I’ve had the opportunity to talk about Gutenberg at two great venues recently. The first was at WordCamp Portland which graciously allowed me to join for a Q&A at the end of the event. The questions were great and covered a lot of the latest and greatest about Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0:
Last week I also joined Episode 101 of the WP Builds podcast, where as Nathan put it: “We talk about Gutenberg, why Matt thinks that we need it, and why we need it now. We go on to chat about how it’s divided the WordPress community, especially from the perspective of users with accessibility needs.”
They may be out of seats already, but I’ll be on the other coast to do a small meetup in Portland, Maine this week. As we lead up to release and WordCamp US I’m really enjoying the opportunity to hear from WordPress users of all levels all over the country.
Do you need something to cheer you up? You got it:
I should explain this costume a little bit. At the US Digital Service, we do a thing called “crab claws.” Crab claws is like visual applause–you pinch your fingers up and down to say “great job” or “congratulations” or “way to go.” We do it because actual applause would be annoying when there’s someone on the phone. The love for crabs goes deep at USDS.
So when I thought about what I wanted to be for Halloween, the answer was pretty simple. Lobster, crab–I wanted to share the crustacean love. One thing I love about the costume is that the shell has a hidden compartment. You could use the shell as a backpack for candy or goodies.
So no homemade costume this year, but I figured people would enjoy this:
Hope you had a good Halloween!
SDR Kashmir Travel Folio, made with this super-cool material called Dyneema, which is twice as strong as Kevlar and 15 times as strong as steel, but virtually weightless.Garmin Forerunner 935 which is a triathlon watch, so it can tell me how much I don’t run, how much I don’t bike, and how much I don’t swim. Crazy sensors on it, and it’s lighter than an Apple Watch, which I tried again to use this year but wasn’t able to handle another device in my life that I had to charge daily. It has a weird charger, pictured next to it, but only needs charging once every few weeks so I don’t mind at all.This is the latest 15” grey touchbar MacBook Pro, customized by Uncover to have the Jetpack logo on it. I like the keyboard quietness and performance improvements of latest generation.Fit Pack 2 from Aer is the same I wrote a whole blog post about last year, and I still love and adore it every day. They have a few bigger and smaller packs, but the quality is just fantastic and I love all the pockets. Mine is starting to tear a little bit by one of the shoulder straps, but I do keep ~18lbs in it regularly.This is a grey wool buff, which works as a scarf, a hat, or an eye cover if I’m trying to sleep. I tried this out because of one of Tynan’s also-great gear posts.Passport, because you never know when you’ll need to leave the country.Kindle Oasis with this random case on it. I dig that this one is apparently waterproof — which I’ve never tested — but doesn’t feel like we’ve found the perfect size and weight balance yet. Reading is my favorite activity right now so this is my most-loved item.Imazing 10k charger. Great capacity, charges via USB-C. (2nd year)I’ve started carrying around some stationery so I can write notes to people when I’m on the road. Now I just need better handwriting…Delfonics is a funky-cool Japanese stationery, and this 3”x4” Rollbahn notebook is tops, and actually fits in my pocket. The Amazon one linked might be larger, I found it at Paper-Ya on Granville Island.A small leather bracelet I got in Seoul, Korea.Two things here: a rolled-up chamois cloth for cleaning glasses, inspired by my late friend Dean, and a WordPress ring I wear sometimes.Three pens here: A cool customized one we did for Automatticians; a Lamy Accent 4pen which has red, blue, black, and a mechanical pencil built in; a Sharpie for signing stuff.Have gone away from the carbon fiber clip and now using this small Paul Smith card wallet.Apple Magic Mouse 2. When this one breaks I’ll switch it out for a black one.Charger for the MacBook Pro.A super small international adapter, which is also nice for converting the 3-prong in the next item into a 2-prong. It’s Lenmar but I’m not going to link Amazon because they’re charging too much, just picked up in an airport store.Probably my favorite new item of the year: I have given Native Union a hard time in the past but super love this combo extension cord and USB charger. It is an 8-foot extension cord, which is remarkably handy, has two AC outlets, 3 USB ports, and one USB-C. Total life-saver.A dyneema accessory pouch, retaW aoyama / tokyo fragrance lipcream, Aveda Peppymint breath refresher, Aesop Ginger Flight Therapy roller, a spray hand cleanser, and Mintia COLDSMASH.District Vision makes these these running sunglasses in Japan, which I found at the Snow Peak store in NYC.These sunglasses are a collaboration between Salt and Aether.A single-use packet of Sriracha. Hot sauce in your bag? Swag.A palo santo smudge stick, smells great when you burn it. I’m turning into a hippie.Hermes business card holder.iPhone XS with a Jetpack Popsocket.Pixel 2, now replaced by a Pixel 3 XL.This is a bag with some small opals I gave as a Burning Man gift.iPad Pro 10.5 and Apple sleeve with Pencil holder, which is still one of my favorite gadgets of the year. Everything about this device just works and is a pleasure to use, and I’ve already ordered the new 11″ Pro and related accessories.Half meter (the perfect size) lightning cable.Apple USB-C dongle.Cool multi-function USB cable with lightning, two micro-USBs, and USB-C. I give these away all the time now and it’s nice to pair with the battery in #8 because I know I can charge anybody with this thing.Short USB-C.Combo micro-USB and Lightning.Short lightning cable, just like 29.Velcro cable ties, great for tidying pretty much anything. I just take a few out of the big pack and roll them up to travel with.Retractable USB-C, don’t love these as they break but it’s the best of what’s out there.USB-C to Lightning, great for super-fast charging.My favorite USB-C hub so far, the Satechi Aluminum Type-C Multimedia Adapter with 4K HDMI, Mini DP, USB-C PD, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, Micro/SD Card Slots. Pretty much everything you could possibly need.A pretty handy Ventev dashport car port charger that’s small and light. (2nd year)A few spare SIM cards, some SD cards, thingy to poke SIM card holder, and combo USB-C / USB-A 64gb stick.Lockpick set. (4th year)Bragi Pro custom earphones. For many years I had custom in-ear monitors, but the convenience of wireless overcame that, even before they started taking headphone jacks out of phones. Bragi now allows you to send in ear molds from an audiologist and they’ll make these custom true wireless headphones that fit and sound great, but I have trouble recommending because the case is so heavy and once got so jammed I almost thought I’d have to throw the whole thing away, and the app has never been able to “connect” for me because it gets stuck on turning on some fitness sensors. If it could connect I think I could turn off the other feature that is annoying, which is the touch controls that I find get triggered by my hat or when my head is against a chair. So, a qualified “maybe try this.”Sennheiser Culture Series Wideband Headset, which I use for podcasts, Skype, Facetime, Zoom, and Google Hangout calls with external folks and teams inside of Automattic. Light, comfortable, great sound quality, and great at blocking out background noise so you don’t annoy other people on the call. I’d love to replace this with something wireless but haven’t found one with as high fidelity audio.GL.iNet GL-AR750 Travel AC Router which I use to create wifi networks different places I go, which is often faster than hotel/etc wifi, and I can also VPN encrypt all my traffic through it. Pretty handy! But not user-friendly. Often keep it in my suitcase and not my backpack. I have a retractable Ethernet and micro-USB attached to it.Matte black Airpods. I love Airpods and these look super cool, I think these were from BlackPods which looks shut down now but Colorware has some alternatives. (2nd year)Westone ES49 custom earplugs, for if I go to concerts or anyplace overly loud. (4th year)An ultralight running jacket I think I got at Lululemon Lab in Vancouver. They don’t have anything like it available online right now but it folds up ultra-tiny, weighs nothing, and is a nice layer for on an airplane. My only complaint (as with all Lululemon products) is the low quality of the zipper. (2nd year)
That’s it for this year. As a bonus I’ll link some of my favorite other-bag items including toiletries: Muji dopp kit bag, these amazing travel bottles for creams, travel atomizer, Elysium Basis, Muji q-tips, Aesop Two Minds Facial Hydrator, Sunleya Sun Care SPF 15, folding brush / comb, Philips Sonicare Brush, Aesop toothpaste, Tom’s SLS-free toothpaste, Orabrush cleaner.
If you’re curious, here are the previous years: 2014, 2016, 2017.
If you have any questions please leave them in the comments!
I recently returned from Orlando where Automattic hosted its annual Grand Meetup where nearly all of our 800 employees from around the world, spend a week together in the same place. (And yes, we’re hiring.)
Despite being a fully distributed company, I believe it’s still important to meet face-to-face — just not every day, in the same office. The Grand Meetup is our chance to get to know the people behind the Slack avatars and build relationships that can carry us through other 51 weeks of the year, when we’re working from more than 65 countries. It’s so much easier to hear the nuance in someone’s chat messages or p2 posts if you’ve hung out with them at Harry Potter World, or learned about their family, pets, and hobbies during a flash talk.
Photo by Paul Jacobson
The week can be mentally exhausting, given that you’re often meeting many people for the first time. But we urge people to take it at their own pace, and the results are well worth the effort. Our data team actually studied the impact of the Grand Meetup on our work relationships — the connections established between coworkers using our “Meetamattician” tool were demonstrably closer after the meetup:
Before the Grand Meetup.
After the Grand Meetup.
This year we were proud to welcome some incredible keynote speakers: Wild author Cheryl Strayed talking about creativity and writing; Automattic board member Gen. Ann Dunwoody, the first woman in U.S. Army history to achieve the four-star officer rank; Ari Meisel on delegating and automating your life; and Dan Harris, author of 10% Happier, on the panic attack that led him to embrace meditation and mindfulness.
Photo by Leif Singer
Ann Dunwoody. Photo by Luca Sartoni
Ari Meisel. Photo by Luca Sartoni
Photo by jessicacg
I walked a week’s worth of the Portuguese path of the Camino de Santiago with a few friends, which was a nice bookend to my Rebirth and Yellow Arrows post at the beginning of last year. My feet are sore, and I have the first significant knee pain which has given me newfound empathy for the people I love who struggle with their knees. I traveled light and just brought an iPhone XS as my camera, and these are a few snaps of things I saw along the trail.
The downside of Zuckerberg’s exalted status within his company is that it is difficult for him to get genuine, unexpurgated feedback. He has tried, at times, to puncture his own bubble. In 2013, as a New Year’s resolution, he pledged to meet someone new, outside Facebook, every day. In 2017, he travelled to more than thirty states on a “listening tour” that he hoped would better acquaint him with the outside world. David Plouffe, President Obama’s former campaign manager, who is now the head of policy and advocacy at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the family’s philanthropic investment company, attended some events on the tour. He told me, “When a politician goes to one of those, it’s an hour, and they’re talking for fifty of those minutes. He would talk for, like, five, and just ask questions.”But the exercise came off as stilted and tone-deaf. Zuckerberg travelled with a professional photographer, who documented him feeding a calf in Wisconsin, ordering barbecue, and working on an assembly line at a Ford plant in Michigan. Online, people joked that the photos made him look like an extraterrestrial exploring the human race for the first time. A former Facebook executive who was involved in the tour told a friend, “No one wanted to tell Mark, and no one did tell Mark, that this really looks just dumb.”
There seem to be three communication gaps outlined here in Evan Osnos’s revealing profile of Mark Zuckerberg: one is getting unvarnished feedback from your employees. Speaking as a fellow CEO and founder, it’s certainly hard to pop that bubble — see “the bear is sticky with honey.” There are a few techniques like skip-level 1:1 meetings, anonymous feedback forms, interviewing new hires, and 360 reviews you can do to try to counter this, but there’s no panacea and this one requires constant work as you scale.
The second gap is getting the unvarnished truth from your users — much easier, as they’re quite happy to tell you what’s what. I’ve recently started cold-calling (yes, on the phone!) some of our Jetpack customers just to understand what they love and don’t love about the experience and about how we can help them solve their business challenges. There’s a casual intimacy to phone conversations that just can’t be replicated in other user feedback forums. Pair this with good instrumentation throughout your product so you see what people do and not just what they say and you’re golden.
The third and last communication gap is the connection to the world as most people experience it. If your status, wealth, or celebrity reach a point that they are shutting you out from “real” experiences, take some risks and get outside of your comfort zone. As it turns out, this new GQ profile of Paul McCartney offered a tip on that:
McCartney tells me a further such story of a time he took the Hampton Jitney, the slightly upmarket bus service that runs from the Hamptons into Manhattan, because he was deep into Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby and he wanted to finish it, and how he then took a local bus uptown, and when a woman blurted from across the bus, “Hey! Are you Paul McCartney?” he invited her to sit next to him and chatted all the way uptown. “It’s a way of not worrying about your fame,” he says. “It’s a way of not turning into the reclusive rock star. I often say to Nancy: I get in their faces before they get a chance to get in mine.”
Makes me wonder if Jack Dorsey still rides the bus to work every day. I think this is what Zuckerberg was attempting with his 30-state tour, and hopefully it was helpful even if the optics didn’t appeal to everyone — the daily habit of his 2013 resolution to meet someone new every day feels more powerful than the touristic 30-state one. But for an entity as large as Facebook maybe it’s moot, as Casey Newton pointed out in his newsletter last week it can be quite hard to pin the answers to Facebook’s real problems, and our democracy’s real challenges in the face of targeted online propaganda, to just one person.
Dan Walmsley has an interesting walkthrough on getting set up for WordPress and Calypso development on the new Linux mode on a Chromebook.
This morning I’m enjoying Seth Godin’s classic on Customer Service. Hat tip: Andrew Spittle.
There’s fascinating and terrifying feature article about Facebook, Duterte, and the drug war in the Philippines, written by Davey Alba. My first trip there was actually to Davao, and having been to the country several times and met so many bloggers there it’s hard to imagine what’s described. There are definitely echoes of the Wired feature on Facebook and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. Both are good reminders that as technologists the tools we create can be used and leveraged in ways we wouldn’t imagine in our worst nightmares.
Brett Martin has an excellent longread in GQ, Houston Is the New Capital Of Southern Cool. I moved to San Francisco when I was 20, I hadn’t ever even been old enough to drink in Houston, but when I returned in my late twenties and really made it my home I was blown away at how much the city had changed in the time I had been away. Or maybe I just grew up enough to appreciate it. Regardless, Brett captures the verve and paradoxes of the city well.
This week I spoke with TechCrunch about one facet of distributed work that differs from physical offices — the idea of “office politics.” I can’t claim that distributed work will solve everyone’s personal differences, but I do think it relieves some of the pressures that might come from forced cohabitation and environments that are prone to interruption. They also have some great points from Jason Fried and and Wade Foster.
Yes, it is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall soon flow in inexhaustible streams the most abundant and most marvelous liquor that has ever flowed to relieve the thirst of man! [….] A spring of pure truth shall flow from it! Like a new star, it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine among men.— Johannes Gutenberg
From Dan Knauss via Post Status.
“We want to make the best tools in the world, and we want to do it for decades to come. I’ve been doing WordPress for 15 years, I want to do it the rest of my life.”
The last time I chatted with Kara was in 2013 in the back of a pedicab in Austin. This time I got to sit in the red chair at Vox headquarters in San Francisco, and per usual Kara was thoughtful, thorough and to the point: we talked about WordPress and the future of the open web, the moral imperative of user privacy, and how it all relates to what’s going on at Facebook.
(As it turns out, Facebook also is turning off the ability for WordPress sites — and all websites — to post directly to users’ profile pages. The decision to shut down the API is ostensibly to fight propaganda and misinformation on the platform, but I think it’s a big step back for their embrace of the open web. I hope they change their minds.)
Kara and I also talked about distributed work, Automattic’s acquisition of Atavist and Longreads, and why every tech company should have an editorial team. Thanks again to Kara and the Recode team for having me.
A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.
Lawrence Pearsall Jacks in Education through Recreation, 1932
As Automattic keeps growing we’ve been bringing in a lot of talented people behind the scenes to help expand on our vision as we go from hundreds to thousands of colleagues, and hundreds of millions to billions in revenue. Recently, former New York Times digital executive Kinsey Wilson joined our team as president of WordPress.com, the Chief Design Officer of Axios Alexis Lloyd has joined as head of Design Innovation, the former CEO of Bluehost James Grierson is leading Jetpack partnerships, and today I’m excited to announce a change to my bosses, the board of directors.
Gen. Ann Dunwoody served for 37 years in the U.S. Army, and she is the first woman in U.S. Military history to achieve a four-star officer rank. She’s also the author of A Higher Standard: Leadership Strategies from America’s First Female Four-Star General, a book I really loved and highly recommend. Automattic’s board has had no new members since its founding in 2005, so this is our first addition in 13 years. I became familiar with General Dunwoody’s work while researching distributed organizations outside of technology, which led me to the military, which led me to geek out on logistics, which led me to her book and eventually flying out to Florida to meet in person.
Below is a brief interview with Gen. Dunwoody — we chatted with her about global leadership, finding your passion, and building a business.
We’re excited to have you onboard, General Dunwoody. It’s interesting — at Automattic we like to point out that we’re all over the globe (over 740 employees in more than 60 countries) but you oversaw 69,000 military and civilians across 140 countries! Were there any big leadership lessons from managing operations across such a wide range of distances, timezones, and cultures?
That’s a great question. When I started out as a young officer in the Army, the leadership philosophy that was espoused back then was “Leadership by walking around.” When you’re in charge of a platoon, a company or even a battalion or Brigade that is not globally dispersed this philosophy is very sound. When you’re running a global organization with 69,000 folks in 140 countries, you have to leverage technology to keep real-time communications flowing and keep leaders updated. I would host (with the leadership) a global video teleconference every Wednesday connecting every organization from Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Europe, etc. and sites — hundreds across the United States. Our headquarters would provide an operational update and then we go around the globe to get update from from everyone — what’s going well, where they need help or additional resources. In the old days I think people believed information was power and often withheld information to use for personal advantage, but I believe shared information is power. By leveraging the power of the entire industrial base we could solve problems in real time. I still travelled around a lot to see our people, but it is not possible to keep everyone informed and in the loop with current operations without leveraging technology.
I love your answer about “shared information is power.” Did you ever find it difficult to break down the silos and embrace that concept?
Oh my, yes. They weren’t just silos, they were silos with concertina wire around them! Parochialism was rampant and everyone wanted their own system and own their own information. We had over 200 stand alone systems that didn’t talk to each other. So to field and design an enterprise IT system that leveraged systems with the needed information to support “foxhole to factory” was challenging and exciting.
And how did you decide what technological means to communicate an idea or a directive, versus, say, meeting in-person?
I would say it depended on the idea. If it was personal, probably a phone call (one on one); if trying to generate support for an idea or transformational concept, meet in-person with my initiatives group to socialize the idea and get their input modifications and buy-in. Then Commanders conference to socialize idea with them, as they will have to implement it. Once socialized with leadership, we worldwide videoconference with the entire organization to define and describe the purpose, intent, how, and why — so everyone knew what we were trying to do and what their role was in execution. I found you cannot over-communicate when trying to make changes.
It’s an incredible accomplishment to become the first woman in U.S. Military history to achieve the four-star officer rank. Can you tell me about how things changed (or maybe still need to change further) in terms of your experience during your 37 years of service, and how you addressed diversity and inclusion in the military?
First, I certainly didn’t accomplish this by myself — I had a lot of help along the way! I joined the Army as part of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) back in 1975. A few years later they disestablished the WAC and began the integration of women into the regular Army. This was the first time women had the opportunity to have the same career opportunities as their male counterparts in the branches now open to women. The challenge for the women who came into the Army back then was to force the integration — fight being put into traditional jobs like being a secretary, admin, clerk, or cook — and fight to be platoon leaders, etc., to support and move the integration of women into the regular Army.
What I witnessed during my time in the Army was that the doors continued to open. Yes, there were roadblocks — but there were also many leaders along the way who were willing to help. I never worked for a woman. I worked for men who either believed in me or didn’t. My experience in my almost four decades was that the doors continued to open for women. I thought jumping out of airplanes was really neat — now my niece in the USAF is an A-10 fighter pilot, and we have women graduating from Ranger school!
On diversity, I realized that being the only female in many forums, my voice was hard to be heard. And I also realized that most folks promoted and surrounded themselves with people in their own image. What my philosophy was — and I still think it is an issue today — is that diversity is not about numbers, it’s about getting the best and brightest from all walks of life, to help leaders solve the very complex issues that face us today. Don’t surround yourself with only people that think or act or look like you.
Who are the leaders that inspire you today?
I think we are products of our past — Mom and Dad, even though not here on earth, gave me the values that still guide me. Many of my military mentors, Gen. Hugh Shelton, Gen. Pete Schoomaker, Gen. Gordon Sullivan, Gen. Dick Cody, are still coaches and mentors to me today.
Folks I admire: Warren Buffett, only met him once but I like his concern for the betterment of our country; Oprah Winfrey, although I have never met her I admire her for what she does for our country how she presents herself and how she handles herself — awesome; Gen. Mattis — wow, I admire him for taking on this extremely tough assignment for the good of our country and our defense. Secretary Gates served two administrations, Republican and Democrat.
People that inspire me are people I believe are true leaders — valuing honesty and having the best interests of the country at heart. No hubris!
I’m a huge fan of Mailchimp, but dang does the service get abused by folks aggressively opting you into mailing lists. I have a very early, very generic Gmail address that people put as a filler address into every possible service and it gets tens of thousands of list and spam mails. A good trick to find and unsubscribe from all the Mailchimp lists you’re on is to search for mcsv.net and then select all, report as spam, and unsubscribe. Gmail doesn’t deal well when the unsubscribe list is taller than your screen, so you may need to hit command + - a few times to make it all fit. Also according to this post, “you can also get in touch with our compliance team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with the email address you would like to remove from all lists and they will be happy to further assist you there as well.” I will try that as well.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, and an interview about on the WP.com blog, Automattic has acquired the Atavist platform, magazine, and team. Looking forward to working alongside the team: we’re keeping the magazine going and it’ll complement Longreads, and integrating the best of the platform’s CMS and publisher features into WordPress.com and Jetpack and after that’s done providing an upgrade path so all of its publishers can move to being WordPress-powered.
I really love this thread and the replies sharing stories about Val Vesa’s experience talking about WordPress in an Uber / Lyft ride:
My @Uber driver last night, going home from airport asked me where was I coming from.Told here about #WCEU– what is that, she asked.– the European Conference for #WordPress, I said.Her eyes sparkling, she grabbed the wheel firm, looked in the rear view mirror at me and said,— Val Vesa | Social Media & Travel Photography (@adspedia) June 18, 2018
The Atlantic on today’s masculinity being stifling and imagining a better boyhood.
When Deportation is a Death Sentence is one of the most devastating articles I’ve read in a long time.
A review of the Cy Twombly show, he has an amazing museum in Houston and I enjoy learning more about him.
The Great Anthropologists: Margaret Mead, so fascinating.
Dating columnist reveals how ‘Sex and the City’ ruined her life, has a happy ending.
Barbearians at the Gate “A journey through a quixotic New Hampshire town teeming with libertarians, fake news, guns, and—possibly—furry invaders.” Amazing.
Lena Dunham Explores Alone Time After a Break-Up
My Adventures with the Trip Doctors, aka “Michael Pollan takes psychedelics.” See also: Interview with Longreads.
Kanye West and Why the Myth of “Genius” Must Die.
Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds, also well-covered in a great book I just finished, Black Box Thinking.
Admiral Shovel and the Toilet Roll — wow.
The Work Required to Have an Opinion, wisdom from Charlie Munger.
As the traveller who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.Margaret Mead