don’t identify as support. This word has taken on new meaning for me, and it’s a positive switch.

I’m passionate about helping WordPress.com users be the best that they can be. I’m proud to be a Happiness Engineer. I’m proud to call myself support.

SEO Presentation

On July 19, 2013 I gave a presentation about SEO to the Asbury Park, NJ WordPress Meetup group, hosted at Cowerks. (I’ve actually been working out of Coweks for the last two weeks. If you ever need a coworking space while at the Jersey Shore, this is it.) It was a ton of fun.

Here are the slides, for your viewing pleasure:

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Edit: A similar presentation was also given at the Philly WordPress Meetup on July 23, 2013. (I feel like I’m on tour.)

What are your inputs?

The noise swirls around our heads like a never ending stream of consciousness from the outside world. Managing the way that you digest it, the way that you plug into it (or it plugs into you), is the only realistic way to turn that noise into something useful.

The goal of the average information consumer should be to manage their inputs. I’m going to define inputs as the tools that we use to help us digest information.

I work for a distributed company, which means that the only way to communicate is to over communicate. We use a network of internal blogs running the P2 Theme to communicate about everything from taking time off from work to enhancements to WordPress.com. These blogs really do move at the speed of thought and there are a lot of them.

As you can imagine, there is a lot of information flowing on a consistent basis, which means that the only way to keep yourself from over-saturation is to manage your inputs in a structured way. This is a dance I’m currently working on perfecting.

In life, I think the majority of things that we need inputs for are self imposed: Social Networks, Email, Work, Appointments, Family, Friends, Shopping, Eating, Fashion, and on and on.

The question that I ask myself daily is how can I design my inputs to make sure that I convert the noise into something useful?

I use some inputs to help flow outputs to me in a way that I can digest:

  • My iPhone I use almost exclusively for Social Media and personal conversations. In fact, my phone has become the De facto input for all communications that are not work related: SMS, MMS, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • My iPad I use for reading and watching. It’s my media digestion input. I know that when I open my iPad, I’ll be diving into the New York Times, Tech Crunch, Netflix, or any other media that tickles my fancy.
  • My MacBook Air is for work, and work alone. This is where I digest most of my email, work documentation, tools, and other professional communications. I also use it for writing.

Of course, the wires between my inputs cross on a daily basis, but I try my best to control that. For example, I use iMessages on my computer to text throughout the workday. This helps me to keep my concentration on a single screen space instead of pulling out my phone to respond to a message. It’s a delicate balance to keeps inputs separate, but I think it’s important to find the balance that works for you.

I’m constantly working to refine my inputs to match my outputs. I’d love to hear what works for you.

I’m an Automattician!

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I’m super excited to announce that I’ve joined Automattic as a Happiness Engineer, working with WordPress.com!

You may not know the name Automattic, but you certainly know the products. WordPress.com, Akismet, Gravatar, and VaultPress, just to name a few. In short, Automattic is the powerhouse of the web. It’s important to note that WordPress.com sees over 100,000 new blogs added per day, and as of the time of this posting, has 62,935,144 websites in it’s network.

I don’t really have words to express how excited I am about this move forward, and what it means for me both personally and professionally. It’s been a wild ride getting to this point, and I couldn’t be happier with where I’ve landed.

Since I will be working with Automattic full-time, I have decided to close the doors to Elixr, which has treated me SO well since its inception over 2.5 years ago. In many ways, opening the doors to Elixr was the best thing that I ever could have done (besides having kids, of course.) It allowed me to pursue my dreams and learn more every day than I ever thought possible. I’m forever grateful to the amazing clients that I’ve had the honor to work with over the years. They have taught me well, and I am completely humbled by the experience.

wordpress-logo-stacked-rgbBeing a non-profit guy, this is the ideal move for me. Automattic is a for-profit company, but it’s roots are in the Open Source movement. Being in such close proximity to WordPress.org (powering just about 20% of all websites worldwide,) and the WordPress Foundation, I get to stay in the same place as my values, moving the world (and the web) forward with each step.

Since the whole company is distributed, I’ll get to stay in Philadelphia. Being distributed means that the whole company works from where they are. That translates to having colleagues from all over the world, in every time zone. It’s an incredible concept, and there is nothing else like it. I’m super excited to get to work with such an amazingly talented, nice, and super-driven bunch. These are people that I’ve respected and admired for years. To have to opportunity to join them is an incredible honor. I’ve even had the pleasure of meeting a few of them already, which just showed me how great of a personal fit this move is.

Of course, I’d like to thank my wife Lula, and my whole family really, for holding me up during this process. It’s because of their constant faith in me and the work that I do that I was able to get to this point in my career. Also, thanks to Peter Slutsky for his constant encouragement.

Onward and upward! Here’s to fantastic movement forward, and always following your dreams. If working with Automattic is one of your dreams, you should totally go for it. We’re hiring. Seriously. Apply.

See you all in the ether.