It’s another exciting day here at Automattic. Today we finally get to announce that we’ve acquired the market-leading poll and survey service PollDaddy.
For a year or two now, I’ve been minorly obsessed with polls and surveys as a method of lightweight interaction that engages casual users of your website and also can get you some really fun data to play with. I’ve also mentioned at a few WordCamps that a polling plugin is one of the top 10 WordPress plugins in the world. Polls are really popular with WordPress users.
As we started to look at building out our own service for this, it became more obvious that, while on the surface it’s a very simple problem, there’s a lot of hidden complexity and opportunities for some really powerful features under the hood. There are probably a dozen companies addressing this space right now, but as we started to survey the space I was struck by how often I’d see this “PollDaddy” thing pop up.
Two guys in Ireland with a quirky company name were cleaning up with some of the largest and most respected websites using their service on a daily basis. They weren’t the biggest, but they had the high end of the market. It seemed to be the WordPress of the polling space.
I took a secret trip to Sligo and put back a few pints with the team and we decided to make things work. They went to bed every night and woke up every morning thinking about polls and surveys, and were iterating at a great pace. By plugging into Automattic’s experience at creating internet-scale services and the distribution of WordPress.com, I knew we could take Polldaddy to an entirely new level in a relatively short amount of time.
Today we just enabled PollDaddy integration with 4.4 million blogs on WordPress.com and have released the first version of their .org plugin.
You can read more about the acquisition on the PollDaddy blog, Toni’s blog, and the WP.com blog. I’m super excited to have Lenny and Eoin as part of the Automattic family, and I’m looking forward to seeing the service flourish with its newfound resources.
Some cool news today — Automattic is acquiring Intense Debate. You can read more on Jon’s blog on Intense Debate, or on Toni’s blog, or on VC Mike’s blog.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the product, Intense Debate supercharges the comment section of WordPress blogs and other sites with cool features like threading, reply by email, voting, reputation, and global profiles. There are a few companies tackling this space right now, but I was impressed with how much ID (Intense Debate) has been able to do with a small team, and happy to find that their common platform (PHP and MySQL) would make integration a lot easier.
Going forward, the plan is to keep Intense Debate available as a platform-agnostic independent service, much like Akismet. We’ll start to integrate its features into WordPress core, WordPress.com, and Gravatar as appropriate. For example, comment threading is going to be in WordPress 2.7, but reply by email is a lot easier to implement on a hosted service like WordPress.com. We’re also going to be able to lend our expertise in scaling to the ID team to make sure their users enjoy the same hassle-free speed and bulletproof availability as users of other Automattic services.
Long-term, I think that comments are the most crucial interaction point for blogs, and an area that deserves a lot of investment and innovation. Comments really haven’t changed in a decade, and it’s time to spice things up a little.
We were early in the space with investing in Akismet to solve the spam problem, but now I think the real growth opportunities are in the user interaction and social features across comments. There is a huge opportunity to increase the traffic and engagement of blogs significantly. WordPress.com alone already gets about three legitimate comments every second — more than a quarter of a million every day. I’m excited to see what the Intense Debate team can do to make things more interesting.
Raanan Bar-Cohen is joining Automattic from Dow Jones. He’s got a disclaimer in his sidebar, “This site is not maintained utilizing the author’s employer’s resources or on company time.” Little does he know that blogging on company time is a requirement here. 🙂
Demitrious has joined Automattic. Now go guilt him into blogging more. 🙂
Automattic is now accepting applications for two positions, one development and the other systems. For me it’s a dream job because I get to work with the smartest group of people I’ve ever met. Who knows — it might be a good fit for a photomatt.net reader.
Tomorrow, along with the rest of Automattic, I am heading down to La Paz, Mexico for the twice yearly gathering of the company. The virtual company thing is great, but I still think it’s important to get everyone together a few times a year to connect and plan out the next 6-12 months.
Now with Twice the “Mattic” – Matt Thomas joins Automattic full-time. We’re still figuring out what to call him, since “Matt” is obviously taken. 😉
Feeling Automattic. Lloyd Budd, of Flock/Mozilla fame, has joined Automattic full-time. 🙂
We just launched the Automattic Support Network which is a place for companies to purchase paid support for WordPress and MU. Originally I didn't think we'd need to do this, simply because the WordPress.org support forums are so amazing and there is such a good community around it. That hasn't changed, but some big companies and enterprise folks are uncomfortable with volunteer support, and want (and insist) on paying someone before deploying a product. Based on that feedback and a lot of input from Podz, we put together this new product, which is basically VIP support with a guaranteed response time. Toni has some more thoughts here. We also rolled out new pricing for commercial Akismet use a few days ago, and the response has been great so far.
There’s no correlation between hours worked and work done. I think this is why traditional corporate structures are starting to crack at the seams, and the distributed model companies like Automattic, MySQL, SocialText, and many others use will start to gain real legs and acceptance. The best example of this was at a place I used to work: after lunch everything seemed to shut down. Several people obviously got very sleepy after lunch and would spend 2-4 hours of the afternoon on auto-pilot. (This was me sometimes too.) It would have been infinitely better for them to take a one hour nap and get back to productive work than spend 3 hours in an obviously hampered state. Happy, healthy, well-rested people work orders of magnitude better.
Another nice birthday present! I have no idea (really) how he got this, but Om has the scoop on Yahoo VP Toni Schneider leaving to join Automattic. We were originally going to announce this at the end of the month when Toni actually left but I guess now is as good a time as any. 🙂 Toni was the CEO of Oddpost and after joining Yahoo led, amoung other things, their really cool developer network.
I first met Toni shortly after I moved to San Francisco and I’ve wanted him to be a part of Automattic pretty much since the idea first entered my mind. We’ve spent many long meals over the past year discussing the Automattic idea before it even had a name. I’ve been on cloud nine since (somehow) I convinced him to leave the incredibly cushy corporate job and rough it out in startup world again. I’m very very excited about some of the things coming down the line.
Update: Toni has blogged about it here. He also has a WordPress.com blog that used to have a bunch of cool cars on it, hopefully that’ll come back somewhere. 🙂
Update 2: It’s on Digg, and I’m curious what linking to the Digg story will do. Digg it if you think it’s interesting.
SiliconBeat has a good article on the launch of Automattic and the Yahoo deal. We also ended up in Infoworld. Scott Gatz wrote a bit about the Yahoo deal, saying “The Hosting team also did a similar deal with Moveable Type last week, so if you prefer that, its just as easy. (although I personally prefer the simplicity and extensibility of WordPress).”