Starting a conversation at a conference

I’ve been asked a few times how to start a conversation with people. It’s not easy or always natural or something you want to be in the mood for so I’ve compiled some stuff i share with people when i give talks. 

Make sure you eat well and stay hydrated!

Make sure we’re fuelled up and not hangry.If I’m hungry i’ll be in a bad mood, starting conversations with people only makes peopel dislike me. I can usually solve this with food and a cup of tea.

Assign yourself the Greeter role.

Toastmasters have this role called a Greeter at their meetups. When it’s a designated role that you are assigned, it helps me give myself permission to talk to other people.

The Greeter's role is to welcome everyone to the club meeting, particularly visitors and people who are new. Making everyone feel welcome at our club is important, as this may be the start of their journey.
Toastmaster’s definition of the  Greeter’s Role 

Tweet out you want to meet new people.

It might seem wierd, but many people attend events on their own and are looking to meet new people. Use the Hashtag of the event and tweet out that you want to meet new people and would love to talk to people about partiulcar topic.Include a picture of what you are wearing  so people know what you look like and can find you.

Start a conversation.

Starting a conversation isnt easy. Having conversation starter questions helps. Here is a bunch of questions I frequently ask:

  • Have you travelled far?
  • What kind do you do with WordPress?
  • What session are you planning?
  • Been to any interesting sessions?
  • What did you think of the topic?
  • How did you get started with WordPress?
  • Comment on the weather.

Engage Pac-Man rule

If you haven’t heard about the pac-man rule, then read more about it  on Eric’s blog post about it.The it tries to solve the problem of allowing new people to join conversations, by giving people explicit permission to join groups.

The rule is:

When standing as a group of people, always leave room for 1 person to join your group.

More memorably, stand like Pac-Man!

The new person, who has been given permission to join your group, will gather up the courage, and join you! Another important point, the group should now readjust to leave another space for a new person.

Leaving room for new people when standing in a group is a physical way to show an inclusive and welcoming environment. It reduces the feeling of there being cliques, and allows people to integrate themselves into the community.

Eric Holscher

Break the Clique

It is habit that we all hang out. we’re comfortable with each other as a company as its less effort for us overall. Eric also wrote a post called Break the Clique.

The Community++ Rule [1]

The rule is:

For every year you have attended the event, you should try to meet that many new people each day.

An example makes it clear:If you have attended this event for three years, you should try to meet three new people each day.

Consider this your encouragement to do the Community++ Rule.

Eric Holscher

People are just people

People don’t always want to talk about work, or tech, they are people afterall, so ask a random question to break the ice.

Set yourself a challenge to meet X number of new people and find out if they prefer cats or dogs, if they are Team Tea or Team Coffee.

You’ve got this.

You at some point already met a bunch of new people. We are continually doing this and the event you are going to will be no different.

You’ve got this.

Have a personal favourite? 

If you have any tips or tricks on how you start conversations with people, please share them. I would love to know how others cope with meeting new people. 

Framing the diversity problem as a inclusivity problem

In the tech industry, we often talk and complain about the lack of diversity in our communities and rightly so. We also understand that we need to improve diversity in our sector. 

Diversity –noun
– the condition or fact of being different or variedvariety
genetic/biological diversity
a wide diversity of opinion/ideas
– social studies Diversity is also the mixture of races and religions that make up a group of people.

Cambridge Dictionary

If we look at what diversity means, I’m not sure we can make a community of people more diverse. If we look at the word inclusive, we find ourselves with a word that is more in line with what we, or at least what I, want and with something actually actionable. 

Inclusive – adjective 
– ​including everything or all types of people : 
The governments want to reach a settlement that is as inclusive as possible.

Cambridge Dictionary

By reframing the problem, we have a chance to find a solution that gives us the outcome we want. By picking a different word to use, we enable ourselves to ask the question – how do we make an inclusive community?

If we were talking about inclusive code then we would know the answer.

Build an accessible community

The reframing allows us to have an actionable thing to do. The great thing is that by having something actionable, we are more likely to see the outcome we want – a more diverse community. 

One example of this is in regards of event tickets. If we say “we have X about of diversity tickets, we are saying we have tickets for people who are different. We remind the minority that they are different. Its not as if minorities need reminding of that fact.

When we choose to say “we have X about of inclusive tickets”, we are from the outset telling the reader that everyone is welcome to attend.

By switching the content to highlight inclusivity, people just might feel like they are welcome to become a part of industry and community. 

It’s going to be ok – thoughts on WordPress 5.0

Morning! 5.0 is set to launch today.

It’s the release of hard work across the community-vocal & non vocal. Thank you for that hard work regardless in what format.

It means we can stop debating when the release is which will at least curb my anxiety.

I hope it means we can move forward and ship other improvements that are not Gutenberg related.

An upside is that it means Gutenberg codebase will be less violatile, which means we know what we are getting.

Another upside is that this is not a security release which means it will not trigger WordPress’s auto update. Which means ( I don’t believe I’m saying this ) you don’t need to update to 5.0 straight away. Do it when you are ready and comfortable.😀

I suspect once the release is out, many people will be blogging and writing tutorials of how to do stuff as we learn together.

Let’s make a conscious effort to make our tutorial and blog code examples show off accessible code. You know we’re going to be copying it. 😜

I haven’t fully kept up to date with the progress of core, because i have faith in the team. They are not concerned so I’m not. The HM team will have 100 paper copies of our Gutenberg white paper at , find a HM team member for a copy.

This WordPress release is not where I would have liked to have seen it or what I would have hopedto have invluded, but my focus has been elsewhere and I wasn’t the release lead.

Once Gutenberg has been shipped and is out of the limelight, we can get back to shipping other things. E.g. the Site Health Check project, which means we can encourage everyone to understand and continually update their version up to 7.1 and above.

Also means all the privacy teams work can go back in and I heard the multisite team have a bunch of improvements too.

I’m really grateful we’ve all been vocal about our concerns and many of us are excited by the new editor but dissatisfied with some of the process around it. Whether that’s the accessibility, HTML markup, the moving target date, the communication, the long form experience etc. People will learn from it. I’ve seen improvements, and there’s room for more improvements.

I’m excited by and other projects people have spun from all this. I think choice is great ( as long as it’s an open source choice ) Our sites and our content is our digital memories and we need to own these things rather than giving ownership to others.Open source allows us to own our own content. And that’s what I care about. The choice of open source CMS is ours and I look forward to a more colourful future of choices!


Useful GitHub Features

Nearly everyone at work uses GitHub so I shared some neat GitHub features I had recently come across. This post is a edited version of that post.

Note that many of these features interlink with each other so if you are going to use any of these features do think carefully which order you do things otherwise you will be going back on yourself to update links etc.

If you have any questions feel free to ask questions here or on Twitter.


I just finished writing this and realise it’s rather long. Sorry!

I hope it’s useful to you. 🙏

Continue reading “Useful GitHub Features”

A proposal for changing the WordPress versioning scheme


Currently, WordPress uses a incrementing numeric versioning system. XX.YY.ZZ could be read as ma.jor.patch which means version 4.8.1 can be read as version 48.1.

At the 2017 community summit, someone suggested that as WordPress project moves towards 5.0, that after 4.9 the versioning system should switch to semantic versioning by multiplying the versioning number by 10. This would mean the next version number after 4.9 woudl be version 50. The idea was shot down because if an end user is on 4.9 and then all of a sudden see the next version of WordPress was version 50; they would wonder where version 5-49 will freak out.


I propose that at the point of 4.9 we switch to semantic-like versioning.

Semvar is designed to be

Given a version number MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH, increment the:

  • MAJOR version when you make incompatible API changes,
  • MINOR version when you add functionality in a backwards-compatible manner, and
  • PATCH version when you make backwards-compatible bug fixes.

Since WordPress has a don't break backwards compatiblity mentality, it would not make sense to follow the Semvar 2.0 spec.

Instead I propose something similar but in WordPress terms.

Given a version number MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH, increment the:

  • MAJOR – New Feature : when there is a major feature change,
  • MINOR – Bug Fixes : when you add scheduled bug fixes in a backwards-compatible manner, and
  • PATCH – Security : when you make security fixes in a backwards-compatible manner.

It would mean that 4.9 is a minor changes from 4.8 and does not require any major feature releases. It would also mean that until there is a major feature change, version numbers can keep increasing as minor updates. This would mean until the next major feature drop, bug fixes and gardening releases can be scheduled in a timely manner in versions 4.10.0, 4.11.0 etc release cycles.

It would also mean that we can wait till a large feature drop before upping the versioning number to 5.0 and then from then onwards any major feature drops or breaking changes can pulled into the next major versioning number.


  • After throwing this idea around with a few developers to see what the inital reaction would be, some developers have asked whether it would mean that we would never get to 5.0 because *major = breaking changes*. I disagree that a major release has to be a breaking change. From my understanding of semantic versioning methodology, we should be able to define what `major`, `minor` and `patch` means to the WordPress team and run with that.
  • I know this is a far-fetch idea that will not be popular with many people, but if we were ever going to switch versioning number, I think this is a realistic method of doing so. Doing it now would mean that we don’t have to wait till WP5.0 before any more minor releases come out.
  • I am sure there are many flaws in this idea that some people who are way more clued up with the WordPress versioning and rollout process can point out. Just remember its a proposal/ idea/ a dream. I’m ok with it staying just that.
  • WordPress is not the only popular piece of software not on Semvar and it seems to be developers who care about the software versioning system of the project.
  • If you want to read up more about different software versioning systems; Wikipedia is your friend.


Stage Fright

Last week I did the opening keynote for PHPUK.

It’s not the first time I have keynoted, but it is the first opening keynote.

Do I get scared?

Many people since have asked if I get scared or stage fright beforehand.

Yes, i get scared.

It doesn’t matter if I am standing in front of a user group or a conference hall full of people, I will always get stage fright. It is usually the worse the last hour before I’m due on.

My brain runs through various issues:

  • What if i am too negative?
  • What if I forget the bridging phrase / point?
  • What if I am too monotone?
  • What if I have no colour of variety in my voice?
  • What if people fall asleep?
  • What if I mispronouce someone’s name?
  • What if there is a spelling mistake I missed?
  • What if my ankle gives way on stage?
  • What if I have a wardrobe malfunction?
  • What if I am too bossy?
  • What if my laptop breaks?
  • What if I drink some water and spill it on my laptop?

So on and so forth.

I don’t think these worries have gotten better or worse over time. The most I can do is control as much of it as possible.

Someone once told me that

No one wakes up wanting to see you fail.

This is open source community. From everything I have experienced in the last 8 years in this community, people are always cheering you on to do your best and are cheering you on to be your best.

So as long as i try my best, do my best, I’m ok accepting that stage fright is part of the parcel for me.

Controlling Stage Fright

There are a few things i do to control my stage fright and not let it run a drift.

Hopefully this will help you:

  • Have a USB copy of the presentation  with font files and images in Keynote, PPX and PDF.
  • Have a public dropbox folder of the presentation  with font files and images in Keynote, PPX and PDF shared with the organisers, yourself, and a friend in the room.
  • Test out the wardrobe choice on a night out with friends. If it passes a fun night out with friends where you are more likely to be moving around, it will be fine on stage where you don’t move around so much.
  • Break new shoes in. I tend to go on a trip with new shoes and walk a lot to break them in.
  • Have backup batteries for your clicker in the bag
  • Go to tech test early.
  • Have a version of your slides with a white background and a version with a black background. Depending on how bad the projector is, you can switch colour contrast quickly.
  • Have versions both in 16:9 and 4:3 because seriously the effort v the stress isn’t worth it.
  • Do not change slides on the day unless you REALLY have to. People will not miss one extra meme.
  • Set a run-though date with friends a week a head of time to :
    1. Force me to have a draft version of my talk  “ready”
    2. Give you feedback where it doesn’t flow and help you tweak the talk.
    3. Remember to write down the feedback
  • Video your practise runs. It means you can go back and write down that cool phrase you just made up which helped bridge two parts together as speaker notes.
  • Practise in front of people who don’t care about the content is useful. I found they tend to concentrate on your speaker style and point out things that are nothing related to the content.
  • Ask someone you trust and knows the subject to review the content.
  • Always leave a caveat and be honest if you are uncertain about data.
  • If my talk is in the morning, I have a super big dinner the night before. I know I will not stomach anything in the morning so i just eat ahead of time. Also I carry snack bars so I can eat straight after I come off stage.
  • Turn off the air con in the hotel room, and wrap that neck up! I find air cons dry out my voice and my voice breaks easily if its cold so i wear a scarf to stop that from happening. Airplane air cons are just as bad.
  • Know where the bathroom is so you can do a last minute bathroom run.  Nothing like drinking lots of tea to warm up the voice and then needing the bathroom 🤭
  • Whether you submitted to a CFP or got a invite, the organizers of the event are the people who curated the schedule so trust them. They thought your talk was interesting enough to put on stage.
  • Have a playlist of your favourite tunes and stick your headphones on and forget the world. I find that I have far too much adrenaline before i go on stage so if I can, I spend a bit of time before my talk where I  stick in my headphones and listen to a playlist I have saved offline.  I find I only really get through the first 5 songs at most so make sure the first song is one that ground you! This is my go to  playlist:
  • The talk is only going to be [ Insert session time amount here ]. In a year/ life time that is going to equate to a very insignificant amount of your time.
  • We’re not performing heart surgery.
  • You’ve got this. 

Hello SiteGround!

Today I’ve move my hosting to something I’m going to maintain myself again.

It’s been a while since I bothered to actually deal with any hosting providers of any sorts.

Work has a servers team, and beforehand all my personal sites have been hosted on my partner’s server. Both these things were making me insanely lazy when it came to caring about hosting and running a site.

I figured it was making me rusty and out of touch with what people have to deal with.

I’ve not seen a cpanel in such a long time! It hasn’t changed a bit! Still the same ugly 90s icons. It’s like a little time warp.

Moving server I decided to build teh site from scratch.

Things i did :

– use wp auto installerto install a multisite setup using sub directories. ( It didn’t give me a choice )

– forgot to save the admin password that was geenrated so ended up adding ssh keys to be able to  ssh into the box via terminal and use wp-cli to update the user’s password.

– Set up domain mapping plugin

– Use to understand how to set up domain mapping for domains registered on Gandi and the site hosted on SiteGround. The article details how to do it for a site being moved, but in my case, everything was from scratch.

  • There was some notable doh moments.
    • Wasn’t sure if Let’s Encrypt is a domain issue or a hosting issue – It’s hosting.
    • Needed to create a Let’s Encrypt Cert for every domain. There is a Cpanel icon to do just that; keep scrolling down in Cpanel to find it.
    • Set up DNS records on the domain registar to point to SiteGround
    • use cpanel’s <code>add-on domain</code> to link the domain hosting to the WordPress installation of the primary site
    • SSH key password doesn’t seem to like the auto generated passwords that i created with 1password. I suspect there was a symbol i needed to escape but i couldnt be bothered so just used the built in password generator in SiteGround’s SSH Key generator to get a password it would be happy with and saved it to 1password. It seems like an obvious thing, but I’m too used to creating all my passwords via 1password.
    • Waiting for DNS to update.