Thinking: Our Blog
Happy 10th Anniversary WordPress! The Oomph team is proud and privileged to be part of the WordPress community and the WordPress.com VIP Partner program. Thank you for giving us the platform to grow our creativity and build amazing things for our clients. We are users, fans, devotees and advocates and we have enjoyed every moment of the journey so far. From our team to yours, cheers to another awesome 10!
As a blogger, I’ve spent a lot of time telling stories. Joining Oomph has given me the chance to help other people tell theirs. In today’s world of data abundance and sensory overload, though, it can be difficult to break through the distortion and noise. Data visualization is one way we are able to cut through the chaos and present purpose and order to our narrative. It gives voice to otherwise emotionless statistics and data.
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending OpenVis Conf, a data visualization conference brought to us from the folks at Bocoup. The speakers came from all over the world to give talks on data vis and their experiences. Three of those talks really stood out for me.
- The closing keynote given by Juan Velasco (blog) from National Geographic tops my list. National Geographic has been a pioneer in early data visualization since their very first issue in 1888. Velasco is the art director for the magazine, overseeing the visuals and art for the print and digital editions. The biggest take away from this keynote was the need to keep things simple but, he said, doing so is by no means a simple effort. He and his staff go to great lengths researching and executing the most factually accurate visuals to put in the magazine. Months of research can go into a single image or photograph. As an example, the team scanned every bone in a cheetah’s skeleton to get the most accurate 3-D rendering to date for a piece called “The Anatomy of Speed,” picture above.
- Miguel Rios of Twitter gave a more technical talk sharing his insight into the different rendering APIs commonly used for data visualization, including SVG, Canvas and WebGL. He had some very helpful advice on the advantages and disadvantages of each. Rios open-sourced his presentation and posted it to Github for anyone to fork.
- The final talk that really captivated me was given by Kim Rees of Periscopic. She started her presentation with a quote: “A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.” It’s a very powerful statement and one that holds especially true when dealing with large amounts of aggregated data as many do when dealing with data visualization. After the Newtown tragedy, her team responded with the visualization at guns.periscopic.com. It’s an interactive graph displaying the number of deaths from gun violence in a given year and the total number of life years stolen. The projected lifetime of each victim and natural cause of death was based on statistical analysis of the data available for each person including age, race and location. The point of this and her talk was to remind us that these statistics are people and we need to keep emotion in the stories we tell with our data and visuals.
I gained a great deal of insight from this conference and look forward to telling better stories because of what I have learned—and helping others do the same.
Earlier this month, Automattic hosted its second annual WordPress.com VIP Intensive Developer Workshop at the The Carneros Inn in Napa Valley. This event is unmatched when it comes to connecting the WordPress.com VIP community. As attendees, Jim Reevior and I had direct access to the Automattic team, as well as to the more than 50 participating developers and executives from big-media companies, universities and beyond. The Automattic team presented on a multitude of topics, including:
- WordPress security best practices
- MySQL query optimization
- Extending and customizing WordPress using the Theme Customizer
- Front-end performance optimization
Beyond the in-depth technical topics presented at the event, Jeff Veen, co-founder of Typekit, delivered an excellent keynote address. “Designing For Disaster” was an entertaining recount of a holiday website melt-down in the pre-Adobe acquisition days of the company. At the time Veen’s team was under immense pressure to bring their website and services back online as soon as humanly possible. During this stressful time, Veen drew on various management and leadership philosophies in order to insulate his technical team from all external distractions. This allowed them to focus on fixing the problem at hand as soon as possible. As part of the postmortem following the outage, the team developed a detailed disaster recovery matrix so they would know exactly what to do in the event of any future unexpected downtime. As someone who has experienced several high pressure/profile outages in my career, it always helps to have company leadership that is willing and able to handle tricky company relationships and politics for its technical team when they are in break-fix mode, and clients or partners are (understandably) antsy. I highly recommend you check out the full talk (recorded prior to the WordPress event), which can be found here on YouTube: http://youtu.be/8CaeRiMCy4A.
In addition to the technical learning and networking opportunities at the VIP Workshop, the accommodations and meals were stellar. We were lucky enough to be treated two off-site dinners. First, at an Italian restaurant in downtown Napa and second at a French bistro in downtown Sonoma. Both were delicious experiences—and they most certainly kept the local and Italian wines flowing. The dinners were also great opportunities to get to know everyone on a more personal level, and I was happy to meet several people with whom I hope to keep in touch. All in all, it was an incredibly well organized and well managed event. I highly recommend the workshop to any and all VIP clients and partners. You will not be disappointed!
We’re back from the first-ever Oomph Company Retreat! There are so many awesome things we have to tell you about our time on Cape Cod, but before we unveil all that here’s a glimpse into a high-powered, wicked fun retreat week we’ll never forget.
Oomph’s packing up our laptops and flip-flops and heading to Chatham, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod for our first company retreat May 20 – 23. The entire team will be in attendance at the Oomph Beach House where—in between games of wiffle ball, kayak trips and cocktails—we will be collaborating on new company initiatives, building cool new widgets and modules and generally celebrating our greatest resource, our people.
To make the most of this time, all Oomph operations, including maintenance, will follow an emergency-only protocol between Monday, May 20, and Thursday, May 23. In the case of an emergency, please contact us by email at email@example.com and an Oomph team member will respond to your urgent need as soon as possible.
Don’t worry, we won’t be completely incommunicado. You can follow our inaugural adventure on Facebook at www.facebook.com/oomphinc and Twitter @oomphinc. In fact, we encourage you to check in with us and ask us what we’re up to by posting or tweeting your questions using the hashtag #oomphretreat. We’ll be happy to respond with a personal post or picture postcard. Want to know what’s stocked in the beach house fridge, or see a Chatham sunrise? Just ask.
After the retreat, we look forward to returning at full capacity with fresh enthusiasm—and a slight suntan.
The worldly and wicked-savvy Lizzy Hartley joins Oomph this month as a graphic designer working with our creative and strategy team. Just a few months ago the recent college grad came on board as a design intern working on some significant internal and client-facing projects. Whether it’s been working some magic with the Oomph logo, going big with large-scale responsive UX design, or driving creative strategy—Lizzy has proven she has the right mix of dedication and talent to be a full-time contributor at Oomph.
The Hamilton, MA, native spent her college years at Flagler College, a private liberal arts school where the student dormitories are housed in what was once a luxury hotel in St. Augustine, FL. Amid Tiffany stained-glass windows and Spanish architecture—and just a stone’s throw from the beach—Lizzy studied graphic design. But she always knew she would return to Boston, where she hoped to become part of the city’s buzzing innovation district.
“Oomph has given me the opportunity to flex my design skills and to experience the creative process as a team,” Lizzy says. “I’ve particularly loved working on new designs for the Oomph brand so I’m glad I have the chance to see that project through to the big reveal.”
In her free time, she enjoys traveling and using her design skills to create and craft unique pieces of jewelry.
In your best Boston accent please join us in welcoming our new Oomph Wharf regular, Lizzy Hartley!
What’s possible in 48 hours? Just about anything, as proven by this year’s New England GiveCamp volunteers who completed 24 projects for local non-profit organizations in just two days. Silver Sponsor Oomph was well represented with five developers in attendance—Jim Reevior, Steven Word, Ian Del Giudice, Vu Huynh and Alex Vallejo—who all worked tirelessly to produce three of the projects that came out of the weekend.
The guys are back this week with a new zest for coding because GiveCamp challenges participants to think fast and work even faster for a great cause.
GiveCamp Co-Chair Kelley Muir and her son took some time over the weekend to ask volunteers, “What’s the best part of GiveCamp?” Time and again the response was: “It’s astonishing what gets done.” By the close of the weekend volunteers achieve the impossible, and they walk away feeling transformed.
“Every year I am amazed by the generosity and passion displayed by the development and design community at New England GiveCamp. Each team worked long hours putting in their best efforts, and accomplished extraordinary feats,” Muir says. “ It’s one of my favorite times of year.”
This year was Alex Vallejo’s first GiveCamp and he’s already decided he’ll be back next year. Alex and Vu Huynh worked together on an all-new website for Seacoast Educational Endowment Dover, which is now live with a modern theme and streamlined navigation.
“It was awesome,” Alex says. “At GiveCamp you’re working with a brand new team under a tight deadline, but despite all this everyone wants to create something really cool—it’s a challenge.”
GiveCamp posted the incredible video above (courtesy of volunteer Ryan Sutton) that condenses the whirlwind weekend into just three minutes. In it, you can see the dedication and passion at work. We’d like to thank New England GiveCamp for giving us an opportunity to be involved in the event, and we look forward to participating again next year.