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[Table] IAmA: I am Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress (18% of web!) and Automattic, ask me anything!

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Date: 2013-07-31
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Questions Answers
Hey Matt, I was at your State of the Word in SF and you talked about moving WordPress more towards being an application framework rather than a CMS or blog platform. What specifically do you have in mind for this (better settings API, developer features, etc)? And then if you could break backwards compatibility (which really isn't a option for WP), what would you really like to completely redo or add to WordPress? Thanks! First and foremost the most important things for a platform are stability, speed, and security. To do those well you need the ability to push updates and fixes as close to real-time as possible. And it needs to work in every language. User authentication, data and caching abstraction.
A lot of what people think of as platform stuff is actually at the CMS layer -- custom post types, taxonomy meta,
If backwards compatibility wasn't a concern I would rename all the inconsistent column names and variables to match our style guide, drop TinyMCE, simplify the user roles and capabilities system, replace widgets with page blocks, redo the admin menu system, denormalize the DB, flatten dependencies and deep hierarchy in function execution, and completely reorganize the code so the bare minimum of files are included with any given request.
After reading questions from all of the nice, well-meaning people writing WordPress as "Wordpress", do you wish reddit would implement capital_P_dangit(\)? ;) Yes! If anyone from Reddit sees this, would super-duper appreciate if we could get /WordPress capitalized properly. I can send copious amounts of swag, bourbon, and BBQ if bribes are needed.
Looks like that already happened. My link works, but if you click the link in the header it takes you back to the lowercase P. Probably just a field in a database somewhere.
How is it going with Bitcoin ? Haven't looked recently, will see if I can pull some numbers. I wish I had bought some Bitcoins before we introduced it, though. :)
Any stats ? 94 successful transactions so far, pretty low. I think it's more important philosophically to support it than it's been beneficial from a business point of view.
If you could wave a magic wand and instantly rewrite WordPress in any programming language, which would it be? Go. :)
Do you ever think "I could have been tumblr" ? Just the opposite, I'm very glad we're not Tumblr.
Hi Matt, I'm a long time WordPress dev (since day 1 moreorless) so thanks very much for starting it. Just wondering what your opinion of Ghost is? Link to www.tryghost.org. Link to www.fastcolabs.com
They say or imply lots of things about WordPress that aren't true. They've also done things like had a quote from me looking like I was endorsing Ghost on their Kickstarter page even after I asked them to remove it several times. (Lots of people were confused or thought it was a plugin for WP.)
What do you think of Drupal 8 ? :) Some cool stuff in there! I also keep an eye on Joomla and Concrete5. I find it really fascinating to watch other open source projects especially because we share much of the same background and philosophy, but make radically different decisions around things like backward compatibility and release schedule.
It's like watching birds that evolved from the same ancestor but on isolated islands and environments. I'm sure we do things that look completely crazy to Drupal folks, and vice versa.
Along those lines I was asked to keynote at the Joomla World Conference in November and it looks like I'm going to be able to make it.
Why is hello dolly still a default plugin? Do you have any statistics about how many people actually activate/use it? Have you personally written any other plugins? Hello Dolly is actually the 13th most active plugin, with an active userbase of about 16% of Akismet (the most-activated plugin), and about a third as popular as Jetpack. It's ahead of W3 Total Cache! Again this is not just installations, it's currently active.
Some of the other plugins I've been involved with are here on my profile: Link to profiles.wordpress.org
They're obsolete but at the time I was proud of Advanced Caching, Staticize Reloaded, and Cache Images and the early and since-rewritten work on bbPress, HyperDB, and Akismet.
How directly involved are you in ongoing development of core? Are you relatively hands on, do you ever drive decision making or do you leave it to the community? Would love a wooden WP logo, as long as it's not a fauxgo. :)
On a completely different subject. I'm as involved in WordPress development as I was 10 years ago, it just manifests itself in ways that tend to be a lot more behind the scenes and less visible, which I don't mind as I'm way more interested in things moving forward and the results than credit or recognition for any specific thing. (I get plenty of recognition regardless, don't need more.) The only downside is that folks who I don't work with on a day-to-day basis assume that my role at Automattic or WP is more as a traveling figurehead or "evangelist" which can rub me the wrong way sometimes.
I met you at WordCamp Chicago this year (I told you about a widget plugin that turns them into a post type and such). For 3.8 I'm going to take a swing at the release lead role again, which should be fun.
I created these wooden WordPress logos with my 3D Printer, I meant to give you one but I forgot about it. You still want one? The most important thing I've done since WP started, though, isn't in a line of code or a feature people use, it's getting the right people involved and creating an environment for them to thrive. It's the single most important thing any founder can do, whether of an OS project, a non-profit, or a for-profit company even though there's not a single thing you can point to as the result of it other than the overall success and movement of the project.
What are your favorite/most powerful/most surprising implementations of WordPress? My favorite are when people I admire use it, from Jay Z to Zeldman. In many ways what we do like a canvas, and it's a huge honor to see the creativity and beauty people bring to it.
Of all the WordCamp's you've been to around the globe, what was the most unusual location for the event itself and, separately, the after party? Oh by far and away the strangest location was Davao in the Philippines. I can't find any pictures at the moment, but my talk was essentially at a restaurant with a swimming pool courtyard -- the audience was on the other side of the pool from me, and the food buffet was behind me so when the Q&A got slow people would grab food. The PA system had an echo because I think it was normally used for karaoke. And then the bats came out!
Best after-party is hard to pick, but I had a great time after WordCamp Las Vegas which aligned with my 25th birthday a few years ago.
The Philippines is a wacky place. Oh, my people :-) I loved it and had a great time, including at the one mentioned above. :)
Of all the WordPress community memes, which one is your favorite? Link to twitter.com is pretty funny, and some days I miss WP Wank.
Recently I enjoyed #thingswpdailywouldpost and the response: Link to torquemag.io
Pretty much anything Mike Adams (mdawaffe) sneaks into the code, be it easter eggs or Ghostbuster references.
Mark Jaquith had some pretty hilarious ones but I can't find them at the moment, maybe other folks could post their favorites too. :)
Automattic has a lot of side projects (Gravatar, PollDaddy, etc) - What's next? There's always a struggle between doing new things or experiments under a new brand -- like VaultPress -- vs putting it under an existing brand. A lot of the things I've been thinking about we're going to put under the Jetpack brand, for example Jetpack Photon (CDN + dynamic image resizing and filtering) could be a standalone product, but decided to bundle it. So keep an eye on some big things coming to Jetpack, especially for Code Poets, people who use WordPress professionally.
What would you like to see us do next?
What individual do you think is the most under recognized contributor to the WordPress community at large? That's a tough one... I'm going to say the volunteers on the support forums. There are 2M+ posts there, and it's easy to forget that a huge number of WP users end up in the forums and get help that allows them to use the software when they wouldn't otherwise be able to.
I remember seeing a WordPress yearly theme of "WordCamps and WordPress Meetups". What should be the next year's area of focus for the Community? What areas would you like to see beefed up in the Community? Some themes that I thought might be good are "Women in WordPress", "Contribution and Documentation", "WordPress Evangelism", "Adopt an old plugin" to name a few. How do you feel about these? Those are all good, if I had to pick one it'd be getting the documentation going better on WordPress.org -- handbooks, function reference, training materials / syllabuses, and doing it all in every language and for every plugin/theme.
Hey Matt, what was the most difficult thing for you in starting your business and what do you think is the most important thing you have to know and/or to learn when you found a startup? The hardest thing for me was taking responsibility for the lives and families of others, those first few hires especially. It's why I originally raised funding even though we had revenue already, and why since then we've always focused on making the business sustainable over decades, not just the next tech hype cycle.
What's the best meal you have ever eaten (and photographed)? Hands down: Eleven Madison Park in NYC.
Recently I had a really special libation tasting menu at The Aviary in Chicago, which is from Grant Achatz the chef of Alinea, it was a cool experience at a table in the kitchen.
I'm constantly amazed by the coordination and efficiency of professional kitchens, I'm mesmerized when I watch.
PHP has matured a lot in the last few years, with new tools such as Composer and new frameworks such as Laravel. The relationship between this side of the PHP community and WordPress seems to be pretty strained. Are there plans to address this relationship, particularly with the new focus on WordPress as a web app framework? I think the PHP and WP community are coming closer together, I know it's something that Nacin has been spending time on and we've had more presence at PHP-focused conferences.
Thoughts on forking WordPress, a la jQuery? (Link to eamann.com. I don't think forking as described there is a good idea.
Multiple content areas - probably the most important CMS feature not baked into core. Will it ever happen? There's something around multiple content areas that could be really interesting we're going to start working on this year, hopefully ready by early 2014.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing WordPress (in the context of competitive software or just un-met customer needs) for the next year? By far and away it's the high attrition rate of new users. We look at posting a lot in that context but I think it's far more important to look at customization -- theme discovery and tweaking, widgets, menus.
Hello Matt, what is your opinion about current state of PHP in general? Do you like any particular framework? Templating engine? Thanks. I think it's pretty great, would just love to see continuing development around performance. Nothing really in the language that's holding us back. Wish it was trendier with younger devs.
Hey Matt, why did you force the rest of us to suffer through images defaulting to a link in our posts (I understand that was your doing)? Youthful indiscretion!
What is your development setup (software)? Most of my time these days is spent with people instead of code. (For better or worse. :)) I love lists, and live on Link to simplenote.com .
When I code since I switched to Mac in 2011 I use Coda 2 and SFTP to a remote server rather than a local dev environment. nano on the server.
Apache or nginx? Nginx!
I find WP so much more user-friendly than the competition. Was that a conscious decision from the outset? Was it hard work to make it that way or was it just the way you guys did things? Do you have a warehouse full of useability testers or does it just come naturally to you guys? The first few users were friends of mine who weren't into technology at all, so from the start we needed to make it work for regular people. As we grow it's mostly just a matter of reminding ourselves of that, sitting down with them to see how they use the software, and anticipating their needs.
If something in the future interests you enough to make WordPress/Automattic part-time for you, so you can take on something else or contribute to another cause, what might it be? I'm really fascinated by micro-electronics, hardware, and the "internet of things" for lack of a better term. It's surreal to be approaching an age that resembles the sci-fi I loved as a child.
That said, I can't imagine not working full-time on WordPress/Automattic, I feel too strongly about our mission, impact, and potential.
What's your favorite beer? Link to imgur.com. Link to cloudup.com
I see a lot of desperate web development companies locally that try to stress that Wordpress is insecure and shouldn't be used. What would be the best thing to say to people like that to shut them up? Some of the largest and most important publishers in the world rely on WordPress. (Show them the showcase.) If WordPress was insecure we'd see it on the front page of nytimes.com, wired.com, and cnn.com. :)
Hi Matt, have you read Chris Lema's blog post. What is your response? I have. It's also funny because I think Gartner is about to come out with a "magic quadrant" that puts us in the crappy quadrant (low vision and ability to execute). Their leaders? Adobe, Sitecore, SDL, Oracle, HP, Opentext...
I completely agree with Chris on all the ways that enterprise currently works, and their concerns. (People assume because we choose to do things differently that we don't understand the other side.) But I'm not willing to compromise getting better software into the hands of users as quickly as possible, if that means Gartner thinks we're a visionless niche player so be it.
We've done long-term support branches before, it was a big development burden and almost no one used it or cared. There will be businesses that embrace keeping their technology moving at the speed the web does, and there will be those that go out of business and become irrelevant.
•Will you ever support multiple languages in the WordPress core? No plans for multiple languages in core, sorry.
•What do you think of new writing platforms like Quip and Editorially? Will the WordPress post editor ever have any of those 'team' features? I really dig the new writing platforms, I do think we'll get some of those team features if not in core than in Jetpack.
I heard a rumor Matt switched back to QWERTY. True? Not true, still typing Dvorak, though last year I was beat on speed for the first time by Helen Hou-Sandi, who types QWERTY. She's speedy, and if she switched to Dvorak she could probably win world champs. :)
Hey Matt, where do you think the future of the independent WordPress news community lies, with your recent purchase of WPTavern and the recent sale of WP Daily to WP Engine? Do you think there is a space for an impartial WordPress news website? *edited for correct spelling! I'm glad that new ones are being started as fast as old ones are shutting down. There is some really interesting stuff going on in the community and I think there's space for real journalism and strong commentary.
What one major thing would you like to see changed/fixed/updated in WordPress core? The fact it doesn't work well on mobile devices.
How do I convince my boyfriend, who wants me to keep his site in ASP.NET (he's a programmer, I'm a designecoder), to install WordPress? I'm not even allowed to use PHP! :( The best way I've found to convince people, even as the founder, is just showing examples. That's why we created the showcase: Link to wordpress.org
Find out which musicians, celebs, authors, etc he writes and see which of them are on WordPress and bring it up casually in conversation. (We have huge adoption from creative folks.)
Best BBQ of all time? I hope I haven't had it yet. :)
Are open source contributions a prerequisite to work at Automattic? No, but they get you to the top of the list when we're reviewing applications. (I know, I look at every incoming resume.)
Would you consider Automattic the "Redhat of WordPress"? Without a doubt. ;)
Do you think an app store for plugin and themes built with high quality standards and framework, could be a good solution for WordPress end users? The plugin directory is an app store where everything is free.
Would having paid stuff there make it better? I don't think so.
Why do you feel thats different for themes - premium themes are available via the themes directory. (I've never bought one of those so I don't know if the comparison is valid) Design is inherently valuable in its scarcity, functionality is valuable in ubiquity.
It's unlikely that we'll ever want to put a popular theme into core, but fairly likely it'll happen for a popular plugin.
Collaboration is more important for plugins than themes, and money from scarcity balkanizes development.
Did you ever feel like you couldn't continue with your project? Is there any advice you have for small business startups? Covered advice here -- Link to www.reddit.com
There have absolutely been times I felt like I couldn't continue, both with Automattic and WordPress. You have to take the lows with the highs and stick with what you believe in.
Hi Matt, I have been using WordPress for 10 years, make most of my living from it, and will always love it. Thank you for that! It is by far the easiest way I have found to build websites that my clients find easy to use. I see the reasons why WordPress does not use more modern coding practices and tools and appreciate the need for backward compatibility, but wonder if you ever see the code base moving forward to a time when developers can use the newest features of PHP, best coding practices (i.e. testing), and the great tools that are available these days, like Composer. Do you think there will ever be some kind of fork or offshoot of WordPress that functions as an application development framework, since so many developers are using it for that these days? Thanks :) I disagree with the premise -- WordPress does use modern coding practices. People assume that supporting say an older version of PHP or MySQL holds us back far, far more than it actually causes any trouble. Supporting older browsers is a way bigger deal.
Our biggest challenge is figuring out the user side of things, the front-end code. How things should work for a user rather than how they should work for a computer.
What does your average day look like and how do you manage so many different projects? I spend more time on Skype (text chat with colleagues) than I would care to admit. Between that and P2s ( Link to p2theme.com ) I can easily fill eight hours in a day. As the company has grown to over 180 people there is a huge amount of content and activity to keep up with.
Hey Matt, how many hours you work on an average day? It's hard to say because I don't really consider what I do work, the hours just melt away.
I find I'm most productive first thing in the morning when I wake up, usually around 7am but a bit later if it's a cloudy morning, and I generally run out of steam around 11:30pm that night.
Some days I'm traveling though I might only have 4-5 hours at a computer and can get a similar amount done.
I find I'm generally more creatively charged the following day if I'm able to unplug at night, which is one reason I like jazz festivals (I try to go to Montreal every year) because I can work during the day and check out shows at night.
Any chance of a comment-spam filter being built into core? Akismet is great but has a lot of hurdles for a new user (Activation of the plugin, Registration on Wordpress.com, Registration for API key) and most just don't do it, contributing to the problem. I agree with Viper007Bond -- anything we did in core like Cookies for Comments would become completely ineffective within a day. Those only stop dumb bots who have easier places to spam.
Link to markjaquith.wordpress.com
off, love you, your ethos, your company. If you figure it out, let me know. :)
My question: how do you plan to get "normal" people to update their blogs as often as they do their Twitter and Tumblrs? But seriously, I think it's all about removing friction (every second loading and extraneous click) and becoming part of people's habits, which is one of the reason I spent a fair amount of time on triggers and habits at the State of the Word this year.
any plans to launch a Premium paid version of Photon service with more features? Not on features, we'll make anything new there free to everybody, but might have a paid tier for top 1% of users by bandwidth/usage. But probably a few years from that, plenty of bandwidth and CPU here in the meantime, and it's just getting cheaper and faster.
Find a new boyfriend maybe? His judgement is clearly lacking. Ha!
Which features are available on other CMS that you would like to see in WordPress? I really like some of the drag and drop layout things folks like Squarespace and Weebly do. I think we have so much we can do to improve customization.
Hi Matt ! I know you've advocated for water causes in the past. Do you have plans for future charitable/philanthropic projects? Thanks for doing this. My big contribution this year has been to the Bay Lights project: Link to thebaylights.org
Haven't decided about next year yet...
What do you think about App websites/themes that seem to be using WordPress as the choice of CMS, do you think WordPress is a good platform for these types of sites? Scaling, Performance issues considering? Examples, Dating sites, Crowdfunding sites, Job board, etc. I think it's a great framework for anything content-driven. For things like messaging that don't map well to WP's data model, you can still do it just make some new tables, don't try to shoehorn it in the standard ones.
Which verticals will you be tackling next with WordPress.com? Please share your sensitive corporate information ;) Putting a hold on new verticals at the moment, going to try and go deeper on some of the existing ones first.
Hi Matt, now as most people know, you are very much a fan of open source and the GPL license. However, is there anything you do NOT like about open source? Also besides Wordpress (or its themes/plugins), are there any open source projects you like that aren't related to Wordpress or Automattic? I think the things that make open source incredibly collaborative and ultimately eat the world can also make design and big shifts difficult. WordPress has made some major shifts over its decade of life and grew as a result, but those pivots are harder to do the more successful we are because sometimes it means doing the opposite of what we did to become successful in the first place.
Automattic's been tweeting a bunch of new hires lately, and quite frankly doing a great job of making me jealous. Has the 90% of employees being remote ever caused real problems or friction? And how do Happiness Engineers work: do they help people out over the phone, or is it strictly a text over the Internet thing? Remote distributed working has been working great and we plan to continue it for the foreseeable future. HEs mostly work with email, but we're introducing a ton more live chat and phone work.
Say you retired your involvement from WordPress, what other projects stimulate your interest and challenge you? I think for many of us, all good things come to an end and considering your success of WordPress, what other projects (offline or online) would benefit from your involvement? I think I got this one here -- Link to www.reddit.com
Have any companies ever tried sueing you over silly software patents? Yes.
Hey Matt, you talked about profitability on TWiST. How do you plan on increasing revenue at Automattic? (I'm especially interested in how open source projects like Wordpress could lead to profitable companies) Edit: (changed "profit" to "revenue") I think it largely looks like the things we're doing today, just executed better and with a wider audience aware of them.
Hi Matt, besides traveling and photography, what are some of your other non-WordPress interests? Pretty tame: Music, especially jazz and hip-hop (J Cole, Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, Weeknd). Wearable tech. Vinyl records. Food (trying to cut down on this). Reading.
With growing popularity Wordpress has, in the past few years, become increasingly prone to hack attempts, brute force attacks, etc. Is there anything being done to address security concerns? I think we're a lot more secure than we were a few years ago, to be honest.
Hey Matt, I watched the live stream of your State of the Word on the weekend and you talked about leading development of WordPress 3.8 and that it would be "experimental". What kind of features do you have in mind? New interface with MP6, new theme with 2014, and hopefully some work on the editor and widgets.
As someone who's making a living thanks to the WordPress, this might be the only occasion for me to say Thank you Matt. You've truly changed my life. Thank you. :) Hug a WP contributor next time you meet one, there are hundreds of people active every day that are even more crucial to WordPress than me.
This is my personal favorite. ;) Edit: Whoops, imgur mirror so we don't kill ipstenu's site. That is indeed amazing. :)
Contribute. Agreed!
Sup Matt, Hit me with some Akismet stats. We're blocking 40-50 million more spam every day than we were last year. The volume of spam has been growing unusually fast.
Hi Matt, what do you think about this 400,000 Euro Site - :D. Link to www.carlabrunisarkozy.org. Link to www.connexionfrance.com. WordPress is priceless, so 400k euros isn't a bad deal, but they could shop around for a better consultant. :)
Last updated: 2013-08-04 23:08 UTC
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