Speaking at WordCamp Dayton

WordCamp-Dayton-2016-LogoI'll be speaking at the upcoming WordCamp Dayton 2016, happening March 4-5, 2016 at Wright State University. I'll be talking about "WordPress as your digital home," a topic I've thought about for a long time and blogged about recently:

There are tons of places to put your content, but not all of them give you the control and ownership you should have. Your WordPress site is still probably the best place to call home for your online creations. In this session I’ll show you why that is, walk through tools and techniques for using WordPress as your digital home while pushing content out to other places, and answer your questions about how to build an online presence that is fully yours.

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Saying yes to the right things

Biltmore caktusA few years ago I got a call from an organization that wanted me to volunteer as a member of their board of directors. They were rushing to get their nominations in before an upcoming meeting and the person assigned to ask me to join had fallen a bit behind on the process. The caller described the board's work - overall purpose, meetings, and responsibilities - and said that my name had come up as someone who could be good to serve.

Nice! Right?

I had little to no history with or context about the organization's leadership, and this call was the first time I was really aware of its board. So I asked a question:

"What particular projects or efforts is the board working on that you think I can specifically contribute to?"

In other words, "tell me why you think I'm a good fit for you and you're a good fit for me."

The caller was a bit thrown off by this, saying that's a good question that they had not been asked before, and one that they didn't really have an answer for. (It turns out this particular board is a fiduciary oversight kind of body, mostly expected to rubber stamp what the organization's staff proposes.) I tried to give the caller a few chances to fill in some detail, but they didn't seem interested in trying that hard.

I thanked the organization for thinking of me and said no.

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What if the police weren't on your side?

For most of my life, the police have been on my side.

They've helped protect the businesses and buildings I've owned. They've patrolled the neighborhoods I've lived in. They've brought law enforcement and a helpful presence to the places I've traveled. They've held me accountable - for the most part, with politeness and respect - when I've operated my vehicle in a way that broke the law. I've always felt like I could approach a police officer with a question or concern. When I've called 911 to report danger, they've come quickly and ready to help.

What an amazing and potentially live-saving privilege it has been to have the police on my side. I am thankful.

But what if the police weren't on my side?

As we honor the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr., commemorate the accomplishments and sacrifices of a civil rights movement that is still ongoing, and seek peace with justice in the many parts of the world where such things are elusive, it's a question we must ask.

My friend Bob asked it today as he told the story of the night in 1959 that the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee was raided by the police in an attempt to discourage it from continuing to support integration and civil rights. The 50 or so organizers and students at the school sat in the dark as sheriffs with guns and billy clubs came in uninvited and ransacked the place. They could not call the police to help, the police were not on their side.

What if the police weren't on your side?

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Zombie analysis paralysis

How many everyday decisions do you tackle through the filter of "what does this mean for the coming zombie apocalypse?"

I'm worried the number is kind of high for me.

For example, when my eye doctor's office asks me how many sets of contact lenses I want, I don't have a fast answer. I could base it on price, maybe a guess about how long it will be until my prescription might renew or change. Most people do this calculation quickly in their head and respond.

My mind wanders into the territory of "will I be able to see when I am running from the zombies?" If I stockpile too many sets of lenses now, it's possible they'll expire before I can get through them all - doomsday scenarios could be a ways off - but if I don't get enough, I could find myself nearsighted at just the wrong moment, missing the faint silhouette of a brain-thirsty member of the undead off in the distance and losing precious seconds to act.

(The "zombie apocalypse" is of course shorthand for any number of dramatic world-changing events that could leave me and presumably some other humans alive but fighting for survival while deprived of most or all modern conveniences like power, clean water and Prime shipping. Global political/social unrest, catastrophic climate change, accidental nuclear launches, etc. just begin the list of events that could match an actual zombie outbreak in impact, but it helps me focus by summing it all up with "zombies.")

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Getting started owning your digital home

My recent post about owning our digital homes prompted some good feedback and discussion. When I talk about this topic with the people in my life who don't work daily in the world of websites, domain names and content management, the most common reaction I get is, "that's sounds good in theory, I'm not sure where to start in practice."

So, here are some of the basic things that pretty much anyone can do to get started having and owning your digital home.

Find a domain name

On the Internet, your domain name is the root of your digital existence. It's the address on your home, your entry in the phonebook, the shingle you hang out so that anyone and everyone can find you. While the domain name system (DNS) has changed a lot over the years, it's still the starting point for establishing a long-term presence on the Internet that you control, independent of other tools, services and providers you might use.

My domain name is "chrishardie.com." It's not only the URL/address of my website, but it's the domain where my primary email address lives. Whatever content management tool might power my website at any given time, and whatever server my email might live on or whatever email program I might use to read messages, I will always have my domain name to point me and others to those places.

Having a domain name is relatively inexpensive; in most cases it's $10-15/year, less if you register it for multiple years at a time. When I see people who pick email addresses derived from their Internet Service Provider (e.g. Comcast, Verizon) or from some free online email provider like Gmail, and then see the time it takes them to inform friends, co-workers and family when they change that address to something else, I know it's worth those few dollars to have a consistent address that doesn't change unless I want it to, and that doesn't depend on someone else's business model to exist at all.

In my opinion, your domain name should be something personalized, but not so specific to where you live, how you make a living, or what you find interesting right now that it will become outdated when you move to a new place, change jobs or update your interests. Your domain name doesn't even need to mean anything at all, as long as it's memorable enough for you and the people you share it with. If you're having trouble finding a domain name you like, this generator will help with some ideas.

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2015 Year in Review

I thought I'd take some time to reflect back on the last year and share some highlights:

Parenting

C & AUndoubtedly the biggest change for me in 2015 was becoming a parent.

Friends, there is a miniature human being living in my house now.

Whoa.

There are many things about that experience I could go on about --  the adoption process, being in the delivery room for her birth, the incredible support and help we received from our friends and family, figuring out how to care for a new person and getting some sleep along the way, watching my wife become a wonderful mom and navigating a huge change in our life together, implications for our home automation setup, and much more -- and I'll try to blog about all of that as I can. For now I can say that being a father has been magnificent.

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How much sleep?

One of the most common questions I'm asked as a new parent is "how much sleep are you getting?"

People who ask are usually expecting a fairly imprecise response, but thanks to my Fitbit Charge HR, I have data!

sleep-history

Mid-June is around when my sleep started being affected by the anticipation of parenthood, down to an average 7.3 hours/night. That trend continued into July with an average 6.75 hours/night.

A. was born in August, and that's when I hit an average of 5.5 hours/night. Most nights were well below that in the 2-3 hour range, and it was only because friends, family or my amazing wife would facilitate an occasional longer chunk that the average was as high as it was.

September got me back over the 6 hour mark, and by November I was almost getting an average of 8 hours. Mind you it wasn't always 8 full hours of deep sleep; lots of it was time sitting still in bed, anticipating A.'s next request for room service or entertainment. There's still plenty of that but the waits are getting longer, the sleep in between deeper. Continue reading How much sleep?