Tales from a Nomad Software Developer in a hostel

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Aloha,

I’m currently staying in a hostel in Maui. I’ve been here for 6 nights, and am here for 5 more. After that I’m going to the island of Kauai where I’ve also booked a hostel. I actually think they are great as they allow you to meet awesome people and become friends almost instantly in a very relaxed and casual, traveler-friendly way. And because everyone is always on the go, there’s not really a strong pressure to be or do anything at any particular time or place. The particular hostel I am staying in offers free amazing tours everyday which is great for seeing amazing stuff whit a great group of people. They’re also really really cheap. Staying here costs me less per night than it would be to pay rent back in Vancouver :) — in other parts of the world they are even cheaper.

They are not for everyone. If you need a lot of personal space, or like things to be clean, or don’t like sharing a kitchen/bathroom and in most cases a bedroom with others, you won’t feel comfortable at all in a hostel. It’s worth the sacrifice though.

That being said, it’s definitely tricky to be working while staying in a hostel and to remain productive. So I thought I’d share a few tips (some of these are not hostel specific necessarily):

  • Security should always be in mind at a hostel, both for the physical gadgets you have and for the digital electrons you send into the cyberspace. So proxy your traffic always and use https everywhere. For the physical stuff: keep everything in a single bag, always keep it with you, sleep cuddling your bag if you need to. I don’t trust common safes like the ones they have in the lobby here. Despite everyone being super friendly here, there’s assholes and thieves everywhere; and you don’t want your multi-thousand laptop to get stolen.
  • If you can, get a car. They are super practical for several reasons: the trunk is a safe place to keep your stuff when you don’t want to carry your bag around; they are a quiet place you can take conference calls from; sometimes you just need to get far away from your hostel, so you get in and drive somewhere else.
  • Work anytime you have a free moment and try to plan ahead a few days. There’s always something going on at a hostel: a party, some joke being told, a hike somewhere exciting, etc. You will want to do all of it. There’s some FOMO (fear of missing out) and you may want to do everything. Set some hours aside to work; get up early to work; stay up late to work; whatever it takes. My hours have not been consistent while here, but that’s OK, that’s why I work at Automattic :)
  • ABC: always be charging. If you are near a power plug, charge. Buy a couple portable chargers for your mobile devices too. Seriously, you never know when you might be next to a power plug (and an available one at that!) again, so it’s important to always be as charged as possible.
  • Have a good pair of headphones with you. With them, I can work almost anywhere, and just block the external distractions. This post comes to you from the loud patio at my hostel, but I’m listening to music and in my own bubble.
  • It’ll be impossible to always work from the hostel, so find a cafe, a library, a coworking space — whatever you can to get away and focus for a few hours.
  • Enjoy it; Most of us web workers have the flexibility, the money and the ability to travel, so just do it! I get annoyed when I tell that to friends who have the same opportunities as me and make up weird excuses and then say they are jealous of me. I think traveling and adventuring while working is amazing, but it won’t come to you; you have to make it happen. All in all, Hostels are a great way to do it. I won’t always do hostels when I travel. Sometimes I just need a quiet space of my own far away from everyone with a super clean bathroom; but in a lot of cases hostels are just fine and provide a great environment.

If you want to travel & work like I do, Automattic is always hiring ;)

(mis)adventures in italy

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Today I drove from Geneva, Switzerland to Milano, Italy. It was a really beautiful drive, with a range of different views and scenery. I started off going through the city of Geneva, and saw same of the Swiss country side. Then proceeded into France, and into the mountains. Stopped to take a few pictures of the Mont Blanc, and then drove through the Mont Blanc tunnel, which was actually kind of mundane; mostly long and slow.

Then I got into Italy and was enjoying the picturesque view of small towns, with beautiful churches and castles. I decided to pull over into one of the towns to see if I could find some food and to take a few pictures. At the highway exit, after paying the toll, the federal italian police were doing controls, checking every car. By “luck” they decided to pull me over and look at my papers. I rented my car (a lovely Audi A4 TDI) in France and have a Canadian Driver’s License. Apparently a combination that the Italian police didn’t really like. Specifically they requested I had an international driver’s license instead of just my Canadian one. I later looked into this, and turns out that they were right, Canadians are required to have that to drive in Italy, but not in France (where I had actually looked up the laws ahead of time).

Anyways… I spoke my best Italian (not that great) with them and tried to explain, but unfortunately they weren’t taking any excuses. The missing international driver’s license combined with a lack of snow tires on my car (something that again, is required in Italy but not France and my car had 4 season tires) landed me a very hefty 341 euro fine. Which I had to pay right away and in cash!! Can you believe that?

So the cops escorted me to the nearest Bankotomat (an ATM) and I pulled from two different accounts the money they asked for. They put it in a little envelope, delivered me an italian novel (my very detailed fine) and drove off.

Combined with some pretty expensive tolls along the way down from Switzerland, this has made my trip into Italy very expensive. I’m also nervous that I’ll run into police again — hopefully I can show them the fine and tell them I’m leaving Italy before I get a chance to fix the situation. I’ll be back in France Sunday night.

What’s really annoying is that the international driver’s license isn’t even that special, require any extra tests nor give you any additional benefits. It’s literally just a piece of paper you pay a little extra for saying you can drive abroad. Why does it need to exist?

So, lesson learned; take the train next time. Though I really did enjoy the drive.

Oh and by the way, I never even ended up getting the food or pictures in that town :(

When I got to Milan, I (naturally) had trouble finding parking. Finally parked, then got lost trying to find the Airbnb I’m staying at. Ended up at the wrong apartment building, which just like my correct building, had a doorman named “Antonio”. It was all a bit confusing, and by that point I just wanted to drop my bags off and go have some pizza. Finally was able to reach my Airbnb host, find the right place, and get in; but the whole process took some time.

The night was finally made better by having pizza with my coworker Sara Rosso, who lives here in Milano. One funny thing was that earlier in the day, I texted her that “I had a not so fun run in with the italiano polizei”, and that line ended up in one of our work IRC (chat) channels.

PS: As I travel, I’m posting mostly photos on instagram (cross-posted to my photo blog) and a few personal updates on Facebook. But once in a while a story like this is better shared on this blog. Thanks for following along! :)

Changing teams

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One of the great things about working at Automattic is the flexibility that it allows. As a company, we work on many different things and we’re split into roughly 20 teams working on various projects and maintenance tasks. Occasionally a new team is formed to take over an existing set of projects or to start something new. Recently, a new partnerships team was formed at Automattic, and I decided to join it. As of last week, I’m officially part of the new team.

As part of the partnerships team I work on all the third party integrations that we have on WordPress.com and Jetpack; this ranges from things like connecting your blog to your Twitter or Facebook account, to making sure that if someone pins your blog on Pinterest it looks as good as possible! In addition to third party integrations, the team is also working on many of the APIs that we make available for developers to integrate with our systems.

Finally, I’ll also be doing more evangelizing for our platform; promoting our APIs and encouraging others to work with us and our platforms.

On a personal side, I’m excited for the change; it’s nice to work with new people once in a while, and it’s good to focus on more “project-y” type work as opposed to the daily grind of maintenance which I did a lot of previously.

If you’re a developer and think it’d be cool to integrate your project with WordPress.com or Jetpack, make sure you take a look at developer.wordpress.com or contact me if you want to chat about it :)

Current status: coworking in Israel

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Current status: co-working with a great team of guys in Herzliya, Israel (near Tel-Aviv). Here we are together earlier today:

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I’ve been posting a bunch of other photos from the trip on my photo blog as well: http://photos.jkudish.com/.

It’s been a fun week so far with lots of eating, walking around beautiful places, socializing and working on a secret project that some of our coworkers will enjoy.

If this sounds like a good lifestyle, you should consider applying to work with us at Automattic.

new photo blog

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I have a new photo blog!

I’ve always been a proponent of owning my own data, yet until now my photos have been scattered all over the web since I make use of and enjoy social networks such as Facebook and Instagram. However, these services hold the photos that I upload to them. While I might have the originals somewhere on my devices, it’s nice to have a permanent web home for my photos.

From now on new photos I take with Instagram, as well as my Nikon DSLR camera will be uploaded to the new photo blog. I’ll still share the photos via the usual avenues, so if you already follow me there, you don’t necessarily need to follow the blog too. I know several folks who don’t like or use Facebook or Instagram and I feel like my photos should have their own home, so here it is. As a bonus, I get to play around with all of the new WordPress.com gallery options and the new media manager.

I’ve imported all my Instagram photos and a few of my more recent albums/galleries on the new blog. In the next few days/weeks I’ll be back-filling more of my photos and of course adding new pictures as I take them.

If you’re interested, follow photos.jkudish.com.

MacBook Pro Retina freezing/crashing

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Just a little over 2 weeks ago, I got the new 13in Retina MacBook Pro, which is a great machine. I brought it home, moved over the files from my previous Air, and then proceeded to work as usual, etc… However, every few hours, seemingly at random, the computer would freeze and just stop working. Seemed a bit unusual for a brand new computer. I figured it might be a software issue with one of the programs I use and/or an issue with the migration from my old computer, so I just ignored it at first. It became more and more frequent after a few days, so I looked into it some more. The internet (aka the Apple support forums) recommended I do a SMC reset and a PRAM reset. Did both, and am happy to report that it’s been almost a week and no more crashing and freezing.

Goes to show that despite their reputation, Apple computers aren’t without problems. Also a good reminder, that Google is always there when you experience an issue, and is often a good first sanity-check/self-troubleshooting method before visiting the genius bar or other tech support :)