Category Archives: Automattic

Paid Support

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.

A Little Funding

The best thing that can ever happen to a web service is to have passionate users. Users that notice and email you the second there’s a database problem, users that really push the limits of what you can provide, and users that are phenomally successful and bring thousands of others to your doors.

As a service provider, you have a strong responsibility to these folks. They’re putting their life online with you, they deserve nothing less than 100% uptime. They tell all their friends to try you out, they deserve for the experience of the hundred thousandth user to be as great as the tenth. WordPress.com is serving 4.2 million hits a day on a handful of boxes. Akismet has gotten to the point where it’s blocking so many spams every second that any fraction of downtime is very noticable to users. (Like we had this morning.)

At Automattic we’ve always taken this very seriously, and from the bootstrap beginning I planned for it to be sustainable and frugal in the long term. Of course since I moved to San Francisco I’ve talked to dozens of really high-quality investors who were interested in what we were doing, but the bubble model of giant valuations and ultra-rapid growth never really appealed to me.

The growth of WordPress.com and Akismet has outpaced anyone’s expectations. Recently, I made the decision to sell a minority stake in the company to a few select partners who I think are going to bring a lot of value to the business far beyond mere dollars. This isn’t going to change how the business is run, or the people involved with it, but it will allow us to take better advantage of the opportunities before us and also for us to keep our promise to every one of you to maintain a fast, stable, and innovative platform in the long term.

Automattic isn’t going to get fancy SoMA offices, throw huge parties at SxSW, or “get big fast.” We took a small amount of capital to put things that were already growing fast in a stable position, so from month to month you’re not robbing Peter to pay Paul. We’re going to use the money to pre-emptively address scaling issues before they happen, and continue to share everything we can back to the community, like all of the code behind WP.com in WordPress MU, the spellchecking feature we sponsored, free Akismet for 99.9% of users, and a few other goodies we still have up our sleeve. In terms of hiring, we’re still going to grow very deliberately in line with our revenues and focus on the very best and brightest (and BBQ-loving), like Podz.

We’re going to publish more technical details about everything later, and this is already longer than I hoped — I’m sure you folks have some questions. I’m going to do something a little different and turn the comment section here into a FAQ. If you have a question, please post it below. If you want to say “congrats!” or “that sucks!” do it on this entry instead to keep the question and answer flow clean. If a question warrants a long enough answer I might turn it into a separate blog post.

Hours and Work

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.

Automattic Toni

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.