Creating a private website with WordPress

When we became parents in 2015, Kelly and I talked about where and how we wanted to share the initial photos and stories of that experience with a small group of our family and friends. In case you haven't noticed, I feel pretty strongly about the principle of owning our digital homes. So I felt resistance to throwing everything up on Facebook in hopes that we'd always be able to make their evolving privacy and sharing settings and policies work for us, while also trusting that every single Facebook friend would honor our wishes about re-sharing that information.

I took some time to explore tools available for creating a private website that would be relatively easy for our users to access, relatively easy to maintain, and still limited in how accessible the content would be to the wider world. (I tend to assume that all information connected to the Internet will eventually become public, so I try to avoid ever thinking in terms of absolute privacy when it comes to websites of any kind.)

I thought about using WordPress.com, which offers the ability to quickly create a site that is private and viewable only by invited users while maintaining full ownership and control of the content. I passed on this idea in part because it didn't allow quite the level of feature customization that I wanted, and partly because it's a service of my employer, Automattic. While I fully trust my colleagues to be careful and sensitive to semi-private info stored there, it felt a little strange to think of creating something a bit vulnerable and intended for a small group of people within that context. I would still highly recommend the WordPress.com option for anyone looking for a simple, free/low-cost solution to get started.

Here are the WordPress tools I ended up using, with a few notes on my customizations:

Basic WordPress Configuration

For the basic WordPress installation and configuration, I made the following setup choices:

  • I put the site on a private, dedicated server so that I had control over the management and maintenance of the site software (as opposed to a shared server where my content, files or database may be accessible to others).
  • I used a Let's Encrypt SSL certificate and forced all traffic to the SSL version of the site, to ensure all communication and access would be encrypted.
  • I set up a child theme of a default WordPress theme so I could add a few customizations that would survive future parent theme updates.
  • I set "Membership" so that "Anyone can register" in the role of Subscriber (see more below on why this is okay).
  • For Search Engine Visibility I set "Discourage search engines from indexing this site".
  • For discussion I set "

Continue reading Creating a private website with WordPress

Using Todoist to organize all the things

For just over two years now I've been using Todoist as my primary to-do list manager and personal organizer software. I pay for the upgraded Premium version at US$28.99/year. I really like it and it's helped me stay on top of all the things I want to get done in my professional life, personal life, local community and beyond.

(Before Todoist, I'd been using Taskpaper and loved the simplicity of its interface and file storage. The software hit a period of being unmaintained and I really needed something up to date, so I switched. Taskpaper has since seen new life as a project, it's worth checking it out again too.)

The Todoist website linked above already showcases many of its features so I won't bother repeating those, but here are a few of the things I especially appreciate:

Continue reading Using Todoist to organize all the things

Preparing to have my wallet stolen

This post is from the "random life-hacks department."

I don't like worrying about losing my wallet. I don't really carry anything of great significance in it...little or no cash, some ID, and a few credit cards. But in the past I also knew that if I lost it or if it was stollen, I'd spend some anxious time trying to remember exactly what was in it, and then even more time searching around for the right phone number to call to get things canceled and replaced.

And it felt like there were more important things to worry about.

Ever since I started using 1Password, I don't worry about this as much any more.

Continue reading Preparing to have my wallet stolen

Beyond Tweetstorming

It seems "tweetstorming" - using a series of tweets on Twitter to share commentary that requires more space than a single tweet can hold - has become a thing.

For those of us who have been using various web tools to publish online for many years now without any notable space constraints, it's a puzzling trend to say the least. Why would you put your thoughts in a format and on a platform that was not at all designed for longer form writing, makes it hard for others to link and respond, and risks a loss of ownership or availability of that content later on (for starters)? I've expanded on these concerns in posts like Owning our digital homes, and made light of them in my own tweets.

But we know that the most elegant and flexible practices don't always win out over ones that are popular or compelling in other ways. So I'm trying to resist the temptation to be entirely dismissive of tweetstorming, especially as I see people call out why they prefer it over blogging: they're more likely to follow up on a conversation on Twitter than they are to check back on an individual blog's comment thread, they like the immediacy and wide distribution of Twitter, they like being able to respond to single thoughts one tweet at a time, and so on.

That said, I still see tweetstorming as a disconcerting trend for the realm of publishing and discussion online. In a time where we need more clarity of thinking, constructive dialog and interactions that don't shy away from details, nuance and truth-seeking, tweetstorms seem like a move in the wrong direction.

So what to do about it?

Continue reading Beyond Tweetstorming

Speaking at SupConf NYC

I'll be speaking at the SupConf New York City 2016 conference behind held at the Digital Ocean HQ in Soho on November 15th and 16th.  My talk is on a topic I've enjoyed thinking about and working on over the years, moving customer support interactions from transactions to partnerships. I'm also excited to meet and hear from some other great speakers.

If you're interested and can make it, tickets are available now. I'll also be sure to share the content of my talk here after the event.

Update December 3, 2016: My slides from the talk are below. Continue reading Speaking at SupConf NYC

Dispatches from my Internet of Things

A few years ago I noticed that a couple of different tools and services I was using at the time were offering the option to tweet when I engaged with them somehow. I was interested to try it out but I didn't want to clutter up my human-authored Twitter feed with a bunch of software-authored stuff that I couldn't necessarily control the timing or content of.

So, I created the @JCHThings Twitter account, and it's been a steady stream of activity from the Internet-connected devices and tools in my life ever since.

Sometimes it shares some bad news:

Continue reading Dispatches from my Internet of Things