It’s a happy day, because Maggie turns 12 this week. I would sell my soul for 12 more.
In the decade that I’ve been designing for Automattic, my job has taken many shapes. As the first designer working for the company, I was a generalist—I designed everything from the company logo to the WordPress.org website and the interfaces for our first products. While my time in college taught me a lot about art and design, almost everything I know about my career, I’ve learned here. Our company creed begins with those five words, I will never stop learning. It’s not aspirational—it’s a statement of fact. It’s impossible to work here for very long without being constantly inspired and challenged.
This year I’ve learned an incredible amount about something I’ve never thought I was good at: hiring. Earlier this year we formed the design hiring group at Automattic, a team of designers who, in addition to our regular duties, review portfolios, interview candidates, oversee trial projects, and recommend designers to our CEO. It’s a giant task, and deeply influential in how our company grows and our products evolve. If you apply for one of Automattic’s product or marketing design jobs, you’ll probably hear from one of us along the way.
When I started working on hiring, I was on my own, and I was pretty sure I was terrible at it. I didn’t cause any major meltdowns, but I had a complete awareness of how out of my element I was, and how much I had to learn. I knew I’d only get better with some help, so I asked a few of my colleagues to join and together, we have leveled up quickly, learning how to be comfortable in an environment that, as designers, none of us were all that familiar with. (I went through my fair number of job interviews after college, but my last one was in 2005!) Our efforts are already paying dividends, as we’ve gotten to see some tremendous designers join Automattic as a result of our recommendation.
Along the way, I’ve gotten to help with two major pieces of news we get to announce today. This summer, the design hiring group assisted with the monumental task of finding someone to become Automattic’s head of design. If hiring designers was intimidating, talking with some of the greatest minds in the industry about Automattic’s design was ten times so. But through that process, we learned an incredible amount about what we aspire to, and what we should do to get there. And as a result, we now have an amazing leader in John Maeda, our new Global Head of Computational Design and Inclusion.
One of John’s first ideas was to let the world know about the design culture we’ve been building, and today that idea has gone public in the form of Design.blog, a new publication from Automattic designers & friends. We’ll use it to profile the people who make design happen at Automattic (here’s mine), and to feature the voices of designers who inspire us to keep pushing ourselves to do more, and be better. Our first pieces are from Jessica Helfand, Cassidy Blackwell, and Alice Rawsthorn. Each are thought-provoking and inspiring, and I hope you’ll check them out.
In the decade I’ve been here, I’ve never been more excited about the state of design at Automattic. If you love design and are interested in what we’re doing, I hope you’ll join us.
On my way home from a doctor’s appointment today, I stopped by the new Google Fiber space at Ponce City Market. It’s a comfy little spot with super-duper-fast internet. Since Reynoldstown isn’t one of the first five neighborhoods to sign up, it was nice to get a little taste of the future. If you live in Midtown east, Piedmont Heights, Morningside/Lenox Park, O4W, or Virginia-Highland: sign up now (and I hate you). If you’re waiting a while longer like the rest of us, stop by the Fiber space at PCM and see what you’re waiting for.
I like to think that I was a pretty good kid. Always did my homework, said my prayers before bed every night, never got into fights. Except for this one time, one day in the second grade — the first time I ever got sent to the principal’s office.
I know exactly why I got sent there. I threw a stick at a boy named John in my P.E. class. It was pretty unlike me, and I don’t remember why, but I definitely did it — I can remember the moment now just like it happened yesterday.
I was scared to death when we got there. The only principal whose office I’d ever seen was my dad; he was the principal at a different elementary school one town over. And I don’t remember what our principal said to us that day, but I remember what I said to him. I lied. I told him that John had been the one to hit me. And the principal believed me, John got paddled, and I got to go back to class.
It’s one of my most shameful memories from childhood. I’m ashamed because the guilt of that lie stayed with me all throughout my life, but I never did anything about it. I could have confessed to the principal anytime during the years I was at that school. I could have accepted the lesson I deservedly had coming to me. But I never did.
Instead I learned a different, more insidious lesson — that white kids get the benefit of the doubt. It wasn’t until decades later I learned the other side of that lesson: that Black kids like John do not. As I’ve begun to understand what white privilege is, I’ve remembered the times when I took advantage of it in my own life. To get away with breaking laws, to slack off in school, to use an already-corrupt system to bend the rules even further in my favor.
Why bring it up now? Because I see the hurt, and the brokenness, and the fear that people I love and respect deal with on a regular basis, because the system that protects and supports me doesn’t treat them the same way. Because I’ve just started to understand the monumental weight of institutionalized racism on our society, and the obligations we bear because of it. Because I see family members, and old friends, bristling at the focus on the struggles of Black people, offended by their own incorrect assumption that because we say that Black Lives Matter, that theirs do not. Because coming to these understandings have fundamentally changed who I am and how I see the world. I don’t know what to say to those friends and family yet. But I want them to see the journey I’m on, in the hopes that they’ll understand it’s not too scary to attempt for themselves.
I don’t have the answers. I don’t even have a good ending. I only have the understanding of the role that privilege has played in my life, and the hope that if more white people can admit their own, we can begin to agree that we are all equally broken, all equally to blame, all equally responsible for making it better for generations that follow.
Last weekend I got to do something fun; the builders who constructed my house came by with their photographer to take a few glamour shots of the place. I hesitated to post these here, because it feels a little bit silly, but since I talked so much about it when it was under construction, I figured I might as well show the final payoff, too.
I’m about as self-conscious about these as I would be of actual glamour shots of me. 😆 I’ve still got a long way to go to make it exactly the home I want, but after all the effort it’s taken to get this far, now seems like a nice time to pause and enjoy how far it’s come.
This comes pretty close to capturing their personalities.
I haven’t been blogging here much lately, but I have been spending a lot of time on WordPress.com. Automattic has spent the past 20 months building an entirely new user interface for WordPress.com, one where you can manage all of your sites in one place, whether they’re hosted here or elsewhere. Our Developer Blog has lots more details, and the official launch site presents the story of Calypso in beautiful form. Our CEO wrote eloquently about Calypso and what it means to our company.
I’m very proud of, and was surprised by, the incredible technical sea-change that’s happened inside of Automattic, and the new ways of designing and developing that were required to make it work. It’s one of the biggest changes we’ve ever made at Automattic, right up there with the P2 theme and the introduction of teams. And I’m proud of this evidence that we’re not content just to celebrate what WordPress has accomplished, but ready to tackle the hard problems that still remain.
WordPress.com bloggers have been using features powered by Calypso for months already, but today we’re open sourcing it and announcing it to the world, along with a new desktop app for Mac, which I’m using to write this very post. And if that weren’t enough, we’re also launching a new publication called Discover, highlighting the best of what’s being published with WordPress (including self-hosted sites). It’s a big day for Automattic. And there’s never been a better time to join us.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.”Supreme Court of the United States
“Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell, as of Thursday, has opted to no longer perform any kind of marriage at his office.
He said the decision was largely related to an increasing work load within the Probate Office, but acknowledged that he’s ‘morally opposed’ to same-sex marriage.
Russell, who has been the county’s Probate Judge for five years, said he’s committed to conducting one more marriage — a heterosexual marriage to a former county employee — but, after that, he’s done.”AL.com
When I was 17 I got my first job that didn’t involve fast food, as a technology assistant in the central office of the Baldwin County Board of Education. The job was a new one they’d created for a high school student who had shown promise in computer science. It seemed glamorous to me then, but really it was a way to find someone who was willing to string ethernet cable through schoolhouse attics in the middle of July for minimum wage. It was a legitimately great job as a kid, though, and I loved most of it. The people I worked with at the central office were pretty entertaining, like the finance director who made everyone turn off the lights one afternoon in the hopes that it would make the computers run faster.
It was eye-opening in some sad ways, though. I felt overwhelmed by what happened one day when I returned from a job in the field. The women who worked in the bookkeeping office had gathered around the upstairs window that faced Courthouse Square, Bay Minette’s main gathering spot. They were laughing and quietly whispering to each other, so I walked over to see what was going on. On the steps of the courthouse across the street from our office stood a man and woman who had just been married. They were an interracial couple, a white woman and a black man. And I felt my stomach drop when I realized that they were the source of the laughter and gossip in the office that day. I heard a woman I’d always seen as a kind, grandmotherly figure posit that “they must have had to drive over from Mississippi; they don’t allow that there.”
In hindsight, my naïveté as a teenager is startling. I knew racism was alive and well in my small town, but I’d foolishly believed the lie that it was some certain kind of behavior that was the target of scorn. I’d never seen it so openly directed toward people simply living their lives, having their pictures taken with their family on a happy, beautiful summer day, outside on the courthouse steps.
Today, same-sex couples in Alabama, some who have been in dedicated relationships for decades, can marry for the first time. I’m filled with emotion for them—it’s a day I honestly never imagined would come when I was a teenager still living in the closet. But it’s also a terribly sad day for those couples in Baldwin county, my birthplace, because their county’s probate judge has chosen his personal bias over the orders of a federal judge, common sense, and simple human decency. No one can get married on those courthouse steps ever again, according to Judge Russell.
Marriage equality will be federal law by the end of the summer, if the U.S. Supreme Court decides their pending case the way many legal experts expect them to. But thirty years after Loving v. Virginia, as a teenager in that school board office, I learned that gaining equality in the eyes of the law wasn’t the same as gaining the respect of your neighbors. Alabama, and the rest of the south, still have miles to go before we live up to the values on which our nation was founded—and many miles to go before we live up to the Christian values so many southerners claim to hold in their heart. The south may never find a place in its heart for queer people, and there will always be those who laugh at us. But they can’t deny us our rights forever. We will always be a part of the south, and this will always be our home.
“The Attorney General does not explain how allowing or recognizing same-sex marriage between two consenting adults will prevent heterosexual parents or other biological kin from caring for their biological children … He proffers no justification for why it is that the provisions in question single out same-sex couples and prohibit them, and them alone, from marrying in order to meet that goal.”U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade, overturning Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage.
When I adopted Maggie back in 2006, I’d been desperately wanting a dog for years. But I was moving a lot, and most of the places I lived wouldn’t allow dogs. So when my friend Charlie said he was moving and needed a new home for his dog, I didn’t ask many questions. When I got her, I knew she was a year old and had been born in January. So, at some point, I decided that her birthday was January 15th. Over the years, I have to admit, I haven’t always remembered. But this year is big, because it’s Maggie’s 10th birthday. And she’s had a tough year, with me traveling a lot in advance of our move, my new dog Kramer joining the pack, then getting adjusted to a new place. So this year, when I remembered her birthday was coming up, I may have overdone it when shopping for her.
Here’s to you, Maggie. You’re a better dog than I ever dreamed of having, and I can’t imagine what the last 9 years would’ve been like without you.