Pantheon Community

WebOps Wednesday AMA: Birgit Pauli-Haack

Let’s talk WebOps! Hi my name is Birgit Pauli-Haack.

I started building websites in 1996 and founded Pauli Systems in 2002. We are a boutique web agencies with 6 people and build online business solutions for local and national nonprofits, niche industry publishers and small businesses.

We started out developing in Coldfusion and we built custom-CMSs, a membership administration system and online learning environments. In 2010, we started building new sites on top of WordPress and migrated almost all legacy sites as well.

Within our “Five For the Future” contributions, I am a local WordPress Meetup organizer, a volunteer as deputy on the Global Community Team for the WordPress project and a team lead for the block editor end user docs on the Documentation Team.

In June 2017, I started curating all news, projects, community news and talks about the new block editor. In 2018, all updates found a home on the Gutenberg Times website with big support of the Pantheon Community team. Since then we expanded from eNews and website to YouTube Live Q & As and the Gutenberg Changelog Podcast, I co-host with Mark Uraine, designer at Automattic and WordPress core contributor.

When not in front of a computer, I run, play tennis, or hang out with friends. My husband of 28 years and I love to travel and visit city art museums.

Ask me anything! Community organizing, running a business for 18 years, WordPress, Coldfusion (if you must), Art Museums and Artists, Online conferencing, Google G-Suite, nonprofits technology etc.

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Birgit! I didn’t know you love art museums too. What’s your favorite art museum? And who is your favorite artist?

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What a great question, Thank you Tara!

That’s pretty cool, you like art museum, too!
We (hubby and I) often visit the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. For the first four year’s of living in the US, I wasn’t allowed to learn money, and I needed to brush up my English. So I spontaneously signed-up for a Docent course at The Dali - It was a fascinating deep dive into Surrealism and Dali’s later works. 14-weeks later, I gave official tours at the museum and continued doing so every week for the next three years. Since then I have also been to Figureas, Spain, Dali’s hometown, where the other Dali museum is located, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Barcelona. It’s definitely worth the time and effort to visit.

Seems that would indirectly answer both of your questions:-)

Apart from the Dali museums, here are my top 5 Museums,:

Thank you, @sparklingrobots , for taking me on this Art Tour-)

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Thank you for the recommendations! I have been to the Dali museum in Figueres, Spain and would love to see the one in St. Petersburg, too. The whole museum was wonderful. They had an exhibit of his jewels out while I was there–which I admit was my favorite! Amazing to see his surreal images rendered in stones & metal. The experience of becoming a docent also sounds really intriguing.

I am putting down the other museums on my travel list, too. Thank you!

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I also loved looking at the Jewelry, although, I hardly wear any. The Gift shops in both museums have some fabulous pieces (replicas of course) that work well as presents (hint, hint)
In Figueras, I also love the ‘red cotton thread’ that appears randomly around the museum, on paintings, on ceilings in windows. Enigmatically

I saw the “Lincoln” first in Figueras. Slightly different version of it was bought by the Dali museum in Florida, and is permanently on display there, too.

Let me know when you are in Florida, and we can meet up:-)

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Hi Birgit!
You started working on the Gutenberg Times pretty early in the development cycle of the Gutenberg editor. It was (and continues to be) a great resource for helping understand the news and development of this great new editing experience.
Lots has changed since you started tracking all things Gutenberg - and with that in mind, I have two questions for you:

  1. Looking back, what is the most interesting or important consequence (or learning) that you’ve taken away from the Gutenberg initiative and editor?

  2. What do you think is most exciting or interesting about the future of Gutenberg?

Thanks! :smiley:

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Another really amazing museum, especially if you’re a fan, is The Blue House which was Frida Kahlo’s home in Mexico City. I love how immersive it is!

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The cancellation of in-person events and questions surrounding virtual events seem to be on everyone’s minds these days. What is the top lesson you’ve learned through your experiences in organizing online conferences?

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Yes, the Blue House is amazing and very educational. Tip to get ahead of the lines: Reserve online, pick the earliest time available, don’t wait until the day before you want to go. It’s probably the most popular museum in Mexico City, and one of the smallest.

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Thank you so much for these two questions @dgorton!

what is the most interesting or important consequence (or learning) that you’ve taken away from the Gutenberg initiative and editor

  1. Innovation like Gutenberg (rethinking content creation after 15 years) is adopted in phases: First are the innovators, then the early adopters, the early majority, the late majority and then the laggards. This has been studied an almost each new software piece follow the adoption rate. The timeline of these different users coming online is always a bit different but follows a bell curve.
    .
    Until Gutenberg rolled out, I only had a theoretical knowledge about this. It’s fascinating to see it play out over the life of an innovation so close to my heart.

  2. When curating Gutenberg news, I needed to keep in mind, the sources and consider what kind of user was posting. An early adopter looks at new software with curiosity, a member of the early adopters group, will look at it with the idea, is it ready for me?

  3. With using a modern JavaScript framework to built Gutenberg (ReactJS), the WordPress open-source project opened up to a new group of developers, who weren’t reachable before. There have been over 500 contributes on the Github repo. And that’s quite amazing. The creativity that was spark with all the new ways to do WordPress, the ecosystem will get some major revamp.

What do you think is most exciting or interesting about the future of Gutenberg?

Now you can create engaging content with all the great formatting tools (Cover Image, Buttons, CTA and columns and combinations of those core blocks) without having to install any 3rd Party page builders. While this is great news for site owners, it’s bad news for page builders and the site implementers relying on them for their client work. The group of site builders who use Page builders have to adjust their processes in assembling websites and the learning curve and time needed it might be a hard thing to do.

Today, the Gutenberg developer releases the plugins version 7.7 and it has the next version of Gutenberg with Block UI and Block Patterns. Very exciting!

Save the date: April 2, 2020 there will be a virtual conference called WPBlockTalk with a 10 hours of talks from developers, designers of the community about Gutenberg and their work with the new block editor.

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Yes, @katie.richards virtual events are on a lot of people’s minds. At the WordPress Global Community Team, deputies have been working hard with Meetup and WordCamp organizers to cancel or postpone events around the globe in order to prevent or at least slow down infections in their communities.

The most difficult part to recreate in the online space is the direct engagement and interaction among the meeting participants. Depending on the size, interaction with all attendees might not be possible. If it is, make sure to do round robin question/moderation to ensure everyone is heard and gets to say their piece. Use a system like Zoom that gives you 40 minutes with up to 100 attendees for free.
Now 100 people is probably too big to facilitate with everyone on camera and able to chime in.

For events bigger than 20 or 40 people, you probably would switch to a presenter talk + Q & A format, and the questions being posted in a live chat window or the tool’s Q & A features.

It’s important to leave a lot of room for the Q & A. The presentation should only be about 20 min or less. The talk could / should be prerecorded but then the presenter should be available to answer questions. Only a few of our Gutenberg Times Live Q & A actually ran out of questions before 50 minutes and of course, I always have some questions in case we run out

For anyone trying this for the first time, be patient with yourself and with the technology. Nothing gives you more rush than doing it for the first time. So make sure you have a buddy with you who can take over or help fielding the chat and the Q & A section. Don’t do it alone.

My favorite tool is Zoom.us for meeting and Zoom Webinars for Live Q & As that are streamed to YouTube.

The Community Managers Hub (CMXHub) have posted A Comprehensive List of Tips, Tools, and Examples for Event Organizers During the Coronavirus Outbreak

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Hi Birgit! :wave:

Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us all! I would love to hear more about what inspired you to start your own company. Did the opportunity just present itself or is that something you always inspired to do?

I cannot tell you how many companies/start-ups I helped partner with to get off the ground. Some successful, some not so fortunate :confused:. I myself aspire to one day have my own small company–not related to my current professional background. I am a huge creative so thinking a small pop-up online shop for fun! Any advice for someone just getting started?

Also I love how you have been a true pioneer for Gutenberg–truly inspirational! The open source space is truly something new to me—I have learned so much the last 6+ months! But I am just skimming the surface of it all. If you had to break down what exactly Gutenberg was & why it was valuable–let’s say to a middle school aged kiddo, what might that look like?

Thanks again for sharing!

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Hello Birgit,

I’ve found there is often a reticence to invest in tech within non-profits. Can you share a bit on how you tackle education around the value tech can provide and the ways they can demonstrate that back to donors?

I love Gutenberg (and your thoughts on it above) but, as you hinted at, find it challenging to find pre-built themes primarily using Gutenberg. Do you think the natural trend of adoption will cause that market to grow sufficiently or are there other factors that need to change first – later Gutenberg phases for instance?

Thanks for answering questions!

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Hi @McKennaR - thanks for joining in on the WebOps AMA!

I learned programming and server wrangling during the four years, I wasn’t allowed earning any money. I had some web building experience in HTML when i arrived in the US. I made myself useful by joining with the local all-volunteer Free-net on the Helpteam and Webteam. They became my family away from home. I learned creating dynamic websites, working with databases, and programming in Coldfusion. After building a few smaller projects for the Free-Net, I got started on a learning management system for a training company in town. I was also very content, coding, server wrangling and exploring new technologies. It wasn’t a big stretch for me to found a technology company, as soon as I got my work permit as part of the green card process. As a friend told me: “Luck is being prepared when opportunity knocks.” During the four years being part of an all-volunteer technology organization, I had enough contacts to get businesses going one customer at a time.

Pop-online shops are a great idea, you can test out your products, see what works and what doesn’t and adjust processes, technology and people. What will be important is that you have processes/automation in place to spin up a new shop without a lot of overhead, so you can ride a fashion wave.

As a artist or developer, it’s hard to stay creative once you have to deal with the business side of things. Once you turn into a business owner, being creative will become 25% of the time spent, the rest is client acquisition, onboarding and project management and staff and office organization. I didn’t mind all that as I have done these things on a different level in my previous life and was very proficient in it.

Start small, the is the expression of a minimal viable product, that helps you with minimal effort to bring something to life that can withstand scrutiny and delivers value to the customer and then you can start scaling slowly.

And now to your last question: Explain to middle schooler, what Gutenberg is and why it’s valuable.

With Gutenberg you can create web content that goes beyond the wall of text interrupted with a few pictures. You have more tools in your box than just the good old white box of the editor. And you can actually see what it will look like without to have to safe and preview. You don’t need plugins to give you a Cover section, or a Call to action section, changing a paragraph’s background is easily done without a plugin. Everything is standardized and out of the box.

In the next phase, you will get full site editing power without knowing any code. A Theme will still be ther and support your work, but you don’t need your developer to create a landing pages with videos, cover image buttons that look completely different from you homepage. The blocks and block patterns go beyond what WordPress website allow you to do today.

A couple of years ago you needed to know what shortcodes are, widgets, sidebar, header and footer and your theme need to provide you with all that. There was a different admin page to create and organize your navigation menu, another page to organize widgets, a third page to change some of our site settings. And then there were posts and pages. What’s the different? Now you do it all from one canvas: The block editor and all that mystery meat is gone.

Not sure if that hits the mark. It’s been a while since I was a middle schooler and unfortunately, I don’t have enough contact with kids.

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Hi there John!

Honestly, I have yet to come to terms with some of the reticence to invest in tech with nonprofits.
It’s like the old question: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

  • I co-organize a local Tech4Good club, a nonprofit peer-to-peer learning group, now it its seventh year. It meets, similar to WordPress meetups, on a monthly basis and we have presenters, panel discussion, round table meetings, and workshops.
    Two organizations support those groups TechSoup Global and NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network) . It seems it’s never enough.
  • I curate monthly a list of online technology training geared towards nonprofit from 12 trusted providers and promote it over the Internet.
  • I spoke at national and regional nonprofit technology events (TechNow, NTC, NCTech4Good)

It finally clicked for me after reading the Technology Staffing and Investment Report 2017 (PDF) published by NTEN.

Here is a slide of my “WordPress for Nonprofit” presentation, I gave at WordCamp New York City. It should illustrate, what kind of nonprofits are hiring tech consultants, be it for office IT or the Web.


It shows how many organizations per technology adoption level are hiring consultants.
The % numbers change the higher the technology adoption level.

What makes the difference is that “operating” nonprofit combine their strategic and marketing planning with a comprehensive technology plan. In some organizations technology is still more the office supply decision rather than a strategic decision.

And @JohnRichardsII regarding your Gutenberg questions: Yes there will be more theme developers adopt the Gutenberg-way of building themes. One of the reasons of slow adoption is that a lot of themes come with integrated page-builders that lock the site owners in, like a proprietary system. You don’t have to go to SquareSpace or Wix to have your content held hostage.

Early+adopter developers built awesome themes for Gutenberg, that work well for nonprofits. The new Theme built by GoDaddy called Go, is available in the WordPress repository and together with CoBlocks plugin it’s a very viable solution, that won’t require a lot of additional work, except adopt for branding. We also had very early successes with Genesis Themes and the Atomic Blocks by Mike McAllister. Independent Theme shops like Elma Studio or Anariel Design followed suit.

Once the Full-site-Editing APIs of Gutenberg are stable, estimated to come with 5.5 in December 2020, we will see more theme builders adopting the Gutenberg experience.

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You packed a ton of great advice in there and I look forward to trying out some of the themes you mentioned. Thanks so much for the incredibly well thought out reply!

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You are welcome! And let me know how it goes. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Sorry for the delay here–I was soaking up some sun & fun in Hawaii! :sunglasses:

This is incredibly helpful! I think how you explained Gutenberg would resonate with a middle schooler :slight_smile: It sure did for me!

Also thank you for sharing your experience & some additional insights. I will definitely keep them all in mind when I decide to finally open my pop-up shop!

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