Tech Juice Cleanse warm-up: WordPress weeding and identity iteration

With thanks to Robert Monk for the photo and West Philly’s Satellite Cafe for kale smoothies since before they were cool.

I have some free time coming up and I’ll use some of it to work on a little garden plot of personal tech-adjacent projects. I’m calling it a Tech Juice Cleanse. The intent is to:

  1. Exercise my values and motivations through novel–even quirky–teaching perspectives
  2. Learn tools to bring to life some ideas that have been waiting patiently for me to get around to them
  3. Generally re-connect with the fun parts of being a tech worker. NB: There will be sewing.

Step 0 was to update my WordPress theme. The old one was perfectly functional and had banner photos harvested from treasured travel memories, but it was visually clunky.

So out with the old, in with Rikke. It’s nice, right? I’ve done precisely zero CSS wrangling, just some tweaks from the WP dashboard. I increased the number of preview lines, changed the body font and re-arranged the widgets in the right frame.

Before

 

After 

More importantly, I took a look at my miserably neglected categories and tags. I seem to do better with tags than categories, which might be a result of mentally conflating the two. What’s clearer in the new layout is that this space will be easier to read with discipline in categories and freedom in tags. The issue of discipline in categories goes right to the heart of questions I’ve been asking about my identity in action: What do I do? What do I love? What do I believe? What do I express? What do I keep private? And why?

I’m giving my response to those questions some room to breathe and change over time. For the past couple of years I’ve struggled to place more faith and action into iterative processes of improvement. It’s no surprise that participating in code review culture has both helped and hindered. On one hand, a process of intentional continual improvement, of iterative evolution, feels right.

On the other hand, in the context of toxic masculinity in tech, marginalized people experience violent disincentives to learning and developing little by little out in the open. From the pithy XKCD “girls suck at math” panel, to a world in which a search engine maker runs stats on its users’ searches for its own creepy corporate recruiting, to the well-known phenomenon that a person with a femme-looking handle is way more likely to be thrashed just for asking a question in a tech forum, to subtle sexism, implicit bias, and rampant communication anti-patterns in the workplace, there are Reasons that not all of us want our trials and errors, our hard questions and growth, out in public.

But I’m inspired by Julia Evans and her super charming and helpful Socratic learning/sharing habits. She wrote a zine about Linux debugging tools! Check out this wonderful conversation with her on the Arrested Devops podcast. A quote: “I spend a lot of time writing this blog where I’m like, Hello! I learned what a container is today! … I’ve been trying to understand what’s up with distributed systems. Like what’s the deal, right? You have this tradeoff between consistency and availability, and I’ve been trying to understand how to think about that.” I love and admire her generosity, candidness, and simple language about her learning process.  By being so honest about the things she’s learning, she opens herself up to more Well Actually-ism than I can imagine, but she persists and it seems to work well for her.

So while I smooth the tablecloth on a WordPress theme, I’ll also be negotiating (and occasionally arm-wrestling) with some gremlins. Wish me luck!

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