Hallway Chats: Sharing Stories and Building Belonging

Hallway Chats is a new podcast that I launched with my friend and WordPress colleague, Tara Claeys.

As 2017 was getting underway, a colleague from the WordPress community reached out to me to ask about starting a podcast together. Independently, we had both been considering creating an online audio show, but independently we had yet to land upon an idea. My colleague, who I now consider a close friend, Tara Claeys, was eager to focus on the human side of the WordPress community. From that initial idea, we worked up the concept and name for Hallway Chats.

All the Legwork

As Tara and I held a series of conversations about the logistics of getting started, we were both confident that it was an entirely manageable project. We both have our own separate consultancies, but with organizational structure and proper planning, we were sure getting started would be pretty easy.

Wow! Were we wrong!

Let me clarify: Tara and I were not surprised by the length of our to do list. We had done enough research and spoken with enough successful podcasters that we knew our checklist was solid.

What caught me offguard was how long each item might take. I had ignored that creating a logo takes a fair amount of time – perhaps even more when making a logo for yourself. 

Going Live

All of initial conversations, research, follow-up chores, and of course, recorded shows, would all be put to the test when we went live. Tara and I originally aimed for a launch in late May or early June. We hit that right on the head: we published our first episode on 01-Jun-2017.

We lead with what we felt was a really powerful conversation with a very strong woman, Jessica Reilley.

As the number of downloads began to climb, and as words of praise came across on Twitter, I felt a real sense of reassurement: Our idea of building belonging within the WordPress (and wider) community by chatting with real people, with real lives and real stories to share was making a connection with our intended audience.

Onwards and Upwards

It's safe to say that Tara and I are very much learning as we go. We're often updating and tweaking our systems, approach and workflows as we learn more about how to deliver an engaging, professional and valuable podcast. Thus, even though our show is now "live and on air", we still very much have a list of items that we'd like to improve, refine or add to our efforts at Hallway Chats.

I'll end by thanking the many, many people who've listened to our new show, have shared kinds words of praise about it on social media and who have subscribed to our podcast. I'm so grateful for your generous embrace of this new effort that Tara and I have worked so hard to get started.

Thoughts from a Vacation to Germany

A series of notes and observations about my recent family trip to Germany.

Traveling in Germany

The German People, Culture and Land

  1. The German people are wonderfully friendly and warm. I was surprised by how happy to help, how friendly and how welcoming they were.
  2. My inability to speak German was never really an issue. When ordering a beer or asking for help, I'd begin with a friendly "Hallo! Sprechen Sie Englisch?" More often than not, I'd get a warmly delivered reply, "Of course." Sometimes, the reply was more of a "A little". Yet every reply was delivered in a welcoming way. My lack of knowledge of German was not seen as something for which I was to be derided.
  3. Germans are quiet. Even when a restaurant or bar was packed, the conversations at each table were quiet. It was an effort for my loud American self to adjust.
  4. The Germans are an outdoor people. They seem to really enjoy outdoor activities of all sorts: biking, hiking, swimming and more.
  5. As for linguistics, umlauts are of great importance. Do not book a hotel in Munster, Germany, if you wish to stay in Münster, Germany. In due course, you will come to find out that they are not the same place.
  6. June in Germany is a sun-lovers heaven. It's starts getting light about 4:00 am and does not get dark-dark until 11:00 pm or so. I ate dinner at outdoor restaurants at 8:30 pm in perfect sunlight. It was wonderful.
  7. The two cities that I visited, Düsseldorf and Münster, were both heavily bombed during World Word II. Following the war, the Germans in both cities (and perhaps elsewhere too), rebuilt the old sections of their cities (Aldstadt) as they were before the bombing (albeit often replacing original buildings were facades of their former buildings). I was grateful for that approach as it returned some of the character of Europe that I wanted to see as a visiting American.
  8. Walking through cities that trace their history back to the 1200s and to churches that reach back to 800 AD is deeply moving. The connection to the past is palpable and gripping.

Food, Drink, Chocolate and Ice Cream

A variety of bacon
  1. Any trip that includes Swiss, German and Belgian chocolate in notable quantities is likely to be an enjoyable trip.
  2. If you're a meat lover, Germany is your country. My first meal in Germany (dinner, after a full day of international travel), was a variety of bacon. Later in the trip, I enjoyed a delicious sausage called a Westphalia Rosary (it's my new favorite prayer). It was a simple bratwurst, but it was by far the best sausage I've ever had.
  3. I was in Germany during the hottest heat wave on record. Apparently, Germans cope with heat by eating delicious ice cream at just about every hour of the day. I ate such ice cream twice a day, every day, while on vacation. That was wonderful. (My two flavors of choice were Nutella and Roche, a combination of chocolate ice cream and Ferrero Roche chocolates.)
  4. While I only ever drank 2 or 3 beers in any given sitting, I never drank a bad beer in Germany or Belgium. (I didn't have a chance to grab a beer in Holland.) Quality beers of all sorts: alt, weiss, lager and pilsner. The quality of the beer is reason enough to consider moving my family to Germany.
  5. It's a common practice in German restaurants and cafes to simply walk in and sit down at whatever table is available. That felt rude to me given our practices in the US. By the end of the week though, I had adjusted well enough. I imagine this will cause me problems when I seat myself at some diner in America this week.

Driving the German Roads

  1. German roads are so well maintained and so clean. No potholes. No rubbish strewn along the highways. Even the cities I visited (Düsseldorf and Münster) were impeccably clean.
  2. The concept of a speed limit like "whatever is reasonable" seems to makes sense after driving in Germany for a week. Drivers didn't seem to have a need to show off how fast they could drive, because everyone was driving fast.
  3. I loved the adherence to the rule of "pass in the left lane; drive in the right lane." This made highway travel feel safely predictable, i.e., no boy racers screaming up in the right lane to overtake with a really cool, Fast and Furious style lane sweep.
  4. The rental car had cameras in the front and rear, and on both sides. It also had sensors to warn when I was too close to a major object. This made parking in tight spots and narrow roads very easy.
  5. Europe as an entity, its geographic size and the proximity of its nations astonished me. Yes, I know that with the European Union, it's possible to drive from one country to the next without border control. Yet, the experience of driving from Germany, through the Netherlands to spend the afternoon in Belgium, before making the opposite journey home in the same afternoon was mind-blowing. It was no different than going from PA through NJ, to NY and back, albeit with less traffic, less graffiti, fewer pot holes and more scenes of rural beauty.
  6. While listening to German radio as I drove, an occasional traffic update notice would pop onto the dashboard, asking me if I wanted to override the radio program with the travel update. After listening to the first travel update, I realized it was a waste of time. The updates were, understandably, delivered in German. I skipped the remaining updates.
  7. I rented a Nissan SUV. The car had a GPS/map built into the dashboard. The coolest feature was that the GPS posted the speed limit of the road I was on to the dashboard, between the speedometer and tachometer. Most impressively, the updates about changes to the speed limit were pin-point accurate: As soon as I came level to a 70 kpm speed limit sign, the Nissan's dashboard instantly displayed the updated limit.

Technology

  1. Downloading and installing the Google Translate app with the German dictionary was a big help. The app itself allowed me to use the camera to hover over words in German while the app instantly translated the words to English (with enough accuracy for me to either completely understand or at least get the gist of meaning.)
  2. Stopping into the Bang & Olefsen shop in Münster was well worth the short visit. In a nutshell (and I imagine the marketing people at B&O would not approve of this characterization), B&O are taking the wifi sound system concept that Sonos perfected (or nearly perfected) and have turned it into an art. Beautiful speakers. Crystal clear sound. Very cool. Frighteningly expensive.
  3. Having to pay more for internet access on my phone was a blessing: I spent less time on Twitter and more time enjoying the many moments of travel.
  4. Having a quality camera in the phone was great for those "right now" shots.
  5. I was also glad that I brought my bigger digital SLR camera. I'm eager to pop that camera card into the computer to see how those shots turned out.
  6. The wireless Bose noise cancelling headphones delivered all the promise they were rumored to hold. The inflight music, movies and podcasts were so easy to hear and enjoy. The airplane noise was reduced to a quiet whisper. I even wore the headphones while sleeping – with no music or sound streaming.

Random and Miscellaneous

  1. International travel is a great source for feeding numbers onto my Instagram stream.
  2. I watched more sports on television than I expected. In relaxing in the hotel room, winding down at the end of an evening, I found that the sports shows were the only programs I could follow. I didn't understand a lick of the commentary, but I could follow the games and matches easily enough.
  3. I brought my 10 oz. Yeti on the trip. It's best use case for visiting a country where ice machines are not on every hotel floor was on the long haul flights. I didn't worry about spilling my drink as all. The kind flight attendant was impressed as I asked her to pour the small bottle of wine into the Yeti.
  4. For the trip, I bought a purse. It was a great decision. It was so easy to throw credit cards, cash, passports and other important travel documents into a single place. It was mentally reassuring – everything key to getting around, and ultimately, to getting home, was in my purse. During the course of my travel, I increasingly lamented the gender stereotypes that inhibited me from realizing this sooner in my life. (Related: Why have car makers not come up with a handy storage solution for the driver's purse? Placing it on the floorboard of the front passenger seat, or on the backseat were both less than ideal solutions.)

A Simple Way to Customize Your Site

Slides, links and resources from my talk at WordCamp Miami in March 2017, about getting started with the Advanced Custom Fields plugin.

The following materials and information are posted in connection with my talk at WordCamp Miami in March 2017. That talk, A Simple Way to Customize Your Website, details the powerful and value of the Advanced Custom Fields plugin, while highlight the simplicity of its use.

Resources from Liam’s Talk

Access Liam’s slides on Slideshare

Download Liam’s 2017 Demo Child Theme (on Bitbucket)

Download Liam’s Advance Custom Fields XML export (for importing into your own practice or demo WordPress site)

Learn about Custom Fields in the WordPress Codex

ACF Resources + Links: The Basics

Download the Advanced Custom Fields plugin from the WordPress plugin repository

Advanced Custom Fields Documentation

ACF Resources + Links: Leveling Up

Adding Custom Fields to a Custom Post Type, the Right Way – Tracy Rotton

Performance considerations when working with ACF – Craig Simpson

Related Resources

Child Themes in the WordPress Training Handbook

How to Create a Child ThemeLouise Treadwell

Baltimore Heritage Walk

A surprising installation of sidewalk placards in a tourist-friendly corner of Baltimore, Maryland.

While in town for WordCamp Baltimore, I quite literally stumbled upon the Baltimore Heritage Walk. Yes, I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk as I strolled from the hotel towards the WordPress conference. As I recovered my balance, I caught site of the Heritage Walk placard embedded in the sidewalk. I’m a history buff (I studied Modern European History in college) and I was immediately intrigued.

Glancing down the sidewalk, I noticed that there were Heritage Walk placards every few yards. I went to look at the next in the row. It was in a different language. And so was the next, and the next, and the next. In fact, there were Heritage Walk signs in 10 different languages.

With all the turmoil of the presidential elections, I found it comforting to see that the good people of Baltimore embraced diversity.

Can you please help me figure our the different languages used on the placards? I’d love for people to share their answers with me on Twitter – without using Google Translate.

Baltimore Heritage Walk: The Placards

(1) Korean
(2) German
(3) Chinese
(4) Portugese
(5) Hindi
(6) ?
(7) Arabic
(8) Spanish
(9) English
(10) ?

Thanks to Jayvie Canono for supplying a number of the languages above. And a thanks you Reed Gustow and Susan Walker for chipping in too.

Looking Forward to WordCamp US 2016

As we roll into the last few days of November, I wanted to share a few thoughts on what I am most looking forward to about WordCamp US 2016.

As we roll into the last few days of November, I wanted to share a few thoughts on what I am most looking forward to about WordCamp US 2016. I must limit this blog post to “most looking forward to” because, frankly, my list is so long and, well, you can see how often I’ve made time to blog this year.

So, ready? Here we go.

Working with Our Volunteers

I'm volunteering at WordCamp US 2016For the second year in a row, I’ve had the privilege to coordinate volunteers at WordCamp US. Along with my amazingly intelligent, insightful, thoughtful and ever-realistic colleague, Ingrid Miller, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know WordCampers from all over the world. These WordCampers (Can we make that a word please? I so prefer it to WordPressers.) come from near and far and generously give of their time, talent and knowledge. Sure, they get a free ticket, but honestly, that $40 savings does not even come close to equating to the value of their time.

What really amazed me last year was how hard some volunteers worked. They gave of themselves in ways that many paid employees won’t. I was so moved by that experience that when I was asked again to be a part of the organizing team for 2016, I said yes.

Meeting a Few People in Person

Here’s my short list of people I would like to meet in person:

Carrie Dils: Carrie is amazing on many levels, but what impresses me most about her is her self-deprecating style and thoughtful conversations on her podcast, OfficeHours FM. I’ve been listening to Carrie’s podcast for just under a year or so. I just love her happiness, her joviality and her ready acceptance that hard work is a must for success. I would love to thank her in person for being her, and for sharing of herself so generously through her podcast.

Chris Lema: Chris needs no introduction from me. I had the opportunity to meet him directly at Prestige last May, but I was too shy about it. (Shy is not typically a characteristic people associated with me.) Chris is such a nice guy and so welcoming of others in the community, but still, I couldn’t steel myself to say hello. I am focused on doing so at WordCamp US this year.

Matt Medeiros: Matt delivers a podcast like no other. The Matt Report is focused on business development and management for companies within the WordPress ecosystem. What sets Matt’s podcast apart is him: he talks openly about his own success and, perhaps more importantly, of his failures so that anyone listening take advantage of his experience and learn from it. I saw Matt (from across a hallway) at WordCamp US last year, but this year, I’m making a point to introduce myself to him.

And I would very much like to spend more than two minutes chatting with Cory Miller. He’s been so self-giving and candid with our community of late, that I know that even a five minute conversation with him would be of true value.

Running in Philly

I am a runner. I run as much for mental and psychological health as for physical health. One of my favorite activities when going to a new city is to go for a run. It’s an exciting way to see the sights, get a feel for the city’s vibe and learn my way around. While Philly is not new to me, I am a creature of the suburbs. I don’t stay overnight in Philly very often. As such, WordCamp US provides a great opportunity to get those “new city” runs in.

If you’re interested in going for a run, know that I start early: 5:30 am or so. Please connect with me or Tara Claeys on Twitter. (I believe that Tara runs at a more reasonable hour.)

Making Friends in the Hallway Track

Having attended a few WordCamps over the years, I’ve appreciate the value of the Hallway Track. Those informal conversations that happen outside of the formally organized talks and sessions, spontaneously growing when two or more people find themselves together. I’ve met so many people and made so many friends in these hallway track sessions. From a networking and community-building perspective, the Hallway Track is perhaps the most valuable aspect of a WordCamp. I am really looking forward to meeting new people. If you see me in the hallways at the Philadelphia Convention Center, please stop me and say hello.

When the evening of Sunday, 04-Dec-2016 arrives, I know I shall be exhausted. In some ways, I’m already looking forward to doing absolutely nothing on Monday, 05-Dec. Yet before then, I have lot of plans to make WordCamp US 2016 the best it can be for me – and for you.

If you’re still in need of ticket, don’t fret. Grab yours now.

Photo of WordCamp US 2015 by Casey.

Goals for 2016

A short list of my personal and professional goals for 2016.

With 2016 still making its way out of the starting blocks, I am trying something new: I am posting a selection of goals and aims for the new year.

Professional

  • Attend a new-to-me WordCamp (I’ve been to WC Philly, Lancaster, Baltimore and US)
  • Implement a CRM for LBDesign to aid in business development
  • Raise the LBDesign newsletter list open rate to over 50%
  • Clean my office at least once a week – it really does make for a better work environment
  • Attend one marketing or design conference not focused on WordPress

Personal

  • Pray and meditate on a daily basis – even if only for 5-10 minutes
  • Read professionally for 10 minutes a day, every work day
  • Read 10 books for fun or relaxation (over the course of the full year)
  • Write regularly on this website – at least one blog post per month
  • Borrow books from the library – instead of renting them through late fees

Hobby

  • Now that I’m back on track with chickenmonkeydog, keep it going strong with at least two blog posts per week
  • Ride my motorcycle (a ’96 Kawasaki Vulcan Classic) at least once a week in warmer weather.
  • Organize a local motorcycle ride with friends and contacts in Philly. I know Alx Block rides, LeeAnn Kinney rides and has set herself a goal to get her bike up and running. Who else rides?

Health + Fitness

  • Run 8 miles at an 8-minute mile pace: I’ll start this month working towards that goal on the treadmill, aiming to achieve my indoor goal by the end of March. I’ll work towards achieving it outdoors by mid September.
  • I like to think my best running weight and easiest/most practical weight to maintain is between 190-195 lbs. So, I am aiming to get down to 193 lbs. by the time I reach my indoor running goal. (I’m currently around 207-210 lbs. I prefer to tell people that I weigh “200 and Christmas pounds.”)

I certainly have other goals that I’m working on in 2016, but these are the ones I’m ready to share publicly. Thanks for supporting me as I try to make myself a better, nicer, more efficient and more productive person.

The Year That Was 2015

A briefy synopsis of the year that was 2015.

What an amazing year 2015 was! The world has experienced such tremendous change, turmoil and upheaval that at times it can all be very overwhelming. A sense of “What difference does my personal 2015 in Review matter?” almost kept me from publishing this post. Yet, I believe that the little wins in my life help keep me focused and grounded so that, in some way, I am addressing the wider, global issues facing our world.

So, here it is. My review of 2015. At least what I can quickly remember and pack into a blog post before 2015 ends.

All Things WordPress

If I had to choose one word that characterized my work in 2015, it would be “WordPress”. Between serving on the organizing teams of a couple of WordCamps and presenting at two as well, it was great to be so actively involved in the WordPress community. I also was lucky to continue to serve as the organizer of the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup, which has been running since May 2012.

  • Co-organized WordCamp Philly 2015
  • Co-organized the inaugural WordCamp US
  • Delivered presentations at WordCamp Philly and WordCamp Lancaster
  • Attended WordCamp Baltimore, meeting my goal to attend one new-to-me WordCamp in 2015. (I suppose that WordCamp US also ticked that box!)
  • Delivered talks at WordPress-focused Meetups in Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley and Asbury Park New Jersey

Through Tech Impact, I delivered a 5-part webinar series around WordPress as key tool in online marketing. The five separate sessions are listed below:

Exploring New Places

For the first time, I stepped outside of the WordCamp world to attend Prestige Conference in August. It was a very valuable experience and I was able to put several items I learned into practice within the remaining months of the year. It was also the first time that I visited Minneapolis. What a fantastic city!

Attending WordCamp Baltimore enabled me to see that city in a bit more detail than ever before. I enjoyed strolling through Fells Point on a warm Saturday evening.

Running a Marketing + Design Consultancy

As a business owner, the challenge of steadily growing my consultancy is a thrilling one. It’s very exciting to have steered LBDesign along a path of consistent and manageable growth since our expansion in 2009. This past year was another one of growth for the company, with sales up over last year (still working out the final numbers). While that sales pace is off last year’s growth, I was able to reduce costs significantly meaning that 2015 is even more profitable than 2014.

As I have done from the start, I steer LBDesign along a course that enables our little team to work with businesses and charities across the US, UK, and beyond. I very much look forward to growing our client base even more in 2016, all the while focused on building long-term relationships based on trust, communication and respect.

Life in General

Liam Dempsey with a braided beardLife is certainly a lot more than work, so I wanted to include a few notes about life outside of the office:

  • Discovered a new history podcast: Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
  • Grew my beard long enough to braid it (and then promptly trimmed it)
  • Fastest outdoor 3.0 mile run in 2015: 8:16 minute miles on 03-Dec-2015
  • Worked up a batch of home made BBQ sauce – it was tasty, but not quite good enough to brag about
  • Vacationed in the Poconos, enjoying Lake Harmony and Hawk Falls
  • Sadly, didn’t ride my motorcycle at all
  • Spent a couple of months experiencing a dairy-free diet
  • Made a 10″ dairy-free chocolate peanut butter cup

As I click the publish button on this year end wrap-up, I’d like to take a moment to thank the many family, friends, colleagues and strangers who made this such a memorable year for me. Cheers!

P.S. Seeing the new Star Wars movie did not make this review because I am going to see it at 1:20 this afternoon.

Looking Forward to WordCamp US 2015

A few highlights on what to look forward to at WordCamp US. It’s in Philly from 04-06 December.

For the past few months, much of my working life has been consumed by helping organize WordCamp US. While it has been a lot of work, as the date for this massive WordPress conference draws closer, I find myself increasingly excited for it to arrive.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about what specifically excites me about WordCamp US. I thought others debating with themselves about whether to attend might take some value and insight from my own expectations.

The People

WordCamps are a great way to meet up with old friends and to connect with new ones. WordCamps are delightfully ego-free zones; interaction between seasoned professionals and people just exploring WordPress is actively encouraged and supported.

As for specific people I am looking forward to meet in person (for the first time!) at WCUS, here are four: Cory Miller, David Bisset, Josepha Haden and John James Jacoby. (By sharing their names here, I think I’ve just challenged myself publicly to introduce myself to these four people.)

The Talks

There are so many exciting talks scheduled for WordCamp US. It sounds cliché, but there really is something for everyone. If I had to recommend one “must see” session, I’d select Rami Abraham’s WordPress: The Next Generation – A Look Into WordPress Sites 5, 20, and 50 Years into the Future.

That said, I am a big fan of lightning talks: a quick glance or dive into so many topics. Some above my head and some outside of my immediate area of interest, but it’s like an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of WordPress-focused knowledge. Bring it on!

Working with the Volunteers

WCUS: I'm volunteering!As part of the local organizing team, I have been privileged to focus on coordinating volunteer efforts in the run up to WCUS. I am really enamored with the generosity of the WordPress community, so I consider the opportunity to work closely with more than 120 volunteers a real treat. I can’t wait to get into the Philadelphia Convention Center and work alongside these wonderful people.

The After Party

The planning that has gone into the after-party for WordCamp US is amazing: the WCUS after-party promises to the be the mother of all good times. I won’t give away any surprises, but I’m confident that the party will go down in WordPress history as one of the best ever.

There are definitely a few tickets left, but you better get yours now! I am pretty sure they will sell out, and you definitely won’t want to miss out.

Get your tickets for WordCamp US »