I am an Automattician. That is to say that today is my first day working at Automattic. It’s been a long road getting here and I’m thrilled it’s finally arrived.
Automattic is the company behind WordPress. WordPress itself is an open source project but there are a lot of services behind it and that’s where Automattic comes in. My role, specifically, is Technical Account Engineer on the Special Projects team. It’s like a Project Manager but more. If you follow the link just above, you will see that theywe work on some pretty amazing sites for some pretty amazing people. (And if you know what sites I’ve managed the last four years you will know how desperately I need to work on positive sites like these!)
I have known about Automattic for years as I have worked with WordPress in one form or another for over a decade now. They were always on my radar as a place I would love to work. And when I was laid off from my last job in October, I took a look at it again. And got encouragement from someone I met at a WordPress Meetup here in Rhode Island who works there. And the rest is history.
Today I train for my first two weeks working as part of the support team as a “Happiness Engineer” and then, two weeks from today, I begin my new role.
These last four months have been rough. Job searching is never fun and doing it around the holidays is a terrible time of year as no one really hires then. But my family has been fantastically supportive and we got through it and I have not only landed on my feet, but I feel like I landed with style.
I have a new obsession: French Press Coffee at Brewed Awakenings. Brewed is a chain in Rhode Island that has fantastic food, pleasant interiors, and, honest to Gods, the best damn coffee I have ever had. Their regular stuff is pretty good but on a whim I ordered the French Press one morning. I figured they’d make it fresh for me and I’d take it and go. But, it turns out, you are given a french press pot, and all the other supplies you need and after a few moments, you pour yourself an amazing cup of coffee. Along with my favorite breakfast sandwich, I now go there after I drop my son off at school and spend about an hour working into my day. It’s the perfect time to have breakfast, sip my coffee, and review my schedule and to do list. When I get to my home office, I am ready to start my day and the coffee is an amazing sustainer. More than any other coffee I have ever had, I feel like it just keeps me going.
I’m doing a lot of reading and research on modern parental attitudes towards their kids and social media. I’m writing about this on my other blog, Navigating the Waters (and am overdue to post something but I want to finish at least one of these books first). One thing that I am finding over and over is the fact that so much of parental attitudes towards their kids (both from Free Range Kids and from It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens) is due to the echo chamber of the media.
Noam Chomsky famously put forth the idea that news is often biased by what sells. One example (from an article by him I read in grad school and cannot for the life of me find online to cite here) is how in the 80’s, the New York Times reporting on the Sandinistas and Contras in Nicaragua was overwhelmingly anti-Sandinista, something that did not reflect the reality on the ground. He contends that the reason the paper did not print more than a tiny handful of pro-Sandinista op-eds is because the common belief was that they were horrible people and that saying otherwise would hurt newspaper sales. Essentially, news is a business and they have to print what people accept. If they don’t, people won’t buy the paper.
Regarding teens, the dominant meme in the media is that they are in constant danger and social media is a horrible thing that is making their lives hell, making them dumber, hurting their future, and all kinds of things like that. I will speak about this in greater detail in a forthcoming article in Navigating the Waters. But I find it a fascinating subject. And I see the media trying to combat it but they are doing it in a ham-fisted way with the false equivelency. Now they will present one side of the story and in an effort to be fair, they will present something or someone on the other side, regardless of how ridiculous it might be. This is why, despite the vast majority of scientists accepting global climate change, we always have to hear from the one who does not agree as if this dissenting view is equal to the other. Same with giving equal time to intelligent design/creationists despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence for any of that and there is overwhelming evidence on the other side. This is why any time someone comes out and says that social media is actually a good thing in the lives of many teens, we have to hear from so-called parenting experts who have done no research and only have their unfounded opinions to share tell us how wrong the researchers are.
This brings me back to my morning french press. Brewed has a policy of always having Fox News on at least one of their tvs. Much has been written and researched about their complete lack of objectivity and the many subtle things they do to influence opinions. And they are hardly the only ones who do it, they’re just the most blatant.
I just find a nice seat where I don’t have to watch it (spoiler: It’s Obama’s fault, whatever it is) and I’m happy. Every so often, MSNBC is on for some inexplicable reason and I watch other regulars get worked up about it. “Can you turn off that propoganda and put Fox back on?” I am amused.
But I think about media that caters to specific groups. People get what they want to hear. Conservatives watch Fox News. Liberals watch MSNBC. I try to get my news from multiple sources to get a more complete picture. This includes the New York Times, BBC, Al Jazeera, and so forth. But I have a liberal arts degree from Dartmouth College and if any one thing was drummed into my head it was to always find as many sources as possible.
Despite all that, I love my morning french press. Much as Colin Firth’s saddest time of the day is driving Aurelia home in Love, Actually, mine is realizing I am near the bottom of my morning coffee. But the swirl of dark brown at the bottom of my cup promises one last blast of flavor before the end. Reminds me of camp coffee when we’d camp with my son’s troop. There were always grounds in the coffee. I loved it. I called it the crunchy surprise at the center.