Monthly Archives: September 2010

Seattle, Grist, Philippines

After a lovely weekend in New York I headed straight to Seattle, but not because of the Microsoft announcement like many people thought, but to attend a meeting for Grist, an environmental non-profit (with a sense of humor) whose board of directors I just joined. In addition to being a great organization to be involved with that has funny but important coverage, I hope to learn a lot more about the non-profit world and apply it to the WordPress Foundation. Tonight I leave for the Philippines where I’ll attend and speak at a WordCamp in Manila. I’m looking forward to the end of the year when things slow down.

MSN Spaces Closing, becomes

As just announced on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, Windows Live (formerly MSN) Spaces is shutting down and migrating their 30m+ users to Four years ago I was fairly worried as every internet giant (Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, Google) had a hosted blogging service. Now only Blogger remains, and is firmly in our sights. I’ve been impressed with Microsoft’s regard for their users in providing a solid upgrade and migration path with a really smooth experience, which I think is in strong contrast to Yahoo’s 360 or AOL’s Journals. Given that this effectively doubles WordPress’s user base, there is a lot of work to be done still, but I’m excited by the challenge. 🙂 See also: official Windows Live post, official post, and 30+ other articles covering this on Techmeme.

Zuckerberg on Social

One thing that I think is really important — that I think is context for this, is that I generally think that most other companies now are undervaluing how important social integration is. So even the companies that are starting to come around to thinking, ‘oh maybe we should do some social stuff’, I still think a lot of them are only thinking about it on a surface layer, where it’s like “OK, I have my product, maybe I’ll add two or three social features and we’ll check that box”. That’s not what social is.

Social – you have to design it in from the ground up. These experiences, like what Zynga is doing or what a company like Quora is doing, I think that they have just a really good social integration. They’ve designed their whole product around the idea that your friends will be here with you. Everyone has a real identity for themselves. And those are fundamental building blocks.

From TechCrunch’s Interview With Mark Zuckerberg On The “Facebook Phone”.

Say: Six Apart + VideoEgg

The story has completely broken now (TechCrunch, GigaOM, NY Times) that Six Apart is being is being acquired by VideoEgg, and the combined entities are going to be called Say Media and focus on advertising. This is bittersweet news as Six Apart, with their platforms, has always been Automattic’s and WordPress’s most direct competitor, with Movable Type equivalent to, Typepad (and Livejournal and Vox) to, Typepad anti-spam to Akismet, Typepad Connect to IntenseDebate. I’ve always thought of them like our big brother — they created the marketplace and introduced the concept of blogs to countless people, and still to this day employ 2-3x the number of people at Automattic. (And, it follows, probably do more revenue than us.) I remember many aspects of Six Apart’s history vividly: Anil joining Six Apart in 2003. The 3.0 licensing change and Mark Pilgrim’s Freedom 0 essay, a few weeks later when I first met Ben and Mena on my first trip to San Francisco, visiting Six Apart’s old old digs in an office park somewhere. They had clocks on their walls where their different employees were and I thought that was the coolest thing. Jay Allen joining MT. Typekey launch! The Salon feature. The acquisition of Livejournal. Yadis née OpenID. Their big series B. Mena’s TED Talk. Project Comet which launched as Vox and frankly had me freak out. Acquisition of Rojo (with Chris Alden later becomeing 6A’s CEO). Typepad introducing Pages. Livejournal sold to SUP. The tift we got into around WordPress 2.5. On stage with Steve Jobs at launch of app storeBuying Pownce. (Some of this is out of order.) About a year ago something changed and the Typepad (and Blogger) team really started to hit a groove and seemed to be launching significant, well thought out, and social features on a near-weekly basis. On a feature-for-feature basis the Big Three are closer than they’ve ever been. The tech press is fickle and these launches get almost no coverage, but for each platform’s respective users they’ve been really meaningful. The new company is not getting out of the platform business. Their position is incredibly strong in Japan and I get the sense that’s where the center of gravity for Movable Type development has been for a while. But their primary focus (and revenue) is shifting, and I think that is great for the market as a whole. I would be really sad if Adsense continues to be the best best the world can come up with with regards to advertising on blogs, and now in Say you have the quiet execution monster of Videoegg combined with some of the folks who understand blogging better than anyone else in the world, and my hope is that Automattic’s work with dovetail with Say’s more than ever. VideoEgg, for now, is actually a great example of a site using WordPress as a CMS. (View its source.)

A New Home for the WordPress Trademark

As I write this, I’m on my way to Seaside, Florida to see 60+ Automatticians at our yearly meetup. More than sixty… that number astounds me! Automattic has grown so far beyond what I originally imagined and every day I’m amazed by my colleagues and the things they create. Today we’re growing in another way: Automattic has transferred the WordPress trademark to the WordPress Foundation, the non-profit dedicated to promoting and ensuring access to WordPress and related open source projects in perpetuity. This means that the most central piece of WordPress’s identity, its name, is now fully independent from any company.

This is a really big deal.

I want to recognize and applaud the courage and foresight of Automattic’s board, investors, and legal counsel who made this possible: Mike Hirshland, Phil Black, Tony Conrad, Toni Schneider, Gunderson Dettmer. I’d also like to thank Matt Bartus of Dorsey & Whitney for their counsel on the Foundation side. The WordPress brand has grown immeasurably in the past 5 years and it’s not often you see a for-profit company donate one of their most valuable core assets and give up control. However, I know in my heart that this is the right thing for the entire WordPress community, and they followed me on that. It wasn’t easy, but things worth doing seldom are.

When Automattic registered the WordPress trademark back in 2006, we were a small startup of a few people: a business founded largely to enable us to work on WordPress full-time instead of hacking around our day jobs. A lot has changed since then — somehow along the way we ended up with an audience of a quarter billion people — but a lot has stayed the same. We’re still a group of people in love with WordPress and free/open source software and we’re lucky to have figured out a way to contribute to the world and flourish as a business while doing it.

Automattic might not always be under my influence, so from the beginning I envisioned a structure where for-profit, non-profit, and not-just-for-profit could coexist and balance each other out. It’s important for me to know that WordPress will be protected and that the brand will continue to be a beacon of open source freedom regardless of whether any company is as benevolent as Automattic has been thus far. It’s important to me to know that we’ve done the right thing. Hopefully, it’s important to you, too, and you’ll continue your support of WordPress, the WordPress Foundation, and Automattic’s products and services. We couldn’t do it without you!

Israeli Security Hates iPad

I had a pretty interesting experience going through security at Ben Gurion airport — I almost didn’t make it through. I had heard the airport security in Israel was different but I had no idea. They spent about an hour asking questions, turning on (and taking apart) every piece of the 20+ electronic items I travel with, with particular attention and questions around my iPad. They took it out of the Apple case, turned it on, scanned it, took it away for 10 minutes to scan somewhere else, asked if anyone else in Israel had used it, when I last used it, asked when I got it, and ultimately said that their “technology team” had not cleared it for carry-on and they would need to pack it in a special box, wrap it, tape it, and check it directly with Continental (I couldn’t touch it or the box except to put some WP stickers on so I could identify it later). Wowza! My Sony PC, though, is safe to fly with. No wonder I saw so few Apple products at WordCamp. 🙂

Only in New York

Last night around 10:15 decided to head out for dinner, and somewhat randomly picked the Cuban restaurant Guantanamera because it was nearby. Sat down in a booth near the bar, facing the band, and ordered some mojitos. Over the din of the other diners I thought “hey this house band isn’t half bad.”

Within a few minutes of listening it became very apparent that beyond “not half bad” they were actually really remarkable. What a treat! Ordered a steak and sank in, letting the music (and mojito) flow over me. A half hour later a lady from one of the front tables got up to sing with the band — which isn’t always a good thing. They started on The Man I Love and it was sublime. The song started out as a ballad but then they kicked it up to a fast afro-Cuban beat, and the singer scatted over the beats for a good 4-5 minutes. It turns out it was Janis Siegel of the Manhattan Transfer! I felt particularly fortunate as I had been bummed to miss the Manhattan Transfer show at the Montréal Jazz Festival in June, but here, of all the most random places, was one of my favorite members performing at a small family joint in Midtown West.

Janis sat down after one song but a string of similarly talented musicians came in and out of the band until the restaurant started to close down. I didn’t recognize any of them but the music was so good. 🙂

There was a recording device above the band that was collected by a fellow who I caught up with outside the restaurant as he was hailing a taxi. His name was Paul Siegel and he’s the co-president of Hudson Music which is a music education group (with a website powered by WordPress). I learned the percussionist leader of the house band was Pedro Martínez and Paul follows and records him several times a week at different venues. Apparently Guantanamera is a long-time musician hang-out where even folks like Eric Clapton sat in with the band.

Only in New York.