I recently listened to a great podcast that Tim Ferriss put together with Matt Mullenweg. I’d never heard of Matt before and after learning more about him and what he’s accomplished frankly I’m not sure how. You see Matt is largely responsible for the platform that powers this blog and millions of other blogs around the world, yes that’s WordPress and WordPress.com. It’s not just blogs though, WordPress has become a full-fledged web application framework for building websites and applications. WordPress is open source software and WordPress.com is the commercial site where you can freely host a WordPress powered site and pay for premium WordPress support and enhanced features. WordPress.com’s website claims:
WordPress powers 23% of the internet – WOW!
Back to the podcast and interview though, in it Tim and Matt cover all sorts of topics but they go deep on Automattic the privately held company that Matt founded to support WordPress.com. I was so intrigued by the podcast and Automattic’s departure from Corporate America’s norms (e.g. the company’s management philosophy, tools, and inner workings) that I decided to read a book about it, The Year Without Pants. The book is authored by a former Automattic employee, Scott Berkun.
The book was a quick read for me and packed with short but very valuable insights. Almost all of Automatticians (Automattic’s employees) work remotely. In the early days the entire management structure was flat so you had Matt, and the Automatticians. Individuals were free to form self organizing teams and to create and deploy new software solutions in very short cycles. The chaos that ensued and the processes and tools that Automattic uses to wrangle it in are the central topics covered in the book. Scott, a former Microsoft executive and accomplished author, was hired to work as an Automattician, to assist in introducing the “Team Lead” concept, and ultimately to pen his experiences in this book (although the latter was accomplished independent from Automattic and I don’t believe a condition of his employment there).
If management, leadership, experimentation and early stage company culture and execution are interests of yours, I highly recommend checking out the book. This is not a dry text book covering management theory. This is a first person account of hard work, trial and error, the importance of a company’s culture, and its effects on human motivation. The results at Automattic speak for themselves, recall – 23% of internet sites are powered by WordPress and that counts the likes of:
Although Automattic is privately held, estimates for the company’s valuation put it around $1B, yes big ‘B’ as in a Billion dollar company. They do it differently at Automattic but they must be doing something right!
To Matt, Scott, and all the Automatticians around the globe I’d just like to say thank you! I’ve only been using WordPress for a few years but I appreciate the platform and the many improvements that have been implemented overtime.
A few pieces of trivia that came up in the podcast and book:
Automattic is a play on Matt’s name – learn more about Matt on his blog – ma.tt
.tt is top level domain for the country Trinidad and Tobago. Registrations for this domain are available at The Trinidad and Tobago Network Information Centre.
photo credit – Linus Bohman