070: Katie Richards on Building Community and Advocating for the Open Web

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About Katie Richards:

Katie Richards is a Community Coordinator at Pantheon who spends her time working with and advocating for the amazing folk of the Pantheon Heroes project. She admits she is a type-A person who enjoys creating systems and structure and has decided to use those skills for the good of the open web, first at PostStatus.com and now with Pantheon. Katie can be found procrasti-cleaning when she needs a moment to get her thoughts in order.

When not working, Katie is wrangling three wild boys, hanging out with her husband (and favorite person of all time), Brian, evangelizing on behalf of cheese, and reading (nothing self-improving).

Find Katie Richards: Pantheon | TwitterLinkedIn


Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
070: Katie Richards on Building Community and Advocating for the Open Web
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Show Notes

Amy wanted this posted in the show notes:

Transcript

Intro:

Welcome to Women in WP, a bimonthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop and more in the WordPress community.

Amy Masson:

Hello, and welcome to Women in WP. Today’s episode is sponsored by Ninja Forms, a professional form building plugin for WordPress. I’m Amy Masson.

Tracy Apps:

And I’m Tracy Apps.

Amy Masson:

And our guest today is Katie Richards, joining us from Western Michigan. She’s a community coordinator at Pantheon, running their customer advocacy program. Welcome, Katie.

Katie Richards:

Thanks so much for having me, Amy and Tracy.

Amy Masson:

So we like to start off each episode asking our guests how you got started in WordPress.

Katie Richards:

I like to say that my journey into WordPress started backwards, or opposite of most folks. My spouse has been really involved in WordPress since before we were married. And we’ve been married for 13 years, so it’s been a while. And around the time that I was looking at leaving my job in a local nonprofit, he said, “If you’re going to be home, you should at least join Twitter. Just join Twitter and have people to talk to.” I’m like, “Okay. Well, I’ll do that.”

Katie Richards:

And then Twitter kept recommending that I follow WordPress developers, which I thought was hilarious, because I knew nothing about WordPress. And I’m not a very technically oriented person. I went to school for Spanish. And as a joke, he would tweet at people and say, “Hey, you should follow my wife. She’s really fun.” And I just ended up making friends with people in the WordPress community first. So my journey into WordPress starts with people in the community.

Katie Richards:

And I started actually contributing last year, in 2020. So it’s been 10 years of being involved in WordPress, and only very slightly in the actual WordPress project.

Amy Masson:

So you’re involved in the community, but less involved in actual WordPress?

Katie Richards:

I am not a coder. I am not a developer. I am not a designer. I am not a project manager. I don’t do translation. So it’s been an interesting journey to find out how someone without those skills can get involved in the WordPress project. But there’s places. There are things you can do.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah. And I think that’s one of the things that we’ve seen as a recurring theme here is that yeah, people are like, “Oh, well, I just do this.” Well, the whole WordPress ecosystem would just fade into the ether if we didn’t have that community aspect of it.

Katie Richards:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tracy Apps:

Because then it would just be another tech program which would come and go as technology changes. So I think really, that the lasting effect of everything is that community.

Katie Richards:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tracy Apps:

So, yeah. How did you get to your position where you are now?

Katie Richards:

Well, like many jobs within the WordPress space, it started off by knowing someone who had a need that I could fill. I was a stay-at-home mom for a while. I’m not going to say just a stay-at-home mom, because that’s not just anything.

Tracy Apps:

Yes.

Katie Richards:

Raising humans who are quality humans is an incredibly important job.

Amy Masson:

Amen.

Tracy Apps:

Absolutely.

Katie Richards:

So I was a stay-at-home mom for a few years. I had spent a decade of my life working as an office assistant in a nonprofit space mostly. And I was not bored, but I needed something else to use different skills in my life, a different part of my brain than household management. So I was chatting with Brian Krogsgard, who had just started Post Status at that point.

Katie Richards:

And he said, “I really could use a hand. Just, I need an assistant to help me get things in order, keep me on task.” And I said, “I can do that. I am a professional nagger, I can make that happen.” And so I joined Post Status in 2015. 2015. And I was with him at Post Status for about four years, really getting to know people within the WordPress community.

Katie Richards:

Learning a lot myself, about the ins and outs of how the community works, how different companies relate to each other, how open source as a concept is incredibly different from most commercial businesses who are constantly keeping trade secrets and trying to protect their intellectual property. Whereas WordPress, and now my experience with Drupal has followed, are much more open just because we win when we work together.

Katie Richards:

And I was approached by a friend who was working for Pantheon at the time, saying, “Hey, we’re starting up a community program to really focus on our users, and also how our users interact with WordPress and Drupal. Are you interested in applying?” I was like, “No, it seems like a lot. It’s a big life change.” I wasn’t planning on working more than 10 hours a week. And I had, at that point, three little kids. She encouraged me to try anyway, and I did.

Katie Richards:

And here I am two-and-a-half years later, with significantly more marketing experience and community-building experience. And I’m really, really enjoying it.

Amy Masson:

Awesome. So, can you tell us more, a little bit more about what you’re doing as part of your community coordinator position?

Katie Richards:

Yeah. So we have our general community, which is a couple different platforms. We use Slack, we use a Discourse forum, to both connect our users to our internal teams, and our internal teams to our users. But I was hired to focus on our customer advocacy programs, the Pantheon heroes. And our Heroes are our most dedicated, loyal customers that have the longest relationship with the company, that are talking at events about how to use this specific Pantheon tool.

Katie Richards:

We really should have a way to support you better in those situations. So the program started in early 2019. And I started at Pantheon in mid year that year. And so ever since then, I’ve been working on building those relationships for our Heroes. Finding ways for them to give feedback to the company and to our product teams, as they start rolling out new ideas, and figuring out different ways that Pantheon can get involved in their companies and their I guess, extracurricular open-source activities as well.

Tracy Apps:

I love that, because you technically are working almost as like, you’re that in for the UX research.

Katie Richards:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tracy Apps:

So, as a UX. So from my viewpoint where I’m like, “Oh, that user.” Having that close connection and relationship with that customer, with that user, it’s one of those things where companies don’t want to invest in these things, because they’re long term marketing. Not just like, here’s an ad and just get a bunch of people to sign up for stuff. But that’s like from being self-employed, those are my favorite and what keeps me in business.

Katie Richards:

Exactly. We’ve recently started having some of our advocates come to our internal marketing team meetings, as guests, to talk about their journey with Pantheon, how they use the tools, what problems we solve for them. Our Heroes, we’re usually one of the first stops when our UX team has another round of surveys to go out.

Katie Richards:

Like, “Oh, do you have any people that would be really good fit for this specific?” They’re like, “We’re looking for non developers, who’ve been using Pantheon for this long and this much.” I’ve got like four I can give you.

Tracy Apps:

I love that.

Katie Richards:

And consistently show up. They’re absolutely fabulous people who make my job really easy. Because, who doesn’t want to work with awesome people every day?

Tracy Apps:

Exactly. That’s awesome. I love that. How has the community aspect of things been affected by I don’t know, the world being on fire in a global pandemic?

Katie Richards:

The dumpster fire that’s been the last 18 months.

Amy Masson:

And it’s not ending anytime soon.

Katie Richards:

No, it’s not. Pantheon has been incredibly supportive of staff as we figure out what our lives are, in response to the pandemic, and how our jobs need to change. Especially, I am part of the community team within the developer advocacy team at Pantheon. And our job is to build bridges between folks in the community and our product.

Katie Richards:

But when you’re not seeing folks in the community face-to-face as often, it’s much more difficult to do that. So we’re really supported in trying new things, and being agile, and changing direction, and gathering what data we can, and moving forward. We’ve been doing a lot more virtual events, especially with our advocates, because that’s where I spend most of my time.

Katie Richards:

We’re doing an escape room in December together as a team. I’m really excited about that. We did Meet the Animals tour from the San Diego Zoo in the spring. We got to meet a slop, which was like a professional highlight for me. So things like that, where we connect both as professionals, but also as people.

Tracy Apps:

I love that.

Amy Masson:

I’m just going to interject. This is unrelated to WordPress. But have you seen that video of Kristen Bell when the slot is coming to her house?

Tracy Apps:

Yes.

Amy Masson:

Oh my gosh.

Katie Richards:

No.

Amy Masson:

I’m going to put a link in the show notes. If you haven’t seen it, it’s just a goddamn delight-

Tracy Apps:

It is.

Amy Masson:

… about how excited and emotional she is about a sloth. And back to WordPress.

Katie Richards:

It was watching people’s faces as the sloth came into view in the screen. Everyone was like little kids at Christmas seeing Santa. It was the most exciting thing we could have possibly imagined.

Tracy Apps:

I can relate.

Amy Masson:

And that was all virtual?

Katie Richards:

That was virtual. There are so many options for ways to connect with people online that never existed before the pandemic. Of all of the silver linings for the pandemic, I’m really grateful for innovation in that area.

Katie Richards:

Being able to do remote movie nights with friends who live across the country, and being able to start up a movie through I think both Netflix and Disney+ offer this, where you can synchronize watch something together. Lots of virtual events.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, like a view party or something.

Katie Richards:

Yes.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah.

Katie Richards:

Exactly. Even though life has felt a little bit more restricted over the last 18 months, there are so many new things that we’ve been able to try and experiment with. And that part has been fun.

Tracy Apps:

I do love how the digital and the virtual has opened that door, too, because I have a lot of friends that are not local. So having that, even just having a Zoom meeting open and do something at the same time, is just comforting. But absolutely, really cool that break down barriers, and as you found ways to use that.

Amy Masson:

Yeah. I’ve got a lot of virtual event burnout. And I am really, really missing the in-person events. And at this point, I don’t even know when we’ll be able to have them again. I was hoping maybe 2022, but it certainly doesn’t look that way.

Katie Richards:

Yeah. It’s interesting being in two open source communities at the same time, and seeing how WordPress runs events versus how Drupal runs events. And what the requirements are. Drupal is planning a large scale event in 2022, which was a surprise to me.

Amy Masson:

Well, WordCamp Europe is back on the schedule for 2020.

Katie Richards:

Yep.

Amy Masson:

I can’t go because my airline credits from the last WordCamp Europe expire in April. So we’re going in March, because Portugal is the most vaccinated country in the world right now.

Katie Richards:

I love that. I know. We keep joking at home about moving to Portugal like, “We could do it.”

Amy Masson:

Yeah.

Katie Richards:

I know Spanish, which is similar enough to Portuguese that I think we can pull it off.

Amy Masson:

Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, that makes sense to me.

Amy Masson:

So I have to go before WordCamp Europe, to use my credits. So I don’t think we’re going to actually go back for the conference. But at this point, they’re planning it in person, which I don’t know what it’s going to look like in June. Is it in June?

Katie Richards:

Yeah.

Amy Masson:

It’s in June. I would really like WordCamp US to come back. That’s the one I really miss the most.

Katie Richards:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amy Masson:

It’s where I get to see all of my people. I don’t like the virtual. It’s not the same for me.

Tracy Apps:

That’s true.

Katie Richards:

Yeah. Yeah. And how WordPress has done virtual events has been very different from how Drupal has done virtual events. And the focus on-

Tracy Apps:

I’m really curious of the differences, because I dabbled in Drupal years and years ago. And I had a not great experience with it. But also, I’m sure it’s changed quite a bit. But I’m very curious how that I’ve been so ingrained in the WordPress community and what kind of differences, the Drupal community versus the WordPress community.

Katie Richards:

There were some things that surprised me when I started attending Drupal events. The planning is so much less centralized, and they don’t have global sponsorships. So my very first event that I went to, a Drupal event that I went to, I taught a workshop at DrupalCon, in Des Moines, Iowa, which is fantastic name.

Tracy Apps:

That really is.

Katie Richards:

But I was chatting with one of the organizers about this, and they were really limited in where they could … They had to book a venue for the event, before they could actually schedule and plan the events, to make sure that they have a location. But they could only book based on how much they have left in their bank account from their last event, which was like $200.

Katie Richards:

The difference between WordPress and Drupal supporting smaller events and things like that, change. And I know that that’s one thing that Drupal has done a lot of innovation on over time. That was a couple years ago already, so I know things are different now. Drupal, I absolutely adore their methods for crediting contribution for non code contributions.

Katie Richards:

They’ve got a really robust community initiative process. So we’ve got a community project on drupal.org for our programs. So if we’re coordinating open source contributions for our advocates, we can give them Drupal credit, essentially, for those contributions, without it being through an official Drupal core team.

Katie Richards:

And that could be teaching trainings. Our advocates have started stepping in doing trainings on our products, but also like intro to Drupal, and showing up at events for us and things like that. And it’s absolutely wonderful to be able to give them that professional I guess panache, that they’ve been out there doing these things and they have a way to show that.

Tracy Apps:

I love that, because that’s one of my complaints with just the WordPress community. And I think it’s almost more of a conditioned attitude of like, “Oh, well, I don’t develop so I attend things.

Tracy Apps:

I’m not really a part of the community. Or I don’t feel as big of a part of the community as someone that writes some code that goes into the software,” which is absolutely not the case. It’s not like that.

Katie Richards:

I actually aid earlier, there’s a lot more to WordPress in the community than just code.

Tracy Apps:

Exactly.

Katie Richards:

And I think this is a shift that WordPress has been making over the last year or two especially, focusing on mentoring folks who don’t have that technical background, into different ways they can contribute. I started working with the WP Speaker Diversity group a little over a year, or almost a year ago. And I did that because someone said, “Hey, this would be a really good thing for you.”

Katie Richards:

And they needed help reading through the AI transcripts from some of their workshops, and updating them to be actually human readable. I was like, “I like editing things. I can do that.” And now, I’ve been involved for almost a year. Our team at Pantheon a year ago, almost a year ago, created an event over the month of December, called the Gift of Open Source.

Katie Richards:

And it’s really a month-long initiative to encourage and teach folks how to contribute, and really give them resources to do that contribution through the end of the year. And so through that, we had a bunch of workshops on beginner contributions for both WordPress and Drupal, and where you can look at for non code contributions.

Katie Richards:

And if you’re not familiar with GitHub, then here’s how you would navigate GitHub, and checking out open issues, and submitting patches, and all of that. That was an incredibly eye-opening experience for me on the organizing side of it. Just, I learned so much. I have learned so much on the job. It’s great.

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Tracy Apps:

I love that, because I’ve actually done talks about this. Because we talk about oh, open source, that means everyone can contribute. No, not everyone can contribute because not everyone knows how to contribute. So that mentoring and how we can intentionally bring in more people into, your skills are needed.

Tracy Apps:

And here’s a mentor, here’s how to do this thing. That’s so key to have this software, this platform last and be inclusive, and really serving the needs of the world. So I think that’s really amazing.

Katie Richards:

We were really excited about that program last year, and we’re gearing up to run it again this December. We got to hear so many fun stories of, “I have my name in WordPress release credits for the first time because of this event.” Like, “Yes, this is why we do what we do. This makes us excited to come to work.”

Tracy Apps:

I love it.

Katie Richards:

Me, too.

Tracy Apps:

That’s so great. So when you said you do diversity or inclusive … What was the organization that you work with, with WordPress?

Katie Richards:

I’m working with Jill Binder’s team in the WP Speaker Diversity group.

Tracy Apps:

That’s what it was. Nice. So, what is that? Is that finding and mentoring people for speakers?

Katie Richards:

Yes. I’m hoping I can represent this clearly. There are three main components for the team. Training for people who run events and meetups, to educate them on diversifying attendance and speakers at their events, training for speakers themselves, who come from underrepresented communities, who don’t feel qualified to speak, but are eminently qualified to speak at an event.

Tracy Apps:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Katie Richards:

So helping them work through how to write a talk proposal, how to put a slide deck together, those kind of things. And then a third component that was started this year was a Slack group on the WordPress Slack, to help connect folks who’ve completed the speaker training, to speaking opportunities. One of the things I do every week for work is writing a newsletter for our advocates, to say, “This is what’s going on within the company.”

Katie Richards:

“This is what’s going on within events. This is where you might see us at events. And also, these are a bunch of events who have open calls for speakers. Please apply to all of these.” And I can’t catch all of them. And I try, but keeping my ear to the ground essentially, and hearing where speakers are needed. And being able to share that with that group has been wonderful.

Tracy Apps:

Nice.

Amy Masson:

We don’t have a lot of people on that are deep within both WordPress and Drupal. So, can you tell us what you notice in the … What’s the Drupal community like compared to the WordPress community? Because I always feel like WordPress is this huge group of people and we all love each other and la, la, la, la, la.

Tracy Apps:

The hippies of the tech world.

Amy Masson:

Yeah. And then it’s like, does Drupal even have a community? I wasn’t aware. Tell us more.

Katie Richards:

Yeah, they’re really similar. It’s a really similar experience. We care about very similar things. We’re looking at future technologies very similarly. Headless is a big push in both sides. So there’s just a really strong thread of conversation across the board.

Katie Richards:

I spent my first hour or so of my morning today, watching part of the Driesnote from DrupalCon Europe from last week that I missed, because it was in Europe, and I was asleep. But thinking through the future, hearing Dries, the founder of Drupal speak about where the project is headed, similarly to the State of the word, and it’s saying very similar things that you would hear in the State of the Word.

Katie Richards:

Like, diversifying contribution is absolutely essential to the life of the project. The more perspectives that we have, the better our project will be. The more invested that people will be in the project, the more invested they will feel in the outcome and longevity of Drupal. Yes, those are all things that we’ve talked about on both sides.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, totally. Well, when I’m teaching WordPress, I’m teaching some online courses through universities, and it’s not even stressed very much in the curriculum. So I make sure to put in that extra stress of like, this community, this is amazing. People want to share what they’re doing.

Tracy Apps:

People want to include more people. People want to teach you and bring you into the fold. We want you to go to these. Go to an event and meet people. Go to an event and speak at something that you’re passionate about. All of those things, you don’t really see or it’s not stereotypically thought about in a tech world.

Katie Richards:

Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

So it’s like, gather around the campfire. I love that.

Amy Masson:

Yeah. Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

But people that are outside of the tech community and they just see tech as this I don’t know, stereotypical … There was a show, Silicon Valley or something like that?

Katie Richards:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, that’s what they think of.

Katie Richards:

And there are parts of it that are that way.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, exactly. But that’s usually startup world.

Katie Richards:

That’s weird to be straddling that line between startup worlds and open source worlds. But it’s a nice blend of both.

Amy Masson:

So before the pandemic, did you … I know you are doing speaking now, but were you speaking at WordCamps, things like that?

Katie Richards:

I was not. I am not a public speaker. I’ve always claimed that my spouse has taken all of those skills away from me. He’s gotten all of that in the family, and that’s fine. I’ve always been more of a background, supportive person than upfront, on-stage person. And I think being able to give virtual presentations has been a really lovely way to ease my way into public speaking.

Katie Richards:

I haven’t done any public speaking in any capacity since I think debate in high school. So it’s been a while. But being able to work on those skills, comfortably from my own environment at home, with a team full of people who are in my corner, got my back, are giving me slide deck resources to create slide decks, who are helping me practice, give me my talk, I can send a DM to anybody on my team and say, “Hey, I’m giving this presentation.”

Katie Richards:

“I would love a second pair of eyes on this.” And I had done it before, and I’ve had co workers just drop things and jump on that. It’s hard to separate my experience working at Pantheon and the pandemic, because it’s been 18 months of the two-and-a-half years that I’ve been there. But without those two things together, I don’t think I ever would have done that.

Amy Masson:

I find that the virtual presentations are an easier way for those that are presentation hesitant, to get involved term.

Tracy Apps:

That’s a good term.

Katie Richards:

Yes.

Amy Masson:

Well, of the three hosts, Tracy and Angela and I, I’m the least speaker-y of the three. I’m not a public speaker. I get really nervous. I am worried that people are judging me on my hair or my makeup, or my size or whatever else.

Amy Masson:

And I can’t focus on what I’m trying to say. But I’ve done several virtual ones in the last 18 months. And I like it because I’m speaking into a void, and I don’t have people looking at me. They are, but I can’t-

Tracy Apps:

And it drives me crazy, because I’m speaking into a void and I can’t read the room and see everyone’s reaction to my dad jokes.

Amy Masson:

Well, when you’re in a room and people have their laptops open and then they’re looking, I’m like, “Are they playing solitaire? What’s going on?” So at least with the virtual presentation, if they’re playing solitaire, I just don’t know.

Katie Richards:

That’s true. One of the best speaking experiences I’ve had, was when the platform that we were using for the event said, because of the way it was coded and created, if you’re sharing your slides, you need to turn your camera off. And I had to speak without having to think about my face at all.

Katie Richards:

I knew no one was looking at me, because they couldn’t. And I don’t have an inside Face. My face has no inside voice. It is often very loud, and I have lots of emotions on it all the time. So being able to go through a presentation without having to expend that little bit of extra energy was really nice.

Amy Masson:

And I think that that is a very uniquely female thing to be worried about when you’re presenting, is all these other external things that are unrelated to what you’re presenting.

Amy Masson:

And even early on, I think, in our podcast, one of my friends contacted me and said that was not something as a man, that he ever thought about when he was presenting. And he did it a lot. His hair, his looks, he just never feared people were thinking about that, when that’s all I’m thinking about in a presentation.

Katie Richards:

I think about that every time I pack to go to an event. My coworkers, my spouse, my male friends will have a pair of jeans and three T-shirts and a hoodie for the trip.

Katie Richards:

And I’m like, “Okay, well, I need to have this for this occasion, this for this occasion.” I feel like there’s just a lot more pressure about showing up looking a specific way, acting a specific way as a female presenting person in tech.

Amy Masson:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Katie Richards:

But also, I’m getting to a point in my life where I just don’t care anymore. I’m going to do what I want to do, because that’s the path that I’m on and that’s the path that I want to follow.

Amy Masson:

When you’ve been working on these, helping people become speakers, is that an issue that’s ever been addressed? Like, how not to think about so much your appearance, and all those external things that are unrelated?

Katie Richards:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amy Masson:

And if not, do you think it should be?

Katie Richards:

Oh, it definitely was touched on. There’s so many different things that folks who don’t feel comfortable, or don’t feel qualified to public speak, or speak in public, or give presentations, feel that are holding them back. And being able to say that if you have the content, and we have this group of people behind you who are mentoring you and cheering you on, and connecting you with speaking opportunities, you have so much more confidence that those are issues that you’re not really thinking about as much anymore.

Katie Richards:

And the more people that we see who look like us, speak like us, dress like us, act like us on stage, the more comfortable the rest of the folks will be, which is why our representation matters, and why we’re trying our best to reach the folks who have the skills, have the knowledge, and just need the support.

Amy Masson:

Representation is so important. And I think the push over that I’ve seen since I started going, since I guess the WordCamp US, the very first one in Philadelphia, the push I’ve seen from then till now to make sure that there is a representative group of people presenting, I think, has been huge.

Katie Richards:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I couldn’t tell if that was because I’ve gotten more involved in the organizing side of the events, or if it’s because that’s a shift that our community is making. But I’m cheering that on with all of my heart. Let’s get as much of a diverse group of people up on stage in front of folks as possible.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, absolutely. And it’s funny because I remember thinking when I first started going to WordCamps and everyone had the nerdy T-shirts, and I was like, “Oh yeah, okay, I’m totally going to …” I have those dirty T-shirts, too. And then I was like, I remember back in high school, and I want to say … I don’t remember. I think he was an English teacher.

Tracy Apps:

I didn’t have him for any classes, but he was apparently a hard ass on people. And one of the things he said, he says, “You want to be unique? Wear a three-piece suit to school. And then he’ll be like, “You’ll stand out then,” because everyone’s like, “Oh, look at him.” I’m going to look different like everyone else.

Tracy Apps:

And so I almost feel I subconsciously tapped into that. And I was like, “You know what? I have my nerdy T-shirts. I still wear those at home, but I’m going to bring my button ups and my bow ties and stand out that way.” And I’ve found that freeing.

Amy Masson:

You find the bow tie freeing? Because I find it a little constricting.

Katie Richards:

Constricting.

Amy Masson:

I do. I’ve actually fallen asleep, and I’ve taken a nap in a bow tie. And then I woke up and I was like, “I could have taken my bow tie off, but I didn’t.”

Katie Richards:

It’s just part of you at this point.

Amy Masson:

It is. It is part of me. Exactly.

Katie Richards:

Part of my professional journey and personal journey, and just getting older has led me to the point where I am much more comfortable in my skin than I was 10 years ago, and much more comfortable expressing myself. And 10 years ago, I would have never said that I was, or I guess never defended being a stay-at-home parent as an essential job.

Katie Richards:

I would have said I’m only a, but I have a much more diverse perspective on life at this point than I ever did before it. And I definitely credit that to my internet friends. Growing up in the Midwest is a very siloed, protected way to grow up, especially if you’re not living in a large city.

Katie Richards:

But having friends all over the world, who are living very diverse experiences, has educated me to the point where I’m not looking for homogenous. I don’t want to fit into a homogenous community. I want a bright and vibrant, different group of people. I want to be one of the weird people. I want that for me.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, I love that. And I think that’s one of the things that, it can be scary if you’re not exposed to that early on, or you’re not used to it. I hit my stride I feel like, probably my mid 30s. By the time I hit my 40s, then I was like one, I have no filter. I do not have inside faces. And I really don’t care. You can just get off my lawn.

Katie Richards:

Yep.

Tracy Apps:

And I’m okay with that.

Katie Richards:

It’s been a rapid shift. Once I hit 30, I was like, “You know what, I don’t care anymore.”

Tracy Apps:

Yeah. Yep.

Amy Masson:

It took me a little longer, but 45, I’m here.

Katie Richards:

Yes, I love it. I love it.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah.

Amy Masson:

Yeah. There’s a book I’ve been reading, called the Fuck It Diet, and I really enjoy it. And I’m applying it not just to eating. It’s applying to all aspects of my life. Fuck it.

Tracy Apps:

What are the details on that?

Katie Richards:

I have not heard of that particular diet before.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah. How are you going to do that?

Amy Masson:

You basically eat food and stop, say fuck it to restricting eating.

Katie Richards:

All right.

Amy Masson:

And it’s a great diet. I really am liking it.

Tracy Apps:

Revolutionary.

Amy Masson:

It is revolutionary. I highly recommend it.

Tracy Apps:

It’s similar to my dad’s diet. He’s on a light diet. He says the lights are on. I can eat whatever I want. Dad jokes all day. All day.

Katie Richards:

Yes. Amazing.

Amy Masson:

Well, one of the things you were saying about WordPress and knowing people, or people being everywhere and learning about their experiences is, through this community now, I know people all over the world that if I’m going to be traveling and I’m going to be in a city, “Hey, let’s get together and have a drink.”

Katie Richards:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amy Masson:

And people want to do that. I have never had a job before that gave me that kind of opportunities to meet and really make connections with people in so many different places.

Katie Richards:

One of my favorite WordPress stories isn’t even mine. But a number of years ago, my friend, Andrea Rennick, was traveling through my state, and happened to be waylaid in the Detroit area.

Amy Masson:

Oh, I know this story.

Katie Richards:

And Rebecca Gill was in the area and she said, “Hey, I know you’re stuck at the airport. Do you need anything?” Andrea was like, “Yes, underwear. I need clean clothes.” So Rebecca was like, “I’ll come get you at the airport. We’ll go to the store. We’ll get you what you need. This is good.” And it’s a wonderful thought that I could be on a plane, dropped anywhere, and know that I can find someone who has my back.

Katie Richards:

A couple years ago, my spouse was on a plane, on the way to LoopCon in Florida when the conference was canceled because of a hurricane. I was like, “Oh gosh, what is he going to do?” Being in a hotel during a hurricane on the coast, is not on my bucket list whatsoever. And another one of our friends who lives on the other side of the state, sent me a DM on Twitter.

Katie Richards:

It was like, “Hey, if you need me to drive across to Fort Lauderdale and pick him up and bring him back to Tampa, I’ve got that. I can do that for you.” And so knowing that those situations come up and chaos happens because life happens, it’s wonderful to think that we’ve got people we can connect with anywhere. And if we weren’t close friends before, we’ve got some common things to talk about in WordPress and open source and all those things.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah. Actually, one time, I think I was … I don’t remember where I was coming home from. I don’t know if it was a WordPress thing, or if it was just something else. And one flight was delayed, so I missed another one. And I was in Philadelphia, and they were like, “Yeah, you can get a discount at one of these hotels.” But I was like, “No, I spent all my money to go on this trip.”

Tracy Apps:

So I guess I’m going to find a quiet place in the airport. And everything had closed, so I literally had chocolate covered almonds as my dinner. And I found this place where they had all the art and I was like, “All right, I’m just going to use my shoes as a pillow.” And I was tweeting it out.

Tracy Apps:

And sure enough, the other Tracy, the one that people think that we’re the same person, she lives in Philadelphia and close enough to the airport. She’s like, “Well, I’ll just come pick you up,” because I was like, “I have to be here, really back early in the morning.” She said, “That’s fine, because I have to … On my way to drop off the kid or whatever.” I was like, “This is perfect.” So I actually had a bed to sleep in.

Katie Richards:

Yes.

Tracy Apps:

I love it.

Katie Richards:

We were told so often while growing up, don’t talk to strangers. Don’t invite strangers to your house. Don’t get in a stranger’s car. And I remember my parents’ reaction to the first time I said, “Okay, well, we’re having internet friends over.” My father was like, “What do you mean internet friends? You don’t know them?”

Katie Richards:

I’m like, “No, I know them from online. They just have never been to my physical location.” That’s a different relationship now.” We have internet friends, then we have internet and real-life friends who know where I live. That’s different. But so many of the internet friends have become real-life friends over time.

Amy Masson:

I have to tell a story. It’s not WordPress related, but it’s an internet friend story. Back in college, back in the early mid 90s-

Tracy Apps:

The 1900s?

Amy Masson:

Yes, the 1900s. I had my university webpage on the university server, and I got an email from somebody in Mexico. And he was like, “I’m coming to your university to study this summer. And I would love to meet you.” And so we emailed back and forth and his plans changed. He ended up not actually coming to my college.

Amy Masson:

But he did pass through the city I was in. And on a bus, he was on a bus tour. And we met up. He got off the bus, we went to dinner, we hung out. He brought me a gift. And then he went on his way. And I’ve never seen him again. The internet has made us so much more of a global community than it ever was, than I ever, ever imagined it was going to be.

Katie Richards:

Yes.

Tracy Apps:

I have a very similar story. So I invited the internet to my house for a weekend-long party, back in 2009 or 10, or something like that. That was with a community that was formed around the app or the website [Sizmek 00:43:23], which was a video social networking site, which is now defunct.

Tracy Apps:

But one thing that I will say though, because we do have global friends now, and if you …. In case, just I heard from a friend, if you go across border control, and they ask who you’re staying with and you say a friend, and they say how did you meet this friend and you say the internet and chuckle, they don’t find that funny.

Amy Masson:

Okay.

Tracy Apps:

Even to Canada, just saying.

Katie Richards:

Yeah, we’re the time’s Border Patrol.

Tracy Apps:

Exactly. I’m like, “I met her on the internet.” “Have you met them before?” And I was like, “Oh yeah, we met in Boston, when they rolled up after driving all night, and we stayed at the YMCA.”

Amy Masson:

Oh, my gosh.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah.

Amy Masson:

Wow. Well, it has been wonderful to talk to you today. And before we go, if you could, tell everybody where they can find you online.

Katie Richards:

Sure. I am on most social medias as @KJ Richards. In WordPress, Slack, the same way. Or I don’t know, it might actually be my real name. And, yeah.

Amy Masson:

Awesome.

Tracy Apps:

Awesome. I love it.

Amy Masson:

Thanks for being here today. And thanks to our sponsor, Ninja Forms.

Katie Richards:

Thanks so much.

Tracy Apps:

Thank you. Thank you for listening. Interested in being on the show? Sign up on our website, womeninwp.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and join our Facebook group, to have conversations with other women in WordPress.

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