Apple Intelligence

It was so cool to see WordPress highlighted (although with a lowercase P in in the closed captioning) on the Apple keynote today. 

I recommend watching the entire keynote, but especially the Apple Intelligence section starting at 1:04 not because we’re mentioned but because it shows the future of computing, which is the future of society.

Apple is an exciting company because they push so much compute and capability to the edge with their devices, it gives people superpowers. The Grammarly-level editing and spell-check alone is amazing, on par with their math stuff. Some of these superpowers will be directed into blogging, and I can’t wait to see what people do with all these new generative tools at their disposal. I really love the Promethean model where all of us have devices in our pocket or desktop that can turn us into superheroes.

I think it’s actually going to turn the hosting world upside down because complex transformations that would be difficult to run on the server-side will be trivial to run client-side with these millions and billions of processors being distributed through people’s smartphone upgrades. This innovation should exist at the operating-system layer (I include browsers and WASM in this) not be replicated in every application. WordPress Playground plays into this trend. (Interesting that Apple has now started to adopt the playground terminology.)

Cowen Life Lessons

Sriram Krishnan calls Tyler Cowen one of the best talent spotters.

I take a few life lessons from Tyler, who I consider a mentor even though we’ve spent, at most, dozens of minutes together in the past several decades. (Don’t constrain your mentors by their availability, engage with their work!)

  1. He has blogged consistently on Marginal Revolution since 2003. As he learns he shares, and that’s a lighthouse beacon attracting smart people around the world with similar interests. So the lesson is: blog!
  2. He keeps himself open to engagement, with his email address being public. He reads and responds to his own emails.
  3. He treats everyone with with respect. I was a kid no one had heard of when I met him at an economics conference in 2003, but he spoke to me with the same respect and attention he gave to Milton Friedman, who was also there.

His advice to me was simple but true: Write every morning. Be more ambitious. Because it was coming from him I took it seriously. It’s all very open source. (I’m very curious to see how economic theory and open source intersect in the coming years, I think there’s a lot in the open source world that is novel and useful.)

I’m inconsistent compared to him in those three things but I look up and aspire to the example he sets, especially within the WordPress community where I keep myself easy to reach on the community Slack or talking to people at WordCamps. (Like WordCamp Europe in Turin next week!)

Melt Your Butter

In my life I like to experience things high/low, to stay grounded. So while I’ve been taken on culinary adventures with the best chefs in the world like René Redzepi or Kyle Connaughton, sometimes I find myself on a United flight, as I am today, ordering the chicken.

When you move between two extremes it’s not the big things that bother you, for example I’m sure this chicken wasn’t raised on scraps from Michelin star restaurants, as I was once told in New York, but the little things, like “Why is this butter as hard as a rock?”

Butter, one of the most magical of ingredients, should spread. Yet it is served in so many places at a temperature that makes you feel more like you’re carving Play-doh. So I will now give you one of my favorite travel hacks: On United they nuke the main entree too hot to eat when it arrives, but this is now to your advantage because you can open the small butter tin and put it on the scorched entree and let thermodynamics turn it from rock-hard butter-ice to supple, delicious butter.

The process takes a minute or two, just enough time to eat your salad (be careful opening the pressurized balsamic dressing!) and allow the bread to cool a bit and be palatable.

On occasion I have left the butter in the heat too long, and it liquifies, but then I just use it as a pour or dip my bread into it, imagining myself at Peter Luger’s dipping my steak into the collected deliciousness at the bottom of the dish. If you’re serving at home, softening the butter and warming plates is an easy way to elevate your game.


It seems like just yesterday WordPress was becoming a teenager, and in a blink of the eye it’s now old enough to drink! 21 years since Mike and I did the first release of WordPress, forking Michel’s work on b2/cafélog.

There’s been many milestones and highlights along the way, and many more to come. I’ve been thinking a lot about elements that made WordPress successful in its early years that we should keep in mind as we build this year and beyond. Here’s 11 opinions:

  1. Simple things should be easy and intuitive, and complex things possible.
  2. Blogging, commenting, and pingbacks need to be fun. Static websites are fine, but dynamic ones are better. Almost every site would be improved by having a great blog.
  3. Wikis are amazing, and our documentation should be wiki-easy to edit.
  4. Forums should be front and center in the community. bbPress and BuddyPress need some love.
  5. Every plugin and theme should have all the infrastructure that we use to build WordPress itself—version control, bug trackers, forums, documentation, internationalization, chat rooms, P2, and easy pathways for contribution and community. We shouldn’t be uploading ZIPs in 2024!
  6. Theme previews should be great, and a wide collection of non-commercial themes with diverse aesthetics and functionality are crucial.
  7. We can’t over-index for guidelines and requirements. Better to have good marketplace dynamics and engineer automated feedback loops and transparency to users. Boundaries in functionality and design should be pushed. (But spam and spammy behavior deserves zero tolerance.)
  8. Feedback loops are so important, and should scale with usage and the entire community rather than being reliant on gatekeepers.
  9. Core should be opinionated and quirky: Easter eggs, language with personality even if it’s difficult to translate, jazzy.
  10. Everyone developing and making decisions for software needs to use it.
  11. It’s important that we all do support, go to meetups and events, anything we can to stay close to regular end-users of what we make.

A bonus: Playground is going to change everything. What would you add?

Fun fact: On May 27, 2003 I blogged “Working backwards, earlier tonight was great. Put WordPress out, which felt great.” as one sentence in a 953-word entry written from the porch of my parent’s house where I was accidentally locked out all night until my Dad left in the morning to go to work. Had no idea WordPress would be as big as it is. Earlier that night had set up WP for my friend Ramie Speight, and done some phone tech support for another friend Mike Tremoulet I had met through the local blogger meetup. My friends from high school all had their own domains with WP and that feedback loop was magical for shaping the software.

Sabbatical Wrap

Today is my first day post-sabbatical, getting back in the swing of things with Automattic., all the things. What a unique experience! I found the lead up to the sabbatical and planning process to be infinitely valuable, the sabbatical itself to be interesting experentially, and I’m curious to see what the post-sabbatical effects are. I have that nervous excitement like it’s the first day of school, which I haven’t felt in years. What should I wear? Who will sit with me at lunch?

I could now give a much better talk about the value of sabbaticals, having finally done one myself vs observing the hundreds that have taken place at Automattic. Like having a kid, it’s something you can understand intellectually but the direct experience is profound in ways that are hard to articulate.

There’s so much to catch up on and it’s kind of delightful to check in on progress of things after a few months rather than day-to-day like I normally do. If I had one bit of advice it would be to not get a big surgery (I had a sinus one) or plan for other major health things during a sabbatical, that should be on a different track if you can help it.

At the beginning I allowed myself two goals around sailing and chess. Sailing I decided to postpone to take advantage of a peak opportunity in July, but chess has been a fun incorporation into my daily habits and also incredibly humbling playing with folks who have been at it longer. The thing I didn’t plan for that became actually really important to me was getting back to the saxophone, not even trying to perform but the ritual and zen of long tones and practice is incredibly grounding in a way I didn’t know I was missing.

A few bullet point highlights:

  • Rowed to Alcatraz.
  • Got Covid the 4th time.
  • Went to Super Bowl.
  • Spent time at my alma mata University of Houston.
  • Toured the modern cathedrals of datacenters.
  • Did a ton of health scans, blood tests, doctor meetings.
  • Got my DEXA body fat down to 17.9%.
  • Skied Big Sky and Yellowstone Club.
  • Went to friend’s 40ths and 50ths.
  • Got a major sinus surgery.
  • Hosted an epic eclipse party from a plane with 100+ flash talks.
  • Studied Qigong and yoga.
  • Spent time in Houston, San Francisco, Big Sky, Austin, Orlando, Tokyo, Taipei, Amsterdam, Paris, and Mallorca.
  • Cleaned up a ton of personal projects.
  • Read a ton.
  • Swam in the ocean.
  • Played saxophone at 40k feet.
  • Equine therapy.
  • A lot of progress on renovation projects in Houston and San Francisco.
  • Hiked many places, walking in general more than normal.
  • Tweaked my back. :/
  • Couple of podcasts and interviews, a few meetings.
  • Binged Three Body Problem.
  • Did a lot of solo time and introspection.

Also, there was actually a lot of Automattic stuff happening most notably the acquisition of Beeper! I wasn’t able to unplug as much as I hoped, but I did definitely reverse my normal priorities. One thing I really missed was that I had very high hopes to see a lot of people, but a lot of stuff came up so outside of the events it was probably smaller social circle than I normally have.

It does make me think about apophatic theology or how Nassim Taleb talks about via negativa. Whatever you’ve been doing, it’s nice to try the opposite for a while, just to see what happens.

Karaoke Hacks

You can’t sing. I can’t sing. But we both should sing, from the depths of our bellies because it’s good for your soul. We don’t sing enough in modern society! Hence, my love of karaoke.

Live band karaoke is the best, which I’ve done everywhere from the basement of Hill Country BBQ in New York to someplace random in Davao after a WordCamp, but when you don’t have a four piece band there are electronic substitutes.

The first hack to do karaoke anywhere, which I’m surprised more people don’t know, is just search YouTube for [the song you’re looking for] + karaoke. You get something like this Fly Me To The Moon. Every modern TV has YouTube and you’ll be singing along with the TV in no time. I went down a long rabbit hole of wireless mics, auto-tuners, speakers, etc, and I have emerged back concluding that a USB-C wireless speaker microphone gives a lot of the benefits without as much hassle.

The next level up, and worth the subscription, is that the Karafun apps are actually pretty good. You can even run it on MacOS with an HDMI cable to the TV and they have a QR code and queuing system. Pretty slick, pretty fun, Sweet Caroline.

Illuminate has crossed the funding threshold it needed to actually kick off the project of bringing the Bay Lights back to San Francisco, as Heather Knight writes for the New York Times. The upgraded lights will be visible not just from San Francisco but also in Oakland, Treasure Island, Berkeley… all across the Bay. It’s felt like the lights have been the lumen-physical embodiment of San Francisco’s struggles: sparkling and inspiring at the start, then facing troubles, a trough of darkness, and now hope for something better sparked and on the horizon.

I’d love to get as many citizens and addresses in San Francisco as donors, however small, to round out the last bit of the funding, so that as many people as possible can feel the ownership and pride of making the city better. Back in January when I promoted this last it was on a terrible platform, it’s now been re-done by the GiveWP team to be totally native WordPress and a slick donation experience, easy to do on mobile and with Apple Pay. (Major kudos to Devin Walker there!) Please share the link to your friends, especially ones that see the bridge from their home, for $10 it’s the cheapest pro-social dopamine boost you can have every time you look at the bridge.

Mouth Biohacking

I’m not one to shy away from random things I find on the internet, so when I came across the Scott Alexander article on a discovery in the 80s about people who don’t get cavities, my first thought was “how far is Honduras from Houston?”

So on February 28th, my friend Rene and I became the 50th and 51st people to get our normal mouth bacteria scrubbed away and hopefully replaced by a genetically modified strain of Streptococcus mutans that doesn’t turn sugar into lactic acid. A nice sabbatical jaunt.

In the 9 weeks since, no teeth have fallen out, I haven’t gotten any cavities, really the only noticeable change is that I seem to have less bad morning breath, though I still wholeheartedly recommend SmartMouth mouthwash and travel packets.

The company is working on making it more widely available without travel to another country, and if that works it will be interesting to see how long this takes to spread. Will it be adopted quickly or be like the lemon juice cure for scurvy that took 42 years to become policy? In the meantime, the weather in Roatán is warm!

If you’d like to learn more Cremiux Recueil also has a pretty good deep-dive.

Beeper & Texts

It’s such a delight when a plan comes together and unfolds, especially when it’s something you’ve been working on for many years. Today the announcement went out that we’re combining the best technology from Beeper and Texts to create a great private, secure, and open source messaging client for people to have control of their communications. We’re going to use the Beeper brand, because it’s fun. This is not unlike how browsers have evolved, where solid tech and encryption on top of an open ecosystem has created untold value for humanity. Eric Migicovsky has written well about the plan going forward.

A lot of people are asking about iMessage on Android… I have zero interest in fighting with Apple, I think instead it’s best to focus on messaging networks that want more engagement from power-user clients. This is an area I’m excited to work on when I return from my sabbatical next month.

Paul Davids and Jacob Collier

I know I share a lot of Jacob Collier content, but this one is particularly interesting because you can see him learning things in real-time, exploring an instrument that is not his native tongue but he’s already world-class in. It’s so interesting to me the polymath musician friends I have who can play so many instruments how they bring the technique and language across their learning, and this video illustrates it well.

Hugo on Vision Pro

Many of my friends are ridiculous overachievers, and Hugo Barra is no exception. In response to my birthday blog post present request he has published a magnus opus of over 10,000+ words on his thoughts on the Apple Vision Pro from his perspective having been present for some foundational moments for Google, Meta, and Xiaomi. This is my dream, to get people writing more. We need more of this stuff on the internet! It’s fun to go down rabbit holes with experts. Cool that it’s on, too. 🙂

On the Reddit IPO

I’m looking forward to the Reddit IPO, and I think it’s awesome that they opened up a top-tier IPO tranche to their community. People with 200,000 karma points or 5,000 moderator actions on Reddit will get access to something that has previously been reserved for the most elite allies of financial institutions. Wow!

I’m sure this was not easy to do so Reddit users should understand that at this very important juncture in the company’s history it has gone above and beyond to include you. I’m mostly a lurker on Reddit so my 958 karma doesn’t qualify so I’ll get access with the rest of the normal folks.

If I ever IPO something from Automattic, it will include the same for people who have contributed to WordPress. And every supporting open-source project underneath it. (It’s turtles all the way down.)

My only fear is that code contributions are structured in a way that is easily legible, so is anything that happens on, but we may miss including people who have contributed to the growth of WordPress in non-legible ways.

WordPress, Taylor Swift, Super Bowl, oh my

There has been quite a bit of buzz in the WordPress community because during the Grammys red carpet Taylor Swift’s website went down and this is what everyone saw:

Hey there! That looks familiar. What a beautiful WordPress logo! (Hat tip: Alexa Scordato for telling me about this.) The website also had some ups and downs, we haven’t been able to get in touch with anyone on Taylor’s tech team, but if you’re there, we’re standing by and happy to spin up your site on so it can handle any amount of traffic.

This gets even more interesting, because for the first time in my life, after having orbited around the Super Bowl for decades*, I am attending in person. Thanks to the graciousness of my friend and advisor Jason Hoffman, I’ll be in an owner’s suite, wearing a WordPress t-shirt, possibly not too far from Taylor, watching the game. Look for me on TV! I know she loves Tumblr so I’ll have with me a little gift bag of Tumblr swag just in case I meet her.

* How have I been orbiting around the Super Bowl? Even though I don’t follow sports, I’m obsessed with the Super Bowl, and typically host watch parties every year. I love seeing the pinnacle of American achievement. The Super Bowl centers around a number of interesting stories in my life, such as when I was in high school and very poor the Super Bowl was in Houston, and they made McNuggets really cheap, so I ate 104 McNuggets in one sitting. (Sweet and sour sauce, natch.) At that infamous Justin Timberlake / Janet Jackson moment, they needed extras on the field to be their audience and my high school girlfriend was one of the kids in the audience when it happened. There’s so many more stories I could tell!