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This is a Human Issue: Zao Stands with Refugees

We stand with our immigrant neighbors, our refugee neighbors–not because they have a positive effect on our bottom line, but because they are human and worth the inherent dignity of humanity

Like many of my fellow Americans, I’ve found myself a bit dumbstruck over the events that have unfolded from our nation’s executive branch over the recent weeks. An eternal optimist, I’ve done my best to find silver lining in it all.

The bright side of all of this? Americans all over our country are banding together in solidarity to show their support for their immigrant and refugee neighbors.

“What is a web development agency doing spouting political diatribes?”

That’s what you might be asking. It’s a fair question. This is not a political issue; this is not a “left” or “right” issue. This is a human issue.

Many business leaders have already come out in support of immigrants and refugees because they run companies who depend on those populations and their skills, or they run companies founded by immigrants.

This is all good and well, but at the risk of being repetitive: this is a human issue. 

We stand with our immigrant neighbors, our refugee neighbors–not because they have a positive effect on our bottom line, but because they are human and worth the inherent dignity of humanity.

None of this is (or should be) controversial. Many of us, in our dumbstruck state, are left asking ourselves, “What can I do?”

I don’t have all the answers, but I know that if all of us do something, it will make a difference.

This is what we’re committing to:

Starting Local

To me, this is the most important part.

We may not all be able to go protest, or go to the ends of the earth and alleviate suffering, but we can all do something right where we are.

Zao Supports Refugees

Locally, Zao is committed to serving an organization who has been committed to serving Portland’s local refugee population.

Refugee Care Collective equips refugees to adapt to life within their first year of entry through partnering with local resettlement agencies and mobilizing the city of Portland.

We’re doing a matching campaign for RCC.

That means we’ll match anyone’s donation to RCC, dollar for dollar, in their name.

matching donations, refugee

If you hate these matching campaigns as much as I do (I mean, seriously, you want me to RT you and you’ll give a dollar? Come on. Just give the dollar.), fret not.

We’re giving $1,000 (to start) no matter what. We’d just love to be able to give it in your name, instead of ours. Just email your donation receipt to justin@zao.is, and I’ll hit you back with the matching donation in your name.

Other Pacific Northwest Organizations That Need Help

Latino Network

Latino Network is a non-profit that serves Latino youth, families, and communities. The news of the election has hit their community hard, and the support they offer the Portland-area is invaluable.

“At the same time, American voters made a choice to elect a President who has used harmful and divisive language that singles out Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, and other people of color.

I have heard from many of our staff members and community members about the deep fear that exists within our communities. Many of us, our families, and people we know came to this country as immigrants seeking a better life. Leaving one’s home to immigrate takes courage, strength, and a deep desire to seek something better for ourselves and our families.”

-Carmen Rubio, Latino Network Executive Director

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project fights for immigrant justice by providing direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education. Since the election, they have been doing a ton of work to continue to advocate for immigrants and educate social service providers in Washington.

IRCO

IRCO has spent the last forty-plus years working with Portland refugees and immigrants. Their goal is to “promote the integration of refugees, immigrants and the community at large into a self-sufficient, healthy and inclusive multi-ethnic society.”

Islamic Social Services of Oregon State (ISOS)

ISOS is a charitable organization that works with a network of non-profits and community service groups through financial and public assistance. They provide refugee services, as well as needy assistance, family crisis, and alliance support.

Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education

There are parallels to history in what has recently happened. We said never again. The Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education is an extremely important resource, particularly right now.

Hollywood Theatre

The Hollywood Theatre is a non-profit that screens special social justice related films and works with local non-profits (like Latino Network) to host screenings, with talkbacks, and gives the proceeds back to the organizations they partner with. Art has been a well-documented medium of political resistance and education, and supporting that is vital.

Regional Arts & Culture Council

The Regional Arts & Culture Council is serves Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties with grants for artists, non profits, schools, as well as advocacy, community services, and arts education.

Once again, art is a well-documented medium of political resistance and education–as well as an excellent therapeutic tool and a huge contribution to the community. It has been suggested that the current administration may eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and privatization of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which would drastically damage many arts organizations–this one included.

The President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, Robert L. Lynch, shared a few things he has done, as well as how the community can rally against this, in a blog post on their site.

“I don’t take anything for granted with the will of an elected body, whether it’s federal state or local. Anything can happen…[s]o it’s important for the arts community to voice its concerns as much as possible.”

Robert L. Lynch, Americans for the Arts President and CEO 

Beyond Local

National Organizations That Need Your Help

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

These folks help protect and fight for the rights of those who have been uprooted, based in Washington D.C. They’re doing vital work and a great central hub for supporting refugees and immigrants.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

You’ve heard of the ACLU, and we have them to thank for blocking the unconstitutional ban that the world is still reeling from. They’ve decided to keep fighting–and these lawsuits are expensive. Supporting them is crucial.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

EFF has done important work for many years. Considering that Muslim Americans returning abroad were recently asked for their social media accounts for evaluation upon re-entry, the work they do is going to be more important than ever.

Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)

BAJI works with and on behave of African American and black immigrant communities by building coalitions and initiating campaigns to push for racial and social justice. They’ve released their official condemnation of the recent executive orders, and will need support for the people they serve moving forward as well.

Immigrant Legal Resource Center

ILRC trains attorneys, paralegals, and community advocates regarding how to work with immigrants, and work with many different groups to shape public policy regarding immigration.

National Immigration Law Center

NILC is dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants through impact litigation, policy advocacy, and strategic messaging about immigration issues.

What Else Can We Do?

Call your representatives and voice your opinion.

The Sixty Five makes it easy to find your reps, as well as provides a simple script for callers to use, which is especially great for those of us who get anxious regarding calling on the fly.


I’ve given a lot of thought to giving, and I want to make sure that we can have the best impact possible.

If you’re familiar with organizations that are having a significant positive impact for refugees and immigrants, or if there are other things you think we can do to help, I’d love to hear about them.

 

A New Chapter: Welcoming Justin Sternberg!

Editor’s Note: After nearly 12 years running Zao as the sole management, I cannot begin to express how excited and humbled I am to be inviting another team member to our Zao family as a managing partner.

Justin Sternberg is a man whose reputation precedes him in the WordPress community, but I’ve gotten to know him as something of a clone. We both happen to be “Justin S.”, we both have 3+ kids (each of us with two girls first, then a boy), we both play musical instruments, similar development backgrounds, core values – basically, it’s unlikely you’ve ever seen us in the same room.

His brilliant work on the CMB2 platform, excellent engineering leadership at WebDevStudios (who we adore), and general contribution to the WordPress community make us feel incredibly lucky that he’s joining our team. No doubt, you’ll be seeing much more of him in time to come. Welcome, Justin!


Hey! I’m Justin Sternberg (yes, another Justin, whaaaaat?!), and maybe you’ve seen me around the interwebs. I am the lead developer for CMB2, previously worked at WebDevStudios as a developer lead/director of engineering, and have been around the WordPress community for many years. For almost as many years, Justin and I have known each other, hanging out at various WordPress events, and we established a friendship based on our shared interests, shared names, and shared love of WordPress.

A couple months ago, I approached Justin about the opportunity to partner up. The way I saw it, with two Justins at the helm, there’s was no way we could fail! Well, not exactly, but I saw what Justin was doing here at Zao, and it closely aligned with the business principles and concepts I was looking to pursue and adopt. While the opportunity to start my own little freelance business was certainly a viable option, the idea of partnering up with another like-minded individual was definitely the next opportunity I was looking to pursue, whether now, or in the future.

Surprisingly, Justin was amenable to the idea, and we began a “courting” period. We both recognized this isn’t something to take lightly, and we wanted to be sure we were a good fit. After a couple months, I’m excited to move forward, and so this will be my first full-time week at Zao (I’ll be known as JT around these parts). I’m super pumped to see what we can build together, to jump on board with the awesome eCommerce plugin, WP eCommerce, and generally, to be part of an incredible team.

New Beginnings

Hello World!

Liz Karaffa here. I’m new to Zao and the programming world. Honestly, I’m still dumbstruck at how I landed such an amazing opportunity. It all started with a good friend doing some codeacademy.com at my house and showing me what he was up to. That got me curious and before I knew it, I was 30 lines deep in HTML. After Justin caught wind that I had dipped my toe in the water, we started a discussion that led to me being here!

I love problem solving and thinking strategically as much as possible. Settlers of Catan, anyone? Once I got my first taste of coding, I realized I could really have a future in it. I’ll be spending about 60% of my time soaking up everything I can about HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, WordPress, etc. And I know what you’re thinking, Justin is the best and most generous boss ever! I agree, which is why I got him the “World’s #1 Boss” coffee mug for his birthday. Then the other 40% of my time will be spent doing another one of my great loves: administration! I’m one of those strange people who actually likes filling out forms. I love making things efficient and orderly, so I’m looking forward to making Justin’s workload lighter in that arena.

Other than that, I’m busy chasing after my daughter who is turning one year old next week (gasp…they do grow up so fast!). I’m having the time of my life with my amazing husband who is in the thick of getting his MBA while working full time as the sales and development manager at a local coffee roastery. Ironically, I don’t like coffee very much but I have a sneaking suspicion I might not be able to hold out much longer. Justin did get me on Twitter after years of resistance, but I’ll be much harder to switch to Apple.

I already feel very welcomed into the community and I look forward to getting to know you all as time goes on. Feel free to reach out and say hi. Until next time, cheers!

#BeachPress 2.0

Be patient, you’re in for a long post.  This is both an abbreviated post-mortem on BeachPress 2013, and the official BeachPress announcement for BeachPress 2014.  It’s like Christmas and New Year’s, all wrapped up in a nice little sale.

Needless to say, #BeachPress 2013 was an incredible success.  All the feedback received from post-mortem surveys was universally positive.  We definitely had some consistent themes of things to do better on the next round – which is what this post is really all about.

BeachPress 2.0

I’m excited to announce that I’ve secured a date and location for BeachPress 2014.  The venue, in a word – unbelievable.  The location we had at the last event was absolutely fantastic – but this location blows the other out of the water.  I can’t say much more than the listing does, so here’s the link – http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p256498

The dates will be Sunday, June 1st, 2014 through Friday, June 6th, 2014.

Even more precisely, check-in as early as 5PM on Sunday, leave as late as 11AM Friday, and everything in between.

Location

For those who have been following BeachPress quite closely – you might be aware that I ended up narrowing it down to two different homes – the one I chose and this one.  It was actually a much more difficult choice than I anticipated, because they’re both fantastic homes.  I ended up in negotiations with owners at both homes.  It came down to me really analyzing everything about each home – price, amenities, proximity to beach, layout, owner temperament and ultimately, just my gut feeling of how a group of developers would function together in the house.  I feel like we’re in the best possible place – you won’t be disappointed.

Price

For those of you who were able to attend the first BeachPress – first off, thank you!  You made something that started out as just a neat idea into a pretty incredible reality.  It was a really special event for me and I think for everyone involved.  What you all know – and everyone else reading this might not – is that you’re an incredibly generous bunch of people.

See, as a matter of transparency, I sent out a Financial Statement at the end of the event.  Just a really basic letter showing what money came in, what went out, and where everything was spent.  The financials showed a deficit of $843.  The BeachPress group ended up banding together and getting that deficit pretty much eliminated within a few days of the end of the event.  So humbling – but believe me, my bank account was grateful :)

Needless to say, I’d like to avoid operating at a deficit this time.   At our last event, I thought it might be nice to do a “pay-what-you-can” kind of thing.  A couple things to note there: Everyone paid the suggested price, no one paid less.  Also, we under-budgeted, a fact to which our deficit smugly testifies.

This time, we’re keeping it real simple.

25 developers.  5 days.  $300.

First come, first served on beds/rooms.

But what about…

Those of you who are wicked smaaaht (Boston accents, everyone) will notice by now that 25 developers paying $300 is about $7,500.  You’ll likely have noticed two other things.  First, paying $60/day for 5 amazing days with incredible people is a freaking steal.  Second, you’ll probably have already looked at the house, looked at the rates, and realized, “Hey, wait a second – the house is going to be like $7,585 – we’re already at a deficit!”

And you’d be right.  ‘Cause you’re wicked smaaaht.  We want this to be the best event it can possibly be.  The reality is that we’ll need to spend about $10,000 for this to be the event I’ve envisioned.  That means one of two things.  A) We charge more – about $400 per person. B) We keep it more affordable by inviting WordPress companies to pitch in.

Personally, I like the idea of keeping it affordable and passing the offering plate to companies in the WordPress community.   If five companies gave $500, we’d be there.  #boom.  Seriously, magic happens at BeachPress and it’s worth investing in.  That said, if everyone really loves the idea of paying $400 – more power to us all!

Sign Me Up!

I know what you’re thinking. “Justin, this all sounds too good to be true – where do I sign up??”

Right here, right now.   #BeachPress #boooooom