I had a fun time talk­ing with Scott Tran about the sup­port team at Automattic. The pod­cast is about 40 min­utes and we cov­ered every­thing from hir­ing to team struc­ture to the type of cul­ture we value. It’s live now over on Scott’s site.

This was my first time record­ing a pod­cast and it was a lot of fun. Scott has other inter­views that focus on sup­port at com­pa­nies like Basecamp, Olark, and Zapier. If you’re inter­ested you should give them a listen.

The qual­i­ties of a great WordPress con­trib­u­tor. A fan­tas­tic post from Andrew Nacin about the val­ues, processes, and mind­sets that go in to craft­ing WordPress. There’s a lot in the post and per­haps my favorite bit is:

What does describe WordPress well is that it’s more com­mu­ni­ca­tion than code. I think this is also incred­i­bly healthy. Communication and col­lab­o­ra­tion are the lifeblood for an open source project.

Nacin’s post is a tes­ta­ment to that, I think.

Later this year I’ll be speak­ing at UserConf in San Francisco. If you work or are inter­ested in the world of cus­tomer sup­port I’d highly rec­om­mend going.

Curious what pre­vi­ous UserConfs have been like? In a word they’re awe­some. I wrote up notes from last year’s San Francisco con­fer­ence. I also heard rave reviews from team mem­bers at Automattic who went to May’s UserConf in New York.

And, if you use the coupon code andrewlovesyou you’ll save $50. Pretty great deal!

I wish I had all my notes from col­lege in plain­text Markdown-formatted files. As I get back in to read­ing more dif­fi­cult texts I’m writ­ing up chap­ter notes in nvALT.

The more I do this, the more I find myself going back to them and search­ing for pre­vi­ously noted phrases, def­i­n­i­tions, or quotes. My rem­i­nis­cent wish is for nvALT to be a sin­gle data store for all my read­ing anno­ta­tions. The prob­lem is I have all these NeoOffice and Pages files from college.

What is the busi­ness of lit­er­a­ture?, by Richard Nash, is one of my all-time favorite essays about author­ship and pub­lish­ing. The entire piece is phe­nom­e­nal and this bit was per­haps my favorite:

It was a sign, almost one hun­dred years ago, of the book begin­ning to achieve what most tech­nol­ogy will never accomplish—the abil­ity to dis­ap­pear. Walk into the read­ing room of the New York Public Library and what do you see? Laptops. Books, like the tables and chairs, have receded into the back­drop of human life. This has noth­ing to do with the asser­tion that the book is counter-technology, but that the book is a tech­nol­ogy so per­va­sive, so fre­quently iter­ated and inno­vated upon, so worn and pol­ished by cen­turies of human con­tact, that it reaches the sta­tus of Nature.

Add that to Instapaper and set­tle in for some thought-provoking reading.

Bonus link on a related note is Fetishizing the Text, by Kieran Healy.

Nicholas Carr writes of a study that shows stu­dents still pre­fer printed texts:

What’s most reveal­ing about this study is that, like ear­lier research, it sug­gests that stu­dents’ pref­er­ence for printed text­books reflects the real ped­a­gog­i­cal advan­tages they expe­ri­ence in using the for­mat: fewer dis­trac­tions, deeper engage­ment, bet­ter com­pre­hen­sion and reten­tion, and greater flex­i­bil­ity to accom­mo­dat­ing idio­syn­cratic study habits.

Or, put another way, it shows that stu­dents who were taught to read through printed texts still have a bias toward that medium as they grow older. Humans are highly adapt­able crea­tures and I’d bet the pref­er­ence these stu­dents have is more a result of ped­a­gogy than the inher­ent val­ues of dig­i­tal texts.

I think we won’t truly see the effects of dig­i­tal books until these stud­ies focus on stu­dents who learned to read on dig­i­tal devices. In other words, peo­ple who don’t look at an iPad or Kindle as an e-book but, rather, just as how you read.

Listening to @informative talk about con­tent strat­egy at the WordPress meetup tonight. The approach of first con­sid­er­ing what ques­tions your con­tent has to answer seems par­tic­u­larly use­ful for sup­port doc­u­men­ta­tion. By lay­ing the ground­work for ques­tions first, it makes the writ­ing more effective.

This post from Marco Arment, about a less-than-stellar expe­ri­ence his grand­par­ents had at an Apple Store, is such an impor­tant les­son to learn:

 It wouldn’t be the first time a tech­nol­ogy expert lacked empa­thy for a cus­tomer, or made bad assump­tions about what would be fast and easy for the cus­tomer to do on his own — espe­cially when decid­ing to per­form an easy, pre­dictable, cure-all “restore”.

Reminds me of some­thing I wrote ear­lier this year about ask­ing ques­tions and avoid­ing assump­tions. Spending the time to do some­thing right mat­ters much more than doing it quickly.

Not sure when they launched but the topic pages that Evening Edition added are inter­est­ing. Syria’s one exam­ple I dug up. They seek to answer three ques­tions: What’s hap­pen­ing? Why you should know about this? and What now?

At the bot­tom there’s then a list of related sto­ries sorted chrono­log­i­cally. Cool to see some real-world exper­i­men­ta­tion with explain­ers. It’s prob­a­bly a lot of edi­to­r­ial work to craft those sum­maries but the pay­off is worth it, I think.