Scratch That

I know I said I would be migrating all of my old WordPress posts over to Jekyll, but I’ve decided to alter course. I have struggled with the presentation of my website/domain for a while now. Honestly I haven’t been crazy that when you visit my domain name, my high-level online representation, that you’re met with fairly boring, rephrased, technical documentation.

Technical documentation was the primary reason I started blogging, keeping notes for certifications and studying. Then I started to write about work I was doing, adding notes for certain projects. However a recent combination of life events has given me pause about what and why I was writing. The technical notes are useful, I use them for reference still at my $dayjob. However that’s not the primary thing I want when people find ME online. I am more than technical documentation.

So, what to do? For now, at least, I’m going to move my old technical documentation to a separate folder/layout. I think it is important to keep that information around and I will add to it when I find interesting things to share. The primary focus of my writing will be on the things I care about. Alas, I am changing, and and therefore my site is changing. Here’s to a new direction, a focus on the intersection of life and technology…

The Migration Begins

I pulled the trigger. I did some research and found a solid way to import my wordpress posts into a text/markdown format. I’ve put all my previous posts into my _drafts folder while I work on cleaning up the markdown, correcting photos, and removing stale content. I’ve also redirected my domain to my GitHub pages URL while I figure out what to do with the domain.

In the mean time, I’m back on Twitter @robertj180 if you want to chat.

Hello World!

Hello from Jekyll/GitHub Pages. In an effort to clean up my online writing I plan on migrating my domain and blog to Jekyll hosted on GitHub Pages.

For me this means a few changes:

  • Renewing my GitHub skills
  • Learning to write in MarkDown (KramDown to be exact)
  • An effort to publish more consistently
  • More focused content

I’m still debating what content I want to move over, so that may change. I’ll keep you posted with updates and an overview of how I’ve managed the migration.

Working Remote

As 2015 comes to an end, it marks a year I’ve spent working remote. I work for a large service provider in managed enterprise services. While I work remote, the majority of my colleagues work in an office somewhere. I personally have really enjoyed being able to work from home. I thought I would share some of my experiences and insights from the past year.

One of the major reason I wanted to work from home was family time. With the nature of my work, it doesn’t really provide me with a flexible schedule (not as much as I would like) however I don’t have a commute and I’m able to see my family throughout the day. I enjoy grabbing some coffee or lunch at home and being able to see my wife or son. When I initially stopped to think about why I was working, and what I was really working toward from a whole life perspective it all came down to family. Working remote has definitely allowed me more time with my family.

One thing I have noticed, it was a fear of mine from the beginning and is still a nagging issue, is the fear or missing out. Since I am not in the office with most of my colleagues I miss out on the water cooler talk and the gossip. I don’t hear news until it has been made official and I usually don’t get the personal insight I would if I was having a chat with my boss in the office. I understand also that since I’m not in the office I don’t get face time with the boss, which could possibly hurt my chances for promotion (out of site, out of mind). However I believe I work hard and do good work, I don’t think that goes unnoticed but I’ve accepted a peer may be considered for promotion before I am. I have acknowledged this, and personally given the choice I would still rather work remote and see my family more often.

I get a lot of comments from friends and family how they could never work from home. They’d just stay in their pajamas all day and not get any work done. This hasn’t been an issue for me. I’ve made it a point to stay disciplined in this area because I believe it is important to keep the family life separated from the work life, even though they share the same space now. I wake up every morning at 5am and have an espresso. I’ll either workout or study before work. I always shower, shave, and put on a collared shirt (and pants) before signing into work. I believe if I don’t have the mentality to take my work serious that it will show in my work performance.

A few things I would like to work on during the next year are really intended to make working at home more enjoyable. One of the benefits from working from home is having my own office (mine even has a window); something rarely seen in a cube farm office. This also allows me to have my own desk arrangements and I like using my custom standing desk. The lighting in my office could use a little update, usually I have enough natural light from the window that I don’t even turn on a light, but on cloudy days or late nights the lights in my office are a little too yellow for me. I also plan to make some adjustments to sound absorption, while I haven’t had an issue with this yet there is plenty of opportunity for isolating household noise from my office. I’ll probably add some sound absorbing panels outside the office in the hall and a sound stop to the bottom of my office door.

Overall I’ve been quite happy working from home, if you have the opportunity I would advise you to consider and weigh all the pros and cons to make sure that it is the right choice for you.

Cleaning Things Up

This has been something I’ve been trying to do for quite a while. I have my registered domain name that I use for my personal blog, which originally started as a primarily networking (IT related) blog. I wouldn’t consider it popular by any means, yet it does get some traffic. So when I would write a non-networking related post, it felt quite out of place. I went back and forth on whether or not to break these out into separate sites, but I always felt like I wanted to keep them under my “umbrella”.

What this boils down to is that I am a real live person (a single entity), and my domain name is reflective of that. However, I have multiple roles, I’m a husband, a father, I have a job (“professional” is debatable), I have other business ventures, hobbies, etc. I’ve wanted to separate these things because I don’t think that people reading about my coffee shop ventures are interested in the latest technology Cisco has to offer. I used WordPress.org as the platform for this site and I debated between separate sites (installs), WordPress MultiSite, and just using plain categories. I like and have used the categories, but I still felt like it wasn’t separated enough for my tastes and I didn’t like the robertjuric.com/category/whatever URL format. Then I ready an article about custom post types, and I was enlightened.

Custom post types are a way to customize WordPress into doing things it was never conceived to do. I’ve seen them used in WordPress plugins so instead of just posts and pages, you can have custom types for instance called books, players, teams, events, etc. What I like about this is the shortened URL (robertjuric.com/networking/) as well as the separate management of the different posts types. The All Posts menu only shows my normal “posts” I have a separate menu for “networking” and “code”.

How I’m Doing It

Plugins, Home Page, Firehose

Creating custom post types is done in code, and can be done with a very quick and simple custom plugin. I decided to look around and settled on the existing Types plugin. It was very simple to install and then I just added Custom Post Types for each of my desired categories. One thing I noticed was the whole singular/plural thing. Since networking isn’t really a noun it was hard to pluralize, so what I did was add ‘post’ to the name, but I left the slug what I desired the URL to be. For instance, my networking Custom Post Type is called “Network Post”, “Network Posts”, and “networking” is the slug. Then I would check all of the ‘Display Sections’ so that I could turn off comments, or set a featured image.

That was great, now I have a custom spot on my single blog/domain name to separate my different roles. But I’ve had this blog for a few years now, how do I pull all of my old ‘posts’ into the new custom post types I’ve created? Enter the fairly obvious plugin Post Type Switcher. This plugin adds a setting to the Edit and Quick Edit screens to configure which post type the post belongs to. What I did, since I already had my different posts assigned to different categories, was view all the posts in a category and bulk edit them to change the post type.

The next thing I had to do update my themes functions.php to show the custom post types on the home page. If you really wanted to keep things separate you could skip this step, and I’m probably going roll this back on my current home page as I get more generic content added to my primary blog. All you have to do is add this code to your themes function.php file. Just replace the “slug#” with the slugs you configured on your custom post types.

// Added for custom post types, Show posts of 'post', 'slug1' and 'slug2' post types on home page add_action( 'pre_get_posts', 'add_my_post_types_to_query' ); function add_my_post_types_to_query( $query ) { if ( is_home() && $query->is_main_query() ) $query->set( 'post_type', array( 'post', 'slug1', 'slug2', 'slug3' ) ); return $query; }

The next thing I wanted to do was make it easier for any readers I had left with an easy way to select which content that they wanted to view. What I have done is created a widget with simple URLs to the RSS feeds for each of my custom post types. This was quite easy to do by creating links to the feeds with this URL format: http://example.com/feed/?post_type[]=slug1

To get the menu items to appear I had to create custom URL menu items with links to the slugs (robertjuric.com/slug1).

Conclusion

If you get creative you can really do some cool things with WordPress and Custom Post Types. Well this was meant to be a quick introduction to Custom Post Types and I hope it served that purpose. It also is the final nail in the coffin of my different roles/sites. So if you’re one of my fellow network geeks, update your RSS feeds so you stay up to date with my mediocre technical blogging.

Goals

I used to have a goal in life. Not that I don’t have goals anymore, but in this case, I am referring to a specific goal. I had a goal of a job/career that I wanted to do. And lately in my life I’ve become frustrated because I felt like I’ve been straying away from this goal, this end-state that I desired. I wanted to be a fancy, big-shot, network engineer. I wanted to work for a big company, maybe do a little traveling, and generally be somebody important.

But what I’ve started to realize as I’ve come a few steps closer to that goal was that I didn’t like the life that surrounded it. I’m not comfortable with a lot of travel, I’m not willing to relocate, and I don’t like the idea of the long hours it would take to reach that goal. And that was making me mad. I was mad and upset because I wasn’t reaching my goal, even though I didn’t like the life it required. This has really been bothering me for some time. I was wanting to do X, but felt stuck doing Y, and I was frustrated.

But I just read this article. And it struck me that what I’ve been doing is actually a much better thing. That article discusses a letter Hunter S. Thompson wrote regarding how to find meaning in your life. And what the author, Maria Popova, discusses in that article and Thompson’s letter is the subject of fixed goals. You set a fixed goal in life, yet you are not in a fixed position in life; your perspective is constantly changing. When you focus on a fixed goal such as a career, you are going to be forced to mold yourself around that goal, changing who you are to achieve that fixed target.

Hunter S. Thompson purposes that it is much better to focus on being yourself. Focus on the life you want to live, and pick goals that are aligned with that life. I’m not saying that changing yourself to reach a goal is a bad thing. Without that change, we would have no self improvement. What I am saying is do not try to force yourself into a mold just because it looks cool, or it’s what everyone says you should do. Focus on the life you want, pick goals in line with that, and you will be much happier. For me, I don’t want to relocate to a big city, I don’t want to travel (a lot), I want flexibility to maintain a healthy work-life balance, I want to serve my Church and spend time with my family. If that means I can’t have that fancy job, so be it. I don’t want the life that goes with that decision.

I’ll pick a new goal, aligned with the life I want.

Wants to Send You Notifications

<Insert Useless App Here> Wants to Send You Push Notifications.

No. No more notifications. No more alerts. No more pop-ups. No more stealing my attention!

My time is valuable, very valuable. I have a wife and 2 year old son who love me very much (and I them.) When you are at work 8-9 hours out of the day, the time spent with your family, should be spent focusing on your family. I have a job to do so I can provide for my family, I should be focusing on completing my tasks not constantly checking my inbox.

I came to the realization this morning just how often my phone beeps or I go check my inbox; and I interrupt life to divert my attention to something that honestly is not important. My family, loved ones, and people in general deserve more than interruptions. Heck, even the task that I should be doing now deserves more focus than the constant interruptions I submit myself to. If I’m constantly checking my phone, or my email, or whatever feed, I am diverting from attention from what really matters in life.

This realization has been some time coming. I was driving the other day when I noticed a little boy riding his bike on the side walk, a few feet behind him trailed his mom. Focused entirely on her cell phone. It looked sad. The little boy looked like he was having a great time riding his bike, but his mom seemed to be paying no attention that excitement. What a shame it is that we can’t focus on the here and now. Or maybe people are trying to focus on the here and now, but looking in the wrong places. Do I want my son to grow up having to constantly fight for attention with a cell phone?! Absolutely not.

I’m done with it. I’m done with the white noise stealing my attention from what really matters. Today I’m turning off all the notifications on my phone. I will not be constantly checking my email, or Twitter, or Facebook. I’m not saying I’m throwing my phone out the window or ignoring email, but when it’s time to be with my family, or time to get a job done, or even interacting with the cashier at the coffee shop…

I will be focusing on what really matters.

Work-Life Balance

In the past few months I’ve graduated college, started a new job, achieved the next technical certification, but most importantly I’ve become a father. Each day I barely have time to catch my breath before I wake up and start all over. Becoming a father has caused me to pause and re-assess my situation, to re-evaluate my priorities.

I began to think about this “work-life balance” and just how crazy the notion is. Since when did work start competing with LIFE? Life is the only real thing. Our families and living should not be competing with work for our time and attention.

I don’t just mean that we should just be focusing more on our families, but we should also be taking care of ourselves, both physically and spiritually. We all know that sitting in a chair from 8-5 isn’t exactly improving our physique.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that work isn’t important, or that we shouldn’t strive to be the best at whatever it is we choose to do. What I am saying is that we should not forget the reason why we are working.

Enjoy life.

Why I’m Considering Quitting Twitter

I have recently really let my Twitter participation fall by the waste side. This has left me feeling left out and somewhat out of touch. I really enjoyed Twitter because it was almost real time, and talking to other engineers as opposed to just reading white papers has been highly motivating. I would like to hear back from people to see if I’m totally off base or really justified.

  1. I can’t keep up. I follow a little over 100 people and find it almost impossible, even when I give Twitter my full attention, to keep up with the really interesting conversations. I try to follow those who follow me, but I feel like it’s getting out of hand. If I do decide to stay on Twitter I will have to do some serious pruning of e people I follow.
  2. It is harder to stay connected at my new job. I started a new job this January that has a very high awareness of security. I’m unable to install unapproved software on my work desktop, and Twitter online is difficult to manage for serious twitter users. That leaves my cell phone for access, and trying to keep an eye on interesting tweets when I can only view 4 at a time is even more difficult. Which leads me to my next point…
  3. Twitter really is a distraction. As much as I do see a benefit in Twitter I have noticed an increase in productivity at work since my above point has forced me to limit my use. I’m not going to say Twitter use is a negative but I have seen how it’s not quite a productivity multiplier.
  4. I also feel like I am now more motivated to use other forms of communication such as email, forums, and my blog. Keeping in mind my point number 3, I still need to be careful as forums and blogs can be just as distracting as my Twitter stream. I feel like I need to fill that social void that Twitter has left with other forms of communication. I have really been working on some new articles I hope to publish soon.

So I’m considering either doing some serious trimming of who I follow, or just doing away with Twitter altogether. I am leaning toward the side of just calling it quits so I don’t feel any temptation to dive head first back into my Twitter stream.

Thoughts, or good riddance?

New Year and New Beginnings

I feel blessed to be kicking off 2011 with a fresh start at a new company. It’s felt like a crazy few weeks going through the interview process and then the transition between companies. I thought I should take a minute to reflect back on the experience and share any insights I came across.

  • Have a clean simple resume, and bring a copy with you to the interview. I brought a notebook (professional looking) with me to take notes of peoples names, responsibilities, and notes when considering a possible offer.
  • Don’t lie. If you’re unfamiliar with a topic or technology, don’t be afraid to say so. If you want to save face you could say, “I’m not familiar with technology X, but I have experience with Y which is a similar technology.” However if you don’t know something, you don’t know something. It’s not the end of the world.
  • Have a bio for yourself. This is one I stumbled through and wish I was more prepared for. When asked, “Tell me a little about your past experience”, you should have a well thought out answer. We all know what we’ve done at our past jobs, we wrote it down in our resumes, but did you rehearse speaking out loud a quick bio? It would be best to customize or tweak this bio to highlight your strengths that match with the opportunities’ position requirements.
  • Ask questions. If you’re genuinely interested in an opportunity, I believe it will show in your curiosity to learn about the organization and the position requirements. A few things to consider include: the organizational structure of the company and more importantly the IT department, current coworkers that you would be working alongside with, and any future plans or projects in the works.

As always, be on time (better yet, a few minutes early), be professional (in both appearance and behavior), be yourself, and relax.