My WordPress story for HeroPress

heropress

I think it was in January, that Topher asked me about getting involved with his Kickstarter project called HeroPress. Honestly, I had my reservations about supporting hero worship in the WordPress community. But my interest was piqued enough to keep in touch with Topher. I also opted out of it as I just had too many things to do. WordCamp Mumbai was getting closer by the day.

WordPress for a large part responsible for me really trying to understand and support open-source software. It is also the first open-source community I am actually actively involved with.

So I ended up writing My WordPress orgin story for HeroPress – go read it here.

I sort of look at it as a possible archive of the beginning of how WordPress is used by people from all kinds of interesting corners of the world. Hopefully it gets us a lot of interesting stories. Do check it out!

Was your food warm?

So almost three weeks ago WordCamp Mumbai 2015 finished. A lot of people spoke of many things geeky but also a lot about how to give support, how to deal with customers or users of products, how to decide who we are building products for?

You know the usual brilliant and insightful discussions that happen at conventions and conferences but are soon forgotten in a few weeks as the humdrum of everyday life and work returns.

But a great lesson was taught to me about extraordinary customer service (or support) in the last month by a very unlikely source. It was a small restaurant that opened just over a month ago.

Now I live very close to the railway station of the Goregaon suburb of Mumbai. In walking distance are several eating joints. Most are not fancy and a lot of them actually do a lot of business delivering lunches and dinners to offices and even residential areas in the neighbourhood. All of them offer free home delivery. Free home delivery is like a great USP but actually everyone is offering it now a days.

Our household is no exception to the neighbourhood habits and we often order food from outside on weekends. Let say our favourite place to order food from was “Restaurant A”. We have been ordering food from them many a weekends for a good part of the past decade. Let’s say this delivering dinners market is pretty much captive where I stay.

So a month ago “Restaurant X” opens. It’s nothing special. It had closed down a year or two ago. Probably someone revived it got some things fixed, fresh coat of paint and the works. But remember this is a neighbourhood that love home delivery. So Restaurant X was no exception. They offered free home delivery like everyone else.

We came to know about Restaurant X through the usual pamphlet being dropped door to door by the morning newspaper delivery guy. So it’s a new restaurant with very much the same menu that “Restaurant A” – our usual. But we want to try out what’s special. Maybe they have better quality. Usually new places have better quality in the beginning atleast. A call is made. An order is placed.

First impression was good. The person who took the order did something quite interesting. He repeated the order out again clearly and unhurriedly. This act speaking unhurriedly probably meant he had to speak for 10 seconds more. But chances are over the 10 phones he answers he was easily understood and hardly ever told to repeat what he said. This guy is probably saving time and leaving people on the other side less frustrated.

Nice start!

The packaging, the delivery time and the food itself was all pretty acceptable. It was as good or as bad as “Restaurant A” the one we were always going to compare it with.

But then a few minutes after dinner was delivered we get a call. Polite questions are asked. Did the delivery man have the correct change? Was the delivery was made in time? And the most important question “Was your food warm?”

Nice again!

So with such nice hassle free home delivery, we ordered a couple of more times. Each time the staff taking down the order and delivering the food were polite, nice and basically treating its customers as humans and not just customers.

Over the month I have now realised that we the loyal customers of “Restaurant A” have not ordered from them for over 5 weeks. We have exclusively ordered from “Restaurant X”. Loyalties have changed!

Both serve decent food, decent portions, decent delivery timings. Actually there have been other places we have tried too in the past. The product and the general service is the same.

But yes, only one of them bothers to ask every single time “Was your food warm?” :-)

image credits

What should a local WordPress community be like?

Since early 2013, I have started taking part in WordPress meetups. My initial goal or motivation was to create a group that met once a month or so – and create a common newsletter or forum where people could connect.

Basically I wanted to connect with WordPress fans in Mumbai with each other on some sort of platform and on a regular basis. I did not really find something like this online. Thankfully a good friend Alexander, had similar ideas and started working on building a meetup group along with a Facebook group. I decided it was a good idea and was on board.

Over the next year, we had many WordPress meetups, we even ended up applying for a WordCamp in Mumbai.

In this post I am semi-conversing with myself. It is also a call out to WordPress fans in Mumbai to get more involved.

More of that at the end of this post.

Now some numbers

Our meetup.com group has over 330 members.

I must have met atleast a 100 developers or designers using WordPress show up at our meetups over the last couple of years.

I probably have meet several more who might be experts by now but were just starting out using WordPress.

This is from my personal experiances with Meetups in Mumbai, I have missed more than a couple of meetups over the last year alone.

Yes, we are doing a lot of things right! One of them is transparency and being open about disagreements and enjoying debates and differing points of views.

While I can feel happy about really connecting with the local Mumbai based local community but some of these numbers need some perspective.

We might have 330 members in our meetup group – but we usually end up having meetups with 10 to 20 people showing up every time we have one.

WordPress is used by 22% of the web! Let’s say (and I am coming up with some terribly conservative number here I think) Mumbai has over 40,000 websites owners. 22 % of them are probably using WordPress if not more.

So now rounding it up to 20% of 40,000 users (discounting people who are using WordPress.com to blog but I guess they also count for several hundreds if not thousands)

So now a safer number we have is 8000. We are nowhere close to even having 10% (800) register on our meetup.com website.

So since we do this in the name of a open-source community, are we really having a good idea about what the community is like? What it exactly wants?

Are we even reaching out to the proverbial vocal minority which keeps a community alive and well? Possibly not always and lets be honest, everything is work in progress.

So how will things move forward? A lot of that will have to do with what a local community should be like in the first place? What should it stand for, what should it’s priorities be and more.

Dictatorships vs Democracies

Dictatorships work at times in developer communities. I have seen open-source leaders behave like dictators when it comes to deciding what the way forward is for certain open source software.

Some of these communities disintegrate with internal fights and some really survive for a long time. Some disintegrate when the dictator simply is no longer interested in the project. But things are really facilitated and organised when dictators, especially the benevolent kinds take care of open-source projects. Code backed by idealism often do great things.

But Dictatorships of open-source development projects cannot be replicated with communities that meets to discuss or learn about a software and not necessarily develop it or decide its future course of action.

Also WordPress is not about just code. It is about writing, designing, photography, enterprise and a lot much more. This is why the community cannot be dictated to. It is anarchist at its core, pulling its interests, values and ideas in different directions – so no template, no set of rules and hierarchy can really work.

So a WordPress community should be democratic.

But Democracy is tricky!

We think of elections in democracy – which is fundamentally a way to allow people to elect / select or nominate people who lead but maybe not really facilitate things. Also leaders end up consolidating their hold over what the community does and does not do. This democratic setup is actually more technical and really not an answer. The preamble should not be technical but more philosophical.

The idea of a vocal minority that does awesome things in a community. I have been to job fairs where literally thousands of young college going kids did not know about WordPress – did not have an idea about open-web for that matter. I think a great WordPress community would be one that manages to facilitate people to learn WordPress – become awesome designers, developers, writers, get jobs, create jobs and more.

I am a WordCamp co-organiser in Mumbai. Volunteer would be better term in my opinion but I won’t waste time over technicalities of events. A lot of very good people are involved with WordCamp Mumbai. Some are volunteering, some are speakers.

If you are coming over to attend WordCamp Mumbai this weekend meet anyone of from list of organisers.

Meet anyone of these speakers and talk about how we can do more in Mumbai in 2015.

Talk about this openly, find some commons and then maybe together can be part of 3000 instead of 300.

Notice that I have not really answered the question I ask in the title of this post. This is because it is a call to get involved and discuss, find answers, agree on common ground and move ahead.

PS – If you cannot make it to WordCamp Mumbai to discuss these things – make sure to leave comments. Or check out some of these links to attend a meetup or workshop.

WordPress Meetups: Meetup.com | FB page

WordCamp Season in Mumbai

Are you a WordPress user, fan, enthusiast, developer, designer? Are you interested in finding out more about WordPress in general?

Do you want to meet WordPress experts from around the world, around India and most importantly Mumbai?

If you are find saying “yes” to any of the questions above you might want to check out WordCamp Mumbai 2015 that takes place on March 7 & 8, 2015.

Yes I am a co-organiser at WordCamp.

Check these links out:

Speakers | Schedule | Buy Ticket

What is a WordCamp?

WordCamp is a conference that focuses on everything WordPress.

Stuff I use

There is a lot of things I use daily. But here is a list of things I use for work mainly.

Why am I sharing this list to public?

Why not? We share random useless data like checking into coffee shops and cinema halls. This makes more sense to me. Mainly, it serves as a way for me to keep track of stuff I am using on a daily basis. More importantly people who may read this might recommend me better alternatives.

  1. WordPress (self hosted) – Mostly for this blog and work related blogging and some documentation.
  2. Gmail – Gmail on browser and Gmail app on phone for personal and work related emails.
  3. Digital Ocean – I host this site on a Digital Ocean droplet.
  4. EasyEngine – A CLI tool to help me with using WordPress on Nginx server on Ubuntu. But I am not really a IT Admin and not very proficient with EE.
  5. Github – using it for updating documentation at work. I am not a developer. I dont really use this extensively.
  6. Macbook Air – 13 inch screen, light weight, works great, has awesome battery life.
  7. Nexus 4 – Nice Android vanilla phone – runs Android 4.4
  8. Chrome – I have Firefox installed and Safari is obviously there but Chrome for the win (but I am getting a bit annoyed with its impact on battery life)
  9. Feedly –  Using the Feedly mac app for following some good blogs usually from WordPress centric products and people.
  10. Twitter app for Mac – Works great at tracking 4-5 accounts. Since I do not need to heavily tweet for anyone of them, this suits me fine.
  11. Google Drive – Usuallly all my photos from the phone get backed up here automatically – also great for collaborative writing and planning. Use at work too.
  12. Dropbox – Stopped using it as much but still use it to backup .txt files where I often write a lot of stuff to remember
  13. Send Anywhere – Nice app to send files between my Nexus 4 and Mac
  14. Slack – Use for work mainly – also to hang around Make.WordPress community chats. Lately using it to organize WordCamp. Native app for Mac helps a lot.
  15. Skype – Not using it as much as before but still very very good for calls.
  16. Hangouts – Use rarely.
  17. Bufferapp – User bufferapp to schedule tweets automatically. Thought I use Buffer only for Twitter, it can be used with FB, Google+ pages and LinkedIn
  18. Skitch – Used extensively for screenshots on my computer.
  19. Simplenote – Nice note taking app. Not really using sync options but like using it for its labels and simplicity. Not too happy with Evernote and Google Keep.
  20. Atom – Use it to write in markdown – but really it does so much more.
  21. Pocket: Thanks to Kapil’s comment below, I realized I has skipped what I use for bookmarks. Its Pocket on PC and Phone along with Chrome’s Bookmark manager. (Added Later)

Added later:

There are other obvious things I have not included. eg: Facebook.

Fiction to read in 2015!

I love reading non-fiction. History books usually. But I do not mind the odd “Outliers” either. I have usually avoided fiction – possibly why I have actually managed to NOT read Agatha Christie or PG Wodehouse in my growing years.

But a recent catching up of a BBC series called “Jeevs and Wooster” has prodded me to read more Wodehouse and more fiction for 2015. I guess in a way 2015 will end up being “Year of Wodehouse” for me.

But since I have stopped reading good fiction for ages, would love to get recommendations for new books I should read in 2015. Just drop them in comments or email them to me at aditya.kane at gmail.com

 

When your blog is really about “You”

 

I can see the road I travelled as a blogger in the past 6 odd years. The road I left behind is a bit fuzzy, a bit clear in parts but mostly I never realised that unknown to me all these years, I was probably on a return journey.

The world of blogging for me really started with checking out out my sister’s online diary of sorts on blogspot. It was her secret corner hidden on the web and I wanted something similar for myself. I started writing on bombaypirate.blogspot.com (this very blog). I started writing on and off, but mostly it was about things I observed, things I got outraged by and stuff I found were cool.

“So what is your blog about?”

I was often asked this question by friends, family members. I was actually stumped to give a proper answer. I usually said something lame like “It is about anything that enters my mind” or even lamer “It is a blog about nothing specific but my views”.

It was bad manners to say “This is a blog about myself” – but it really was just that. My views, books and movies I liked or disliked, stuff I felt strongly enough to write about. But really most people (at least I think) do not think that their lives are that important, that it’s needs to be cataloged.

Blogging for me started out as creative writing but soon veered towards an interest in cataloging things. Back in 2009, I joined rtCamp and became its Editor-in-Chief. The title is a little over the top as to be honest, I was the only Editor around as such (only one on a full-time basis). I was now in charge of the popular tech blog Devils’ Workshop.

I had a tough time adjusting to the life of a tech blogger. Back then the focus was on writing content so often and so much that you topped search results. This in turn brought visits to your blog which made you money by serving those visitors ads. It was interesting at first but the excitement slowly diminished.

I was still very interested in tech, I read a lot through the day – but I had found my writing was losing its purpose. It was a game that many had figured out and end result was that it was not very ‘creative’.

Then I read a famous quote by Om Malik, a popular tech journalist

“Being authentic in your thoughts and voice is the only way to survive the test of time” 

So the trick was simple. I told myself I am cataloging technology. I would imagine what if our civilisation was lost, what if the only stuff remaining about our world were blogs hidden or backed up in some virtual cemetery, thousands of years later? Would it be not so much better to be authentic about your views and thoughts?

Maybe just maybe that would help me love blogging once more. I was not mistaken. I loved being a tech blogger and cataloging technology. For current and future readers.

“My blog is about myself”

Today, I have more or less stopped being a tech blogger. I work solely on content for rtCamp. Passions have changed. I run along with some others a local WordPress meetup group in Mumbai. Life moves along and so does the nature of the work you are doing.

But since my life as tech blogger has more or less ended, I started to gravitate towards my old blog. My personal brand, diary, my not so secret corner of the web. I am well past thirty, I have a better perspective on my life. I know how many things I have been wrong about. I have learnt to appreciate kindness, learnt to be kinder – appreciate value of hopefully being a good person.

I do not any longer care about sounding modest. My blog is all about myself. I want to hopefully grow old and have a record of how my views on certain issues have changed, how I have been wrong about so many things and for sake of my ego – how many things I got right! 😀

image credits

References

Becoming anti-social on a blog!

Blogging is odd business. Some people write for money, some for glory and some just to write. I think I have been in all categories in the past. Recently, I feel I simply want to write and read good stuff online. Now on this blog, there was a widget that allowed you to follow me on Facebook or Twitter and also subscribe to it via email.

anti-social-blog

 

It looked ugly, distractive. Why was I telling people to follow me on some social network instead of them just reading what I wrote. Hence I have removed the widget. Its plain, simple and just focused on reading. Maybe it will also keep my focus on writing.

Paying for the News

Imagine one was studying economics and came across highly recommended books on the topic. The books came recommended by famous experts and claimed to be written with no bias. The books are given away free or at some nominal price.

Then out of every ten pages, three or four and sometimes more were Ads. Ads paid for by government agencies, corporate houses and political parties. The experts who wrote these books on law were themselves working for government agencies, corporate houses and/or associated or part of political parties.

Would you expect such books to be useful or valuable? I would probably hear an emphatic “NO”.

Yet, this is exactly how we consume the News. Almost all the News we consume is provided free or something close to free.

Yet, we do not complain and sometimes even carry out self-deception in the toasting our existence in the golden age (or should it be cage?) of “Content is free” and “Customer is King”.

But I think only one of those statements stands true. Content is free is almost always not a fact. The content is actually paid for – mostly by government agencies, corporate houses and political parties.

But the second statement, that of “Customer is king” is accurate. Just that the customer is not the one who is consuming the News. Who are they? Probably government agencies, corporate houses and political parties.

Maybe its time to embrace the term “paid media” – but paid for by consumer itself.

What I took away as Organizer of WordCamp Mumbai 2014!

Last weekend was a culmination of months of preparation for WordCamp Mumbai. There were days when I was was extremely sure of it’s success and there were certain days, I had tremendous doubts on my ability more than anyone else.

WCMUMBAI_MUGS

How did the event go?

I loved organizing this event. I kept asking many people around if they were having a good time and enjoying the sessions. Most said incredibly nice things but by no means am I going to fall into the trap of thinking this was the perfect WordCamp. They were probably being polite and real feedback will soon start trickling in.

How WordCamp Mumbai was as an event? The best to answer that question, would be people who attended as participants, speakers and even sponsors.

As an organizer I am too close to it to be rational enough. Maybe 6 months down the line I could be more objective- hence I won’t get into rating the WordCamp sessions, events anytime soon.

But I certainly learnt a lot of things with this WordCamp and here are my takeaways.

  • Prepare like crazy! – First thing I take away is that one has to prepare for everything. Take your time and make plans and prepare for all eventualities.
  • Things will go wrong! – However much you prepare, it won’t be enough. Things will go wrong! (Hint: Crowding at registration)
  • And some more things will go wrong! –  (Hint: WiFi)
  • A lot of things do go right! – And finally things do end up going right too. Sometimes its important to just keep calm and carry on. 😛

Getting rid of Organizer’s Ego

Every organizer because of the amount of efforts they put into a WordCamp tends to feel a certain amount of ownership over the event. Personally I think that is a dangerous trend among event organizers.

Open source communities will have their famous personalities but we must not forget that we do not own this community or movement. I just had the privilege of organizing a meeting place for them.

As a organizer I hope I won’t fall into the trap of thinking that I have some ownership over WordCamp Mumbai or WordPress community. I do not.

Finally “Remember it’s a privilege!”

It is a great privilege to be an organizer of WordCamp. You become friends with some awesomely talented people.

I doubt I would have interacted much with any of my co-organizers like Vachan, Sahil, Yash, Jaidev, Chirag, Saurabh, Premanshu, Gaurav, Ajay, Ratnesh and so many more had it not been for WordPress meetups.

I doubt I would have had the chance to hang out with founders, CEOs, web developers, code geeks, WordCamp organizers from other cities, event organizers, journalists, writers, bloggers, sketch artists and so many more – if I had not been involved in organizing this WordCamp.

Now to what my plans are post WordCamp – It is time to chill out a bit, start reading some books and toss a few beers and enjoy turning a year older this weekend with some close friends and family.

Yes there is life outside the great “W” too. 😀

Here are some posts by some participants.

Saurabh Shukla, Ideasmithy, Annkur,  Puneet, Rahul, Brajeshwar (will add more as days go along)