The new WordPress 6.4 is named in honor of Shirley Horn, who NPR described as the queen of silence and interpretation. If you’re in San Francisco and love jazz vocalists, this Friday Clairdee will be at Keys.
Texts is a fun application (desktop only for now) that brings all of your messages into one inbox. It currently supports iMessage, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Messenger, X/Twitter DMs, Instagram DMs, LinkedIn, Slack, and Discord DMs, with more on the way soon. It runs entirely on the desktop so it’s super fast and secure. It’s founded and led by Kishan Bagaria, a really unique entrepreneur and technical talent, and has a slate of amazing investors including Lachy Groom, Guillermo Rauch (former Automattician!), Sahil Lavingia, and many others—and I’m excited to announce that it’s now part of Automattic!
This was announced today on the Pivot podcast with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway (my part starts 48:50 in), and also covered in The Verge, TechCrunch, MacStories, and a few others.
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.”William Gibson
One thing that always brings me back to San Francisco is you feel like you’re living in the future. Tonight was no exception.
Twitter/X is testing charging users $1/year with the idea that will keep out bots and spam. It’s an appealing idea, and charging definitely does introduce a “proof of work” that wasn’t there before, but the history of the web shows this is not really a big deterrent. Domains cost money, usually a lot more than a dollar a year, and millions are used for spam or nefarious purposes. The spammers obviously thought their benefit would be more than the cost of the domain, or they use stolen credit cards and identities. Charging may cause a short-term drop in bots while the bad guys update their scripts, but the value of manipulating X/Twitter is so high I imagine there is already millions of dollars being spent on it.
Long term to keep a platform healthy you really have to take a nuanced look at behavior and content, like Automattic does with Akismet, and have a fairly sophisticated trust and safety operation with great engineers. T&S is really important, not an enemy of progress, which would have been my chief edit to the otherwise exciting The Techno-Optimist Manifesto by Marc Andreessen. (If you missed Marc’s Why AI Will Save the World, that’s also an excellent read with dozens of references you can go down a rabbit hole with.)
There’s a way to run a company like managing a government, with reports, surveys, and abstractions.
There’s a way to run a company like building a ship, where every board and seam has to be understood and checked.
Both can be successful, but you need to decide which you want to do.
This month, Automattic had the privilege of working with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (BKC) to migrate their early 2000s blogging platform over to our Pressable infrastructure. (Pressable is a small host Automattic runs to develop our WP.cloud infrastructure, it gets you all the performance and security of our high-end WP.com plans, but with a more plain-vanilla WP interface.)
The Harvard Blogs network that the Center launched back in 2003 was an important milestone in internet history. It provided a platform for over 1,500 high-impact bloggers—including Harvard students, faculty, fellows, staff, and alumni—to publish and engage in discussion.
We were alerted to BKC’s plans to decommission blogs.harvard.edu by none other than Dave Winer, the pioneering developer behind blogging, RSS, and podcasting, and a Berkman Center fellow from 2003-2004. As BKC shared in their announcement, the network played a formative role for many now-influential bloggers and internet figures. It also contributed to the rise of podcasting and projects like Ushahidi.
When we learned BKC planned to retire the Harvard Blogs platform, we wanted to ensure this valuable archive of early internet culture was preserved. We offered to host the network’s blogs indefinitely so they can remain publicly accessible for years to come.
The Harvard Blogs multisite consisted of around 1,500 blogs. To move it over, we systematically migrated the archive to our servers and then upgraded the network to the latest version of WordPress (we also updated a handful of plugins and themes and tested the updated versions against the original sites hosted by Harvard).
Much like our recent unveiling of the 100 Year Plan for WordPress.com, the preservation of the Harvard Blogs archive demonstrates Automattic’s commitment to protect vital pieces of internet history and culture for generations to come. By preserving these blogs, we hope to inspire future generations of online voices.
There was something really nice about the neighborhood of blogs the Harvard blog network provided that I hope they or another university tries again sometime. Harvard is now 387 years old, I hope these blogs last at least that much longer (that would be 2,410 AD!).
Jamie Marsland has this great YouTube video where he rebuilds TechCrunch.com just using core blocks in WordPress 6.3 in 30 minutes. Worth checking out!
Zeynep Tufekci has a great article, One Thing Not to Fear at Burning Man, that covers well what I have experienced as well growing up in Houston through hurricanes and other natural disasters—that in times of need people help each other in ingenious ways.
Version 6.3 is out! Time to fire up your updating engines. 😄 This is actually a really big one. (As a reminder, we do three major release of WP per year and each one is a +0.1, 7.0 will just be the next release after 6.9, so big things can happen in random version numbers.) We’ve made a release landing page to cover some of the new things in this one, check it out.
Julia Evans writes Some blogging myths.
Whoop is an excellent biometrics bracelet I’ve been wearing for a few months since my friend Jaime Waydo joined as their CTO. After many years of being very in the Garmin 945 camp, I now do an Apple Ultra for all the smart stuff, and Whoop for all the great sleep, HRV, and recovery information that I use to be aware of my energy levels throughout the day, complemented by the Rise sleep and energy tracker app. This has been my ideal combo.
The founder and CEO of Whoop, Will Ahmed, interviewed me for their podcast, which we covered for a more mainstream audience my passion for open source and creating an open ecosystem for a web, how I got started as an entrepreneur, how Automattic hires, growth mindset and mental clarity, working with Joe Hudson as an executive coach, and day-to-day routine (or lack thereof, sometimes).
Check out this great article on an exciting discovery of John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy playing together. The album comes out July 14th. Hat tip: Aaron Wieczorek.
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.
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.
I was on the Design Better podcast hosted by Aarron Walter and Eli Woolery, we talked about jazz, generative AI, distributed work, and my journey as an entrepreneur.
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. 🎉