Apple almost never fails to wow, and they had a lot of cool announcements at WWDC yesterday. Apple’s previously favorite (app of the year!) journaling app was Day One, one of Automattic’s products, but they announced their own Journal app. One nice thing about competing with Apple is they only really interoperate with their own devices, and they’re usually not good at social. Day One is launching Shared Journals soon, a social feature so you can have fully end-to-end encrypted shared private journals with friends and family. It’s been the thing I’ve been most excited about since we bought the app. (Paul can attest how much I ask him about it!)
That complements another advantage Day One has, which is being cross-platform. If you have a family member on Android, you don’t want to ostracize them from your Shared Journal. Apple doesn’t care, their priority is getting everyone on the Apple ecosystem. You care, and Day One/Automattic does too, that’s why it works great on all Apple devices, Android devices, and the web itself.
I think part of what Mike Little showed with his comment on my blog that led to the creation of WordPress, is that it’s not about how many views you have, how many likes, trying to max all your stats… sometimes a single connection to another human is all that matters.
All it takes is a spark.
That’s what is beautiful about blogging. It’s too bad the advertising and social media platforms got us all caught up in status games for the past 15 years.
All you need is one view, one like, one comment, to change your life.
Twenty years later, I am proud and humbled by what the community around WordPress has created, and jazzed about what we will create in the coming decades.
I’m also excited to mark this milestone by publicly launching the Audrey Scholars program. It is, like all things, an experiment, but I’m curious to see how it unfolds and perhaps one day an Audrey Scholar could even take the responsibility of leading WordPress, when my capacity to do so has passed.
Last week I had the honor of being on stage at the Royal Society of Arts in London with Mike Little, the co-founder of WordPress, and Dries Buytaert, the founder of Drupal, which is one of the open source projects I have the most respect and admiration for. This is the conversation that ensued.
The last year of my thirties! WordPress turns twenty this year. Automattic is now ~2,000 people across 98 countries. There’s so much that has happened in the past decade yet it feels very much like we’re on the cusp of something even more exciting.
This morning started well; I pulled the hammock out of the garage (it had been hiding from the rain) and read for a bit, trying to get my 5-10 minutes of sun in the first 30 minutes like Huberman suggests.
Candidly, the last year was a really challenging one for me personally. There were some beautiful moments, and I consider myself the most lucky in my family, friends, and colleagues, yet among that same group there was a lot of loss, existential health challenges, and that weighed heavily on me. It’s also my last year to get on 40 under 40 lists! 😂
Usually when people ask me what I want for my birthday I don’t have a good answer, but this year I do! As Heather Knight wrote about in the SF Chronicle, the beloved Bay Lights are coming down in March. This has to happen — the vibrations and corrosive environment of the Bay Bridge is taking lights out strand by strand. Fortunately it’s now been a decade since the lights first went up, and there’s much better technology both for the lights and how they’re mounted and attached to the suspension cables. Finally, the lights were not visible from Treasure Island or the East Bay before, but this new version 3.0 will be, which is why the artist behind the lights, Leo Villereal, is calling it Bay Lights 360.
Like the Foundation series, we can’t stop the coming period of darkness from happening, but if we raise $11M we can bring the lights back. If we raise it soon we can shorten the time they’re down to just a few months, so I’m working with the 501c3 non-profit Illuminate to help fundraise. The idea is to find ten people or organizations to put one million each, and raise the final million in a broader crowdfunding campaign, to re-light the Bay Bridge and give an incredible gift to the people from every walk of life that see the bridge, and hopefully have their spirits lifted by the art. I’ve heard 25 million people see the Bay Lights every year.
It’s a lot to raise, but every little bit helps so please donate here, and if you are interested to do a larger gift please get in touch. I’m committing a million dollars to the fundraise, and myself, Illuminate director Ben Davis, and the artist Leo Villereal are happy to personally connect with anyone considering a larger donation.
Because of some family health reasons I’m back in lockdown, so going to try and throw an online party tonight in the “Matterverse.” We’re going to party like it’s late 2020. 🎉
A few weeks ago, but what feels like a lifetime ago, I was in New York City with a few dozen extra special people from around the WordPress world. Alongside Josepha and the community we presented this review of how WordPress did in 2022, and vision for what’s coming:
This is a big deal. There are a lot of big deals happening right now, it’s honestly a very exciting time to be in tech. I feel like a sailor in a tumultuous sea, and they should have sent a poet. T. S. Eliot was actually the inspiration for WordPress’ tagline “Code is Poetry” and I’m reminded of this from The Dry Salvages:
O voyagers, O seamen, You who came to port, and you whose bodies Will suffer the trial and judgement of the sea, Or whatever event, this is your real destination.” So Krishna, as when he admonished Arjuna On the field of battle. Not fare well, But fare forward, voyagers.
Automattic acquired Pocket Casts last July, and since we’ve been tapping away trying to make the best podcast client for people who love listening to podcasts.
The team has been working really hard to make those clients totally open source and available to the world, and it’s now happened. You can see all the code behind the iOS app and the Android app, and modify it, make it your own, suggest a change, fix a bug, add a feature, fork it and make your own client, anything!
If your code gets merged into core, it’ll go out to users listening to literally millions of hours of podcasts a week. It’s also unusual to be able to peek under the hood of a consumer mobile app that is this widely used and see how it works.
Audio publishing and consumption is a beautiful complement to the web publishing that WordPress is already so good at, and that Automattic tries to nurture an ecosystem around. I love Spotify and Apple, and I hope that Pocket Casts can do for podcast clients what Firefox in the early days and Chromium now does for browsers — push the state of the art, be manically focused on user control, and grow a more decentralized and open web.
If you haven’t tried out Tumblr in a while, check it out. Lots of improvements the past few months, and it can be a refreshing alternative or add-on to your online social life. And get your friends on it too!
WordCamp United States was in San Diego this year, a really lovely town. It felt like a throwback because of the venue we had to limit tickets quite a bit, so it felt like a WCUS from a decade ago.
I’ll probably do this year’s State of the Word in December again with a livestream and small live audience, so for WCUS we did a brief introduction to the upcoming WordPress 6.1 release, and focused on audience Q&A. Those are always fun for me because you never know what question will come next. Here’s the video if you’d like to catch up on it:
If I had to pick one reason why I’d suggest every person should attend Burning Man at least once, it would be the art. (Second reason would be seeing the principles in action.) This year I am particularly excited to support two pieces, the first being the Sonic Sphere which has this great video introducing it:
Before I elaborate — yes, people still use Tumblr and it’s far more popular than most people think. Neil Gaiman has been an active Tumblr user since 2011, and he still actively uses the microblogging platform to this day. This is notable, because celebrities have notoriously been bullied off of Tumblr. Yet somehow, Neil Gaiman has outlived them all, watching from the shadows of his own dashboard.
He’s just a good presence on the internet, which is exceedingly rare to see these days.
I’m seeing more and more people use Tumblr in this way, and it’s nice to be part of making the web a more interesting place. If you haven’t tried Tumblr recently, download the app and start with Neil’s blog as a subscription. Hat tip: Matthew Ryan.
I spoke with Guy Raz about the early days of WordPress and Automattic on the latest episode of “How I Built This (listen on Pocket Casts).” We ended up talking for over four hours and the show has skillfully edited this down to just over an hour. We discussed my time at CNET, how I accidentally invented a new way to spam, why we didn’t sell Automattic, my feelings on Wix and competitors like Shopify (sponsor of this episode, hah, in which I speak about how their dashboard looks just like WordPress’s). Guy pivoted the conversation to grief that came with the loss of my father and challenges we faced during the pandemic. He kept the conversation going effortlessly and I had a great time taping the episode. Thanks to Guy and his team for a great experience.