You tear me apart. The greatest city in the world. (San Francisco has its allure.) I am so drawn to the impeccability excellence of uptown. Just at a baby shower at 111 West 57th… wow! You have never seen a better building, everything is executed to the highest degree par none.
Yet, I’m so drawn to downtown. The jazz. The creativity, the spark, the drive.
Automattic’s office at 166 Crosby feels like a creative center. We’ve built something pretty cool there to inspire and delight people in space.
Proprietary software is like creating art which no-one can see. Open Source elevates software engineering to a collaborative art form. Code is poetry.
— Tom Willmot
Some choice words from Tom Willmot, who was watching Kirby Fergusen’s Everything is a Remix, which I’ll check out now.
Every human has an intrinsic right to put their creative work into the commons. Once freed, work can never be withdrawn, and it has the opportunity—but not the obligation!—for everyone to improve upon it.
Birthdays are so great because they’re about generosity.
The act of giving, helping, is so generative.
It’s what we can all do for ourselves and each other.
But accepting is really hard, too! Gosh! Let it in.
Sometimes we don’t let the gifts in.
Approaching forty has felt impossibly light and heavy at the same time for me.
It’s so cool to be typing this into something we made together. I want you to really think about that. Ponder the enormity of all that came before that allowed you to be here today, and I want you to get a little bit excited, in that sacred hidden part of your heart that yearns for more.
Let’s keep doing that. And let’s make it better and share it so everyone can enjoy it. We make the world.
Specifically, my failure mode is I share too much. I’m too generous. I like to err on the side of open. Here’s some amazing code I wrote that you have a legal license to use however you like. If you ask those closest to me how I mess up, it’s that I over-extend myself and try to do too much.
I’ve never shared this publicly, but when the Bay Lights wasn’t going to make it the first time, I mortgaged my apartment and used that money to get it over the line. My personal finances were messy for years after that. I think a lot about being impeccable with my word.
I want people to give the smallest $10 donation to the Bay Lights and encourage others to do the same so that we can all share in feeling that together, we can build things. And every time you see the light or bridge or think of San Francisco, you’ll think of that sacred hidden part of your heart that yearns for more, wants to leave everything better than you found it.
Add some light.
Let the gift in.
This is the part where the sounds come in and you hear it’s the remix.
I find myself returning, again and again, to the Automattic Creed, especially the first line:
I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.
I’m having the most amazing day reading everything that people are sharing. I want to re-share the quote I shared on Tim’s podcast from Will Durant:
Health lies in action, and so it graces youth. To be busy is the secret of grace, and half the secret of content. Let us ask the gods not for possessions, but for things to do; happiness is in making things rather than in consuming them.
If you’re obsessed with Sonos like I am, a nice MacOS utility is the Menu Bar Controller. Hat tip to Mike Tatum, who happened to be the gentleman who convinced my parents it was okay for me to drop out of college and move to San Francisco to take a job at CNET. Mike’s now at Sonos and in October arranged for some top execs at Automattic to go to Santa Barbara to meet with their peers at Sonos, and Patrick Spence and I did a joint CEO town hall that was broadcast to both of our companies. It was I think fascinating for both sides because of a shared passion for craft, design, culture, and execution, but our companies are in no way competitive, so it allowed for a lot of transparency. I learned a ton, and I think that kind of sharing is what increases the mimetic evolutionary speed of companies.
Atoms are hard! I think I’ll stick mostly to bits.
I returned on the podcast with my good friend Tim Ferriss, by my count the sixth time we’ve recorded together, but the very first time we did it in video! Tim asked me to bring five things I’m excited about, five things I’ve changed my mind on in the past few years, and five things that are absurd or ridiculous but I still do, and that ended up being a pretty fun anchor for a two-and-a-half hour conversation, which you can watch here:
Or listen to on Pocket Casts or any podcast player, thanks to open standards:
I ended up having more than five things for each list, especially the excited one, but tried to edit it down. This was a very vulnerable and personal conversation for me, which I think was possible because we’ve known each other so long at this point and Tim made it really easy and fun to open up. We discuss everything from open source to kids to my upcoming sabbatical.
It’s true, it’s true, I turn forty years old in ten days.
What do you get the guy who has everything?
I admit I’m not the easiest to shop for, I can be quite particular in my preferences of this cable versus that one, but the good news is the gift I most want for my 40th is something everyone can do.
I want you to blog.
Publish a post. About anything! It can be long or short, a photo or a video, maybe a quote or a link to something you found interesting. Don’t sweat it. Just blog. Share something you created, or amplify something you enjoyed. It doesn’t take much. The act of publishing will be a gift for you and me.
I’m a few years behind in posting my book lists, and past few years a good amount of my book reading time shifted to other mediums. I have been rediscovering the joy of books so here’s what I read the past few years as a motivation to myself to pick it up more in 2024.
This year I ended up mostly reading AI and machine learning academic papers, attempting to “learn AI deeply” as I asked people at the State of the Word that year. Started a bunch of other books but these were the only two I finished.
16” M3 Max MacBook Pro, with all the memory and storage. I went from carrying two laptops earlier in the year, a 14” as well to just this. I like the Space Black color because it’s novel but might go back to silver next time. Brand new so just a few stickers so far!
Black Magic Mouse, steady and useful when I’m doing lots of emails. Looking to replace this, as it uses Lightning. At home I’ve been using the Mojo Pro Performance Silent Gaming Mouse because it’s wired and quiet when you click, so something wireless and quiet could be nice for when on the go… I do like the gestures of the Magic Mouse though. I’ll be testing out some new mice over the holidays.
Anker 655 USB-C 8-in-1 Hub. I use this mostly for Ethernet, but since everything is USB-C now I can also use this with either phone or the iPad. I seem to have bad luck with USB hubs, I’m always burning through them, but this one has lasted a while. This thing is heavy! I could go smaller/lighter here.
Opal Tadpole webcam, this is the Opal product everyone has been waiting for. Quality close to iPhone at a smaller size, plugs in via USB-C so you don’t have to worry about connectivity or charging, doesn’t need any special software, looks amazing. Only fits a laptop though, not a bigger monitor. The way the cable works is really clever, great design.
This is one of my most delightful new additions, a Pixel G1s RGB Video Light, it can cast warm light for a Zoom call or you can send it to a specific color to enhance the ambience of room for a party. It can rotate through a rainbow of colors. I ended up giving this to all my friends, and now when we’re in the same place we can instantly vibe out a room with two or three of these devices, and turn off any unpleasant default lighting a space may have. It charges via USB-C, natch. Hat tip: Robb Walters.
UE Premier custom headphones. The best aural experience you can have. Invest the time in visiting an audiologist to get earphones and earplugs customized for your ears.
Chafon USB-C multi-cable is my ultimate workhorse, what I use the most. It’s available at different lengths. I like the way the attachments can be moved around, but there is some fragility being entered at every connection so I like to travel with these not linked so they don’t bend or break.
Pixel Fold. I always try to have an Android device for testing and the pixel fold has been a interesting one, because I found myself using it in ways that feel like sci-fi. Reading a book on the Kindle where you can turn the pages it’s really nice. It’s just a fun tool.
Epicka travel adapter. Nice that it has some built-in ports, but I rarely use them. I probably should switch back to the smaller and lighter Muji adapter.
Still my favorite power cable:Baseus 60w. I tried the higher watt models, they didn’t always work on planes. This is a 6-foot extension cord and can charge a laptop directly. Really a joy. When they do an all-USB-C version I’ll probably upgrade..
This year, I’ve been focused more on my overall health. As I’m getting into the habit of moving my body everyday, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 has been motivating because it’s great at letting me know how much I don’t run. Jokes aside, I’m a data person so seeing the numbers of my habits have helped me optimize my goals.
A candle can make a space feel cozy. Though I don’t travel with my own candle, I like to have my trusted Rechargeable Candle Lighter. Light fire with USB!
Swiss Army Card, let’s talk about cool gadgets. I use every feature of this card on a regular basis during my travels. It’s incredibly compact and slim. I’ve had to reorder this card a couple of times because they will confiscate the tiny knife.
Petzl e+LITE Headlamp, as a former boy scout, I’m always prepared for anything including a potential blackout.
Small plastic holder I got from my sister that helps me carry around stickers without them getting crinkled.
Hermes business card holder. There are some occasions where exchanging business cards is a ritual. Also great to wedge it in a door jamb to keep it from autolocking.
Passport, never leave home without it. Always be ready for adventure! My passport photo is actually AI-generated, because, why not? We live in the metaverse.
Eye Mask. I like these because the material feels nice on the skin and the wraparound is excellent for blocking out the light and some sound since it covers your ears. Great for sleeping or just needing a moment away from overstimulating environments. Similar one here (the version I have doesn’t appear readily available outside of Europe).
REI Goretex mittens. They’re shell liners, lightweight and water resistant. The ones I have are an older version and no longer in stock. Version 2.0 available. There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.
Gloves, nice in the winter but I carry them year round in case I need to carry wood or something. Also the fingertips have the conductive material that makes it touchscreen compatible for devices.
Gore Thermo Beanie, my favorite feature are the slits by the ears for sunglasses. Kept my eyes and ears protected while in Antarctica with Tim. He and I recorded a podcast episode in our tent talking about our personal fears, bucket lists, and more. Have a listen!
Aer Fit Pack 3 backpack, embroidered black-on-black with Automattic and WordPress logos. I upgraded this year from version 2 to 3, which changed some of the interior pockets a bit, and most notably added outside side pockets, which I have found super useful. This is the bag that makes it all work.
Not pictured: Flipper Zero, which was actually in my pocket and I forgot to put it in the photo. I have found this device really handy and fun to play with, just a delightful piece of technology.
Here’s what I was rocking earlier in the year:
I’m not going to label it all, just posting for posterity. It’s mostly the same except I gave up on carrying around the Airpods Max, the grippy tripod, and haven’t found a great disco phone light yet.
To give our current take with regards to iMessage: Right now we run on desktop only, basically automating Apple’s first-party app. This obviously won’t work on iOS or Android. With every network we support we want to have a good, non-adversarial relationship that puts the user first, with the utmost standards for privacy and security, and understanding the principles and values each network is trying to uphold. We’re watching this space unfold very closely, and trying to help where we can. Check out the episode here:
I was really impressed with the warmth of the WordPress community in Madrid, Spain for State of the Word this year. The in-person crowd had a ton of energy, and we had tens of thousands stream it live on platforms like Facebook and Youtube. If you missed it, and want to hear about all the fun stuff that happened in WordPress in 2023 and what’s coming for the future, here’s the video:
iMessage on Android (and Windows!) is on the roadmap for Texts, the all-in-one messaging platform Automattic acquired last month. The Texts team is obsessed with security, and that’s part of why the platform is desktop-only right now—to keep everything 100% client-side and fully encrypted in a way that could never be accessed by the team, or have any compromise in the middle, they’ve been taking their time to get the engineering right on the mobile versions. So they poked around the Sunbird app that Nothing partnered with, and it wasn’t pretty. Here’s Texts founder Kishan Bagaria:
The BlueBubbles thing might be a mistake, but seeing the unencrypted data on the wire definitely wasn’t. Sunbird replied and doubled down on Twitter, citing some ISO standard and claiming it was “encrypted.”
Nothing (the company) still makes amazing hardware that you should absolutely check out and use. It’s my favorite Android experience. I think the company got bamboozled by Sunbird, and unfortunately this went mainstream on MKBHD.
Sunbird appears either not to understand security or to lie about it, and probably misled Nothing. I would recommend double-checking what that team claims in the future.
Who should we actually be upset with?
You shouldn’t need to jump through all these hoops to have a blue bubble on iMessage. Design can create great things; it can also harm. Apple’s design decisions to “magically” upgrade SMS or texts or RCS into iMessage, which is better and more secure, creates a green-bubble ghetto that’s also a terrible user experience for anyone not on an Apple-made device.
I’ve heard stories of teenagers being ostracized because they couldn’t afford an iPhone, of group chats rejecting people who turn the chat from blue to green. I know that sounds petty, but do you remember middle school? It’s about status, and Apple knows that. Everything they make bleeds status and signaling. They’re the best in the world at it, and I should know—I’m typing this post from a M3 Max black MacBook with 128GB of RAM. But while status signaling with amazing hardware and design touches is harmless, in software and social settings in can be harmful.
Regardless of how it started, today the green bubble indicates cheaper, lower-status, less secure. Apple’s half-hearted support of RCS just continues this. Sunbird (and others) shouldn’t need to jump through so many hoops around this stuff by reverse engineering. Apple should open up iMessage APIs so it can be natively supported just like every other 100M+ messaging platform is: Telegram, Signal, WhatsApp, et al. Teens who can’t afford or don’t want an iPhone should be able to have an app that lets them connect with their friends as peers, securely and with all the features that are easy to support in messaging.
Tim Cook, Apple, we love you. Trillion-dollar company, and lots of room still to grow. Allowing iMessage/FaceTime to interoperate (like it used to!) might take .01% off your growth rate, but it’s the right thing for humanity. Yes, I know Google is shady too, and they’re locked in this smartphone death match with you. But take person-to-person communication out of the struggle, make it a DMZ, and be content to compete in all the other areas you’re currently crushing: design, silicon, Continuity, security, privacy, customer experience, retail stores, spatial audio, the list goes on.
I have no idea how to get in touch with YouTubers, but Marques, if you see this, I’m happy to chat about the future of technology, open source, freedom, and privacy.
Today is also my 18th anniversary at Automattic! So, an exciting day all around.
Using an all-in-one messaging app is a real game-changer for productivity and keeping up with things. Texts is a paid app, with discounted student pricing, and I think a lot of people will find value in it. It’s quickly become one of the top three apps I spend time using.
This is obviously a tricky area to navigate, as in the past the networks have blocked third-party clients, but I think with the current anti-trust and regulatory environments this is actually something the big networks will appreciate: it maintains the same security as their clients, opens them up in a way consumers will love and is very user-centric, and because we’re committed to supporting all their features it can actually increase engagement and usage of their platforms.
We’re still working out everything for mobile, so if you’re looking for the all-in-one experience on iOS or Android in the meantime, I recommend checking out Beeper. It really is great to have everything together.
If you’re a reverse engineer hacker that is interested in working with a super-small elite team in this space with the fun of a startup and the air cover of Automattic, get in touch with Kishan on Twitter DM or email (kb at texts). Here’s a fun video for Texts. 😄
Okay, I’ve seen a lot of things in my life, but this has me fairly floored. I was at an EcoAmerica board meeting dinner and afterward instead of calling an Uber like I usually would, I tried a self-driving car, a Waymo. (The name inspired by my friend, Jaime Waydo.) As I got home I was so excited to tell my Mom what just happened.
I feel like every cell in my body is charged, it’s like the first time I got a script to run, or committed code into b2/cafelog, this is definitely a before and after moment. Here’s a video as the car arrived and I got out. I’m really at a loss for words. The “wow” you hear me say in one of my most genuine in my life. The thing is I know these self-driving cars exist, I’ve seen them around San Francisco forever, but the experience of being picked up and dropped off by a robot navigating the tricky SF hills and streets just hits different.
“The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.”
One thing that always brings me back to San Francisco is you feel like you’re living in the future. Tonight was no exception.