Westfield… Again.

I took a trip to the East Coast this past weekend for my Dad‘s 70th birthday. It was a short trip – a Thursday to a Monday. But we managed to cover a lot of ground. We met up with old friends, reconnected with family, and we grabbed our cameras and revisited some old haunts.

Keeping with tradition, I found myself trackside with my Dad, my friends, and by myself at times. We even managed to get kicked out of a trainyard, just like the good ol’ days.

I took a lot of photos, which is something I don’t do often enough. I revisited familiar places. Last time I was there was over the summer, but winter without snow presented a new landscape this time around. Here’s the first batch, these from Westfield, MA.

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Automattic Grand Meetup 2015

I just spent 7 days in Park City with 400 incredible people. My coworker Steve shared some thoughts and photos.


Once a year, every employee of Automattic (the folks behind WordPress.com) get together in one place for a week. This time, we returned to Park City in Utah, which is home to the Sundance Film Festival. By this point, the company has grown to 400 people, based in locations all over the world; a number that is more than double that of the total when I first joined.

During the Grand Meetup, we spend the week collaborating on projects, eating together, drinking (a lot), teaching and learning new skills, making music, dancing, and generally getting to know more about the people that we spend a good chunk of our lives speaking to online.

It is a surreal, exhausting experience to be around that many colleagues for an entire 7 days, especially when everybody seems like a celebrity (to steal a friend’s phrase), and you know them better by their profile picture…

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Alanna and I have been on the East Coast visiting friends and family. Last week, with cameras in hand, my dad, Sammy, and I visited some of my old stomping grounds. Sure enough, just like last year, it wasn’t long until we found ourselves on some railroad tracks.

Additional photos taken with my S4 on ryancowl.es.

Woo is also a team after Automattic’s own distributed heart: WooCommerce is created and supported by 55 people in 16 countries. Added to Automattic’s 325 people in 37 countries, that’s a combined 370-person company across 42 countries — the sun never sets.* I can’t wait to meet all my new colleagues.

via Woo & Automattic | Matt Mullenweg.

The team over at Alfred is starting a “How You Use Alfred” blog series. I was lucky enough to be featured today. You can read the full interview on their blog. And you can read more about my workflow here.

Alfred Blog

In this new series, we’ll be taking a look at how some users have adopted Alfred in their workplace. They’ll give us a glimpse of how they use Alfred, how they stay productive and what it’s like working for some of the companies we know and love.

Today, we begin the series in good company, with Ryan Cowles, who is a Happiness Engineer for Automattic, who you’ll also know best as the company behind WordPress.com. I’ve been using WordPress for over 10 years now, so it’s great fun to see people like Ryan are there to keep WordPress users happy!


Who are you, and what keeps you busy?

Hi there! I’m Ryan. I work for Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com, Jetpack, and a whole bunch of other cool stuff). I’m a Happiness Engineer, and most of the work that I do is supporting the Jetpack plugin. This involves answering support requests, beta testing…

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Although it might not seem like it from all of the pictures, meetups can be hard work. On my most recent meetup, we spent most of our time focused on workflow, efficiency, team goals, and discussion. But as usual, we managed to sneak some fun in as well…

Mid-week, we took a break from work and went tubing through an old sugarcane plantation with Kauai Backcountry Adventures. The tour started with a bumpy drive in an off-road vehicle that took us to our put-in. Along the way, we had a chance to see the beautiful scenery and snag a few photos. After a brief safety demonstration, we boarded our tubes and headed down river.

The tour took us through the former irrigation channels on the plantation. We passed through five tunnels – the longest of which was just under a mile long. The current varied from lazy river to mild rapids. In the last tunnel we all shutoff our headlamps, and drifted through in complete darkness. I fought the urge to turn my headlamp back on, and accepted the surreal feeling. And I’m glad that I did.

I took my GoPro along, so I was able to take some pictures and video along the way. Even with the headlamps, it was still too dark in the tunnels for the GoPro to capture much. But you can check out some photos and a video below.

Waimea Canyon

On our last full day on the island of Kauaʻi, we took a drive up to Waimea Canyon. The scenery was beautiful, and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I thought I saw a few small dinosaurs… but it turns out they were just chickens.

Koloa – Day One

The Aurora team is staying on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai this week. After spending some time working in these horrendous conditions today, we explored the area by foot.

Paper, Pencil, and Mix

When I was younger, I was constantly sketching, drawing, and scribbling on things. As I got more into digital mediums and web development, I found myself doing this less and less. Then along came an iPad app called Paper. I began playing around with the app last year. Since then I’ve been drawing more often – both digitally and the old fashioned way, with a paper and pencil.

These past holidays, Alanna got me Pencil, which is a stylus specifically made for Paper. I don’t think anything can completely replace a physical sketchbook. But the combination of Paper and Pencil comes pretty close.

FiftyThree, the company behind the stylus and the app, recently created a community site called Mix. Mix allows you to share your own work and follow other artists. You can remix ideas that other people post, and they can remix yours. I’ve found that it’s a great way to find some inspiration and have some fun. You can find my profile here and you can see some of my sketches in the gallery below:

I’ve found that Paper is also great for quickly sketching ideas and wireframes. Here’s an example of a quick sketch that became the foundation for Just Write:

Just Write wireframes

And here is a quick sketch that became Loose Leaf (the current theme on my portfolio site):

Loose Leaf wireframes

So, if you haven’t done so already, go check out Mix. And if you have a profile, let me know so I can give you a follow!

Queen Mary

Alanna and I are playing host to a couple of friends from the East Coast this week. Yesterday, we all took a trip down to Long Beach, to visit the Queen Mary. After exploring the Observation Bar for awhile, we took a guided tour through the ship. The tour brought us to the second class pool, the engine room, and other “haunted” locations on board the ship. Most parts of the tour were too dark for photography. But I found a few flat surfaces, and attempted some multi-second long exposures.