Block Lab!

I’m super excited to announce the launch of a project I’ve been working on for a while now…

It’s live!

This has been a labour of love since July. I first had the idea during WordCamp Sydney – I was taking questions after my talk on Gutenberg, and somebody asked whether there was an easy way to build Gutenberg blocks.

The short answer is no. Building custom blocks isn’t easy at all. Even seasoned WordPress developers are required to learn a whole new skillset. Imagine then, where this leaves regular site builders.

One of the plugins that inspired Block Lab is Advanced Custom Fields. ACF makes it super easy for site builders to add custom meta data to posts, making it much easier for their clients to build out content.

But WordPress is moving away from a custom fields paradigm, and toward a block based way of thinking about content. That’s where Block Lab comes in. Block Lab makes it super easy to create custom blocks, with a Gutenberg-first focus.

A custom block in the Gutenberg editor.

Block Lab is a collaboration between myself, Rob Stinson, and Rheinard Korf. Going forward we’ll even introduce you to a few other WordPress developers who are keen to get involved.

So, if you’re somebody who builds sites for a living, take a look at how Block Lab can help you build better.

Joining a video chat from VR

My team at work has a weekly call, codenamed “Strategy Sync”, where we chit-chat and play a few rounds of Rocket League. This week, I joined the call from the metaverse via Bigscreen, which allowed me to beam my colleagues onto a giant screen in my virtual lounge room.

The best part was, they could see me, too! Well, my virtual avatar anyway. Here’s how I set it up.

What you’ll need

How to use Bigscreen camera as a webcam

  1. Install OBS Studio and OBS-VirtualCam
  2. Launch Bigscreen
  3. In the Bigscreen menu, select Tools > Camera > Capture Mode
  4. Launch OBS Studio, and select Tools > Virtual Cam
  5. Turn on Horizontal Flip, and press Start
  6. Launch your video chat application (I used Zoom), and select OBS as your webcam

Back in Virtual Reality, you should see your Bigscreen environment, and a selfie stick camera. This camera is now be your virtual web cam!

How I Internet

How and Why I choose my web browser.

As an advocate for open source, the open web, and privacy, my choice of browser is a critical part of my work. Some thoughts:

Firefox

The only true open source browser. If I have a problem, I can file a bug on Bugzilla, and submit a patch to fix it. More importantly, if I’m ever curious about how the browser works under the hood, I can check the source.

For me, this makes Firefox an extremely persuasive option, and is the reason I try it out from time to time. Sadly, I’ve not yet been able to stick with it, and here’s why:

Safari

I am in the Mac / iOS ecosystem, and although Safari may lack in some features, it makes up for it in others:

  • The only browser with native content blocking, which is much faster and safer than other ad blocker extensions. I use 1Blocker.
  • The only browser with native Picture-in-Picture mode for web videos.
  • iCloud + Handoff makes for easily the best Desktop to Mobile experience.
  • Best battery and resource efficiency (in my experience).
  • At least the browser engine (Webkit) is open source.

For these reasons, Safari has been my primary browser for many years now.

Chrome

Due to privacy concerns with Google’s ad-based business model, I try not to use any Google services. When I do (YouTube), I make sure to block all cookies and browser storage for those domains (which I can do with 1Blocker).

Chrome’s deep Google integration makes it a non-starter for me. Most of Chrome’s benefit’s can be summed up as “better integration with Google products”, which doesn’t help me at all.

I don’t have a personal Google account, but I do need one for work. For those times, I have my default browser set to:

Choosy

My system default browser is set to Choosy – a System Preferences extension that smartly handles which browser to open depending on the URL.

I use Choosy to set up rules for the services that either require my work’s Google account, or simply don’t work well in Safari. This way, when a colleague drops me a Google Doc link to review, it automatically opens Google Chrome, which is signed into my work Google account.

This way, the vast majority of my web browsing happens without being logged into Google. Since 1Blocker is also blocking Google’s cookies and analytics, my browsing activity gets to remain private.

TL;DR

Although supporting an open source browser would be my ideal, my daily driver is Safari, due to its native integrations with Mac and iOS. I also use Choosy for the times when I need to be signed into my Google account (in which case I use Chrome, sparingly).


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Something Daily

Inspired by Seth Godin, I recently attempted a daily writing project. I committed to write one blog post every day, indefinitely.

Here are my reflections.

Writing takes time. Not the actual typing – that part is easy. But finding inspiration everyday is a serious commitment. It can take hours, and it can't be forced.

Sometimes opening yourself up to inspiration means sitting in a café reading a magazine, or going for a stroll through the park, or reading a book. Let's be real: I have a family and a job, I don't have time to wistfully wait in the bath for my eureka! moment every single day.

After a few months, I gave up. And when I gave up… I really gave up. I didn't write again until… well, now.

I've realised that, at least for me (and maybe for you, too?), trying to force a daily routine isn't the best way of falling in love with a habit or practice. I advocate for a different approach. Let's call it…

No Pressure Weekday Habits

I'll illustrate this habit-building technique with an example: Meditation. I love meditation, but I haven't always. At first, I only loved the idea of meditation, the practice took some getting used to.

All the books I read told me that it was vital that I meditate every single day for the first 3 months (a common trope among daily habit pushers). Other books told me to start with just 5 minutes a day (or write only 1–2 sentences, or run for only 1km).

That wasn't working. So instead, I decided to commit to the following:

Meditate for at least 30 minutes, but only on weekdays, and only if I feel like it.

In the end, I found that my intuition here worked wonderfully. It was the pressure of not missing a day which caused me to give up. It was the triviality of "small habits", that caused me to give it away. Now, I often happily meditate for 20—30 minutes, and I do so most days.

So, back to writing.

After a few days of writing every day, I started feeling stressed, worried, and overworked. Worse – the short posts were often uninspired or forced. That's not the sort of writer I want to be.

Instead, I'll be the writer who taps out a decent chunk of valuable content every single day.

But only on weekdays, and only if I feel like it.

The Entrepreneurs Secret

It’s a good idea to make plans in advance.

One of the most well guarded secrets of entrepreneurs is: Depression.

A startup malaise is all too common. There are ridiculous amounts of stress and work involved with starting a new business, and “leaving a dent in the universe” (a common Silicon Valley mantra). Cases of panic, anxiety, and burnout are frequent and often go undiagnosed.

If you’re struggling with depression now, please seek help.

If you’re feeling on top of things, and you’re an entrepreneur, it’s a good idea to make plans in advance to help you recognise burnout.

What habits can you put into place to help reduce your anxiety? How will you recognise burnout if it shows up?

Office to Officeless

Is it possible to transition from office to officeless? There’s only one thing you need.

When espousing the benefits of Distributed Teams, as I often do, I’m often told “but Luke, remote work wouldn’t succeed in my business”. And do you know what? You’re right.

Is it possible to transition from office to officeless? Not with that attitude.

Continue reading “Office to Officeless”

Mixing Remote and Local Teams

Integrating remote workers into a local team can be difficult, because they don’t share office (and post-office) interactions.

Having a mixed location workforce feels like a natural step when transitioning to a fully distributed business, yet this intermediate step can present its own unique challenges.

Integrating remote workers into a non-remote team can be difficult because they don’t share physical office interactions with the local team.

Continue reading “Mixing Remote and Local Teams”