Dungeons and Dragons for Team Trainings

If you’re not familiar with Dungeons and Dragons (or table top games in general), the best way to describe it is “collaborative story crafting where a group of characters try to solve problems, save folks in trouble, and survive quests that they uncover along the way”. A colleague of mine, Andrea Middleton, once used a Dungeons and Dragons style session to introduce contributors to some basic issues that arise during the course of organizing an event, and ever since that session folks have asked for more trainings in the same style. I had the opportunity to do this recently myself, so I thought I would share some tips for hosting a training adventure of your own.

Getting Prepared

When you’re hosting these sessions, it’s important to do some documentation before you meet. You will be playing the role of everyone except the people who are in the room so there is a lot to think through. But also, don’t worry about getting too granular since your team will be a little unpredictable—just know the general shape, the main players, and the key elements.

  1. Make a list of what to learn – Spend some time thinking about any skills gaps or knowledge gaps within the team. Is this a basic training on everyday tasks or more complex? Are they already familiar with working as a team or are they just starting to form?
  2. Find a scenario where you can practice – Brainstorm some scenarios that will provide opportunities to learn one or more things from that list. For instance, if you want them to learn where the company directory is, then maybe your scenario takes place at a registration desk. 
  3. What do they need to know already – Determine any pre knowledge that will be required. If it’s a lot, consider sending it ahead of time. If it’s mostly “know where to ask questions” you’re probably their best resource. 🙂
  4. Outline your story – start at the end with your learning outcomes and work your way forward. Make particular note of any decisions that would cause the outcome to branch. Try to think through what the best way through the problem is, but also the most common first steps, missteps, and failures.
    • In my session, Missteps triggered a random encounter or external input and Failures triggered “It’s a trap” moments where the problem became worse.
  5. Know the required parts of the story – Note any important facts or people they should seek out while they are collectively working through solutions. What information will they try to find? What information must they find? Are there specific people who they have to find or they will get stuck?

Getting Adventursome

Before you host your session, determine how familiar your group is with this type of game. Not everyone plays games let alone adventuring table top games. If people have never played before, make sure you give them an overview of the process (or send them your favorite one shot). Also, if you are going to use this to track goals and progress over time, consider some sort of “character sheet” to document progress. Don’t get too rigid with the mechanics, though. You want them to come out having succeeded at the learning objective!

  1. Welcome everyone! Explain how each turn will work and have them roll initiative (so you know what order they will go in). Since there’s no Dex to break ties, I just had my players roll to break their own ties. 🙂
  2. Read the scenario and ask the highest roller what they want to do. Table talk and discussion is encouraged, so it’s important to confirm with your player that they have decided on an action. Once they have completed their action, read out the results of the action and move on to the next highest roller.
  3. Make notes of the table talk and progress. You don’t want to move them through anything too quickly. They should have a chance to discuss, ask questions, and ponder possible outcomes. This is a time for them not only research and explore the problem, but also to learn how to work together toward their common goal.
  4. Don’t let them flounder! If they get too stuck, you do have some options:
    • Remind them that you are a resource (“I’m playing all parts except you all, so feel free to ask me anything.”).
    • Roll in a random encounter (“a friendly community member DMs you to ask…”).
    • Roll in a skills check (if they asked almost the right question, roll a Charisma to see if they get some extra info. Do they need information that they aren’t aware of or can’t find? Roll a Knowledge/History.)
  5. Rinse and repeat until the problem is solved! As far as one shots go, these might be pretty much on rails, with a few clear alternative endings/solutions.

Getting Closure

Once you’re finished, I recommend doing a little debrief if you have time. If you take good notes during their session, you’ll be able to go back and look at the various branches and see what could have been done differently.

This is a loose concept based on my recent experience. If you end up trying this, let me know in the comments!

State of the Word 2021 | Q&A

It was a treat for me to see some folks in-person and online at Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word on December 14th. For me, the thrill of his annual keynote is hearing his perspective of the year and what questions it raises in the community. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to all of the questions! We only had a handful of pre-submitted questions which I’ve included along with their answers in my post below. After those, I’ve listed all the questions that were received during State of the Word (with the exception of the banana shake questions 😉

How do we do this?

All unanswered questions have been assigned reference numbers (Q1, Q2, Q3, etc) and any corresponding answers that come in the comments will be labeled similarly (A1, A2, A3, etc). Just like twitter, but slower! 🙂

Pre-Submitted Questions

Matt, me, and my team are building a decentralized publishing infrastructure to bridge WordPress users to Web3. We hope to help content creators leverage blockchain to reach the end goal of democratic publishing. Especially for heavily censored places where people don’t have the freedom to distribute and access information. What do you think WordPress would evolve in the Openverse/metaverse, and how could we deliver the right tool to the WP community? Thanks for answering my questions, and if there’s a chance, I would love to get in touch for a follow-up conversation with you or the team.

– Phoebe Poon

Web3 is currently a collection of ideas, aspirations, and technologies and, in this context, refers to a decentralized web built on cryptocurrencies and the blockchain. 

It’s important to note that decentralization is not exclusive or inherent to the blockchain and crypto. Solid, a project from Tim Berners-Lee and MIT, is an excellent example of this. Self-hosted, open-source WordPress sites are already a great example of decentralization on the web, where users already own their data. The blockchain itself may be trustless and decentralized, but the gateways to access it and abstract it for users might not be. Openverse is an open-source, centralized tool to enable the discovery of openly-licensed media that challenges proprietary libraries of stock photography, licensed audio, and more. – Zack Krida, Openverse project lead.

I’m curious how many people use WordPress Block Editor vs. Classic Editor, raw numbers, and percentages. I’m looking forward to tuning into the event on Dec. 14th.

– Mathew Wallace

The Gutenberg plugin has over 300,000 active installations, while Classic Editor plugin has over 5 million. It’s hard to draw any specific conclusions from these numbers since each plugin serves a different purpose. Having the Classic Editor plugin provides users and clients with a choice of how to create their content, so folks who have that plugin installed could still be publishing primarily with the Block Editor.

My question is about the plugin review team: This is a very special team. It is closed, has only two members, and although we have nearly 60k plugins now, 100+ more coming every week, the team never got more members. The team has power (reject plugins, closing plugins, ban users, etc.), and it has no rotating policy, although the work is very stressful. WordCamp organizers have a rotating policy; why do we have no rotating policy for the plugin review team? And/Or how can we prevent misuse of powers here?

– Torsten Landsiedel

Great question. We have had several people on the plugin review team at various points. Unfortunately, there have been cases of legal threats and illegal harassment against the team’s members, and I will not expose community volunteers to that. That said, there are other community teams involved in reviewing disputes about blocked accounts, and there are plans in place to automate any checks we can, so humans are involved in the parts humans do best. – Josepha, WordPress Project Executive Director

I am afraid that the block editor is dividing the community we are so proud of. As a long time community member, many people come to me as a “representative” person (WordCamp & meetup organizer, speaker, moderator, GTE, etc.) and complain about Gutenberg. Devs are complaining about the fast moving target, the incomplete documentation, and the changes. Users complain about full screen mode and UX problems (especially with older themes). How can you help us volunteers or the people in general to have a smoother transition?

– Torsten Landsiedel

Although the recommendation is to build themes as block themes and migrate existing themes to blocks, older themes are still supported. In this direction, the Widgets Editor was released in 5.8 to support Legacy Widgets in the Block Editor and add native blocks in Widgets Areas. However, it is recommended to implement migration paths from Widgets to blocks.

With the advent of FSE in WordPress 5.9, the new Site Editor will supersede the Customizer, hidden by default. Still, whenever WordPress detects hooks that need the Customizer in themes and plugins, it will be available automatically.  Further, companies participating in the Five for the Future initiative are increasing the number of sponsored contributors focused on developer advocacy and documentation to help smooth this transition. – Matías Ventura, Gutenberg project lead

Hi Matt, first, thank you for providing this space to ask a few questions. My questions relate to the newly formed PHP Foundation and the future of PHP. In your 2015 State of The Word, you told the community to learn JavaScript deeply. With Automattic as an integral part of the newly formed PHP Foundation, is it time to learn PHP deeply? Any chance you might like to read the tea leaves and share your thoughts about the future of WordPress, JavaScript clients with PHP servers? Where do you suggest we (the community) focus our efforts in 2022?

– Rita Best

PHP is a foundational language for WordPress, so many people in the ecosystem already know it deeply. That said, it’s always smart to know your software’s tech stack well. The WordPress project has benefitted so much from the PHP project and community. This sponsorship is giving back in the way that I hope companies in the WordPress ecosystem give back to our project—think of it as a proactive Five for the Future contribution to PHP. – Matt Mullenweg, WordPress project lead

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On recent news about the FSF board of directors

I want to take a moment to respond to the recent news of Richard Stallman’s return to the Free Software Foundation’s board. In short, I do not support his return as a board member. 

It makes me proud that the WordPress project embodies the best traditions of open source and retires outdated traditions, or shibboleths, that do not have a place in our mission: to democratize publishing and grow the open web. For years, this community has been committed to championing underrepresented voices and maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for those we rarely see in open source. 

WordPress and the community that supports it has made an effort to move open source methodologies into a space that applies at the scale of the people who participate, not just the software we create. The high standards for welcoming behavior are held across the board. WordPress contributors lead with accountability, acknowledgment of error, and a genuine desire to grow based on feedback. Under the guidance of many thoughtful leaders, WordPress makes space for those who are committed to growth. 

The work is never finished, both on WordPress and the community that WordPress seeks to foster. I look forward to working with everyone willing to help us make WordPress, and the web, a better place.

Six Years in WordPress

Today is my six year anniversary of becoming a full-time, sponsored contributor to the WordPress open source project. There are many ways I would describe it—rewarding, complex, cutting edge, difficult, ever-changing, meaningful—but at the end of the day, I want to be able to describe it like this:

For the past six years, I have supported a software that stands to bring more equity into the world, by unlocking opportunity and believing in the freedoms of open source. I have supported a community that strives to remove barriers to entry for that software, by uncovering what was once arcane and connecting to one another for strength. And I have supported a space that works to welcome those from whom we hear the least, but who could benefit the most from the tools that WordPress enables for them.

Happy Six Years to me! And cheers to the community that I serve!

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s good to practice a bit of gratitude throughout the year, but it feels like we could all use an extra helping in 2020. So, here are a few things I’m thankful for, and grateful to have in my life!

  1. A network of family and friends who are generously supportive.
  2. The ability (and time) to learn new things.
  3. The privilege to do work that I believe in, with deeply passionate people.
  4. Tacos.
  5. And, especially so this year, my health, well-being, and safety in general.

What are you particularly grateful for?

Compliments for 100 Dollars

I walk past a middle school at lunch every day. Most days we all just carry on with our own work (mine: dog walking, theirs: game playing), but today was different.

As I walked by the school yard, one of the kids kicked a ball over the fence and across the street. She asked if I would throw it back over, apologizing a lot as she did. It’s no real burden for me, so I retrieved it and threw it back over.

Another student asked if I could help retrieve a second ball, and then a third (there wasn’t a fourth). Again, not a problem, so I returned those balls as well. And then he said this:

“You’re so generous! Thank you! If I could pay you $100 I would, but I don’t have any money. Your dog is beautiful and healthy. Have a good day!”

Now, I can’t be sure of what drove him to have that little interaction with me. But I would like to imagine it’s a mixture of these things:

  1. Having a very high valuation of time.
  2. Having a very low valuation of a dollar.
  3. Having an innate sense for the existence of reciprocity.

Which then led him to decide that, knowing that he needed to pay for the use of my expensive time, a compliment to my dog was worth $100.

Unlucky in Travel

I was at dinner with friends recently and, during the course of our mutual catching up, was told that I have the most spectacular stories. We’re all travelers in that group, both for work and for pleasure, so the fact that I seem to have the most unusual experiences of all of us is notable.

Here are the most memorable circumstances, occurrences, and happenstances from the past year or so:

  • I told a 20-something man to stop verbally berating an older woman who was struggling to lift her luggage. He looked as though he might strike me, and for a moment I was worried he would. He did not.
  • A ticketing agent argued with me about my name for 10 minutes. She called a “Joseph Haden Chomphosy” to the desk, and I was sure it was my name but had gotten cut-off. We resolved it with me saying “If you think that somewhere on the planet, there is both a Joseph AND a Josepha with my last name and they both just happen to be in this building at the same time, you have a lot more faith than I do.”
  • A passenger had a panic attack in the door of the aircraft and her service dog got loose and wandered around the cockpit.
  • I flew out of an airport that was so small it hadn’t started taking electronic tickets yet. To this day I am not sure how they managed to get me on the plane, because it wasn’t with a paper ticket.
  • I had a long conversation about the educational system and how it doesn’t properly account for populations that suffer from systemic inequality.
  • On an entirely different flight, I had a long conversation about racism, college application processes, and real estate.
  • Three times I have practiced an upcoming presentation on random strangers (because our flights were delayed).
  • I was sent through security three times in 15 minutes at the same airport. They tested the same bottle every time even though it had been marked by them already.
  • I have been transported by random, non-taxi cars by two separate travel companions and have lived to tell the tale.
  • Twice I have shown up to an airport, ticket in hand, and been told that I am not a ticketed passenger.

And I didn’t even travel that much last year.

I was recently told by an absolutely brilliant woman that the best place for observational research is an airport, because that’s when people are their most honest selves. But if I believed what airports have to say about me, you’d think I was the unluckiest traveler around. 🙂