Why Russians Don’t Smile

At Automattic, it’s traditional that people give flash talks — short talks on a subject of their choosing — at the annual all-company gathering, referred to as the Grand Meetup. The last grand meetup I went to was in San Francisco/Santa Cruz in October 2013 (skipped the October 2014 in Utah because I was expecting my daughter Kira).

I had a “speaker’s block” trying to come up with a topic. I had spoken about localization in 2012, so that was out. I really love Suzette Haden Elgin’s work on communication, but had trouble translating her ideas into a flash talk — her books are so well written, one has to read them in entirety.

In the end, the idea of “why Russian people don’t smile” came to me while I tossed and turned in a hotel bed, jetlagged at 3am. I got up, excitingly jotted down the talking points, rehearsed it once or twice, then finally went back to sleep.

I remembered the video, dug it up just now on the “Automattic TV” channel, and watched it for the first time. I mumble a bit, like in real life, but overall I was (surprisingly) pleased with what I saw. If you ever wanted to know why we Russian (post-Soviets) don’t smile, watch this to find out!


WordPress Geneva Meetup: 300+ members, 37 meetups

I’ve been watching the WordPress Geneva meetup group grow from strength to strength over the past 2.5+ years. The group recently reached the 300 members milestone and threw a party, with 50 people showing up to celebrate.

I created the group on in May 2012. The first meetup was five people sitting on my terrace on a warm July evening, sipping wine and chatting about WordPress. The excitement was in the air.

wp_genevaThe group really took off in the fall of 2012, when Manuel Schmalstieg joined us. I was very fortunate to work with Manuel, who has been the main driver behind the group’s success. Not only has he been a frequent speaker, he connected us to HEAD (Haute Ecole d’Art et Design). Thanks to this connection, the group was finally able to host meetups at modern, fully-equipped (wifi, projector) locations close to the Cornavin train station.

A great location determined the group’s success. Being close to the train station meant that our meetups were attended by people coming from as far as 125 km away. Many members and even organizers travel to meetups from neighboring towns, such as Neuchâtel, Versoix, and Nyon, and as far as Lausanne and Thonon-les-Bains, France.

After moving from Geneva to Zurich in January 2014, I handed off the group leadership to Manuel, who now runs it with three other organizers, Patricia Brun Torre, Evren Kiefer, and Helen Yau. The team has not slowed down: frequent meetups continued, group members have been traveling together to regional events like WordCamp Europe and WordCamp Paris, and there are three events scheduled for March, expanding the group coverage to cities of Lausanne and Neuchâtel.

Congratulations, WordPress Geneva group, on reaching the 300 members milestones, and let’s see what year 2015 will bring!


Tess Warn: A dear woman who helped others until the very end


Tess Warn, a long-time forum volunteer, passed away. She will be missed.

Originally posted on jackie dana:

I just learned about the passing of an amazing woman who is no stranger to

The lovely Tess Warn passed away a week ago.

I got to know Tess well during the two years I worked for, for Tess, known as 1Tess on the forums, was the one and only volunteer moderator on the English support forums where I also worked. She had earned that unique role for her consistently helpful and pleasant demeanor, and she was always constructive in her approach. As happens in most online forums, such traits are rare among the “regulars” and it was no different there. She was a compassionate and friendly voice that rose above the not infrequent sour notes. As a staff member, I couldn’t help but appreciate her contributions, and I occasionally reached out to her in private.

At one point Tess decided to take a chance and apply to Automattic as a Happiness Engineer. This would allow her to continue…

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Potatoes, radishes, beets

Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.

Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

That’s me! After too many books on pregnancy, birth, and child development in the past four years, I picked up Jitterbug Perfume to re-read it after 10 years. It felt surprising — characters somewhat familiar, but I’ve forgotten the twists of the plot. And delightful — my English has certainly improved over the past decades so fewer puns are lost on me.