Field Notes: Tech Inclusion 2015

WordPress.com News

Automatticians, the people who build WordPress.com, participate in events and projects around the world every day. Periodically, they report back on the exciting things they do when not in front of a computer.

Earlier this month, Happiness Engineers Kathryn Presner and David Cole, Theme Wrangler Michelle Langston, and Community Organizer Jen Mylo attended the inaugural Tech Inclusion conference in San Francisco, CA. The event, which took place September 11-12, was created to explore solutions to the lack of diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, and drew more than 500 attendees as well as hosting a career fair attended by hundreds more. 

Diversity in the tech industry has been headline news lately. It’s no secret that white men make up the majority of employees in Silicon Valley/the United States’ tech sector, despite the fact that white men only make up about 30% of the US population. Tech companies like Apple, Twitter

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Kellea’s first blog post

IMG_1311The title of this post is a bit misleading. My dad and I had a blog for our ill-fated attempt at biking across the U.S. in 2008. Still, this my inaugural individual posting on the world wide web. Hello.

I dedicate this kick-off to my partner/husband/in-house tech advisor, Dan Walmsley, whose patience, persistence, and programming prowess have made my website possible. Full disclosure: he is VP of Engineering for Nationbuilder, the platform I’m using for this site. You’d think the family connection might mean I’m an automatic cheerleader for the product. Not so. I am trying hard to figure out how this works, getting frustrated, and feeling proud when something looks good along with the rest of you. However, I do have the insider’s view to know that the NB team cares deeply about democratizing the web, helping communities organize themselves, and unlocking the power of the internet as a tool for change. With that in mind, I’m giving this “online presence” thing a go.

Thank you, Dan, for dealing with my frustrations and helping me make something beautiful.

Quick and easy WordPress development using Docker

TL/DR: Head over to this GitHub repo for a handy way to develop WordPress plugins and themes using Docker.


I recently decided to create my first public WordPress plugin which provides basic FitBit stats for your blog.

This was on a fresh laptop (the one handily provided by Automattic, my new employer), so I had the opportunity to try something new in terms of my development environment.

I decided to try out Docker and the new Docker Compose tool (installation instructions – or just brew install boot2docker and brew install docker-compose).

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Fixing basic encoding issues migrating / upgrading a WordPress database

I recently joined Automattic as a Code Wrangler (more on that soon), and I decided now was the time to de-spam, combine and resuscitate my old WordPress blogs.

Along the way I noticed a few annoying encoding issues crept in. The Wordpress XML exporter/importer, for example, double-escaped all my quotes so that <a href=”this”> became <a href=”this”>, which as you can imagine broke… everything.

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How I test code

This post is inspired by a great piece by Rails creator DHH.


My name is Dan, and sometimes I write tests first, and sometimes I write tests afterwards, and sometimes I don’t test at all because it would add brittleness for no benefit. Often I delete tests that I think have outlived their usefulness, or add in tests when I find a crucial piece of code broke without warning.

I sometimes use tests to guide design, then throw the whole implementation away (tests and all) because the design was wrong — and it was the tests that told me so.

I only write tests when they allow me to go faster, further, with more focus and with more confidence. Sometimes I use this for prototyping, but not always – it depends on to what degree I’m prototyping code structure (TDD is great!) vs integration (TDD sucks!).

I try to remember that every line of code I write is a line that must be maintained, and that includes tests. I believe in lean code, AND lean testing. I believe that over thousands of iterations we can trim our implementations AND our tests down to just what is needed.

Also, when I write code…

Sometimes I rush headlong into the codebase and put in a giant refactor because some anti-pattern totally infuriates me. This is probably (but not certainly) my worst habit. But sometimes it’s been a giant win, even if it results in near-term instability.

I believe in sitting back and reading code I haven’t looked at in a while just to ask “am I proud of this, or could it be better?” because it’s a good way to bring fresh eyes to the design, and then making a small improvement and moving on.

I also believe that it’s ok if the first pass of anything isn’t perfect, because as long as someone is re-entering the code and making it a little better, it’ll get where it needs to go.