I just got back from an exhilarating, week long Automattic company meetup in San Diego. We’ve now done 9 full company meetups over the last 6 years (plus dozens of smaller team ones), and I wanted to write down some tips on how to run a company meetup while it’s fresh in my mind:

1. Focus on connecting people: We call our get-togethers meetups – instead of off-sites or retreats – because our primary goal is to get everyone on the team to meet and to get to know each other better (not to get away or retreat from our office). We’re distributed (mostly working from home), so in-person meetups are especially important for us, but I think it would be beneficial to any company to get everyone together once or twice a year to spend time with each other to deepen personal connections and get to know the “people…

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New MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro Retina?

For the past six months I’ve been holding out on getting a new laptop, planning to get whatever new 13-inch MacBook Air Apple released this summer. So right after the WWDC announcements, before I’d even looked at much info, I ordered the new 13-inch MacBook Air. Then I started hearing about the amazing display on the new 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. In an impulsive moment I ordered one of those too! I got my orders in quickly so both machines arrived a few weeks ago. Last week I got to the end of Apple’s 14-day return window, and had to choose which one to keep. Here what I did.

First some context. I’ve been using 13″ laptops forever. I travel a lot and prize the balance of small size and screen real estate. I’ve had my 13″ MacBook Pro for 3-years now (on my second hard drive upgrade and third battery). I generally assumed that I would keep the Air because I was so comfortable with the 13″ size.

So over two weeks I alternated between the Air and the Pro as my primary machine. I used each at my desk at home, at my local Starbucks, on the couch, in bed. I even stress-tested the roadworthiness by bringing both along on a Southwest flight where I had a middle seat with my kids on either side of me. (I tried as always to live by the principles of good A/B testing.)

As a first-time Air user, my first reaction is wow this is fast. Really fast. Some of that is the faster processor than my old dinosaur, most of that is the solid state drive. It seemed insanely small, compact, and lightweight — so light that at first I had to consciously remember it was in my hand so I didn’t forget it was there. But, it was so light that it lacked heft. For example, when it was on my desk and I tried to open it with one hand the whole thing slipped away from me across the table (Note to Jony Ive: find some crazy new material and use it to invent grippier footpads). But typing long emails in coach on Southwest sure was easy.

The first time I opened the 15″ Macbook Pro i was sure it wasn’t right for me. After so many years at 13″, it felt really large, like typing on one side of an opened Monopoly game board. Squeezing into the tray on a Southwest middle seat was doable but not particular natural. But it was just as fast as the Air thanks to its SSD. It was noticeably thinner than my old 13″ MacBook Pro. And the display. Oh the Retina display. It’s a totally different level of clarity, like reading a nicely typeset page. The blacks are blacker. And the glare is much much better than the Air. Overall, it just felt better on the eyes. Even after using for an hour or two, every other display suddenly felt lame in comparison, like my glasses had fogged up.

I found myself reaching again and again for the retina display. I didn’t love the 15″ size, but I just preferred the Retina display no matter what. I told myself I could really make it work in an economy middle seat. And told myself that hey look it fits into the pocket of my 13″ laptop bag it’s not that big, and hey it’s really a lot lighter than my 13″ pro (.04 pounds lighter, but who’s counting). Once I started rationalizing, I knew I was hooked.

So, last week I returned the MacBook Air to Apple and am now happily typing on my Retina display. I love it.

My 5k welcome to Automattic

My first day as an Automattic employee was last Monday, April 23rd. I had heard how welcoming the team at Automattic could be, so I wasn’t surprised they put on a special running event just to make me feel at home — the Automattic Worldwide WP 5K. I had mentioned in one of my interviews that I was a runner, so this was a considerate way to help me celebrate my first week on the team. 😉

Here’s a bit of background on my running setup to help set the stage:

  • Gadgets. I don’t do much without electronic gadgets, and running is no exception. My iPhone 4S provides the soundtrack (Mumford & Sons). RunKeeper satisfies my nerdy obsession with data (see stats for my wwwp5k or join my street team!). Wahoo Fitness’s cool new BlueHR heart rate monitor uses Bluetooth Low Energy to tell RunKeeper just how out of shape I am. And the Skype app lets me keep in touch with the many exploding tickets from my Happiness engineer rotation.
  • Food. My two daughters baked some excellent blueberry muffins yesterday. I had a few right out of the oven, one for a snack in the afternoon, and a few more this morning. That seemed like just the right amount of carbo-loading.
  • Shoes. My current pair is the New Balance MT20 Trail Minimus shoe. I got into minimalist running about a year ago in an effort to improve my running form (which is about as lithe and relaxed as a drunken elephant walking backward on a balance beam). I’m not sure my form has improved, but I discovered a hidden masochistic side during six months of non-stop calf pain. These days they feel pretty good and I tend to wear them all the time. My wife sometimes asks if I’ll be wearing them to bed.
  • Outfit. When I first started using, I liked it so much that I wanted to pay something. So I found my way to the Indigo Clothing WordPress shop and “contributed” $17 by ordering a stylish red t-shirt. It seemed the perfect thing to wear for my run.

I headed out this afternoon. It was hot, about 80 degrees, as I left from home south of San Francisco on one my usual routes that happens to be almost exactly 5k. Things were pretty normal, until a few yards before the finish line when my three-year old daughter started pacing me. Her older sister and friend even held up a streamer for me so I could finish in style! Thanks to my wife for capturing the moment in the photo above.

And thanks to all my fellow Automatticians for a fun, running, start!