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WordCamp Food Trucks

After helping organize nine WordCamps, I’ve made just about all the mistakes. Hopefully I’ve learned from each of them. Recently an organizer of an upcoming WordCamp asked me my thoughts on using food trucks to feed WordCampers.

The pro is that you get a nice variety of foods to choose from. Much better and much more fun than the grab-n-go sandwich boxes you’ll find at a lot of camps. (I’m not knocking the grab-n-go option. All options have their pros and cons.) The con is that the lines can back up if food truck logistics are planned poorly. Long lines can dampen the mood of a camp, especially when folks are hungry. And the number one thing to make any camp successful is keeping folks happy. So, here are my tips:

  • Taste test: (This is my favorite tip, because I love to eat.) Test out the trucks ahead of time for service and speed. Again, moving folks through the line quickly is key. All trucks will claim they can move people, but that’s not always true. So if you find the trucks you are considering out in the wild, you can see just how quickly they can turn around and order and deal with a queue.
  • Streamline: Have each truck limit themselves to 3 or so meal options. This makes it easier for folks to decide on a meal (another thing that can slow down the queue). Also it makes it easier for the trucks to serve. Dishing out one of three meals is much quicker and easier than having a full menu. It’s like when you take a party of 20 to a restaurant and they limit the menu. Also, it keeps each truck from running out of a favorite. Often times there will be a clear favorite that everybody wants. If the truck did not bring enough ingredients to accommodate the rush, they run out quickly. Then all the folks that decided on that meal suddenly have to decide on something new, or worse another truck, on the spot – again slowing down the queue.
  • Notify: Announce the choices ahead of time. Use the schedule, the website, the morning announcements, the lunch call, etc. to list out what the lunch truck options are. This let’s folks start getting an idea of what they’d like to choose ahead of time. Again, streamlines the queue situation.
  • Dispersement: Try to stagger the release of people. As soon as the trucks are ready to serve, start sending people over. Don’t wait until the appointed lunch time to announce the trucks are ready. If you can send people in waves it makes it easier for the trucks to manage the crowds and it tends to cycle out the available seating/eating availability as well.
  • Ratios: Generally we find that 1 truck per 100-150 people tends to be a workable ratio. It can depend a bit on the logistics of the day, but that will at least get you an idea of what you should be looking for.
  • Health options: Having each truck provide at least one vegetarian option tends to be pretty doable. However, I’ve had a really hard time finding any trucks that can accommodate gluten-free. But do consider what your health mandates are, because food trucks are harder to account for those. You may need to account for an alternative.
  • Drinks/sides: If you are negotiating that each person gets “one meal,” be sure to clarify what that means. Usually, that is a main dish, a drink, and a side (cookie, chips, etc.). But we’ve had some trucks try to claim that the drink and/or side was not included.

Improving Productivity

This post supplements a presentation originally delivered at WordCamp Los Angeles 2015.

Most folks have to work to make a living, which is totally fine. Many of us have chosen to work in the WordPress world because if we have to work, we want to work on something we enjoy with people we like. In doing so many of us have become freelancers and entrepreneurs. This makes us responsible for our own time, and time is a precious and limited resource. Let’s not waste work time working. Waste time somewhere awesome.

Most of what I have learned regarding being more productive is either through friends or reading articles. I use Flipboard for all my reading; specifically I subscribe a productivity board. Not everything I read works for me. But it exposes me to new ideas which are worth trying, and sometimes things flow brilliantly.

This presentation is broken up into two parts: tips and tool. Tips are the tricks I use everyday to try to get more done in a given work day, and Tools are apps, code, and services I use to get those tricks done. Everybody is different and this is what currently works for me, and I am always looking to improve. So take what makes sense for you. Modify it, change it up, reject it outright and find your most productive you.

Tips

  • Set goals/Make Lists – Have a way to measure productivity and give yourself a metric for success.
    • Be reasonable – Be honest about what you can accomplish in a day’s work. Anything else sets you up for failure and frustration. I like to always give myself one more task that I think is possible. That way if I get done early I am not scrambling with how to fill the free time.
    • Flexibility – Stick to the plan, but do not be too rigid. Life comes at you in all directions so be ready to roll with the punches. But do not let the loudest voice govern your priorities.
    • Assess – Assess at the end of the day. Enjoy the success and acknowledge the failures; learn from both.
    • Plan – Take some time to plan the next day. But at the end of the day, you are in the best position to know what needs to happen on the next work day. And you can always change it in the morning, because you are flexible.
  • Reduce distractions – Starting and stopping a task is a killer for productivity. Every time you stop, especially when you are in the zone, you need to take a moment or two to get back on track. Give yourself a clear window to work. Also recognize how you got to the zone and try to replicate that environment.
    • Planning – Treat production time like meeting time and schedule it.
    • Distractions – Avoid anything that will divert your attention. Turn off alerts. Turn off email. Turn off phone.
    • Rest – Like any muscle, the brain needs time to recover. A well rested mind is much more productive than a taxed mind.
  • Automate repetition – Time spent, cutting, pasting, finding, and repeating in any way can usually be automated. Find ways to shortcut any repetitive process.
  • Use keyboard shortcuts – It is estimated that we spend an extra 2 seconds reaching for the mouse then bringing your hands back home on the keyboard. For average computer usage, that estimates to 8 days per year. 8 days! Keyboard shortcuts can help you reclaim much of that time.
    • Be aware of patterns – Noticing every time you reach for the mouse. As soon as you see a pattern for a particular action, take a moment to discover if there is a keyboard alternative. Things for me include highlighting text, moving the cursor to the end of the line, closing any HTML tag, everything in Gmail, etc.
    • Retention – Of course, retaining this new knowledge it key to it being useful. So, unless you have a few days to devote to learning all an app’s keyboard shortcuts, try to pick up just one or two new keyboard commands per day. Make an effort to use them and let them become rote before trying to squeeze more in.

Tools

*Paid, Subscription, or Freemium Applications.
**Some command line or a smart friend required.
When considering buying a production tool, always weigh the price to the cost savings.

  • Alfred* – Alfred helps me keep my hands on the keyboard. It allows for quick access to any application, search documents, etc. If you purchase the PowerPack you can also create workflows to automate repetitive tasks. (Thank you Brandon Dove, via John Hawkins)
  • Dash* – Dash brings coding documentation offline. I dip into documentation all the time for WordPress, jQuery, Sass, etc. All that is now available for me offline so I can keep working while when I don’t have WiFi. (It also integrates with Alfred for quicker searching.)
    • As an added bonus, Dash also allows for customizable snippet integration into most text editors and text fields.
  • Emmet – Emmet is a plugin available for most text editors that provides a shorthand for developing markup. It is also customizable, so you can really bend it to your specific needs. (Thank you Jaffe Worley.)
  • Coding – Code is a the root of what most of use do. For those all too common bits of code we are always diving back into old projects for, boil them down to their essence, and bring them into the light.
    • GistGitHub’s code snippet repository which is easily shared and available when necessary.
    • CodePen – A more complex code repository allowing for HTML, scripting, and styling. Excellent for prototyping or maintaining the core of complex functionality. (JSFiddle is also very popular.) (Thank you Rona Kilmer)
    • Yeoman** – Scaffolding to get your to your starting point quicker.
    • Bower** – Easily include 3rd party assets into your project without having to manage them in your repository. (Thanks you Jacob Arriola)
  • BrowserSync** – Better than LiveReload, BrowserSync will inject new styles, php, and scripts into multiple browsers or multiple devices on save. (Integrate using a task manager like Gulp or Grunt.)
  • Harvest* – Track your time and invoice clients. (Sends automated follow up emails for late payments.)
  • BidSketch* – Create and electronically sign estimates, proposals, and contracts. Allows you to create segments of text you can reuse in other documents, and save starting templates.

Shortcuts and hacks are all around. Any time you are at a meetup, or coworking, or collaborating, when you see someone else do something awesome, stop them and ask them how so you can be awesome too. And always be sure to pass it on.

#wclax

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Follow up (9:25 27 September 2015):

I have received many great suggestions since the presentation so I will share some here. The following are all things I’m currently trying and excited to incorporate info my daily workflow.

  • 17hats* – As the name cleverly implies, this service tries to bring all the administrative tasks for the freelancer/entrepreneur into location, including project management, time tracking, invoicing, accounting, and more. If this works as well as I hope, it will cut out four subscription services I current use. Very excited about the potential cost and time savings. (Thank you Diana Hobstetter) **Further Follow Up 11:17 28 September 2015** 17hats is great if you are a solo entrepreneur, but does not yet allow for teams.
  • Witch, by Many Tricks* – (Apple specific) Better than command-tab to cycle through applications, Witch also allows the user to not only to cycle through applications, but also cycle through documents/tabs/etc. within applications. (With keyboard commands!) (Thank you Alicia St. Rose)
  • Spectacle – Move and resize windows with keyboard commands. And this is also an open source project, so the price point is my favorite. (That said, if you do find this useful, consider donating to the development team to keep this project going forward.) (Thank you Justing Tucker)
  • WP-CLI** – The WordPress Command Line Interface is something I have been aware of for sometime, but never taken the time to learn and incorporate into my toolbox. (But now it may be time.) Through the command line, you can have WordPress do nearly anything you would have it do through the Admin GUI, and quite a bit more. But since it does done through the command line, you are not waiting for page load time or using the mouse clicking around the admin. (Thank you for the reminder Gary Stetler)

WordCamp Ventura County 2014 Recap

I remember when Konstantin first starting talking about putting on a WordCamp Ventura County he mentioned that his vision was for a more intimate, more developer-centric camp. He and the organization team delivered, big time.

Coffee in swag is the best coffee #wcvc

A photo posted by Jeff Zinn (@jeffreyzinn) on

The venue at Green Art People set the tone for the whole event. Right away, it was clear that this camp was going to be an exchange of ideas amongst friends and not a formal classroom which put the whole event at ease. Imagine participating in a groovy think-tank. (I’m not implying the classroom setting is bad or wrong. Each camp style has a time and place. And WCVC did a superb job of establishing the vibe they set out to achieve.)

All the presenters did a fantastic job. I was able take away skills and inspiration from each and every one. Here are some highlights for me.

  • Try using BrowserSync instead of LiveReload when developing front end elements. It has the live reload, but so much more. (Thanks, Alex!)
  • Avoid common mistakes when submitting a plugin to the WordPress.org Repo. (Thanks, Mika!)
  • It is time to start focussing on general WordPress performance, both in core and for themes/plugins. For most benchmark stats WordPress sites are about 20% slower than than the average website. (Thanks, Zack!)
  • Get WordPress communicating with anything using the REST API. (Thanks, Rachel!) (Rachel’s slides)
  • Better coding means coding better. (Thanks, Mike!)
  • Step up your JavaScript game using Object Literal, Immediately Invoked Function Expressions (IIFE), and jQuery plugins. (Thanks, Natalie!)

If you were not able to attend or what the live stream, do keep an eye on WordPress.tv for the videos. All are worth a watch. Wes Chychel also wrote up a great review of the event if you want to read more.