Episode Show NotesIn this Episode Nine (9) of the Back Down Memory Lane podcast, Joe talks to another special friend he met during the pandemic, Megan Renee. We talk about our paths initially crossing in WordPress, origin stories, and the difficulties of social unrest and the bright voices that appeared in the darkness. Megan is an Organizer for WordCamp Northeast Ohio and her sense of humor and sarcasm keeps me in stitches.
Memo to SelfDuring Memo to Self, I talked how we as inflexible, routine oriented people were forced to change during 2020 and how rolling with it isn’t such a bad thing.
Megan Renee 0:00
I’m hoping to continue to like push in that positive direction of like being having open and honest conversations because I don’t think like, I haven’t had conversations like this until you know, 20 2020 really, and, and there’s just a lot of little moments of like, clarity that I’ve had that I’ve just like encouraged me along the same path.
Joe Simpson 0:31
The voice you hear is that of Megan Rose, web developer in the Cleveland area specializing in WordPress solutions. Megan works for Blackbird Digital, an award winning digital agency in Willoughby, Ohio.
I ran into Megan during 2020, during the heart of the pandemic, and actually, at its beginning, we worked on a WordCamp together, and have been friends ever since. She organizes a local meetup in Ohio, as well as she’s on the organizing team for WordCamp, Northeast Ohio. Some may know it as WordCamp camp, and volunteers for Cleveland GiveCamp. Check out our conversation. It was inspiring. And positive. On Back Down Memory, like last year was a crazy year for all of us.
But what stood out for me about you was your voice on social media and Twitter specifically. And I was really appreciative as an African American to hear your takes on a lot of different things. I know. We can tend to get into these Twitter fights, folks, for different reasons. But I’ve never been the type of person to get involved in that stuff.
But it was really fascinating follow. I love when you talk about the books you’re reading. And I love when you go after folks, too. So tell me about how you looked at 2020 in terms of your activity online, and if you felt it was a responsibility to speak up? And if so, what were the reasons for that? And I’d love to hear about it…
Megan Renee 2:21
Yeah, so I was feeling like a lot of my social media presences were like, fragmented versions of me. And I think probably right now with not having anything in person, I’m guessing a lot of people are feeling that way that like, they’re different versions of themselves, and tailored to these different platforms. For me, the disappointing part about myself is that my Facebook doesn’t look the same as my Twitter and I really wish it did. But you know, Facebook is like a more aggressively conservative space. So that’s why my Facebook looks different. I still share things just not as aggressively.
Joe Simpson 3:08
I don’t. I just go over to promote my Meetups over there. I don’t really use it anymore. For that reason, during 2020 you know, like the Castaic neighborhood page was really disappointing. I was like, these are the neighbors that I took my kids to soccer with. And they’re talking like, like this. So I tried to turn that one off.
Megan Renee 3:29
I guess I was like, starting to feel this, like, Oh, my, my online doesn’t reflect my in person. And in some cases, I feel like my in person didn’t really reflect my heart to make sense. Like, it’s not like I’m, I’m very active on Twitter, but it’s not like I’m walking up to strangers and being like, “have you heard of Systemic Racism? Can I tell you about it?” But like, maybe one day I’ll get that confident that I can do that.
Joe Simpson 4:07
To me, in just the short time that I’ve known you, the sense of humor and sarcasm reminds me. A lot of my friends say I have bite biting sarcasm and really bad jokes. But your sense of humor is what I see about you. So you feel like that’s not who you are? Or is there a part of you that we don’t see?
Megan Renee 4:29
No, I think my Twitter is like my truest self. Like, I have, like no fear there. And I’m hoping to like, I guess, I mean, no, all I do is really work right now. But I’m hoping to continue to push in that positive direction of having open and honest conversations because I don’t think like I haven’t had conversations like this until you know 2020. I think part of what sparked it, obviously, like George Floyd’s killing was really tragic and terrible. And I noticed that I was being more vocal after all my Aubrey was killed. That one was especially like, disturbing, because he was just jogging through a neighborhood.
And I guess I, like I am privileged in that I am just learning about these things deeply. When I’m 29 years old. I didn’t have to grow up, like being acutely aware of all of the terrible things going on. And I think I’m starting to realize how like, white moderates can be really like harmful because they don’t take a clear stance, and like the color blindness, I, I have heard that so much in my life that like, I don’t care if you’re purple, it’s the dumbest phrase, and we need to abolish it along with like, a lot of other things that need to abolish, but I’m after, you know, I just dove in, and I just listened to like, as many podcasts as I could, you know, a read. Um, I felt like a giant, I’ve got a big stack of social justice. But yeah, like by buying a bunch of books and trying to like educate myself because I feel like I have to play a little bit of catch up because I’m, I’m white and I don’t have I grew up in the suburbs, and I’m kind of like in a bubble and shielded from everything going on. And, and there’s just a lot of little moments of like, clarity that I’ve back into WordPress, I kind of had the two paths to WordPress thing happened to, um, so basically, my, my start with WordPress, just as like the platform that it is, was in college. And I did have a class that was teaching WordPress development. I think it was just like, interactive media three or something. It didn’t have like repairs in the name or anything.
Joe Simpson 7:13
But were you thinking of it as a career back then? Or?
Megan Renee 7:17
I’m not WordPress specifically. But yeah, development? Yeah. Okay. Yeah, I can push the origin back even further.
Joe Simpson 7:27
Take it. Take it all the way home.
Megan Renee 7:30
Yeah, so I was born. No, I’m I born with a computer in your hand. Yes.
Joe Simpson 7:32
Your parents told you, you know, when you’re a little, you always had a keyboard…!
Megan Renee 7:43
Yeah, I have pictures of me as a baby with computers. So my interest in computers definitely started because my dad was into computers. He works for at&t. And he does have like phone networking stuff. So it’s like different type of computers. But we still get to, like, send each other, you know, cool things that we see and talk about it, which is nice as an adult to like, have those types of conversation with my dad. But yeah, I was interested in computers like, from early, but I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted to do. I knew I wasn’t like, I draw but I didn’t consider myself like an artistic person or someone who wants to do like art as a living. So I never considered myself a designer. But I started making sites back in Neopets online game, where you have pets and they battle and they have houses and they also have cuts of their own. So I that was when I like, got into HTML and CSS in the first place. I don’t think you could change the markup too much. But yeah, it was inline CSS to it wasn’t like anything fancy. But they still have this CSS guide up on their site, which I think is really cool.
Joe Simpson 9:06
Oh, that’s awesome.
Megan Renee 9:08
Yeah, so then when I was in high school, like, took whatever computer stuff they had, it was as limited as most high school curriculums are. But then my mom found the program I ended up going into for college, which was visual communication technology. So that program was a combination of photography, videography, print, and web. So it was like, you do courses in each of those, you do like the one on one course. And then you specialize in one. And I specialized that they also had some marketing classes. So I think I did like a marketing specialization and a web development specialization. And then just because I had an interest in I got a telecommunications minor So I said, like a tiny bit of, you know, like, courses on like radio writing and stuff like that and like instruction writing.
Joe Simpson 7:27 10:08
And, you know, the purpose of what I do in my podcast is to sort of share initial memories. And I wanted to ask you, what was your first impression of me? I know on the intake form, you mentioned a couple of funny things. And just so you know, I used to be a Toastmaster. So I went through the whole program. And as a creative, I always found that all the speeches were generally boring. So always try to do something a little different. So you see me in a couple of those different moments. But that’s just part of my silliness. Like, I embarrass my kids and family, like when we go to dinner, because I’m always doing silly stuff. But it’s just part of the creative process. So anyway, going back to when we met last year, what was what do you remember first, and then we’ll sort of compare memories and go from there.
Megan Renee 10:56
So first would be we met on Slack, which is a word. I mean, you see the little red dot? And yeah, that joke.
Megan Renee 11:07
Yeah. Different that.
Megan Renee 11:10
Yeah, you know, noise?
Megan Renee 11:13
Yeah. So there’s, I did the hand motion, because have you seen the person who did the noise in real life with woodblocks?
Megan Renee 11:22
I did not. Oh, I mean, I remember those from when we were younger, we took our family to Disney World. And we saw the whole movie about, you know, there was Casey Jr. coming down the track. And then they were doing all the behind the scenes noises. It was a little movie that you saw in the Disney Animation Studio. So anyway, yeah. Um, so yeah, we met on slack. And it was Cami Chaos that introduced us.
So, I really didn’t know what to expect about you about Santa Clarita…
Joe Simpson 11:55
Were you skeptical when you heard about, you know, we’re being connected so that we can help each other out? Or did you?
Megan Renee 12:01
Um, I think I was just like, anxious. I’m an anxious person. And so like, event planning, especially it gets me real jittery. So it’s just like, I think we had like, pretty short notice. I think we, we didn’t we didn’t we join in pretty late?
Joe Simpson 12:20
Yeah, we only had 19 days. Yeah. So we postponed it. It was going to be the first weekend of April. Then we found out we’re gonna go to the 21st. So it was Yeah. And then I think he jumped on right away.
Megan Renee 12:34
Yeah. And I don’t remember if she asked a lot of qualifying questions for David and I, but I’m pretty sure she just messaged us and said, I’m going to connect you with Joe. So you can volunteer at their event. Like, okay,
Joe Simpson 12:51
Nice. So how far along were you on WordCamp?
Megan Renee 12:53
And how many? How many?
Megan Renee 12:55
I’m gonna pose a question to you that you asked me how many WordCamps have you been to? What was your WordPress origin story?
Megan Renee 13:03
I’ll start with that. So. So the WordCamps I had been to, I started going in 2014. Yeah, I think it was October 2014. And it was Ann Arbor, the first one I went to. So I actually actually drove for my first one. It’s like a four hour drive or something nice.
Joe Simpson 13:26
I went to Eastern which is right next to Ypsi (Ypsilanti, MI) is right next door.
Megan Renee 13:30
And Michigan has really great WordCamps. Highly recommend to those.
Joe Simpson 13:36
So Grand Rapids?
Megan Renee 13:38
I have not, but I know. I know. It’s a really good one. And I hear great things about it. I think the one the one opportunity that I had. We were like deciding who was going to go to what from the company and David wanted to go to it. So I was like, Okay, you go there. So I missed out on my, my most recent chance to go. But yeah, I do have plans to go someday, once we’re back to doing doing things in person. So started going back then, but I only went to maybe I only went to one that year and like one the next year actually spoke at Columbus the next year. And then went to maybe like two or three years after I didn’t have a lot of money to be traveling so and Ohio had Columbus for a while. But I apparently just hit the tail end of it because they just had that 2015 one. No, they haven’t. They haven’t had one in Columbus since so. And I like drove out to like Pittsburgh, one year.
Joe Simpson 14:43
And there’s Dayton too. Right, Dayton and yeah, considered part of Northeast Ohio.
Megan Renee 14:48
And I think Dayton had a couple years off, I think and I think there was one in Cincinnati at some point, but I think I went to Actually, I think I went to a Cincinnati one. But yeah, so I’m like a couple a year, I’ve probably been to more in more recent, like history, just with them being online. So I got involved with Northeast Ohio, it was called the camp that I work with, because it’s like sometimes organizing your home base times leading Yeah, the one, the one that’s near me, my local one has been called like North Canton, Northeast Ohio, Kent, and it’s going to be called Northeast Ohio again, because we’re going to do an online one. Again, hopefully.
So I think we pivoted pretty early, because I kind of made that call with WordCamp. Can’t I remember we were, we were in person. So it was like before we started doing, like, stay at home orders and stuff. And before work started being worked from home. We were like, still at the office. And I was like, I think we should just, we should just plan on doing something online, because then we’ll have enough lead time. So our camp would have been in May. And that will fall. Did you make the decisions? Probably late March.
Joe Simpson 16:30
Wow. You had a lot of lead time.
Megan Renee 16:32
I think we did. We didn’t do from-home until like, beginning of April or something. And I know we made that call before we started work from home. So we kind of like made that decision without having a lot of back and forth communication with Central.
Megan Renee 16:51
Oh, by the way, we’re doing this.
Megan Renee 16:52
We only had like, a minor hiccup with that, which was like, we knew for sure, once San Antonio went online, once they announced they were going online. We’re like, Okay, this is a fine thing we can do. Like we know it’s in the clear like this one was okay, we’ll get okay. We did excellently not realize that we weren’t supposed to charge for tickets. So we like, we’re like, let’s just cut the price in half and just just sell them for half. We sold a couple of them. So we had to refund them.
Joe Simpson 17:27
Yeah, we were set to go. So we had to refund everything, you know. Because at the time when we postponed they didn’t think we would start it back up. So yeah, that’s amazing. And then the other thing I thought was interesting, again, I was connected the same way via slack. I felt like I could feel a little bit of the apprehension that you guys weren’t, didn’t know what to expect. And it made me think I felt the same way when I was on San Antonio’s team. And I was like, I need to go out of my way to try to smooth things out and make things easier for you, folks.
So hopefully, it was a good experience. Because you asked me to speak on one of your panels, which was kind of cool, too. I really appreciated that. And to me, that sort of got me going about thinking about speaking in other camps, because I like wow. Because Michelle is one of like, there’s a few people that I’ve seen, just like the folks I’ve seen on lynda.com. Like, I’ve seen all the community folks and being able to work with, with the two of them on the panel. Andrea as well was pretty awesome. So I was like, Wow, she asked me to be on a panel with him. That’s, that’s pretty awesome.
Megan Renee 18:40
Yeah, I was just thinking of like, who I knew I wanted to do a community panel. Like from the start, I actually, we had like, semi successfully done a community track, but I felt like it didn’t get as many bodies in the room as I wanted it to. So I just was like, Can we just do a panel and just like people have to go to it. Like just they have to they don’t have a choice. It’s the only thing available because for whatever reason, like given the opportunity, if there’s like a community based thing, or like an educational based thing, people always go to the educational even if they might get more out of the community. Because they don’t they don’t know it’s for them. So I was like, well, let’s just hold them hostage and like they’re gonna know what’s for them afterwards.
Joe Simpson 19:26
Yeah, I agree. It’s like contributor day, like a lot of folks are, you know, it’s usually the day after because a lot of folks at home.
Megan Renee 19:33
Yeah. And I was just like, who are the most community minded people? And you were the three that I thought of?
Joe Simpson 19:41
Who is this crazy guy from California?
Megan Renee 33:58
So basically, my start with WordPress just as like the platform that it is, was in college, and I did have a class that was teaching WordPress development. I think it was just like interactive media three or something it didn’t have like repairs in the name or anything but…
Joe Simpson 34:18
Were you thinking of it as a career back then? Or?
Megan Renee 34:22
I’m not WordPress specifically but development.I can push the origin back even further.
Joe Simpson 34:32
Take it all the way home!
Megan Renee 34:35
Yeah, so I was born…
Joe Simpson 34:39
You were born with a computer in your hand. Yes. Your parents told you you know, when you’re a little you always had a keyboard…
Megan Renee 34:48
Yeah, I have pictures of me as a baby with computers. So my interest in computers definitely started because my dad was into computers. He works for AT&T. He does phone networking stuff. So it’s like a different type of computer.
But we still get to, like, send each other, you know, cool things that we see and talk about it, which is nice as an adult to, like, have those types of conversation with my dad. But yeah, I was interested in computers like, from early, but I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted to do.
I knew I wasn’t like I draw, but I didn’t consider myself like an artistic person or someone who wants to do art as a living. So I never considered myself a designer. But I started making sites back in Neopets online game, where you have pets, and they battle and they have houses and they also have pets of their own. So I was when I like, got into HTML and CSS in the first place. I don’t think you could change the markup too much. But yeah, it was inline CSS too. It wasn’t like anything fancy. But they still have the CSS guide up on their site, which I think is really cool.
Joe Simpson 36:11
Oh, that’s awesome.
Megan Renee 36:12
When I was in high school, I took whatever computer stuff they had, it was as limited as most high school curriculums are. But then my mom found the program I ended up going into for college, which was Visual Communication Technology. So that program was a combination of photography, videography, print, and web.
So it was like, you’d courses in each of those, you do like the one on one course. And then you specialize in one. And I specialized in that. They also had some marketing classes. So I think I did like a marketing specialization and a web development specialization. And then just because I had an interest and I got a telecommunications minor. So I did like a tiny bit of, you know, like, courses on like radio writing and stuff like that, and like, instruction writing?
Joe Simpson 36:29
Is that still a part of your background? Do you still or are you still interested in the other parts of the visual communications technology stuff? Like Is that why the on in online? Does that have any, you know, any of the online behind the scenes stuff? Or you? Did you have an incentive or schedule?
Megan Renee 37:33
I don’t have my camera. I’m not super big into photography or video. I like that I have the background in it, though, because it makes it easier to talk to designers and stuff. And it makes it easier to relate to people honestly, because a lot of people like photography, especially creative people. It gives me something to talk about with them. I feel like I use that other stuff less and less every year.
The telecommunications stuff really sparked my interest in privacy, and in, like global communications and kind of like just being like a better global citizen, in a way. So I think it was good, because it just pushed me into a different, interesting, realm of topics that I would have otherwise not even known they existed.
Joe Simpson 38:39
That’s awesome. I did want to shift gears a little. Last year was a crazy year for all of us. But what stood out for me about you was your voice on social media and Twitter specifically. And I was really appreciative as African-American to hear your takes on a lot of different things.
We tend to get into these Twitter fights with folks for different reasons. But I’ve never been the type of person to get involved in that stuff. But it was really fat is it you’re a really fascinating follow I love when you talk about the books you’re reading. And I love when you go after folks, too.
So tell me about how you looked at 2020 in terms of your activity online and if you felt it was a responsibility to speak up, and if so, what were the reasons for that? And I’d love to hear about it.
Megan Renee 39:37
Yeah, so I was feeling like a lot of my social media presences were like fragmented versions of me. And I think probably right now with not having anything in person. I’m guessing a lot of people are feeling that way. They’ve made these different versions of themselves. You tailor it to these different platforms, so like, for me the disappointing part about myself is that my Facebook doesn’t look the same as my twitter and I really wish it did. But you know, Facebook is like a more aggressively conservative space. So that’s why my Facebook looks different. I still share things just not as aggressively.
Memo to Self
Random musings while out and about in Los Angeles.
Joe Simpson 20:00
I found out a lot about myself during the pandemic. And one thing that I’ve learned is to roll with it to go with the flow. And this is actually an extension of the changes in my life since my heart event. During the pandemic, we were all forced to stand side or forced to change what we normally do, which can be stressful, and problematic, if you want to hold on to, and you see this a lot, with a lot of people that just feel like we’re entitled to a certain lifestyle, or entitled to certain things that aren’t really in our control.
So, during the pandemic, I’ve done some things that I laugh that now because either I’m getting old, or I’m truly going with the flow. So one thing is now to get a lot of things done, I feel like I’m a lot more productive when I just, if I feel tired, I sleep. If I feel like working, I get up and work. If I feel like exercising, I get up and exercise, if I feel like listening to music. So there’s no set schedule. You know, we’re all creatures of habit, we think that we need to work from nine to five, what if you’re an early morning person? What if you’re late morning person? So to me, during the pandemic, I’ve sort of gone with the flow. And I found that over the past 12 months, I’ve been incredibly productive, because I’ve taken that tack. So my memo to self is, be flexible and be open.
Because again, during crisis, we often find things about ourselves or find out things that we didn’t know how many of us there’s so many services that have popped up that have been smart, or that have taken advantage of our ink it shouldn’t say taken advantage of but leveraged art can be inconveniences to make a better process. I’ll talk to you next week. On back down memory lane. Cheers.