Category Archives: press

Back With Tim

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.

Coincidentally, this was episode 713, which is the original area code for Houston! We didn’t plan that but I think that’s so cool. I’m also going to watch his episode with Kevin Rose who he’s also very close with, I always learn new stuff from those two.

Podcast with Texts founder Kishan and Techcrunch

Kishan Bagaria and I had chance to catch up with Alex Willhelm on the Techcrunch Equity podcast, it’s a bit of a time travel since we recorded this on November 28th and there has been a ton of activity in the messaging space including the whole Beeper Mini launch and smackdown from Apple. However it’s worth listening to get to know Kishan and hear some of Automattic’s broader, long-term strategy in this space.

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:

Farnam Street and Postlight

I recorded two interviews very far apart from each other, but which have surprisingly both come out today. The first is for one of my favorite sites on the web, Farnam Street. I was honored to be episode 100 on their Knowledge Project podcast. Knowledge Project is probably one of the podcasts I’ve listened to the most since it started. Please check out their other guests as well, they really do have the most interesting conversations with the most interesting folks.

Shane and I cover turnarounds, how environment affects performance, pros and cons of distributed work, uncovering your lacuna, mental models, and patterns of decision making.

On a completely different vein, I did a deep geek-out on technology and content management systems with Gina Trapani and Paul Ford, two of my favorite technologists, on the Postlight podcast. We covered a lot of tech history, my thoughts on Chromium and Mozilla’s Gecko engine, structured data, Gutenberg, and a lot more. If you’re a developer or a long-time WordPress community member you’ll enjoy this one, but it might be esoteric or technical if you’re not immersed in this world. Here’s a Spotify embed of the episode:

In both we do touch on my idea that, on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for all proprietary software drops to zero. (Hat tip to Fight Club.) Proprietary software is an evolutionary dead end. You can think of open source packages like genetic alleles that have a higher fitness function, and eventually become the fittest organism. The longer I spend watching mega-trends in technology, the more I see that pattern everywhere, from encyclopedias to cryptocurrencies.

Journalism and Newspack is partnering with Google and news industry leaders on a new platform for small- and medium-sized publishers, called Newspack. The team has raised $2.4 million in first-year funding from the Google News Initiative, Lenfest Journalism Institute, Civil funder ConsenSys, and the Knight Foundation, among others. We’re also still happy to talk to and engage other funders who want to get involved — I’d love to put even more resources into this.

It’s been a difficult climate for the news business, particularly at the local level. It also breaks my heart how much of their limited resources these organizations still sink into closed-source or dead-end technology. Open source is clearly the future, and if we do this right Newspack can be the technology choice that lasts with them through the decades, and hopefully our 15 years of growth lends some credibility to our orientation to build things for the long term.

Here’s Kinsey in Nieman Lab:

The goal is to both make sure that the catalog of publishing tools as well as business tools they need to be able to run what one hopes is a sustainable news operation are addressed simultaneously. It’s not simply a CMS for a newsroom, but a full business system that enables publishing and monetization at the same time.

Nieman Lab interview

As you have come to expect from Automattic, everything will be open source and developed to the same standards WordPress itself is. We’re working with Spirited Media and the News Revenue Hub on the platform, and we will likely look for even more partnership opportunities from across the WordPress ecosystem. If you’d like to invest or get involved, drop us a line at

SxSW, Work, and Blogging

369ajvpd7nrkwmlf1amk I’ve been at the SxSW festival since Friday, it’s actually my tenth year attending. Since the first time I used my parent’s gas card and drove up from Houston this event has had a special place in my heart, even as I’ve gone in and out of love with it as it’s grown over the years. (I heard that there were more interactive badges this year than film or music.)

I’ve spoken here and there the last few days and it has generated some good blog posts, so here’s a sampling of them you may find interesting:

On the way to our interview session Kara Swisher recorded an interview on a pedi-cab.

Techcrunch TV did a nice short interview, WordPress’ Matt Mullenweg On Working From Home, Making Money Without Ads, And More [TCTV].

Paidcontent wrote on Where WordPress[.com] is headed: Longform content, curation and maybe even native ads.

Marketing Land wrote two great posts, WordPress Founder Matt Mullenweg At SXSW: Blogging Still Booming and Why Not Work From Home? “We Have The Technology,” Says WordPress’ Mullenweg.

Finally Access PR asked SXSW: What do WordPress and Airbnb have in common?

The coolest part about this and every year is meeting WordPress users all over — at restaurants, in the streets, at the booth… please don’t hesitate to say hi.

Automattic, Forbes, and the Future of Work

There’s a great article in Forbes today that covers some of the early days of WordPress through Automattic as a business today. I recommend everyone check it out! I wanted to respond to one bit about Automattic’s global nature though, which is actually timely because next week the entirety of Automattic is going to San Diego:

As a legacy of its open-source roots its 120 employees are spread across 26 countries and six continents. Although most work alone at home, each team–usually made up of five or six people–has a generous budget to travel. “All of the money we save on office space, we blow on travel costs,” Mullenweg laughs. Groups have gathered in Hawaii, Mexico and New Zealand. Once a year everyone meets for a week at an accessible destination with a solid Internet connection. A distributed workforce means Automattic can hire talent from around the world–without having to offer the perks and pay of Google, Facebook and Apple.

I’d like to counter the last sentence, which implies this is something we do as a cost saving scheme: being distributed is not a legacy, it’s a conscious choice. The people at Automattic are truly world-class — I invest in and advise a number of startups, and spending time in New York and the San Francisco Bay area I would put the caliber of people inside of Automattic on par or higher than anyone I’ve met from Google, Facebook, Apple, or any of the traditional tech giants.

How do we do it? Automattic offers a benefit above and beyond what they ever could: We give people the perk and the luxury of being part of an internet-changing company from anywhere in the world. This mirrors the meritocracy that makes Open Source great and treats people on the quality of their ideas and their work whether they’re in San Francisco or Argentina. (Or if they started in San Francisco and moved to Argentina.)

Even when big companies try to adopt this (sometimes under the lovely moniker “telecommute,” which reminds me of “horseless carriage”) people still face cultural resistance from their managers and teams, or find themselves as a second-tier citizen versus those in headquarters. The same often happens in “remote offices.” For it to really work it has to be part of the DNA of the company from day one. You have to be really committed to keep the creative center and soul of the organization on the internet, and not in an office.

I really believe this is the future of work, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.

Meaningful Overnight Relationship

One thing I’ve noticed about talking to certain types of press, particularly mainstream, is that they have a pattern in mind before they write about something, and the better you conform to the pattern the more coverage you get.

I think what they really want is an unusually young founder, possibly with a partner, who stumbled on an idea in an epiphany moment, implemented it in days, and then enjoyed overnight success, preferably capped with some sort of financial hook such as a huge VC funding or selling out to a large company for millions of dollars.

It’s not uncommon to get leading questions trying to hit a point in the above patterns… Yes, WordPress really is four years old. I was 19. No, I didn’t create it alone, if I did you would have never heard of it. Actually, it entered a rather crowded field, not even close to being first. No, not planning to sell it, there isn’t really anything to sell, it’s more of a movement. No, I didn’t make 60 million dollars in 18 months.

What’s worst is I think these stories sell a false promise and hope to people outside of the industry — it attracts the wrong type of entrepreneurs — and inside of the industry it distracts us from what really matters.

Someday I think there will be a realization that the real story is more exciting than the cookie-cutter founder myth the media tries frame everything in. It’s not just one or two guys hacking on something alone, it’s dozens of people from across the world coming together because of a shared passion. It’s not about selling out to a single company, it’s dozens of companies independently adopting and backing an open source platform for no reason other than its quality. I’m not a millionaire, and may never be, but there are now hundreds of people making their living using WordPress, and I expect that number to grow to tens of thousands. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning, not the prospect of becoming a feature on an internet behemoth’s checklist.

Finally it’s not Web 2.0, or another bandwagon me-too content management system with AJAX, it’s a mature project that has been around and grown up over four years of hard work, and it has many, many more years of hard work ahead of it. I smile these days when I see WordPress referred to as an “overnight success,” if only they knew how long an overnight success takes.

Update, see also:

El Pais Interview

There has been a ton of media attention here at the blog conference in Spain. Friday and Saturday were a whirlwind of TV and newspaper interviews. The most in-depth, I believe, was from Pablo Fenandez in El Pais and is now available online in Spanish. There is something really special going on here in Spain with blogs, the people are full of such energy and passion that it’s definitely going to be a space to watch over the coming years.