“The Last Jedi” is plural, and some linguistics-related explanations.

Some weeks ago Disney / Lucasfilm announced the name of Star Wars ep. VIII: The Last Jedi. The Internet went immediately bananas: Is Luke the last Jedi? After all, The Force Awakens’s opening crawl seemed to confirm that.

The Force Awakens Opening Crawl

But what if the word Jedi, in the title, was plural? There’s no Jedis in Star Wars, Jedi is both singular and plural.

I asked that myself immediately, and only one answer popped up to my mind: we need to wait for the international translations.

Why? Good question! Because agreement.

“Agreement” is a linguistic phenomenon that happens when a word changes form depending on other words to which it relates. Think of I write or Joe writes: as the English grammar requires that the present tense verb and its subject agree in person, the verb form changes accordingly.

Languages can have no conventional agreement, as in Japanese; barely any, as in English; or a moderate / fairly large amount, as in Latin and pretty much all the languages that derive from it.

Let’s take Italian, for example, since I speak it as a native. In Italian, adjectives agree in gender—making our efforts to write gender-neutral Italian much more challenging, but I’d save that for another post—and number with the noun they modify. For this very reason, the Italian translation of the title had to reveal if Jedi was singular or plural, even though the word Jedi wouldn’t have changed its form.

Gli Ultimi Jedi

Today Star Wars Italia released an image with the title of the movie in Italian, and it’s Gli Ultimi Jedi.

Star Wars The Last Jedi in Italian

It’s the official confirmation: it’s plural, and we know it because both the article gli (the) and the adjective ultimi (last) are masculine (meaning that can be a group where at least one is masculine) and plural.

Releasing international titles weeks after the original one was a rather elegant move from the marketing folks behind Star Wars. They used the lean grammar of modern standard English to their advantage (fans asking questions, debating, etc.), at the same time giving relevance to the internationalisation of the movie.

Sonny Bill Williams is an incredible guy

I’ve just stumbled upon this article on Sonny Bill Williams loaning US$380k to a friend. Apparently with no contracts or paperwork, just a handshake. Wow!

During 2016 Summer Olympics I had a great time putting together a guest post about SBW—one of my favourite sportsman of all time—on the Daily Pinner, the blog of my wife Stef Mattana. Find it below.

9 great moments in Sonny Bill Williams’s career

The logic behind a pedalboard

Although this is not a space I normally use to talk about my music activities, I’m really happy to share with you people something I’m deeply passionate about: gear for musicians.

I started to play music in 1999, and since then I’ve chatted about music with countless people, including—obviously—many non musicians. If there’s one thing they don’t fully realise, it’s how sophisticated it can get when a guitar player puts together the necessary equipment to create their own sound.

This article goes in that direction, and focuses on what’s probably the most puzzling component of it all: the pedalboard. Continue reading “The logic behind a pedalboard”

Change

Last week has been dark and unproductive. I had reached a point where I was feeling lost, burnt out.

Yesterday I’ve pinpointed the main reason behind it, I think. Change. I like change, I love experimenting with new things, but recently I’ve probably stretched a tad too much. In just a couple of months:

Home

New flat, with an office space that I didn’t have before. So from now on, the living room is truly a living room.

Town

Downshifted a little bit. First time out of a capital city in the last 13 years!

Gym

Obvious consequence of moving to another town. The gym I’m going to now is full of new equipment and fancy machines I’m still getting familiar with, and it’s much busier than the one I used to go to, therefore I can’t just show up whenever I want. (Well actually… I can, as it’s a 24h gym. I just can’t go whenever and expect to have the whole gym for me!)

Job at HM

Got back into Product full time, which is awesome.

Workstation

From 11″ alone to 13″ + monitor. Still working out how to get the most out the touch bar, but I don’t think I’m alone here.

I’ll update my equipment post soon, or maybe post a new one, yeah let’s post a new one.

Bass

I got a magnificent Fender Precision American Standard:

It’s one of the last on the market as the Am Std line is being replaced by the American Professional (as if it wasn’t professional enough… kind of the Apple-isation of Fender, if you ask me). It’s my first P bass after a while, it’s definitely the best P bass I’ve ever owned, and it’s expanding my playing possibilities even more than expected—put flatwound strings on it, and hello Pino Palladino-esque bass lines.

Add the #BTdrama to it all, which I complained exhaustively about on Twitter. First tweet here:

Add also a new leader for the Free World, which is actively working to replace the word Free with something much more obscure.

It’s all exciting stuff (#BTdrama and DT aren’t, but let’s move on), most importantly it’s all stuff that wouldn’t have bothered me if it had happened more gradually. I probably just haven’t been able to process it in such a short span of time.

The very relaxing weekend that I just had was all I needed. Batteries are fully charged now, and I’m ready to dive into new things from today.

Never forget to prioritise yourself and your health. It is true that we only live once, but that’s not a good reason to overload yourself with too many changes at once.

New Year, New Goals: My 2017 Resolutions

I’ve skipped out on new year’s resolutions for many years. I’ve never even been a fan of New Year’s Eve as a celebration, and as a result, to me, the beginning of the new year has never felt like the right occasion to reflect on the past or find points to improve.

A couple of years ago I decided to participate to this global game. And guess what, it actually helped me stay on track. I tweeted out three resolutions, and at the end of the year I had met two of them, which I understand it is way better than typical ratio of met to missed intentions.

So, without further ado, let’s do it again. Here are my resolutions for 2017.

1. Be more consistent

It’s easy to say “this year I’ll start working out,” “this year I’ll be eating healthier,” but those are typically resolutions that don’t make it past January—any regular gym goer knows what’s the busiest month of the year, and I don’t want to fall in that trap.

I’m not saying I don’t need to start with something entirely new, but I do have to focus on being more consistent with what I already do. Bass practicing, learning to code, reading, blogging, those are all activities that need more consistency than I’ve managed lately.

As a sort of new year’s experiment, I’ve put together and shipped Franz Drinks in less than a day. Nothing tremendously exciting technically speaking: it’s a WordPress website where I post pictures of what I drink, and I didn’t even coded up the theme (for now). Why am I mentioning it here? Because it’s a nice example of something that makes sense only if I work on it fairly regularly—i.e. posting daily-ish, without drinking too much alcohol obviously 🙂

Franz Drinks homepage
Franz Drinks homepage

2. Set clearer goals

As an extension of the resolution #1, I need to have clear short, medium and long term goals to keep the consistency level high. It’s not a matter of motivation though. Bear in mind, I’m not a fan of “motivation”, I don’t think that motivation should be my driving force and I don’t believe that there’s anything out there that is “all about motivation.” When goals are set in stone, everything else is up to me and my discipline.

Why do I keep practicing with my bass guitar? Short term, to keep nailing songs. Mid term, to go out there and get some new gigs after a couple of years of “I don’t have time for this.” Long term, to produce something mine. Why am I learning to code? Short term, to better understand what’s going on in the techiest side of industry in which I’m working. Mid term, to build something mine—just a fresh theme for Franz Drinks, or maybe a new little product. Long term, to be able to perform at least junior dev tasks whenever needed.

These of course are just wide, sort of foggy goals I’m jotting down here to give you the idea.

Practicing, improving, learning without goals is just pointless.

3. Bring people together

Everyone who cares about a community needs to constantly remind themselves the point of it all. Bringing people together.

In the past, I’ve written up massive rants on social media about religion, politics and society, and whilst my original goal was to kick off important discussions, the major outcome I was getting was another one. I was dividing people.

I’m a big believer in sharing thoughts and speaking my mind, but I need to ask myself more frequently what kind of emotions I trigger with any type of post or comment I flesh out. Am I giving people something that will cause unnecessary disputes? Will people feel forced to take sides? If so, I ought to think more before hitting the publish button.

Whatever it is that you’re planning for this year, whether you have ambitious goals or want to transition to something else (and maybe achieve bigger things in 2018—that’s fine too!), take good care of yourself, be happier, be healthier, and give everyone around you a reason to smile.

Happy 2017!

Out of Office, our online event about remote work, is today. Are you joining us?

You’ve probably been there: someone says “I work remotely” and you think they’re all about posting pictures of their laptop next to a macchiato in a hip coffee shop, working from a beach, or—worst case scenario—preaching about some obscure, passive—of course—way to earn the income that unlocks the chance to live that lifestyle.

Whilst that’s not necessarily old news, there’s so much more to remote work: think about productivity, growth, dealing with stress, or onboarding. Curious about how distributed companies, remote freelancers, but even the office worker who occasionally works at home deal with those? Good, because they’re all topics that will be discussed at Out of Office, today, at 4PM UTC.

Out of Office is live streaming online and it’s free

Yep, that’s right. You’ll be able to watch it at your own desk, on your couch (just cast the relevant Chrome tab to your tv if you use a Chromecast), wherever you want.

Reserve your spot now, go to the event page when it’s 4PM UTC, boom, done. Now it’s all about learning and asking questions to our speakers.

Talks & Q&A’s

We’re hosting a pretty nice group of speakers, coming from some of the most influential companies when we’re talking culture and flexibility: if you’re thinking about Basecamp, Toptal, Buffer, yes, we’ve got them all.

Here’s the full schedule:

16:00 – Opening remarks

16:15 – Toptal bootcamp: onboarding with impact, by Jennifer Weinmann (People Operations at Toptal)

17:00 – Productivity, by Rodolphe Dutel (Operations at Buffer)

17:45 – Values of a humane remotee culture: empathy, trust & inclusiveness, by Dino Anderson (Operational Development Consultant)

18:30 – Live Interview with Jason Fried (CEO and co-founder at Basecamp)

19:15 – Dealing with stress in remote teams, by Tom Willmot (CEO and co-founder at Human Made)

20:00 – Closing Remarks

At Human Made we’ve been working hard to put together a strong, BS-free event that will teach you a lot of interesting stuff about something we truly care about. Come watch it and you’ll appreciate.

Join now, there’s still time!

So, want to watch Out of Office? Awesome.

Reserve your spot HERE. Do it now, there are more than 1,000 people who already opted in.

Read more here, and tell your friends on social media you’re joining us. The more the merrier, you know?

Public Speaking: Organisation Tips

The other day I was asked to write about how I approach public speaking from an organisational point of view. Things like “do you have a general roadmap”, “how do you start creating your slides” or “do you use spreadsheets“ and so on.

I thought this was really interesting, so here we are, without further ado: tips on how to keep your life as a public speaker organised.

The Trello board

Just like almost everything else in my life, it all starts from a Trello board. My Trello board for public speaking helps me navigating across the grand scheme of things: biographies, headshots, speaker media kit, talk titles & abstracts.

trello-ps-board

The first column on the left has static info as well as a bit of meta—always explain how to use the board as it has to be accessible to mentors or colleagues. As I write this article, the Info column has four cards: a readme with instructions, a card for the Speaking Media Kit with the link to Dropbox (I’ll talk about this later), my biographies, and the abstract structure.

Second, third and fourth columns are New Ideas, In Development, Completed. Every card in those three columns is a talk, with the abstract in the description and everything else—comments from peers or mentors, checklists, links, attachments and so forth—where appropriate.

Every time I have a new idea for a talk I just create a new card in the New Ideas column. There’s no such thing as Hmm, shall I add this here? Hmm… not sure if… hmm… at this stage. Wild ideas must be encouraged. You never know.

The In Development column have only talks that I’m currently working on. Might be talks that have been accepted for an event, talks that I’m preparing before applying with them, or talks that already exist in some incomplete form for some reason. When a talk is in this column I want slide deck and speaker’s notes to have enough meat as soon as possible. When the talk reaches that stage (talk ready to be delivered, but if there’s time I’d appreciate the opportunity to give it some extra love), I apply a label to it, which I named “MVP” (buzzwords, yay), but remains in the In Development column.

The Completed column has only talks that are ready to be delivered or have been already delivered.

Talks are moved around among those three columns, with the usual movement being left to right—New Ideas ➡️ In Development ➡️ Completed.

Labels help a lot with the process. No label means it’s a regular 30–40 min talk. Labels can include workshops, lightning talks, flash talks, keynotes, “MVP”, etc.

Biographies

You’re probably asking why biographies. The answer might be more than one, notably type of events (I’ve got a bio specifically for WordPress events), and languages. Always keep them updated and make sure they reflect the speaking application you’re putting together: if you’re applying with a talk about business development, make sure your bio highlights your experience with business development.

Abstracts

My abstracts usually have three short paragraphs. In the first paragraph I define a problem, an issue, a current situation worth talking about. In the second paragraph I propose a solution, which normally is the major part of the content of the talk. The third one is all about the ideal audience (answering the question “who’s this talk for?”).

The folder for talks

I have a “Public speaking” folder on my computer, which is sync’d to my Dropbox account. This folder has two folders inside: the Speaker Media Kit and the Talks folder. The Talks folder has one folder per talk, and every talk has a “Images” folder (with all the image files that I use in the slide deck), and the Keynote presentation(s). Why plural? Because if I give the talk at different events the deck will inevitably change (from the event hashtag to cultural adjustments).

To recap: Public speaking ➡️ Talks ➡️ Talk name ➡️ Images folder & keynote file.

The Starting Deck

When I start creating a presentation for a new talk, I don’t want to start from scratch. No one likes blank pages, and let’s be honest here, some elements are common across different presentations—every slide deck has at least a cover and a final “thank you” / “questions?” page, right?

In my Talks folder there’s a “Starting deck” folder, which is set up in the exact same way of other talks: an “Images” folder, and a Keynote file.

The Keynote file has a cover (with dummy title, subtitle, hashtag and background, plus my Twitter handle and company logo), a slide about me, a couple of slides about Human Made, and a final “thank you” slide.

Every time I have to do a new talk, I will go to Trello and make sure the talk is in the In Development column, then duplicate the Starting deck, move it to its talk folder that I had created beforehand, and give the file the right name.

It’s definitely easier and quicker to do it rather than to explain!

Speaker Media Kit

I mentioned the Speaker Media Kit a couple of times already, and it’s time to go a bit deeper on this.

A SMK typically is a folder that has your biography, headshots (include only those you’re happy with, as they’re going on the event’s marketing campaigns, website, etc.), contacts, speaking topics (all the topics you’re comfortable speaking about, with some issue / solution-based explanation, very similar to talk abstracts), and testimonials.

It’s particularly useful when event organisers want your complete profile as a speaker.

The Speaker Sheet

An alternative to have separate files is a “Speaker sheet”, which has everything in one single PDF file. I’m a fan of this solution, in fact my SMK has only a PDF and a folder with headshots.

I would love to know how other people involved with public speaking keep everything organised. There are a million ways to do this, so please do weigh in with your processes or feedback in the comment section!

Vancouver-Toronto train: Looking forward!

Just a few days and I’ll jump on The Canadian, a train operated by VIA Rail that is going to bring me from Vancouver to Toronto.

I’ll travel 4,466 km (2,775 miles): 4 nights and 3 days through breathtaking mountains, lakes, waterfalls and picturesque towns. Here’s a video that should give you an idea of what I’m about to experience:

Follow me on Instagram to stay updated with my pictures and stories. In the meantime, make sure you check out the #VIARail hashtag!

7 Tips to use Slack effectively

Both Human Made and the WordPress community use Slack as their real-time communication platform. As a result, I basically live on Slack.

Italia WP Community on Slack
Italia WP Community on Slack

There’s more to Slack than just “chat”, but you have to know how to own it as opposed to being owned by it.

Here’s how I got there.

1. Understand the difference between teams and channels

First of all, to use Slack properly, you need to understand the distinction between teams and channels.

Teams

Think of a team as a community. You can be logged in to multiple teams at the same time (i.e. your company, the WordPress community, the WordPress UK community, etc.), and join different teams with the same email address / username.

The question “Are you on Slack?” doesn’t make any sense unless the Slack team is implicit (different from i.e. “Are you on Skype?”).

Channels

Each Slack team has usually more than one channel, for different departments etc. This allows Slack users to read only the chats that are relevant to them.

Slack doesn’t allow channel arrangement in the left sidebar yet, but you can create your own hierarchical system (sort of). From the most important: starred channels & chats (for projects I’m actively working on, they appear on the top of the left sidebar); regular channels (I receive all the notifications for those); channels where @channel and @here are suppressed (don’t want to mute them, but still don’t want to be pinged for general announcements); muted channels (all the channels that are not strictly required for the work I’m doing).

2. Slack is not the right place for important discussions

Because of its real-time nature, any important conversation or write-up should happen or be recapped elsewhere, for example in internal websites that have a WordPress theme called P2. Websites with the P2 theme have a posting form right on the homepage, inline editing of posts and comments, real-time updates, and much more.

WordPress theme P2
WordPress theme P2

3. Use Slack asynchronously

Slack is often hailed as the saviour of internal communication as well as the destroyer of emails. Thanks to Slack, we don’t overfill our inboxes with countless internal emails, so we don’t have to keep up with different threads, mess with addresses in cc, etc.

In traditional communication, whilst emails are among the most effective asynchronous communication tools out there, chat, texts, etc. represent its synchronous variety. A team that works across multiple time zones can’t chat synchronously all the time, and as emails are out of the question, we need to adapt the chat and transform it into an asynchronous communication tool.

Do Not Disturb is the king

Slack allows users to set them on Do Not Disturb mode (automatically or manually). When someone is on Do Not Disturb, they won’t be notified in case of ping, but the system can be forced if the matter is urgent.

Do Not Disturb settings
Do Not Disturb settings

Generally speaking, it’s important that people can talk to each other even when the recipient is not around. If you understand you’re responsible for your own down time (setting yourself up on Do Not Disturb when you’re offline, not working, or in-the-zone), you’re giving others the freedom to get in touch with you anytime. It’s your responsibility then to deal with the message when you’re ready.

4. Always prefer public channels over private and 1–1 communication

When in doubt, always post a message where everyone can read it. Keep everyone updated on stuff that is not secret or private!

5. Do a routine decluttering

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been there: you’re in several channels, and some of them either ended up dead or lost relevancy to you and your job. Leaving channels when you’re not interested in them anymore means you have less stuff to catch up with.

6. Kill Slack when you need to focus

Which doesn’t necessarily mean quitting it. You can set yourself away, or activate Do Not Disturb, when you want to focus on something without being bothered.

7. Use Slack themes

Slack allows to customise the colour scheme of the left sidebar. Just head over to Preferences → Sidebar Theme and select an available theme, or enter your custom colour combination.

For example, this is a colour combination for WordPress:

#23282d,#191E23,#0073AA,#FFFFFF,#191E23,#FFFFFF,#46B450,#00A0D2

Bonus: is there a night mode?

Slack doesn’t have a night mode yet, but there’s a nice workaround for the in-browser version. Install Stylish for your browser (an extension available for Firefox, Chrome and Safari), and follow the instructions here.

External resources

WordPress communities on Slack – A collection of Slack teams related to WordPress (both country-level and non-local teams)

Slack on Product Hunt – Slack-related apps, add ons & collections.

Slack Themes – A collection of themes for the left sidebar.

11 Useful Tips for Getting the Most out of Slack, by the Slack team

An Incomplete List of Communities on Slack, by Angela Cois

Where are you based?

Some months ago I watched this TED talk on YouTube. The key concept that Taiye aimed to share is a powerful description of the century we live in: we should be more interested in where people are local rather than where they—or their family, for that matter—are from.

(click here for the transcript)

During the last WordCamp Europe I met so many people. Since it’s a conference where local communities gather in one place, The where are you from? question is a popular conversation opener.

In this occasion, I forced myself to ask everyone I met where are you based? in any instance where Where are you from? would have been a legitimate question. The answers I got have been remarkably diverse: some people told me where they live, some added where they are from, some told me where they have lived in the past, some told me where they’ll relocate soon.

We have no control over the town or country we are from. We have the power to influence and shape and build so many aspects of our life: let’s focus on that.