Event Memories: How You Made Them Feel

Angelou & Covey

Tonight’s post has two parts, one simple and one complex.

Maya AngelouThe simple part is best expressed in the words of Maya Angelou, who said:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

The complex part is figuring out how to organize and run your event so people leave feeling good about it.

A whole lot goes into putting on an event which people walk away from with good feelings and fabulous memories. One effective starting point for creating that type of event is to Stephen Coveyuse Stephen Covey’s advice: “Begin with the end in mind.” To help apply that concept to events, here is a paraphrase of what an Inc. article recommends for beginning with the end in mind.

People don’t remember details of events they went to, they remember how they felt. When planning your event, ask yourself: “What feeling do I want to evoke?”

Think about what would get your event goers excited. Educate them. Expose them to new ideas. Connect them with like-minded people. Design an event around the most relevant, interesting theme, idea or debate in your industry. Why?: Emotions play a big role in how much someone enjoys an event.

How Did You Make Them Feel? Begin With The End In Mind.

Start the designing and organizing of your next event by thinking about what memories you want people to take away from your event. Then, as you develop the event, continually put yourself in the event goers shoes, and decide if your feet are comfortable. Would you be happy to spend a couple days in their shoes?walk a mile in my shoes

If you were in their shoes as you walk out the door of the venue and get into your car, or head for those long security lines at the airport, are you noticing how tired your feet are and thinking about all the problems that piled up while you were at a poorly designed or ineptly run event?

Or do you hardly notice your tired feet, uncomfortable shoes, and the blister starting to form on your left middle toe, because you’re thinking about a mind-blowing conversation with an awesome new friend introduced to you by the events wrangler who thought the two of you would get along well?

Maybe you’re thinking about a new project or entrepreneurial venture you and three other amazing people from the event are going to continue working on in the coming months…

So that’s it for tonight. Angelou and Covey.

How will you and your event make people feel?

Begin with the end in mind.


Road Trip Events

Memorial Day Salute & On The Road Again

Firstly, to all USA armed forces veterans, please accept my grateful Thank You for your generous and courageous service!

Secondly, gentle Readers, this Memorial Day post is about road trip events.

Road trip events??

on the road againThe prime spark for this somewhat obscure topic is that I spent 8 hours of my Memorial Day “on the road again,” as Willie Nelson was want to sing. A secondary spark is my history of, enjoyment of, and yearning for road trips.

When you take my habit of being an events wrangler and combine it with my Route 66-ish habit of going on every road trip I can, the result is a desire to create and participate in “road trip events.” If that term confuses you, I refer you to Jack Kerouac (born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac), a French-Canadian American author of “The Open Road,” in which he wrote, “I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”

What this post is taking a look at is events in which a road trip plays a significant role. This can happen in three primary types of events.

  1. An event that is part of a road trip or road show organized by an organization to promote its product(s).
  2. A participant-driven event which occurs at several points during a road trip and / or along the way during the road trip.
  3. An event for which groups of people travel from various places to a central location and the roadtrip is an integral part of the event.

Organizational Road Trip

SpamericanThe first event type listed above is probably the most common. An organization, usually a large corporation, is launching a new product or a new marketing campaign for a product line, and they go on the road to promote their products and demonstrate them in-person to potential customers. Examples of this are Intel’s IoT Roadshow, Atmel’s Tech On Tour event, and Hormel’s SPAMERICAN Food Truck Tour.

An event which I co-wrangled featuring this type of road trip was the “Adobe Tech Cafe in Milwaukee.” I had read that Adobe Systems was doing a USA road trip with events at various stops, so I contacted them and asked if they’d do a Milwaukee Tech Cafe about Adobe products. “Tech Cafe” was the label we applied to medium length tech-focused participant-driven events that we felt were of interest to a regional tech community (and to the co-initiators…). Sort of like Google Tech Talks, although with a much lower budget since Google wasn’t underwriting them. Ryan Stewart of Adobe graciously agreed to add Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, to their list of stops. He led a fantastic session about Adobe’s products with lots of questions and discussions from the tech cafe participants.

hour of codeA variant of this event type is one focused more on supporting and connecting a community than marketing a product. What I’m thinking of here would be road trips involving open source products, like WordPress website software, or a general topic such as computer programming, similar to what the Hour of Code does, or along the lines of the Mozilla Webmaker program. This type of road trip event could also be used to build a new network or community of people around an emerging technology, a new concept, or a new product.

Along The Way

An example of the second type of road trip, one occurring at several points on the trip route (and possibly along the way, literally ON the road) is the proposed CM3 / I-94 BarCamp (aka the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-Minneapolis tech unconference, or TarCamp I-94). The concept is to have a launch event in the city at one end of a planned trip, hold intermediate events at a couple cities on the route, and conclude with an event in the final destination. A key aspect of the TarCamp is to have a connected-convoy road trip, with all the convoy vehicles connected to the internet while traveling, as well as connected to each other, making it the Neverending Unconference. One of my favorite “session” ideas was to have an author or a team of authors start writing a book in the launch city, continue writing the book while traveling, include in the book sections written in or about the intermediate cities, and before reaching the destination city, write a future-seeing chapter about what would happen at the last event. As the author(s) are about to enter the city, they hit the PUBLISH button on a digital publishing service. Participants at the last event, or anyone anywhere, can download and read the book, which might be titled, “On The Road, Too.”

We didn’t achieve the critical mass needed to turn this concept into reality, but I still think it has huge potential. Especially in this age of near-ubiquitous internet access. When we developed this event concept in 2007, we were planning for somewhat cutting-edge satellite mobile (traveling at highway speeds) internet access for the road portions of the trip because cellular didn’t yet have high speed coverage for the entire I-94 route from Chicago to Minneapolis. I’m not even sure there was high speed cellular data coverage anywhere in 2007! 🙂

CM3 I-94 caption

Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-Minneapolis unconference, aka TarCamp I-94

There are plenty of other connected-cities or connected-regions road trips with significant potential, such as a Green Bay-Appleton-Oshkosh-Fond du Lac I-41 TarCamp for Northeast Wisconsin, USA. Or maybe a Traverse City-Grayling-Gaylord-Mackinaw City-Petoskey-Charlevoix tech unconference in Northwest Michigan (lower peninsula). On the west coast, maybe a Eugene, OR to Vancouver, BC I-5 (mostly) International BarCamp, with stops in Portland, Olympia, Seattle, and Bellingham. I don’t know how many other participant-driven unconferences have started in one country and ended in another, but it feels like it should be done more!

Another example of the multiple-stop “road” trip event is GeeksOnAPlane, in which participants “travel by planes, trains, and automobiles to the most exciting international startup scenes with the sole mission of uniting geeks and exploring cross-border opportunities.”

Multiple Convoys Converge On Point X


Armadillo Aerospace “Pixel” lander

The third type of road trip event identifies a high-value destination and organizes a plethora of road trip routes and participants who all converge on that destination for the event. An example of this is the X PRIZE Cup 2007 road trip event I proposed after the previous year’s event. The X PRIZE 2006 event included the “Vertical Lander competition, with John Carmack piloting the Armadillo Aerospace entry with a handheld controller…Space Elevator Beam Challenge…[and] Space Elevator Tether Challenge…” I suggested that in 2007, “Wouldn’t it be cool to be part of an X PRIZE Cup convoy consisting of several thousand vehicles heading down the highway towards Las Cruces?

Many events involving thousands of people, and some attended by only hundreds, draw the participants from around the country or around the world. Lots of those events would be well suited for the “convoys converge” gathering of like-minded people. What I’m proposing for this third type of event is either piggy-backing on an existing event, like I proposed for the X PRIZE Cup, or creating an event which has the built-in component of organized road trips for participants traveling to chosen destination.

Suggestion & Promise

I’m running out of time to finish today’s post, so I’ll close with a suggestion and a promise.

go for itSuggestion: If this post has you thinking about road trip events you’d like to organize, Go For It! And if you’d like to share details about the event, or are interested in connecting with co-organizers, send an email to me at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com.

Promise: There will be more “road trip event”-themed posts because I seriously want to organize a few events of that type, especially ones focused on developing or rolling out new Automattic products, as well as events which expand and strengthen open source communities or build new ones.


Posts in this Road Trip Events series:

Road Trip Events” — Today’s post

Road Trip Events, Part 2: History


Why I Want To Be An Automattic Events Wrangler

My Future Automattic Job

The past three Sundays’ posts have taken a look at different parts of the Automattic hiring process.

automattic logoToday’s post take a look at the Automattic Events Wrangler opportunity from a different viewpoint. And that viewpoint is:

“Why I Want To Be An Automattic Events Wrangler”

The main reason: “Because it IS an Opportunity, for me!” 🙂

Not The Best Job For Everyone

Not everyone views working for Automattic as the best possible job. Or even next to best. I’ve read online threads by coders who vehemently dislike the trial project part of the hiring process. There are also numerous comments about WordPress developers being paid significantly less than developers, e.g.:

The WordPress Talent Shortage Might Be a Pricing Problem
Why Drupal Developers Make x10 More than WordPress Developers
The 7 Reasons Why WordPress Developers Are Paid Peanuts

WordPressIn a future post I’m going to take a look at why highly talented developers and designers DO want to be on the Automattic team and DO want to work on WordPress even if they get paid less. Salary isn’t the top priority for everyone. To a certain extent, I fall into that same type of situation. I’m a chemical engineer and would get paid quite a bit more for being a chemical engineer working for a large corporation than I will as Events Wrangler. In a very distant way (I’m sure Mike is waaaay more intelligent than am I), my goal to work at Automattic is like that of Mike Adams, one of Scott Berkun’s team members, as mentioned in “The Year Without Pants.” Mike was working to get a PhD in quantum computing, and he decided to work for Matt Mullenweg instead, becoming a WordPress developer at Automattic.

For now, I’ll just stipulate that WordPress developers (and probably designers) earn lower hourly salaries than they could in other languages, on other web development platforms, and in other industries.

Fantastic Coworkers

The Year Without PantsBut in spite of that lower pay, there are a lot of superlatives and an endless amount of gushingly effusive praise used to describe coworkers at Automattic.

  • Scott Berkun says of a member of his team: “He was self-taught, brilliant, collaborative, and, at time, hysterically funny.” Scott heaped similar praise on other members of his team and on other Automatticians.
  • Davor Altman appreciates being part of the Automattic team: “The people I work with are the best colleagues one can wish for. Everyone’s friendly and we had lots of fun. I received an incredibly warm welcome and I felt like a part of the family. Thank you, folks!…I am extremely thankful to be a part of the Automattic family.”
  • Rachel Squirrel is where she wants to be right now: “Automattic is the coolest company on the planet. I think they must have adopted the hiring equivalent of Baba Binkman’s, Don’t sleep with mean people, because everyone who works there is so nice and clever too.”
  • Anne McCarthy puts it this way: “…you join an incredible team…I have found “my people”. I have found friends in coworkers. I have found life lessons in my work…I am accepted for who I am and couldn’t be happier that this job doesn’t feel like one.”

Let my people go surfingYou may feel the above too-good-to-be-true pictures of Automattic colleagues are some sort of an astroturfing campaign, part of the company’s marketing department and hiring team’s effort to portray it as the best possible place to work, or just the writings of deluded or not-too-bright people. But there are companies like that in this crazy, mixed up, and far-from-perfect world. I’m sure Apple was like that in its early days (unless you were involved in a Steve Jobs rant), and I’m betting it was like that for Google’s first 500 employees, when people used Google simply because it was so much better than the previous search king, Alta Vista. If you think there are no companies in which most employees love their jobs, read “Let My People Go Surfing” by its founder Yvon Chouinard. No person, and no company, is perfect, but I totally believe the Patagonia employees truly enjoy working with each other, in much the same way that Automattic employees say they respect and enjoy their coworkers.

Reasons Automattic Events Wrangling Is For Me

So the starting point, for me, of WHY work at Automattic, is because:

Automatticians are passionate about what they’re doing, they’re highly skilled at their jobs, and their fellow team members love working with them.

The second reason I’m pursuing the position of Events Wrangler was eloquently but accurately captured by Darnell Dibbles when he stated that, for the right people, working for Automattic is a job that is:

“…both life giving and financially freeing for them and their family.”

Like most people, I want a job that is both life giving and financially freeing. From everything I’ve read and heard, the best job opportunity like that, for me, is Events Wrangler at Automattic.

Here are a few of the other reasons I want to be an Automattic Events Wrangler.

  • Matt Mullenweg’s goal is to have the best company with the best product, not to make the most money. He’s totally focused on the WordPress users, the Automatticians and doing the Right Thing, not on becoming personally wealthy or having Automattic maximize profits at the expense users and employees.
  • I love being an events wrangler and have had that as one of my primary activities for the past ten years. Doing that will only get more fun and more rewarding doing it at Automattic.
  • Automattic is a distributed company, i.e. primarily a team of remote workers. I believe that’s the “future of work” for a significant number of people in the 21st century. A couple years ago, I was encouraged to write a book about coworking and remote and independent workers — I’ve got quite a bit of background research for it organized in a Google Doc. Maybe I will write that book after Automattic hires me, and I’ve worked a year or two as an Events Wrangler. For parts of my job, I can work from home or I can work from pretty much anywhere in the world with decent internet access. Including coworking spaces or coffee shops and other community third places.
  • Although Automatticians are distributed workers, they meet up several times a year in different parts of the world so they can, as Scott Berkun said, “learn things about working together we could reuse the rest of the year when working apart.” I will enjoy that combination of distributed working and periodic meetups.
  • Automattic uses open source to maximize the value of WordPress to the largest number of people in the world, letting them earn a living, make their voices heard, or build websites for many other purposes.
  • Automattic uses open source to provide the ability for any skilled developer to develop their own fork of WordPress if the current project team stops developing it, or takes the development in a direction that skilled program thinks is wrong.
  • The Automattic creed fits me to a T.
  • innovators dilemmaThe future of WordPress and Automattic is both bright and challenging. There will be opportunities for them to make a huge impact, and the reward from making that impact will be deeply satisfying and rewarding.
  • Part of that bright future is the possibility for innovative changes. Most people don’t work at companies that are really interested in innovation. Those companies just want to keep doing what got them where they are. For more on that, read Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” Work is more fun when a company and its leaders are interested in innovation and facilitate that innovation.
  • Matt M says he wants to continue leading Automattic for another 20 years, and the company is unlikely to do a lucrative IPO in the near future. To me, that means Automatticians won’t have their jobs ruined by bad management or Wall Street greed for the foreseeable future.
  • Being an Events Wrangler will introduce me to interesting people and unusual places around the globe. I’ve only worked or spent a significant amount of time in three countries outside the USA (Argentina, Canada/Québec, and Italy), but I enjoyed every minute of it and look forward to building a global network and better understanding the world I live in.
  • In many ways, it seems like Automattic events will be participant-driven events, with some of the flavor of unconferences. I’d much rather be involved with participant-driven events than be responsible for a manufacturing industry annual conference, or a pharma gala event, or other gatherings focused on money or marketing instead of on providing the most value for the participants of the event.
  • Being an Events Wrangler is likely to have opportunities for me to be a community builder. I’ve spent most of the past ten years building various types of communities, especially tech-related one, I enjoy it tremendously, and I look forward to doing more of it.

I could add at least ten more reasons, and I’ll update this post if I think of important ones I forgot, but you get the general picture. I have researched Automattic extensively. I think I’m a good fit for the job and company, and vice versa. One never knows what the future holds, but I can easily see myself spending the next ten to twenty years having the time of my life wrangling events and doing other things to help make Automattic the best company in the world! 🙂


May 28, 2016: News & Views Roundup For Events Wranglers

This May 28, 2016, post is excerpts from recent items relevant to events wrangling. If they sound like something you want to know more about, click the headline links and read the source articles.

Participatory voting at events: Part 2—Low-tech versus high-tech solutions

vote“…There is no shortage of high-tech systems that can poll an audience. Commonly known as ARSs, Student Response Systems (SRSs), or “clickers,” these systems combine an audience voting method—a custom handheld device, personal cell phone/smartphone, personal computer, etc.—with a matched receiver and software that processes and displays responses. Here are three reasons why high-tech ARSs may not be the best choice for participatory voting:

  • ARSs necessitate expense and/or time to set up for a group. No-tech and low-tech approaches are low or no cost and require little or no preparation.
  • Most ARS votes are anonymous; no one knows who has voted for what. When you are using voting to acquire information about participant preferences and opinions, as opposed to deciding between conflicting alternatives, anonymous voting is rarely necessary. (An exception is if people are being asked potentially embarrassing questions.) When a group of people can see who is voting for what (and, with some techniques, even the extent of individual agreement/disagreement), it’s easy to go deeper into an issue via discussion or debate.
  • Participatory voting techniques involve more movement than pushing a button on an ARS device. This is important, because physical movement improves learning. Some techniques include participant interaction, which also improves learning…”

Worthwhile read if your event includes participatory voting, or if you want to be prepared for an unexpected call for voting at an event. The low-tech solutions cost less and are less likely to disrupt your event.

25 Ways Speakers Can Help Promote Your Events Before, During, and After

25 speaker promo tips

Have speakers help promote events

A speaker is responsible for more than just being fabulous at your event. As busy meeting professionals you can—and should—expect more from your speakers. There are many zero-budget ways speakers can add value to your next event…Before the event, ask your speakers to:

1. Add the event details and a link to your event’s agenda on their website…

3. Promote your event on their social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and TripIt…

7. Include information about your event in their blog posts, including a profile of the event with links to registration.

8. Post regular status updates on Facebook, including a link for more information…

16. Request that their publicists or social media teams create press releases and social media posts to share with contacts…

20. Be available to speak with and record videos for press during the event…

23. Blog about the success of your event, and publish the post to their site and social media platforms.

24. Create a video that summarizes the event, along with a few points from their keynote, that you can share in followup marketing activities…

The list of possible promotional activities is endless; use your imagination! And next time you book your speaker, include this question: “How can you help us promote this event?”…”

Depending on who the speakers, participants or attendees are, having them do some or all of these 25 promotional items could give a big boost to your next event!

How to Plan for Attendees with Special Diets

healthy food 2Vegan, Gluten Free, Paleo, Nut Allergy… it seems everyone has a special dietary requirement these days!…It seems more and more often our attendees are speaking up about their dietary needs and restrictions. Food allergies are becoming increasingly common, guests are becoming more health conscious and standing strong in their religious or personal beliefs on how food should be prepared. This can become a major headache for eventprofs trying to plan a menu for a large group of attendees…

When you are hosting an event the customer service you provide will have a significant impact on your attendees. Long after the food is served and the party favors are forgotten, your guests will always remember how your event made them feel…Sometimes we see dietary choices as a personal option but most of the time they are very important and should be taken seriously. Dietary restrictions should not be taken lightly everyone should know that they can pose a safety hazard if someone is served the wrong ingredient.

What are some of the special diets you might encounter? Nut Free…Gluten and Wheat Free…Paleo…Kosher…Halal…Lacto-ovo-vegetarians…Lacto-vegetarians…Ovo-vegetarians…Pescatarian…Vegan…Other Considerations…Pregnancy…Drinks…”

This article did quite a thorough job of listing different types of special diets. Pescatarian?? Enough to make a person’s head spin when you think about trying to accommodate everyone’s diet need or preference. Once upon a time, events served the same meal to everyone, and if your dietary situation meant you couldn’t or didn’t want to eat it, you were out of luck.

How Audio Tones Are Changing Event Communication

LisnrThe ability for planners and hosts to communicate with guests is a vital part of all sorts of event, from conventions and trade shows to music festivals and fund-raisers. And in recent years, new technology coupled with the ubiquity of connected devices has created a variety of ways to send notifications and offers right into the hands of event guests, as solutions such as N.F.C., iBeacons, and Bluetooth become more common. Now another option is gaining traction. In the past year Lisnr’s “Smart Tones” technology has been used at events such as Budweiser’s Made in America festival, the Grammy awards…

Lisnr’s Smart Tones can be added to existing media—for example music playing during an opening ceremony—or transmitted on their own. Unlike other communication options that may require hardware such as transmitters, wristbands, or scanners, the tones can be played over the speakers already being used at the event. To recognize the tones, guests must be using an app that has the Lisnr API embedded in it, and then they have to enable the microphone on their device…“We have the ability to push data through the tone itself. That means I don’t have to be connected to the Internet. I don’t have to have Bluetooth turned on or G.P.S. or location services on. I don’t even have to have cellular service,” says Lisnr co-founder Chris Ostoich…”

As a tech enthusiast, I find the Lisnr’s Smart Tones an intriguing new tool for events. I’m not sure how I’d want to use it at an event, but it would be fun to experiment with it. However, as an events wrangler, I wouldn’t want to be the one trying to get event goers to install the app, turn on their microphone, then shut down the app. Too much work for them. For now it would have to be a compelling use case to be worth trying this as a valuable component of an event.


Events Wrangling Focused On Makers

This is a short post, but the topic sparked a ton of ideas for future research and experimentation at upcoming events.

Today, in “The Year Without PantsThe Year Without Pants,” a book about Automattic, WordPress.com and the future of work, I read the following indictment of events wranglers by Scott Berkun, the book’s author.

“…Event planners crush curiosity under the weight of agendas, topics, lists, working groups and exercises…The nonmakers [i.e. event planners] are in charge of the makers and insist on spending the off-site [meetup] not making anything…”

A few pages later Scott says:

“…Working together online had been fine so far, but being in the same room together gave us a new energy. This was exactly what these [Automattic team] meetups were meant to achieve: for us to learn things about working together we could reuse the rest of the year when working apart…”

Those two perspectives about event planners and about meetups caused me to re-examine what my role and goals as an events wrangler should be at an unconference, at a civic hackathon, at an Automattic event, and at other future events. I’d like to think we’ve done a decent job of not “crushing curiousity” at the unconferences and hackathons I’ve been involved with. But maybe I just didn’t “see” or “hear” what the other participants did…

What this says to me is that the role of an Events Wrangler at Automattic Grand Meetups is to ensure developers and designers have a meetup environment that will best help them build what their team decides to make during that week. Reliable and fast internet access would be a big need for most of them. Good food and sleeping accommodations at any time of day or night might be another one. Good meeting areas for teams to work together in — not necessarily just at the hotel or resort that everyone is staying at, but maybe a few scattered locations within walking distance. It might also be helpful to have information about fun or strange local points of interest, for those times when teams take breaks from working. Lots of other ways to help makers make, depending on what kind of makers and what they’re making…

Automattic GM 2015

Automattic Grand Meetup 2015

I guess the key to having a meetup or event that is worthwhile for the participants is to figure out who the “makers” are, and what they’d like to accomplish / build / create during the event. Then you need to determine how to best help them achieve their goals so they feel their time at the event wasn’t wasted.

The other take-away from reading that portion of “The Year Without Pants” is that I need to identify a group of facilitators and events wranglers who excel in participant-focused meetups. I’ve read about and exchanged emails with a few people who seem to fit that description, but I’ve never worked with them. My goal for future events I help organize is to somehow get people involved with the events who are highly effective at creating personal engagement for participants.

Thanks, Scott! Lots to think about right now.

On a side note, when I mentioned to my sister what Scott said about event planners, she wholeheartedly agreed. She said she very seldom enjoys what the event planners have arranged, and thought there should be a better way to run things so people’s time isn’t mostly wasted at events! 🙂


WordPress.com Forums: Jumping Into The Deep End

Being Involved With WP.com Forums

The original title for this post was “WordPress.com Forums 101.” After working on the post for a while, I realized the original title implied the reader would learn some basics of the forums, something useful in learning how to use WordPress.com. It quickly became clear that was very presumptuous or misleading, or both.

Next I tried on the title “WordPress.com Forums v.0.1,” but from a geek viewpoint, that seemed to imply the post would be about the software used to run forums on WordPress.com (WP.com).Kathryns deck, May 26, 2016

As I sat on the deck of my sister’s house in Traverse City, Michigan, on an unseasonably warm 85 degree day in May, I mulled over what I wanted to address in this post, and what I realistically could talk about, based on the limited extent of my knowledge about the WP.com forums.

Today wasn’t my first visit to the WP.com forums. My first WP.com blog was launched in 2007 or earlier (can’t remember if I registered more than one WP.com account). But my previous visits to the forums had a different motivation. I was just looking for answers to specific questions regarding my websites.

There were many more reasons for today’s forums’ visit, as outlined below, the most important of which is that it’s part of my Journey to become an Automattic Events Wrangler.

Traverse City, both baysInitially, today’s visit felt like I was dipping my toes in Lake WPKnowledge, instead of using them to test the temperature of the slightly cold, deep blue waters of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. But dipping my toes in the forums won’t get me where I want to go — a newly hired Events Wrangler who is successfully navigating the challenging Automattic onboarding role of Happiness Engineer for three weeks. I realized I need to jump into the deep end and learn to swim.

That realization gave me my title — “WordPress.com Forums: Jumping Into The Deep End.”

This post isn’t intended to teach the reader how to find useful information in the WP.com forums. It probably won’t teach you anything particularly useful. What the post primarily does is begin the chronicling of My Adventures There And Back.

Why Be In WP.com Forums

So, without further ado, here are my primary reasons for spending time in the WP.com forums.

  1. Being knowledgeable about and active in the forums are an important part of becoming an Events Wrangler and doing well when I am in the role of a Happiness Engineer.
  2. I want to learn my way around the forums and start to understand their culture.
  3. Working to answer questions posted in the forums will help me become familiar with the best resources for finding helpful WP.com information.
  4. Knowing more about WP.com will enable me to improve the functionality or appearance of the “Events Wrangling” blog and other WP.com websites I create or maintain in the future.

Regarding my top priority in the above list, many posts which talk about the Automattic hiring process and the onboarding three weeks as a Happiness Engineer stress the value of and need for participating in the forums. Tish Briseno said:

“…My initial goal was to try and participate more in the WordPress.com forums. I wish I could say that I was super active there. I wasn’t. If I could go back, I would’ve definately [sic] done more in the forums. It’s great experience and helps prepare you if you make it far in the interview process….”

In his post which mentions the value of forum experience, Darnell Dibbles put it like this:

“…my friend David Cole told me about a position he was applying for called a Happiness Engineer. He was about to begin his trial contract with the company…I of course knew of WordPress, but had never heard of Automattic..I was so excited about the company that I applied immediately…I didn’t make it to the interview round…

David recommended me to spend time in the forums, so I went there to volunteer. What I found was a community of WordPress volunteers that were very passionate about the product and about serving people who used the product. I became addicted. I met other volunteers like Timethief who dedicated years to helping people out of the kindness of her heart.

Over a 4 month period, I volunteered in the forums about 5-10 hours a week. I learned more about WordPress in those 4 months than I had known in the last 5 years…”

Lastly, in the book about working at Automattic, “The Year Without Pants,” Matt Mullenweg told Scott Berkun he needed to become more dedicated to and skilled at Happiness Engineering, aka resolving tickets in WordPress.com customer support. In the meritocracy which is Automattic, Matt said Automatticians would develop expectations for Scott’s future performance based partly on how well he did resolving customer support tickets. Resolving those tickets is in many ways like answering questions in the WP.com forums.

Forum Baby Steps

So… today I spent a few hours in the forums. Mostly I poked around, starting to become familiar with the nooks and crannies of forums, learning just a smidge about how to find things of interest and observing how different people participate there.

I expect I’ll spend time lurking and becoming familiar with the world that is WP.com forums before I start interacting and trying to provide helpful answers to forum questions. After achieving my first milestone of feeling comfortable poking about in the different parts of the forums, my next two tasks will be (1) figuring out what the best resources are for answering forum questions, and (2) writing up answers to questions (but not post my answers) and comparing my answers to what others on the forum offer as answers.

When I get to the point that my answers seem likely to be helpful, I’ll start posting them and interacting with the WordPress user who posted the question and with other forum members. My first post will mark the spot where I jumped into the Deep End! 🙂

Today’s Forum Thread

Here’s one example of a forum thread I looked at today.

WP forum threadThe initial question from krsextonart was:

“…I just signed up for the free account on WordPress a few days ago and I’m trying to map my GoDaddy domain. When originally signing up, I saw that there was an option to add your own domain for $13 but I’m not seeing that option anymore. Do I have to sign up for premium at $99/year just to have my own outside domain?…”

After one well-intentioned but not-helpful suggestion from a forum member which gave a link to the support.wordpress.com official support page for domain mapping, krsextonart’s question was tagged for a WordPress.com staff member to assist. That staff member told krsextonart:

Domains are no longer available for purchase or mapping individually. They are included with WordPress.com Premium…”

Yikes!! Sounds like you can’t just buy a domain through Automattic anymore. I wonder what that will mean regarding the .blog domains I mentioned in a recent post. I don’t have to decide until October, but I doubt I’ll pay $99/year for domain registration unless I expect it to generate at least that much revenue for me.

Reading through the rest of the domain-mapping thread left me with questions and didn’t answer krsextonart’s questions about why the WP.com domain mapping process still says you can domain-map for $13 and why their friend was able to successfully domain-map for $13 in the previous week, but krsextonart could not do it on May 21, 2016. The staff person (Happiness Engineer?) didn’t answer those two questions, and they closed the topic to end that forum discussion.

I tried mapping a registered domain to a WordPress.com website and, similar to krsextonart, the ecommerce form that popped up said it would cost $13/yr to “Map this domain to use it as your site’s address.” I didn’t really want to map one of my registered domains to a WP.com website, so I didn’t try to carry the domain-mapping process all the way through, but it seems likely that I’d run into the same black hole that krsextonart found.WP domain mapping

Lesson Learned

I guess the lesson for me, when I’m doing the three weeks as a Happiness Engineer for new employee onboarding, or the annual week-long stint as a temporary Happiness Engineer, is to go through the same steps the user did and try to recreate the problem experienced by the user. Just because a Happiness Engineer has read that the domain-mapping policy has been changed so users can no longer do that for $13/yr doesn’t necessarily mean the ecommerce system was revised so it would no longer appear to offer that option to the user. If the Happiness Engineer had tried to simulate what the user did, it looks like they would have seen the $13/yr option, and would have followed up on the issue. And if the domain mapping policy was changed, it would be helpful to say what the date of the change was. Instead, it feels like the user was essentially told they were “wrong” and was left hanging, wondering why their friend was able to map a domain for $13/yr the previous week, and why they still see the $13/yr option in the ecommerce form on WordPress.com.

Who knows. The staff member could be a new employee in their first week as an Automattician. Wonder how many people I’ll leave unsatisfied with my answers during my three-week onboarding experience.

I’d better spend LOTS of time in the WP.com forums…


Automattic Opportunities, Part 1: Initial List

Company Opportunities & New Employees

Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com, has many opportunities on its Journey to the future.opportunity

Closely aligned with those opportunities is my current top priority goal, which is to work for Automattic as an Events Wrangler! 🙂

New employees generate the greatest value to Automattic when they help the company seize opportunities to grow in impact and resilience. For me to be a valuable new employee and help Automattic grow, I need to first understand what opportunities are most important to the company and which of those are ones I can lead or be a strong contributor to. Towards that end, I’m developing a list of Automattic Opportunities.

This blog post is the first in a series which will look at these opportunities from several viewpoints. Today’s viewpoint is that of a relatively uneducated outside observer with an Automattician ambition.

Below is my first shot at the most important Automattic Opportunities. The initial list of opportunities was developed through research and personal analysis based on twenty years of experience with and knowledge of the web, the internet, computers, open source, technology, entrepreneurism, community building and events wrangling. The opportunities are separated into two categories; items related to general improvements in the products and the company, and items related to financial improvements.

Automattic Opportunities

  • Product and Company Improvement Opportunities
    • Increase WordPress market share from 25% to 50% without quality erosion and other monoculture challenges
    • Transition focus from desktop web to mobile web
    • Decrease WordPress.com attrition rate by 50%
    • Continually improve company culture and management while growing from 500 to 5000 people
    • Identify major challenges for open source companies and take appropriate steps to prevent or minimize those at Automattic
    • Minimize technical debt accumulation
  • Financial Improvement Opportunities
    • Increase sales revenue and profit margin for WordPress.com
    • Increase sales revenue and profit margin for JetPack
    • Increase sales revenue and profit margin for WooCommerce
    • Increase sales revenue and profit margin for VIP
    • Increase sales revenue for WordAds
    • Develop new revenue streams via acquisition or internal development
    • Prevent company growth from causing excessive overhead costs
    • With investors, develop long term exit plan that balances investment return and open source ethos

Improving The List Of Opportunities

To help make this a more complete list of significant opportunities, I’m going to do two things. First, I’ll do more online research to find company goals and challenges that Matt Mullenweg or others have documented. Second, I’ll send the above list to a couple Automatticians and ask for any feedback on the list or input they can appropriately share regarding major company goals and challenges. It would be foolish to ask most companies for that kind of information, but Automattic is a pretty transparent company and has a strong open source ethos.

Impact Of Events Wrangling

Because I can make the biggest contribution at Automattic as an Events Wrangler, as I continue to refine the list of opportunities and develop proposals for capitalizing on each of the opportunities, the proposals will have a strong focus on events wrangling. For most of the opportunities, the Automattic Events Wrangler will be a support person, rather than a key player. My goal, however, is to explore and explain how I, as an Event Wrangler, can help each proposal be as successful as possible.

Part 2 of this blog post series will be published after I do my research and get feedback from Automatticians…


Unconference Basics — Step 7: Begin Personal Invitations

Inviting People To An Event

Now that you’ve got a lot of the key ingredients for your unconference nailed down, it’s time to open event registration and have people commit to participating!

In his book “To Sell Is Human,” Daniel Pink says,

To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources—not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end.”

personal invitationWhen you extend a personal invitation for someone to participate in an unconference, you’re attempting to convince them to part with their time (a valuable personal resource) in exchange for a worthwhile experience and their personal take-aways from the event. To be successful in that sales pitch, you need to understand:

  1. What experiences and take-aways the unconference offers.
  2. What event experiences the invitee will find enjoyable and worth their time.
  3. What take-aways from an event will convince that person to “spend” their time at it.
  4. Whether your invitee groks the benefits of the event to which they have been invited.

In the hyperconnected, overscheduled, short-attention-span, 24/7 American world of 2016, people need an effectively-communicated and persuasively-designed invitation if you want them to participate in your unconference. If they enjoy participating in events relevant to their personal interests, they are likely bombarded with information about, or invitations to, a plethora of events by emails, texts, social media, word of mouth, and maybe even snail mail.

About the only thing that will make your communication about an unconference stand out in their personal barrage of incoming information is one or more of the following:

  1. It’s perceived as a truly personal invitation from someone who understands the invitee’s interests and actually cares if they participate in the event.
  2. The invitee understands the experiences and take-aways they can get by participating in the unconference.
  3. Something in the communication is interesting enough to the invitee to motivate them to find out more about the event and consider participating in it.

What Isn’t A Personal Invitation?

not a personal invitationIf you Google for “personal invitation,” some of the search results will be from marketing companies or from other resources offering marketing advice. Marketing companies don’t send out, or help clients send out, personal invitations. Putting my first and last name in a bulk mailing flyer doesn’t make it feel personal — it just makes it annoying. These large scale marketing products are more accurately termed “personalized’ invitations.

The real issue here is that personal invitations just don’t scale. If the person receiving the invitation understands or feels that the invitation is more about the sender than the receiver, they are likely to hit the Delete key. Or they’ll quickly forget the conversation which felt a lot more like a sales pitch than a caring request to participate in an event the person extending the invitation thought would be of genuine interest to the invitee.

A personal invitation isn’t:

  • Received from MailChimp or XYZ Marketing, LLC.
  • An email that has 48 people in the To: or CC: fields.
  • A conversation which doesn’t attempt to understand whether the unconference would be fun or worthwhile for the invitee.
  • A conversation which doesn’t attempt to confirm that the invitee has a good understanding of what the event is.
  • A request to come to the event which also asks you to invite lots of other people (and is thereby focusing more on the event than the invitee).

What Is A Personal Invitation?

So what is a personal invitation?

A personal invitation is a conversation or digital communication which makes you feel like someone truly cares whether you are at that event.

A post titled “The Power of the Personal Invitation” on sla.org says:

“…Think back to times…when you were personally invited to join the team, join the organization, write an article or post, render an opinion, edit a document, brainstorm, manage a project, research a complex issue, or lead.

  • How did the invitation make you feel?
  • What did you think when you were invited?
  • How did you respond to the invitation?

…perhaps, there is no connection more persuasive than the personal invitation. Recognizing a spark, talent or skill in another person and then inviting them to be involved honors the invitee and inspires them to get involved…Establishing relationships is the key to gaining insight into kevin kellysituations and opening doors to opportunities to learn and to become involved. Personal invitations are a way to initiate and strengthen relationships.

As Kevin Kelly so aptly put it, “The only factor becoming scarce in a world of abundance is human attention.” The human attention given through personal invitation is very compelling indeed…”

So show the other person that you consider them important enough for you to share your scarcest possession — your attention — by extending them a genuinely personal invitation.

Personally Inviting Friends, Acquaintances And Coworkers

You most likely are comfortable with personal invitations to friends, coworkers and acquaintances you know through frequent or periodic contact. Because you’ve interacted with them before, you’ll know whom to invite and how to invite them.

The key to inviting these people is to make sure they (and you) know why you care if they come, and to focus the majority of your “invitation” on listening to their reaction and feedback. If they’re undecided about accepting the invite, understand how you can help them decide. If they definitely don’t want to accept the invite, accept that graciously and:

  1. Confirm that you understand their reason(s) so you don’t extend future invitations they won’t accept.
  2. Give their feedback to the unconference organizers so it can be taken into account when planning the next event.

Personally Inviting Someone You Don’t Know Well

You should consider personally inviting to the unconference people you don’t know if, and only if, the following three statements are applicable to them.

  1. Your event has unique aspects which you think will be of particular interest to them.
  2. You have reason to believe they will thoroughly enjoy the unconventional format of an unconference.
  3. They will make the event better for other participants because of their particular expertise, especially if it is in an area of rapid innovation or if they can help other people see issues from a different perspective.

As a starting point for personally inviting people you don’t currently know, research the general topic of the unconference. Additionally, learn more about several specific subtopics you know are of interest to committed participants or that you feel will be of very high interest to most participants. Identify high profile and cutting edge people in those topics. After making an “extensive” list of people doing cool stuff in areas relevant to your event, research those people and their work to determine what aspects of your unconference will be especially compelling for them and why they would be likely to enjoy the unconventional meeting format.

The number of people on an extensive list depends on who is making the list. If you’re an enthusiastic events wrangler with plenty of available time, and you’re personally passionate about the unconference topic, you might develop a list of 50 to 100 people. If you have limited time or feel there’s a low probability of the event being made better by you inviting people you don’t know, your extensive list might have only 5 people on it.

My personal expectation is that if I do an appropriate job of personally inviting people who don’t know me, one person in twenty will commit to participate. Another one to three people out of twenty are likely to be interested in communicating further and possibly in developing a relationship with me or others from the unconference. That low success rate might sound to you like a waste of time, but I’m positive that if I don’t invite those twenty people whom never eat aloneneither I nor other event participants know, none of them will show up for the event and none of them is likely to initiate a new relationship with unconference participants.

As Keith Ferrazzi says in “Never Eat Alone,” building relationships “should not be about getting something but instead about how you can help someone else.” Your personal invitation to someone you don’t know will be most effective if you can identify one or more ways that you can “help” them, ways in which they will definitely benefit if they’re a participant in the unconference.

Those people I don’t personally know are being invited because they’ll enjoy the event and to make the event even more awesome than it already would be. So I don’t mind a success rate of only 5%. I have fun and learn a lot just from researching whom to invite. If any of my unlikely invitees shows up and makes the unconference fantastic for even one participant, rather than just ok or good, my time researching and inviting the “new” participant was well spent.

Got an unconference coming up???

Extend some Personal Invitations! 🙂

You’ll be glad you did…


Posts in this “Unconference Basics” series:

Events Wrangling Basics For Unconferences
Unconference Basics — Step 2: Build Core Team To Get To Next Level
Unconference Basics — Step 3: Confirm Key Participants And Supporters
Unconference Basics — Step 4: Work On When
Unconference Basics — Step 5: Work On Where
Unconference Basics — Step 6: Start Publicizing
Unconference Basics — Step 7: Begin Personal Invitations” — today’s post
Unconference Basics — Step 8: Organize Equipment
Unconference Basics — Step 9: Organize Supplies
Unconference Basics — Step 10: Run The Unconference
Unconference Basics — Step 11: Follow-up After The Unconference


Events Wrangling & Herding Serendipity

serendipityOne of the more challenging, yet tremendously rewarding, responsibilities of an events wrangler extraordinaire is herding serendipity.

Serendipity is defined as:

“…the occurrence and development of events by chance in a satisfactory or beneficial way, understanding the chance as any event that takes place in the absence of any obvious project (randomly or accidentally), which is not relevant to any present need, or in which the cause is unknown.

Innovations presented as examples of serendipity have an important characteristic: they were made by individuals able to “see bridges where others saw holes” and connect events creatively, based on the perception of a significant link…Successful researchers can observe scientific results with careful attention to analyzing a phenomenon under the most diverse and different perspectives…Realizing that serendipitous events can generate important research ideas, these researchers recognize and appreciate the unexpected, encouraging their assistants to observe and discuss unexpected events.

critical mass at events

Critical mass of participants at an event?

Serendipity can be achieved in groups where a ‘critical mass’ of multidisciplinary scientists work together in an environment that fosters communication, establishing the idea that the work and the interest of a researcher can be shared with others who may find a new application for new knowledge…”

With respect to events wranglers, a key part of the above description is the last section, where it talks about serendipity resulting from a critical mass of like-minded and complementary-minded people being in a group. That group setting likely describes many of the events you’ve been part of.

Some serendipity happens naturally as result of well-planned and well-executed events. When like-minded people are at an event, as a result of human nature at least a few of them will interact with each other, asking questions and offering opinions or information. A well-run event will improve the odds of serendipitous outcomes because it has built-in networking opportunities and presents topics that attendees are interested in discussing with the speakers and other attendees.

However, by going above and beyond the call of duty, by learning how to facilitate and encourage serendipity, events wranglers can increase the number of “collisions” between event goers. It’s not that you know or control what will happen as a result of the collisions. You just know that good things can happen. The more collisions you set in motion, the better the odds are that some of them will have a serendipitous outcome…

In January 2016 I read an article by Pagan Kennedy titled, “How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity.” Pagan wrote:

cultivate serendipity“…A surprising number of the conveniences of modern life were invented when someone stumbled upon a discovery or capitalized on an accident: the microwave oven, safety glass, smoke detectors, artificial sweeteners, X-ray imaging…While researching breakthroughs like these, I began to wonder whether we can train ourselves to become more serendipitous. How do we cultivate the art of finding what we’re not seeking?

…So how many big ideas emerge from spills, crashes, failed experiments and blind stabs? One survey of patent holders (the PatVal study of European inventors, published in 2005) found that an incredible 50 percent of patents resulted from what could be described as a serendipitous process. Thousands of survey respondents reported that their idea evolved when they were working on an unrelated project — and often when they weren’t even trying to invent anything. This is why we need to know far more about the habits that transform a mistake into a breakthrough…”

I wholeheartedly agree with Pagan’s contention that we can and should cultivate serendipity. And as mentioned above, events can be perfect petri dishes for creating a culture of fortuitous interactions.

Tonight’s post is intended to plant a serendipity seed, rather than be a detailed guide on how to organize events that will have more serendipitous moments. Once that seed is planted, it’s up to you to water it, fertilize it, and do a conscientious job of cultivating the results of that seed’s germination. But I will be developing a few suggestions for you in an upcoming post, along with links to useful books and online resources relevant to serendipity.

Your “Events Wrangling” take-home assignment for today has three parts.

  1. Re-read the above definition of serendipity. Think back over all your events and write down three serendipitous things that happened during those events.
  2. Write down three ideas you can realistically do during your next several events to increase the likelihood of similar or different serendipitous outcomes during those future events.
  3. Come back to “Events Wrangling” to read my follow-up post about herding serendipity at events. (I’ll edit this post to include a link to that follow-up after I get it written.)

Until that next post about serendipity gets published, as you plan or run your events, put your three ideas into action and see what happens!


Trial Work At Automattic: Part 1

“Events Wrangling” Posts About Becoming A Member Of The Automattic Team

Automattic logo 2Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about the Initial Chat Interview with Automattic that a prospective hire has after submitting their “application,” assuming:

  1. Automattic is actively interviewing for that position (they’re always hiring — check out their website!).
  2. The application information submitted meets Matt Mullenweg’s criteria for moving ahead to an initial interview.

happiness engineerOne week ago, my post took a first look at the Automattic Happiness Engineer work every new hire does for their inaugural three weeks with the company, regardless of the position for which they’re hired. (Every Automattic employee also becomes a Happiness Engineer for one week per year after their first year with the company. Matt is serious about effective customer service and delighted WordPress users!)

Posts And Articles About Automattic Trial Work

Today’s installment in this un-series of posts about “becoming a member of the Automattic team” addresses the trial work a prospective hire is offered if they do well on the initial chat interview. Much has been written about the Automattic trial work aspect of their hiring process, from informal short posts to detailed articles in Harvard Business Review (HBR). Below are three excerpts from these “trial work” posts and articles.

Jeremy Duvall’s post presents an informative overview of the trial work period but doesn’t go into great depth regarding specific tasks done during the trial or details about feedback he was given during the trial.

When I told other people about the interview process and how carefully Automattic selected potential candidates, they were floored by how detailed the process was…During the trial period, you perform the job just like you would if you got hired on full-time. I was allowed the same permissions, answered the same tickets, and worked alongside the same folks as I will on Monday when I start full-time. To be honest, the first few weeks were rather intimidating…Still, the full-time folks were extremely helpful in getting me up and on my feet.

…Despite how difficult it may have been, forcing applicants to work a trial before being hired on guaranteed three things:

  1. I really wanted to work at Automattic.
  2. I seemed to fit in well with the team. Full-time team members were able to give their opinion on whether or not they wanted to work alongside me.
  3. The hiring team was able to watch me progress through the trial and observe how I adapted to certain tasks and evolved my skill sets during the trial.

This comes in direct opposition to most hiring procedures that go something like this: Interview -> Interview -> Hire. Most companies don’t get to see applicants in action before they’re hired on…there’s a huge benefit to Automattic to make sure that new employees fit well within the company culture. The trial period gave them a chance to see me in action, but it also gave me a chance to see them at work as well…While it can be difficult to navigate the trial period alongside a full-time position, I think it’s extremely beneficial to both parties and can really save some major headache in the end.”

anne mccarthyIn contrast to Jeremy’s post, Anne McCarthy’s post gets into specific tasks she worked on during her trial, feelings she experienced during the trial, and specific feedback she was given each week by her Automattic trial buddy.

“…The major things I learned and focused on this week were Refunds/Payments and Domains (in all their glory). I had not dealt extensively with either prior and found the two to be highly interlinked…My feedback session with my trial buddy was very general and more of a check-in. One thing that stood out to me from this conversation was the following one liner: “The trial, then, isn’t to prove them wrong. The trial is for you to prove them right.”…

Week #2: Slow Down: The Devil is in the Details. This week I found a groove in terms of quantity. I felt comfortable going through tickets thinking I found the answer and feeling good in my responses. This left some users pleased and others baffled…My feedback was centered on improving quality, slowing down, and really thinking about how I was phrasing/formatting my response. The main message was that engineering happiness is about solving problems users didn’t know to explain they were having (love that)…

Week #3: Above and Beyond. This week something clicked in terms of how to investigate problems…I remember feeling that I understood the support documents, forums, and blog posts much better at this point so that my mind was already turning when I read tickets. The main surprise was having another full time employee closing out some FRs for me!…Feedback for the week was really strong from my trial buddy with a lot of positivity about my interactions with users. However, I felt a nudge to “step it up” and do more to solve a user’s problem so they are successful in the future…”

HBR logoHere’s a 2014 HBR interview with Matt Mullenweg in which he discusses the trial work. There are a ton of online descriptions of Automattic trial work for Happiness Engineers and quite a few for Code Wranglers. But I have not yet found anyone’s account of the type of trial work a prospective Events Wrangler would do, likely because Automattic has many fewer Events Wranglers than Happiness Engineers or Code Wranglers. The trial work depiction which seems most relevant for an Events Wrangler is the one in this HBR article.

Matt M“…The more we thought about why some hires succeeded and some didn’t, the more we recognized that there is no substitute for working alongside someone in the trenches…The most significant shift we’ve made is requiring every final candidate to work with us for three to eight weeks on a contract basis.

Candidates do real tasks alongside the people they would actually be working with if they had the job…The goal is not to have them finish a product or do a set amount of work; it’s to allow us to quickly and efficiently assess whether this would be a mutually beneficial relationship. They can size up Automattic while we evaluate them…If you’re applying to work in customer support, you’ll be talking directly to customers. If you’re an engineer, you’ll be writing real code. If you’re a designer, you’ll design.

In some cases the nature of the job means that we have to get creative. If you’re looking for a role in business development, we can’t send you out to negotiate deals with potential partners, so we come up with something as closely related as possible to the actual work. A business-side hire might prepare presentations, or do an analysis of a business problem, or run numbers on a potential project. Tryouts may not offer 100% overlap with the job in question, but they give us a better window on someone’s skills and cultural fit than a lunch meeting would.

We’re especially interested in how well candidates self-motivate, how well they communicate in writing (because most of us work remotely, we rely heavily on instant messaging), and how they deal with mistakes. We don’t expect perfection—we care more about how quickly they identify an error, how they communicate about it, and what they learn from it…”

Proposed Events Wrangler Trial For Bob Waldron

events wrangler trialBased on what Matt said above in the HBR article, the trial process for Happiness Engineers and Code Wranglers seems proven through many iterations and more clearly defined than the trial process for Events Wranglers. Automattic seems open to trying different things that will likely lead to hiring the best employees, so my proposal for them is to structure my trial work as a combination of remote and onsite work. Prior to an Automattic event, I propose working remotely with the Events Wrangler(s) organizing the event. Then, during the onsite prep work period and during the event itself, I’ll work with the Automattic team at the city and venue where the event is being held. Here are the reasons this will work well for both Automattic and me:

  1. It appears there probably isn’t a typical tried-and-tested way to do a comprehensive Events Wrangler trial project completely remotely.
  2. Doing Events Wrangler trial work partly remote and partly in-person will give other Automattic employees at the event site a better feel for whether I’m a good fit for their team. This is valuable because after they hire me, the onsite work will be a very important part of my job.
  3. I’m passionate about events wrangling, enjoy seeing how others manage events, and want to become involved in Automattic events as quickly as possible.
  4. I’m not currently working in a full time paid position, so it’s easy for me to travel to the event site and participate in onsite prep work, be an event go-fer, help in any way possible to make the event better, and be part of the event debrief.

Learning More About Events Wrangler Trial Work

Over the next month, I’ll learn as much as I can about the trial work for Events Wrangler candidates. Three tasks currently on my to-do list to help me become more knowledgeable about this trial work are:

  1. Search online using different keywords.
  2. Ask a contact at Automattic for more info about Events Wrangler trial work.
  3. Ask a contact at Automattic to connect me, if that’s appropriate, with an Automattic Events Wrangler to discuss the possibility of them doing an interview with me for an Events Wrangling blog post.

Four weeks from now I’ll publish Part 2 of this look at Automattic trial work, especially as regards Events Wranglers..


Here are eleven more links with relevant info about Automattic trial work: