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Asides

On the James Altucher Show

I joined in for the James Altucher podcast in an episode that covered a lot of ground. One clarification was the point of the story about my Dad not making much at his old job was that companies should be thoughtful about compensation especially for the people who stay with them the longest, not that loyalty is a myth or something to be avoided. It just needs to be two-way.

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Review

Review: From Plato to Post-modernism

51GBGRne7aL._AA300_.jpgOne thing I’m going to try this year is to write a review of every book I get a chance to read. It’s March already so I’m a bit behind and the next few will be out of order, but this seems like as good a place to start as any.

One new thing I’ve been doing this year is listening to audiobooks with an Audible account, so this first book review is actually an audiobook. Great Courses is actually an old school thing where you could order college lectures on tape. From the references throughout the lectures I listened to, my guess is that the recordings are from the 90s. This one is called From Plato to Post-modernism: Understanding the Essence of Literature and the Role of the Author ($25 on Audible, $9.99 on cassette tape 🙃).

I really enjoyed this series. Some of the early lectures covering Aristotle, Longinus, and Sidney’s “Apology for Poetry” were quite brilliant. Later ones from Foucault and Derrida on were weaker and harder to follow, which I think is a function of both the material, which can be dense when it starts getting into Modernism, the length, fixed at 30 minutes, and the lecturer, Louis Markos. Markos teaches at Houston Baptist University and his asides can sometimes be a little traditional, but in an adorable grandpa way. He has an infectious enthusiasm that makes even the slower chapters on Kant and Schiller bearable, but his love of and fluency in the earlier classics is really a pleasure.

It made me curious to look into more online lectures and sometime this year I’m going to check out this one on Value Theory at Khan academy. I also picked up a used copy of Critical Theory Since Plato which had the original text for many things discussed in the lecture, so was a great reference point when I was at home in Houston, where I end up listening to most audio content since it’s a driving town.

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Asides

WordPress Collaborative Editing

I’m really excited about the new Google Docs integration that just launched — basically it builds a beautiful bridge between what is probably the best collaborative document editor on the planet right now, Google’s, and let’s you one-click bring a document there into a WordPress draft with all the formatting, links, and everything brought over. There’s even a clever feature that if you are copying and pasting from Docs it’ll tell you about the integration.

I think this is highly complementary to the work we’re doing with the new Editor in core WordPress. Why? Google Docs represents the web pinnacle of the WordPerfect / Word legacy of editing “pages”, what I’ll call a document editor. It runs on the web, but it’s not native to the web in that its fundamental paradigm is still about the document itself. With the new WordPress Editor the blocks will be all about bringing together building blocks from all over — maps, videos, galleries, forms, images — and making them like Legos you can use to build a rich, web-native post or page.

We’re going to look into some collaborative features, but Google’s annotations, comments, and real-time co-editing are years ahead there. So if you’re drafting something that looks closer to something in the 90s you could print out, Docs will be the best place to start and collaborate (and better than Medium). If you want to built a richer experience, something that really only makes sense on an interactive screen, that’s what the new WordPress editor will be for.

One final note, the Docs web store makes it tricky to use different Google accounts to add integrations like this one. To make it easy, open up a Google Doc under the account you want to use, then go to Add-ons -> Get add-ons
 -> search for “Automattic” and you’ll be all set.

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Asides

The Job Interview

Inc. writes The Job Interview Will Soon Be Dead. Here’s What the Top Companies Are Replacing It With, and looks at how our brains mislead us in interviews and how Menlo Innovations and Automattic approach it.

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Asides

Henry Crown Fellowship

I’m very excited to have been selected to join the Henry Crown Fellowship Class of 2017. Many, many folks I admire including Reed Hastings, Kim Polese, Cory Booker, Aileen Lee, Stephen DeBerry, Deven Parekh, Chris Sacca, Tim Ferriss, Reid Hoffman, Scott Heiferman, Troy Carter, Bre Pettis, Lupe Fiasco, and Alexa von Tobel have been through the program in previous years, and several of those people have spoken highly of it to me. I’m excited to meet and get to know the rest of the 2017 class, and embark on a learning journey alongside them.

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Gallery

Doors in Barcelona

As I walked around Barcelona after everything was closed, I was really taken with the graffiti on the roll-down doors. Here’s a gallery of a few snaps.

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Essays

Thirty-Three

I’m taking it easy this week, nothing too crazy — just sharing good meals and wine with friends. Which is probably a good example of my goals for the year: putting family and loved ones first, slowing down (to go further), and deliciousness. (Single Thread Farms blew me away.)

2016 was a year of incredible contrasts: it was the saddest and most challenged I’ve ever been with the passing of my father, and while that overshadowed everything there were also bright moments of coming closer to family, deepening friendships, and growing professionally with incredible progress from both WordPress and Automattic. That momentum on the professional side is carrying through and right now I’m the most optimistic I can recall, and thrilled to wake up and get to work every day with the people I do.

I talked about trying to spend longer stretches of time in fewer places, and that definitely happened. I flew 162k fewer miles than the year before, and visited 35 fewer cities. My blogging decreased a lot too — from 252 posts in 2015 to 76 posts in 2016, but the posts I did write were at least 50% longer. I made it to 9 more of the Top 50 restaurants and stand currently at 50% of the list. I finished 22 books, including a lot more fiction including my first few graphic novels like Ex Machina, Y: The Last Man, and Watchmen. I watched 35 movies, 9 of which were from the Marvel universe on a single flight from Cape Town to Dubai.

Last year I said, “it’s exciting to make the most of the opportunity that the volatility, love, loss, glory, failure, inspirations, and setbacks that 2016 will bring.” I didn’t know how right I would be, and wish I hadn’t been.

This year doesn’t start with new plans, but rather three intentions continued from a few months ago. I revealed one yesterday, and promised I would expand today on the others, so here they are:

  1. Symmetry — Balance in all things, including my body which is stronger on my right side and much tighter on my left side. We also need symmetry in WordPress between the .org and .com products which differ too much.
  2. Stillness — In echoes of Pico Iyer, so much of my life in my 20s was about movement, and “going places to be moved.” In my 30s I’m looking inward. As Saint Augustine said in Book X, chapter 8 of Confessions: “Men go forth to wonder at the heights of mountains, the huge waves of the sea, the broad flow of the rivers, the vast compass of the ocean, the courses of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”
  3. Yellow Arrows — The idea that there are clear indications of where to go next at every fork in the road, and if not you should paint them. I wrote more on this  yesterday.
Categories
Essays

Rebirth and Yellow Arrows

My friend Kamal Ravikant has a new book out, Rebirth, which I highly recommend. I had the good fortune to read it a few months ago and the story of the Camino de Santiago touched and inspired me.

Because of the impact of the book, I ended up adopting a few New Year’s intentions long before January 1st — things to ruminate on and keep in mind as the year wound down. The outlook of the world seemed uncertain, and I’m learning to navigate the world without my father.

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Yellow Arrows

The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage path in Spain that people have walked since the 9th century AD. The 500 mile path winds through mountains, fields, and sometimes cities, and many pilgrims take a month or more on it. In some ways it is similar to the Kumano Kodo walk I did with Dan and Craig last year.

There are places where the path isn’t exactly clear, either because the trail isn’t strong, there’s been growth, or you might be in a crowded urban area like a city. Over the years pilgrims and people who live on the trail have marked it with yellow arrows pointing the way. If someone gets lost or confused, it’s an opportunity for an additional sign to bring them back on track.

When you know the path, is it clear where someone else walking it should go next? It’s an interesting concept that applies across life. In your relationships, does your friend, loved one, or partner know what to expect, and where you’re headed together? Even in WordPress I feel like there are too many places where we bring someone to a fork in the road and there is no clear indication which way they should take.

Give some thought to the yellow arrows in your life, and I’ll write more about the other two things I’ve been thinking about tomorrow. Also don’t forget to pick up a copy of Kamal’s book. I loved it and I think it will be one I’m recommending to many friends.

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(Image from Camino Travel Center.)

I later incorporated this into my thirty-third birthday post.

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Asides

Christmas Music: Leslie Odom Jr.

I love Christmas music, and most years I like to recommend a Christmas music album that is a bit more jazz or has something interesting about it. This year I want to point you to Leslie Odom Jr., aka Aaron Burr in the hit musical Hamilton, who is a gifted vocalist. Hat tip: Rose Kuo. Check out “My Favorite Things.” Embedded on Spotify below, also on iTunes and Amazon.

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Asides

New .org Homepage

For the first time in… many years, WordPress.org has a new home page. What’s on the page today actually isn’t that important, even though it’s better in many ways, the key is that it’s changing again, the stone has been unstuck and can now keep rolling.

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Asides

A Poetition

Joseph O’Neill has an amazing and funny poetry-related short story Pardon Edward Snowden in the New Yorker which pokes fun at itself quite a bit.

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Asides

Another Dongle

One of my favorite new .blogs is The Dongle blog, at dongle.blog. I think it’s mostly meant to be funny, but I really agree with this post pointing out you really need something that lets you plug in your lightning headphones to your laptop. I’ve been trying out the Audeze EL-8 and they only have a lightning connector.

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WordCamp

State of the Word, 2016

The full video and Q&A from 2016’s State of the Word last week in Philadelphia is now online. This year was especially exciting because it wasnt’ just a look back at the previous year, but sets out a new direction for where WordPress will be in 2017 and beyond.

If you want just the slides, here they are:

State of the Word 2016 from photomatt

Like every year, there was a ton of help bringing this together. Mark Uraine led the slides, and at various points these folks pitched in as well: Mel Choyce, Tammie Lister, Michael Arestad, Ashleigh Axios, Ian Dunn, Corey McKrill, Martin Remy, Josepha Haden, Alex Kirk, Marina Pape, Alx Block, Cami Kaos, Matias Ventura, Donncha O Caoimh, John Maeda, Barry Abrahamson, Nikolay Bachiyski, Chrissie Pollock, Sam Sidler, Boris Gorelik, Dion Hulse, Brooke Dukes, Sarah Blackstock. I also got input and suggestions from Petya Raykovska, Tony Perez, Joe Casabona, Helen Hou-Sandi, Jon Bossenger, Jason Cohen, Daniel Bachhuber, Drew Butler, Ryan Boren, Andrew Roberts, Joost de Valk, Stephane Daury, Dion Hulse, Gary Pendergast, David Bisset, Ryan McCue, Alex Shiels, Brian Krogsgard, Joe Hoyle, Sean Blakeley, Andrew Nacin, Mark Jaquith, John Blackbourn, and thank you to Rose Kuo for inspiring the poetry theme which featured prominently this year.

Tavern and Post Status wrote up the talk itself. As a follow-up I did interviews with both to expand on some of what was discussed in the speech. The Post Status one is now up and you can watch it here:

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Asides

WordCamp Live Stream

Later today (3:45pm ET) I’ll deliver my annual State of the Word speech, which I’m very excited about. If you’d like to watch remotely, this year live stream tickets are free and you can tune in here.

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WordPress

WP Growth Council

In the WordPress world, when we look back an 2016 I think we’ll remember it as the year that we awoke to the importance of marketing. WordPress has always grown organically through word of mouth and its passionate community, but the hundreds of millions being spent advertising against WP has started to have an impact, especially for folks only lightly familiar with us.

I’ve started to hear about a number of folks across many WordPress companies and industries working on this from different angles, some approaching it from an enterprise point of view and some from a consumer point of view. There’s an opportunity for learning from each other, almost like a mastermind group. As the survey says:

Never have there been more threats to the open web and WordPress. Over three hundred million dollars has been spent in 2016 advertising proprietary systems, and even more is happening in investment. No one company in the WP world is large enough to fight this, nor should anyone need to do it on their own. We’d like to bring together organizations that would like to contribute to growing WordPress. It will be a small group, and if you or your organization are interested in being a part please fill out the survey below.

By working together we can amplify our efforts to bring open source to a wider audience, and fulfill WordPress’ mission to truly democratize publishing.

If this sounds interesting to you, apply using this survey.

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Asides

Flying Lotus, Never Catch Me

Music videos are themselves an art form, and it’s always interesting to me how an artist chooses to transform the interpretation of their song with the video. I’ve listened to this song since it came out but haven’t seen the video until now, and it will definitely make me listen to it differently. Featuring Kendrick Lamar.

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Asides

Apples TV’s Struggles

apple-tv.jpgJoseph Rosensteel has an outsider but savvy perspective on the updates and technology around Apple TV. Definitely a worthwhile read. I’ve experienced a lot of this frustration myself — I have a large library of things bought through iTunes, I like the interface of the Apple TV (though I liked the old one a little better), and Airplay is handy, so I want to love the Apple TV. The market is so bad right now that most review sites like Wirecutter recommend Roku, which for me came with a branded remote button for a service that is out of business (Rdio) and has an interface that feels DOS-like.

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Open Source

The Wix Mobile App, a WordPress Joint

Anyone who knows me knows that I like to try new things — phones, gadgets, apps. Last week I downloaded the new Wix (closed, proprietary, non-open-sourced, non-GPL) mobile app. I’m always interested to see how others tackle the challenge of building and editing websites from a mobile device.

I started playing around with the editor, and felt
 déjà vu. It was familiar. Like I had used it before.

Turns out I had. Because it’s WordPress.

If I were being charitable, I’d say, “The app’s editor is based on the WordPress mobile app’s editor.” If I were being honest, I’d say that Wix copied WordPress without attribution, credit, or following the license. The custom icons, the class names, even the bugs. You can see the forked repositories on GitHub complete with original commits from Alex and Maxime, two developers on Automattic’s mobile team. Wix has always borrowed liberally from WordPress — including their company name, which used to be Wixpress Ltd. — but this blatant rip-off and code theft is beyond anything I’ve seen before from a competitor.

Dear Wix,

This explicitly contravenes the GPL, which requires attribution and a corresponding GPL license on whatever you release publicly built on top of GPL code. The GPL is what has allowed WordPress to flourish, and that let us create this code. Your app’s editor is built with stolen code, so your whole app is now in violation of the license.

I suppose we’ll take this as a compliment — I’m sure the hundreds of people who have contributed to WordPress Core and our mobile apps are flattered that you chose to build one of your company’s core features using our code. We’re also excited to see what great things you create with all the time you saved not having to write your own mobile editor.

You know what’d be even more exciting? To see you abide by the GPL and release your source code back to the community that gave you that jump start.

I’ve always said that the GPL isn’t about limits, it’s about possibilities. In open source software, you trade some of your control as a developer to better serve the developer community and the people using your sites and products. I don’t think that’s a limit, I think it’s a way to make sure we encourage innovation and momentum. If you want to close the door on innovation, Wix, that’s your decision to make — just write your own code. If you’re going to join the open source community, play by the open source rules.

Release your app under the GPL, and put the source code for your app up on GitHub so that we can all build on it, improve it, and learn from it.

Love,
Matt and the open source community

An Update

The CEO of Wix has posted a response on their blog. I’ll also try to post my response it to the comments there. Miriam Schwab also has a very good response.

We were all very surprised by your post, as you have so many claims against us.

Wow, dude I did not even know we were fighting.

It’s not a fight: the claim is that the Wix mobile apps distribute GPL code and aren’t themselves GPL, so they violate the license.

First, you say we have been taking from the open source community without giving back, well, of course, that isn’t true. Here is a list of 224 projects on our public GitHub page, and as you can see they are all dated before your post. We have not checked if WordPress is using them, but you are more than welcome to do so, some of them are pretty good.

Very glad your company has projects on GitHub! Thank you for the offer to use them; if we do, we’ll make sure to follow the license you’ve put on the code very carefully.

Releasing other open source projects doesn’t mean that you can violate the license of the editor code you distributed in your mobile apps. To repeat my earlier points: since you distributed GPL code with your apps, the entire apps need to be released at GPL, not just your modifications to that one library.

As this Hacker News comment put it, “Open source is not a swap meet; you can’t violate a license if you voluntarily release some other code to make up for it.”

We always shared and admired your commitment to give back, which is exactly why we have those 224 open source projects, and thousands more bugs/improvements available to the open source community and we will release the app you saw as well.

If you were to release the entire source code of the apps under GPL that would bring you back into compliance with the license you violated. I think you’re saying you will do that here, but can you clarify? When should we look for the app code to be released, and where? That would resolve this issue completely.

Next, you talk about the Wix App being stolen from WordPress. There are more than 3 million lines of code in the Wix application, notably the hotels/blogs/chat/eCommerce/scheduling/booking is all our code.

I said the app includes stolen code. It doesn’t matter if it’s 30 lines or 30 million lines: because it includes GPL code and you distributed the app, the entire thing needs to be GPL. If you release the entire app’s code, as I think you said you would, then that resolves the license violation.

Yes, we did use the WordPress open source library for a minor part of the application (that is the concept of open source right?), and everything we improved there or modified, we submitted back as open source, see here in this link – you should check it out, pretty cool way of using it on mobile native. I really think you guys can use it with your app (and it is open source, so you are welcome to use it for free). And, by the way, the part that we used was in fact developed by another and modified by you.

Thank you for admitting you used the code and not trying to hide it. The issue isn’t the changes you made, it’s that including the editor means you need to submit the entire app as open source, which you have not yet — it’s completely proprietary.

If you want to read the account from Tal Kol, one of the leading engineers on this project, here it is. He was really happy to share his side of the story.

I have seen it, and it already has a number of good comments on it, including this one: “Can you address this point made in Matt’s post: ‘This explicitly contravenes the GPL, which requires attribution and a corresponding GPL license on whatever you release publicly built on top of GPL code’.” It appears you and Tal might share a misunderstanding of how the GPL works — software licensing can be tricky and many people make honest mistakes. (If you want to get into serious detail, this comment lays the licensing requirements out clearly.) It is easy to rectify this one: release your apps as open source under the GPL.

Now, what is this thing about us stealing your branding? Our product was always called Wix and our website Wix.com, we never borrowed from your marketing or brand.

Sorry for including this distraction; I was referring specifically to the fact that Wix used to go by “Wixpress.” You can see this in your Form F-1, and there used to be a support page about this on your site:

Although that is still in Google, the page it links to now mysteriously returns a 404 error, which you may want to look into.

In fact, if I remember correctly, until recently the Automattic home page was all about blogs and only recently it has become “websites.” Also, your business model changed to almost exactly the one we had for years. Can it be that you guys are borrowing from us? If so, again, you are welcome to it.

The Automattic home page has been a series of haiku about our products since 2009, pretty much unchanged — I think you mean the WordPress.com home page here. WordPress has been used for creating websites, not just blogs, since our 1.5 release in 2005 added themes and pages. In my 2014 State of the Word address I talked about how 87% of WordPress sites use it as a CMS. We regularly test dozens of variations of the WP.com homepage and some of them definitely emphasize website creation. I will say we look to Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace as innovators in the space with products that reach many small businesses, and Wix especially should be commended for its success and growth as a public company.

If you believe that we need to give you credit, that you deserve credit, I must say, absolutely yes. You guys deserve a lot of credit, but not because of a few lines of source code, you deserve credit because you guys have been making the internet dramatically better, and for that we at Wix are big fans. We love what you have been trying to do, and are working very hard to add our own contribution to make the internet better.

Thank you very much, that is kind. I do think there are a lot of values we share in common and would love to see this one issue resolved.

If you need source code that we have, and we have not yet released, then, most likely we will be happy to share, you only need to ask. We share your belief that making the internet better, is best for everyone.

That’s what my post was asking, for you to release the code. To quote my original letter: “Release your app under the GPL, and put the source code for your app up on GitHub so that we can all build on it, improve it, and learn from it.”

Finally, during the last couple of years, I reached out a couple of times trying to meet with you. Could I do that again here? I believe in friendly competition, and as much fun as it is to chat over the blogosphere, maybe we can also do it over a cup of coffee?

Once this is resolved I’d be happy to meet up. I believe when we exchanged emails in 2014 there was trouble finding overlap in our travel schedules.

I hope the above clarifies where we think Wix made a mistake, and how to fix it.

Categories
Asides

Kanye McDonald’s Poem

You might need a reason to smile today. If so, Kanye’s poem for Frank Ocean’s Boys Don’t Cry zine, illustrated by Dami Lee at the Verge, might be that reason.

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Asides

Common at Tiny Desk

This Tiny Desk concert at the White House with Common and some of my favorite musicians Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge, and Bilal was incredible.