Automattic’s distributed office

Forbes and Businessweek both wrote inter­est­ing arti­cles about Automattic a cou­ple days ago. Forbes focused on the busi­ness of Automattic and Businessweek focused on our globally-distributed nature.

Matt wrote a bit about the Forbes piece specif­i­cally. About our dis­trib­uted “office” he writes:

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.

After more than two years at Automattic I think it cre­ates the ideal “office” cul­ture and sit­u­a­tion. Sure, I don’t see my co-workers every­day but I do talk with them con­stantly. That com­mu­ni­ca­tion means that when we do meet up it feels like a gath­er­ing of friends, not work. There’s some­thing to be said for hav­ing most in-person inter­ac­tions with co-workers be social and per­sonal instead of work-oriented.

We’re all headed to San Diego tomor­row to spend a week together. We do this once a year as a com­pany and 3 or 4 times a year in our teams. We have small projects to work on and there are tons of activ­i­ties planned. These aren’t phony cor­po­rate trust exer­cises or ways of pla­cat­ing employ­ees who, as Forbes wrote, don’t get the perks of Google, Facebook, and Apple. These are activ­i­ties that nat­u­rally evolve from a group of friends gath­er­ing together.

Next week I’ll be going sky­div­ing and go-karting with co-workers from all over the world. Last month our lead sysad­min crashed on my couch while in town for the week­end. Last year I climbed a 12,000 foot peak with another co-worker. Two other Automatticians are tak­ing a road trip this week all the way from Portland to San Diego in a Dodge Viper.

If that all sounds like some­thing you want to be a part of, we’re hir­ing.

The Internet needs a strong, inde­pen­dent plat­form for those of us who don’t want to be at the mercy of some­one else’s domain. I like to think that if we didn’t cre­ate WordPress some­thing else that looks a lot like it would exist. I think Open Source is kind of like our Bill of Rights. It’s our Constitution. If we’re not true to that, noth­ing else matters.

Matt Mullenweg — Open Web FTW. (via Daniel)

The new definition of literacy

Suzi Steffen pointed me to this post by Doug McLennan ear­lier. I like it. Doug writes,

I think the new lit­er­ate goes beyond words, and beyond mak­ing video and image and sound. I think code and meta-data are the new lit­er­acy, and that in turn leads to a new lit­er­ate­ness. Information and ideas are multi-dimensional. Those who can take dynamic infor­ma­tion and mash it up and mix it and find cre­ative ways of pre­sent­ing it in ser­vice of ideas have the pos­si­bil­ity of com­mu­ni­cat­ing in more com­pelling ways than with just words or video or image.

He’s spot on. It reminds me of some­thing Matt said ear­lier this year in a Q&A ses­sion with Memburn. He said,

Scripting is the new lit­er­acy, and the abil­ity to learn and exe­cute on your ideas with­out rely­ing on any­body else is going to be invalu­able as you iter­ate and exper­i­ment on build­ing some­thing. It’s good to build for your­self first, because in the worst-case sce­nario where no one else likes it, at least you will.

That type of individual-driven cre­ation and pub­li­ca­tion is some­thing schools still strug­gle to grasp. Our school sys­tem must move quickly to adopt new ideas of lit­er­acy beyond what’s traditional.

I par­tic­u­larly like that Doug pointed out it’s more than the act of cre­ation that makes for lit­er­acy. You need to do more than write, record, or pho­to­graph. A cre­ative form of pre­sen­ta­tion is an inher­ent part of his def­i­n­i­tion. Your abil­ity to use, mas­ter, and build those tools deter­mines how much you con­trol your path.

One more thought on technology reviews

Earlier today I posted a few tweets from Dustin Curtis on main­stream tech­nol­ogy reviews. A cou­ple tweets from Doug Stewart made me think about one more thing worth jot­ting down.

Last month Matt wrote an essay titled “What’s Next for Apple.” In that he says this about Best Buy:

When I walk through Best Buy, which I try to do once every few months, it feels like it’s tech­nol­ogy at its worst, the magic of progress used as smoke and mir­rors to con­fuse and dupe con­sumers rather than make their lives better.

That’s how I feel read­ing a prod­uct review on the sites Dustin men­tioned. It’s tech­nol­ogy writ­ing at its worst.

Reviews on sites like Gizmodo and Engadget prey upon gad­get heads think­ing that their week, month, or year-old tech­nol­ogy is “worse.” This is what leads us to the land of 4″+ touch screens and think­ing that devices with more megapix­els or giga­hertz are, some­how, inher­ently better.

Sure, nor­mals may not be the tar­get mar­ket of tech site prod­uct reviews. That doesn’t mean the site’s reviews can’t be thought­ful and use­ful pieces of text. Right now they’re drivel.

When I walk through Best Buy, which I try to do once every few months, it feels like it’s tech­nol­ogy at its worst, the magic of progress used as smoke and mir­rors to con­fuse and dupe con­sumers rather than make their lives better.

Matt Mullenweg — What’s Next for Apple.

What is blogging

Ian Beck recently wrote about what blog­ging is (and what it is not). Perhaps my favorite quote:

Blogging is not giv­ing a damn about whether peo­ple visit your site, and pub­lish­ing for the sake of cre­at­ing some­thing inter­est­ing, pub­lic, and poten­tially use­ful for others.

That’s why con­tent comes first. Without com­pelling con­tent and qual­ity writ­ing a blog is far less likely to gain a fol­low­ing. Combine both of those fea­tures and you may end up with a blog that allows you to go full-time.

Reminds me a bit of Matt’s recent essay, which makes the point that a blog is where you go when you want flex­i­bil­ity and con­trol in craft­ing your words and ideas.

Daniel Jalkut’s idea of a ded­i­cated site for teach­ing the basics of blog­ging is a very inter­est­ing idea. It could go a long way toward help­ing peo­ple pub­lish effec­tively on the web.