Monthly Archives: January 2013

Neil Leifer on WordPress

One of my favorite photographers, Neil Leifer, has a beautiful new site. For the past few years I’ve had this photo in my office:

Ali - Williams (Overhead)

The story behind it is pretty interesting, taken from this interview with Larry Berman and Chris Maher:

Chris/Larry: It’s actually quite a different question to say what are your favorites verses what do you feel are your best photographs.

Neil: I know, and my best picture ever, in my opinion, is my Ali Cleveland Williams picture that I shot from overhead. I don’t usually hang my own photos, I collect other people’s pictures. But that picture’s been hanging in my living room as long as I can remember. I have a 40×40 print of it which is hung in a diamond shape with Williams at the top. That’s the guy that’s on the canvas on his back.

Chris/Larry: It’s remarkably abstract for a sports picture.

Neil: I think it’s the only picture in my career that there’s nothing I would do different with it. You look at pictures and think that you can always improve them no matter how successful the shoot is. Part of what motivates you to go on to the next shoot is every once in a while you get a picture, whether it’s the cover of the magazine or an inside spread, that’s as good as you think you could have made it. And then a week later you see a couple of things that you could improve slightly. A month later you might see a few more things. It doesn’t diminish the quality of that picture. It simply means that there’s always room for improvement.

Chris/Larry: You’re learning for the future?

Neil: Exactly. It’s sort of what motivates you to go on. If I were to do the Cleveland Williams Ali picture again, I would do it exactly the same. And more important is that no one will ever do it better because it can’t be done like that anymore. Today the ring is different and the fighters dress in multi colored outfits like wrestlers. Back then the champ wore white and the challenger wore black.  Today, when you look down at the ring from above, you see the Budweiser Beer logo in the center and around it is the network logo that’s televising the fight. Whether it’s Showtime or HBO, they have their logo two or three times on the canvas. The logo of promoter of the fight, Don King Presents, is also visible. That’s why that picture couldn’t be taken today. So not only did the picture work out better than any I’ve ever taken, but it’s one that’ll never be taken again.

©Neil Leifer

Chris/Larry: Where are you in this picture?

Neil: I’m at 11:00 o’clock, as I remember it. I’m in a blue shirt leaning on the canvas with a camera in each hand.

It’s always an honor to have a great creator make their home on the web with WordPress.

simplenote-devicesAs Liz Gannes wrote in AllThingsD, Automattic has acquired Simplenote, the coolest notes service around which you can get on the iTunes app store or for a variety of other platforms, and Simperium, which if you’re a developer you should watch the video on their homepage and see how the technology can make what you’re doing even cooler. You can read our official announcements on the Simperium blog and the Simplenote blog, which also includes some future plans. I’ve been a daily user and fan of the service for a while now, and I’m looking forward to how we can use Simperium across

I’m attending the World Economic Forum in Davos for the first time, if you’ll be there I’d love to meet up and of course open to any tips you have about the event, it’s very intimidating to attend a first-timer. Also: Switzerland is beautiful! Also my first time in the country.


A week ago I rang in my twenty-ninth birthday and entered that twilight zone prior to thirty. It was an exciting day, I got to fly a plane, dogfight another, and do some aerobatics like a tumble, which was pretty much the coolest thing ever. Unusually for me, I managed to stay away from my computer the entire weekend, instead spending time eating, drinking, and dancing with a few friends who were also in Las Vegas. I came back online to some very sweet birthday blogs (thank you Lorelle, Austin, and John!) and of course a number of nice messages on Facebook and Twitter. All in all, extremely pleasant.

I travelled more this year than I ever have before, covering 261,077 miles in 292 days away from San Francisco (79 cities, 11 countries).

From the outside my life sometimes can appear crazy, and my 20s have been atypical in many ways, but one of the things I appreciate the most about this past year is that things have been getting less hectic overall. Much of this I attribute technology which I’ve finally gotten to a point where the majority of it in my life serves to allow me to spend doing things I love, like writing, designing, coding, learning, and less time on infrastructure or overhead.

The most interesting thing about twenty-nine so far is I’ve been getting lots of tips from people on how to end my 20s, which usually fall under “go out with a bang” from people currently in their 20s and “don’t worry it just gets better from here” from people in their 30s.

My focus this year will be on simplification and streamlining. As in many years past, I find I’m the most balanced when I take time every day to read, especially in the morning, and as an additional resolution this year I’m trying to watch a film every week recommended by friends. (So far have seen My Fair Lady, Casablanca, King Corn, and American President.)

Previous years: 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 26, 27, and 28.

“For one experiment in the study, Wilcox and Stephen asked 84 study participants to either browse Facebook or read for five minutes. […] The Facebook group was much more likely to go for the cookie, while the CNN group picked the granola bar.” — Does Facebook Praise Kill Self-Control?.

Twenty-twelve was an exciting year for Automattic. We added 48 new Automatticians and it’s been delightful to see the effect the new folks have had on the company. We made over 40,000 commits to our various repositories, about half of those on alone. Contained in those commits are countless improvements to the experience for, but I’m just as proud of the things we removed and streamlined: the homepage has been drastically simplified, and a completely revamped reader is launching this week. Engagement started rising again after being flat in 2011. Support responses that used to take days now take hours or less. We added 75M uniques to our our network. There is a demo WordPress app on every iPhone and iPad in every Apple store I’ve visited in the US. (If you contribute to WordPress, show it to your friends next time you’re in a store and say “I help make this!”) We did two acquisitions, one announced, one not yet. It looks like we’ll grow the team by at least another 60 people this year. There’s so much more already done that hasn’t been announced yet or that’s coming that I’m bursting to share, but the surprise is at least half the fun. Stay tuned. 🙂

Marshmallow Challenge

Here’s an interesting TED talk on a team challenge on building the tallest structure with twenty sticks of spaghetti and a marshmallow. See why kindergarten students do better than business school graduates. (Hint: Learning by shipping.)

Steven Sinofsky, known at Microsoft for turning around the Office franchise and most recently as head of Windows, where he turned it around post-Vista. He left Microsoft a few months ago, and just started a blog on called Learning by Shipping. It’s a concept I’m particularly fond of.