June 13, 2017

Apply Filters
Apply Filters
Episode 81: Matt Mullenweg - #WorthIt

Today, Brad and Pippin will be talking to Matt Mullenweg. Matt is the founder of WordPress and the CEO of Automattic. We will be talking about the history of Automattic and what Matt does in his spare time. We’ll also talk about what Matt feels is not talked about enough inside of WordPress.

Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • Matt’s announcement that he will be leading WordPress development: how the CEO of such a large company can lead this huge open source project.
  • The tipping point where Matt decided he wanted to get back into the development side.
  • Why Matt thinks there has been no progress on powering the WP Admin by the REST API and why this is one of his priorities.
  • What Matt would like to see happen with the WP Admin to make it most successful.
  • What Automattic looked like in its early days when the team was only a handful of people, as well as what Matt would change if he could go back in time.
  • How Matt recommends people learn about management and communication.
  • What Matt chooses to work on when he’s working on code and why.
  • The things that Matt is most concerned about today.
  • What Matt feels is lacking attention and interest in the WordPress world.

Links and Resources:


Matt on Linkedin

Harvard Business Review

Andreessen Horowitz podcast

Building Jarvis – Mark Zuckerberg blog post

Ubiquiti Unify

If you’re enjoying the show we sure would appreciate a Review in iTunes. Thanks!

INTRO: Welcome to Apply Filters, the podcast all about WordPress development. Now here’s your hosts, Pippin Williamson and Brad Touesnard.

PIPPIN: Welcome back to Episode 81 of Apply Filters. During this episode Brad and I were joined by a very special guest, Matt Mullenweg, the cofounder of WordPress and the CEO of Automattic.

In this conversation we talked a bit about Matt’s recent role as a WordPress development lead and how the progress of the REST API, the new editor, and the other focus features are coming along in 2017. We’re also able to touch on some of the history of Automattic and how it’s changed over the years and look a little bit at what Matt chooses to work on when he’s able to find a little bit of time to code.

At the end, we touch a little bit on what Matt feels is not talked about enough inside of WordPress. What are some of the conversations that need to happen? Listen in to our discussion with Matt Mollenweg.

Mr. Matt Mollenweg, thank you for joining us today.

MATT: Glad to be here today.

PIPPIN: All right, so we’re going to have a number of questions for you. Mr. Brad, do you want to start us off?

BRAD: Yeah, let’s start off. Six months ago at WordCamp U.S., you made a big announcement that you were starting to lead the WordPress development again. I think people are pretty excited about it, but there was some skepticism as well. I was wondering, can a CEO of a 500+ person company also lead this huge, open source project? Matt, is it possible? Are you okay over there?

MATT: It’s definitely, you know, prior, over kind of the year prior to taking that over, I did make some changes to make it more possible, to make more time because it does take a good amount of time. I want to make sure that, just personally, I had set aside that time. That’s why, for example, I stopped doing new investments through Audrey Capital because I need to make the time to essentially invest in the WordPress community.

In terms of how it’s going is, I think it — I’ve been very happy with it thus far. There’s a great set of folks. The focus leads have been really fantastic to work with, and that’s part of the key to how this model is going to work. Incremental, you know, when you think about it, I’m already running something that’s over 550 people, so adding an additional 20 to 40 people sort of working with to make some cool things happen actually isn’t that different from what I do, what I spend the rest of my day doing.

BRAD: What is your role exactly right now in the WordPress? Are you leading WordPress development as a product manager? How does it work?

MATT: I don’t know if there’s necessarily an existing term which maps perfectly to it because it does kind of move from being high and low level as well. I’m looking at track tickets, commenting on things, and reading threads. People are definitely bringing a lot to me that they weren’t maybe bringing to me before.

Actually, right before this, I had a great call with a few folks from the theme review team talking about kind of what’s next there. You know the primary thing is these core releases around the three focuses, and so that’s going to be getting the new editor out and getting the customizer out to me are the top, top, top priorities.

But beyond that, I think, after the announcement, people started to say, well, these other parts of WordPress that haven’t been really moving or that have been stuck, and time and time again I’ve been finding that it’s not really new ideas. It’s things that were proposed 17 months ago. You know syntax highlighting that ticket is seven years old. It’s things that have been around for a while. We have the good ideas. We just haven’t executed on them.

A big part of what I’m doing is debugging, so seeing, why didn’t we do it? Why isn’t it done already? Why are things moving slowly when they could be moving faster? The answer is not a simple one. It’s not.

There was one thing we needed to do differently and one new policy we should adopt, and one person who was wrong. It’s often very interlocking and very complex. But I think that this year, especially with how fast the editor has been going, we’ll have some very recent and relevant examples to how fast we can move when we really align with each other, when we really decide on priorities, and when people communicate, to do big things.

My hope is that–you know we haven’t made any plans for 2018 yet. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this beyond this year–we’ll have kind of a new baseline for our productivity and our ability to iterate and tackle actually some pretty large problems in the WordPress community versus always saying, “Oh, that’s big. That’s hard. It’s a medium level. We can’t work on that,” you know.

PIPPIN: You’ve obviously been in WordPress for a long time. Obviously since the beginning. I think, as the project got older and as other ventures like Audrey and Automattic came around, you pulled back a little bit. Now you’ve kind of come back in to that lead role.

Do you think there was a tipping point anywhere where you decided, I need to get back in, or at least for a short time? Was it a tipping point, like there was just maybe, for example, the 2015 Community Summit? Do you think that played a role in deciding to come back in?

MATT: I’ve been personally frustrated by how long it’s taken to do some things that I think should be relatively simple. Hearing that from other release leads over the past few years, and seeing some of the frustration because we have these rotating release lead philosophy. I would typically interact with that person a fair amount through the course of it, and whether that was Helen or … whoever it was.

And so hearing them voice some of the same frustrations, I was like, okay, maybe this is something more with how the project is organized versus something that I personally am having trouble with. We had a couple of years of releases that were a little uninspiring from the point of view of, like, moving the needle forward for its adoption, even though they did a lot of great things and people worked really hard on them, and we closed 700 tickets, and had 130 or 150 contributors.

We were beating or we were doing a good job on a lot of metrics that we were tracking, but, on the whole, I think it really started to feel like WordPress was falling behind the state of the art in the world. I think it’s easy to become complacent because we’re far ahead of many of our open source competitors. But, you know, if we think of sort of the state of the art around everything that’s on the Web or on mobile devices, we weren’t necessarily pushing that any more and haven’t for maybe two or three years.

BRAD: I wonder if the problem was kind of that there was no vision, no one pushing kind of a vision and, like, things that needed to get done but no one kind of wanted to do them. It’s usually someone at the top that pushes those things through, you know. And so not having that, that could have been part of the problem, right?

MATT: I wouldn’t say it’s not having the vision because, like I said, a lot of these things that we’re doing were proposed years ago. The vision was there. It’s a lot of it of execution. I think, if I had to point to one thing that is maybe our both greatest strength and one of our potential Achilles heels, it’s kind of concensus driven decision making, whether that’s in the different teams, like the theme review team and the plugin review team, whether it’s with core, whether it’s with committers, whether it’s, you know.

We’re doing hard work often, and work that reasonable people will disagree on around priorities or that, you know, reasonable people might feel like we’re doing the complete wrong thing. When these discussions get kind of heated, it’s easier for people to withdraw or even point responsibility to a committee versus, like, taking something on the vigilance that I think this should happen. I’ll take responsibility, and I’ll also take the heat if you disagree with it.

If the 14 years of WordPress has given me anything, it’s thick skin, and so I’m comfortable with people thinking I’m an idiot, saying I’m disconnected, saying whatever, or that this is totally arbitrary or it’s some secret conspiracy to benefit Automattic. I’ve heard it all for over a decade now, and so I can separate that out from more critical or useful feedback that is going to help us build the next version of what we want to do.

BRAD: You gave an update. I can’t remember. It was a few weeks back. It was the first quarter check-in update.

MATT: Yeah, the beginning of April, so almost two months ago now.

BRAD: Right. Right, but one of the things in there that was surprising, I thought, was that there was basically no progress whatsoever being made on powering the WP admin by the REST API. I was personally surprised by that. Why do you think that is? Why do you think there hasn’t been any traction there?

MATT: I don’t know exactly. I think that some people who — you know, some of the contributors who had worked really hard to get the content endpoints in aren’t as passionate about getting the content endpoints used necessarily. A lot of the debate for whether to bring those in or not, to me, the only argument against it is, is this something that is actually going to be useful in the real world or be adopted in the real world, because we’ve seen other excellent REST driven APIs in the past not get adopted?

A great example would be the Atom API, and that one definitely had support from more than just one vendor. Our content endpoints essentially are like a single vendor API. Atom API was standardized. It was supported by Google. It was supported by us. It was supposed by Movable Type, Typepad, LiveJournal, and a bunch of people who came together, both to create and implement the API. It just didn’t get the adoption. I think that’s a sort of meta question.

Secondarily is like, is the API that we’ve created — can we use it for these things or, when we implement it, do we run into something that maybe we didn’t anticipate when purely in the design phase, or using it more like it’s been very successful thus far, which is like developers or agencies doing custom code driven things, you know, where there’s like a custom integration, custom authentication, you know, pretty advanced, I would say, usage of both of REST API and the content endpoints? That is kind of where we’re at.

It’s also a little bit my failing as a project lead because, I mean, the fact that it doesn’t and it hasn’t moved ultimately reflects poorly on me as the person leading this for this year. It’s something that I’m going to be looking at priority wise. I’ve been prioritizing the editor, and that will continue until the editor is in kind of an in-trunk state. But beyond that, it’s definitely something on my mind that, when we get to the end of 2017, I want to say that we’ve got some real great first party usage of the content endpoints.

PIPPIN: Something like the REST API is definitely challenging because you have this kind of catch 22 where, in order to build it, you need to make sure that you have the adoption, right? I mean because obviously we don’t want to build this massive thing and not have people actually use it that much. But, at the same time, in order for people to actually use it, we have to have it all the way built. If we could look at it and wonder if there’s progress that’s stymied by not having it 100% complete, and this is kind of just an open-ended comment, not necessarily a question, but I think it is an interesting problem.

MATT: Yeah. I mean I personally was pushing for us to not integrate it until it was 100% complete, so I definitely see the value of that argument. But something that I try to demonstrate in Automattic, and also I think that is a good community principle for us to keep in mind, is disagree and commit. Right? This idea that even though I disagreed with some of the things going in, the moment it was committed it became — I was advocating for it as strongly as anything else.

The fact the historical thoughts or ideas or whatever I had don’t really matter at this point. It’s in, so I want to work to make it as widely adopted and successful as possible. That’s the commit part of it, which is funny because, in an open source side, commit obviously has a double meaning.

But if you think about it, you can apply this to all parts of your life. Debate vigorously and have lots of arguments. Bring up all your worries or thoughts or concerns and hash it out. But once a decision has been made and the decision was made to bring the content endpoints in, don’t re-litigate it. That’s not really helpful to anyone.

Most of all, don’t sabotage it. It’s in, so let’s make it successful. I don’t want to–

PIPPIN: I think that’s a great piece of advice right there.

MATT: Yeah.

BRAD: What would you like to see happen with the WP admin? Would you like to see, let’s say, the posts listing screen? If we could, if someone could, AJAX-ify that and connect it to the REST API to load in the data, is that something? What could be done there?

MATT: When I think of what would make it most successful, something like that I would happily accept, to be honest. Like that would be — it would be nice to have something. There was a lot of talk before, you know, press this ands a few other things, so like anything we can get in, like, let’s just do it. Quick Draft, I think is the one. I forget the name of the thing on the dashboard. Whatever we can do, let’s do it.

In terms of what I think would be most compelling in terms of future adoption and, like, the long-term vitality, like reasons to keep this in core as an example, it’d be creating next generation experiences, the things that we couldn’t do before that we’re going to be able to do now. Imagine it; something closer to like a Calypso experience necessarily like something that looks and works exactly like WP admin does today. Now we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the better, so if we can get things going.

My thinking is that, with the editor and the customizer, we’re going to have some pretty drastic user experience improvements. I think they’ll be big enough that the backwards compatibility that we’re breaking is okay. I mean that people are going to want to upgrade because the thing on the other side of the momentary pain point, which is maybe something is not going to work, is worth it.

I think that is what I would like to think of for other parts of WP admin. How can we make the improvement worth it being that it’s a drastically better user experience? That if some plugins break, because they’re going to have to because we’re changing how the code works–we can’t be backwards compatible 100% of the time, nor is that even desirable–is what’s on the other side worth it? When I see people make mistakes, including Automattic made these mistakes before as well with, like, say, the WooCommerce 3.0 release. We broke some things, but we didn’t make the upgrade necessarily worth it. It’s all going to be about #WorthIt.

PIPPIN: If you’re going to make a choice to break backwards compatibility, especially if it’s intentional, then obviously there needs to be a reason for it for an end user to say, yes, that’s worth it to me. If you don’t, then how do we encourage people to upgrade?

We’re going to move over to a few kind of business oriented questions, and then we’ll come back to development if we have time.

BRAD: Okay. Pippin and I each run a fully remove team, so in a lot of ways we’re kind of following in your footsteps, your early footsteps. If you think back to when Automattic was ten people, what did it look like, first of all? And were there managers, or were you the only manager? Yeah, what’d it look like?

MATT: Yeah, I mean it’s funny because I was actually just — I’ve been moving some stuff from San Francisco to Houston. Just last night I was looking at some of the old photos, some of the old company team photos. I had literally last night looked at the one where the company, whole company meet-up was only about maybe 10 or 12 people, and I think that was a meet-up that we did in, like, Arizona or something.

I mean, at the time, I would say the makeup of the team was Tony, who was the CEO, so think of that as like the manager or business person who I had hired. We had a part-time CFO. Her name was Anne Dorman. I think we had sort of an office manager and assistant to me named Maya, and I want to say that we had an HR person, but maybe not at that point. Then everyone else was a developer. Myself, my primary role at that time was developer, and folks that you know from around WordPress, so like Alex Shiels, Michael Adams, Ryan Boren, oh, and one support person. That was Mark Reilly, who we had hired. I kind of met him through the WordPress.org forums. He was Podz at the time, if you’re old school and remember podz.

That was the whole company, so think of it like very developer heavy and then one each of like a few other positions. I guess we had one designer too. Matt Thomas was there.

The idea was basically trying to, like, keep it as product oriented as possible. What’s interesting, now that Automattic is 550 people, is that individual teams often look a little bit like that. There’ll be, particularly that marriage of kind of like one designer to ten developers, that kind of ratio, like keeping that going is actually really, really, really variable. Individual teams kind of look like Automattic did when we were small.

PIPPIN: Do you think if you could go back to when it was just 10 or 12 people and do it again, is there something majorly different that you would do to get to where you are today?

MATT: There’s definitely a ton to do with management and communication that I’m just much better at now and I wish I had known when I was 20 or 21. You can find many examples in old tickets or mailing lists or something where I was definitely stoking the flames of some of the firefights going around the open source side of things. Definitely communication would be the number one thing I’d change and just learning more about management over the years.

We definitely — I artificially kept the team a bit too small in those early days because I was scared of larger teams and didn’t really know how that would work or if I could handle it. That definitely slowed us down a lot in the early years.

Then two was, I think, working on too many things at once. I probably should have focused in on fewer, you know, as they say, more wood behind fewer arrows, like fewer areas. It’s funny looking back. Automattic actually does fewer things now than we did when we were 50 people. That’s just putting more resources against fewer areas.

PIPPIN: Do you think, is there also a big part of that where, I think, as companies grow and as individuals grow as developers or business owners, we tend to get better at working smarter and not working as hard? Do you work on fewer things now because you’ve been able to become a lot more efficient at the things that you do or much more focused and not trying to spread out over a lot more different projects?

MATT: No. I work the same number of hours, just as hard, just as everything as before. It’s really just a difference in, like, how thinly spread are you and the team?


MATT: That’s why. Like for example, something I might not have done ten years ago is I might have still tried to do investing and, like, some other things that I shut down, and then take back over WordPress core development. That just wouldn’t have been — no one would have been happy in that scenario.

PIPPIN: Working just as hard, but more focused in the areas that you feel are the best for you.

MATT: And being conscious of what you’re saying no to and opportunity costs of where you’re spending your time.

BRAD: You mentioned learning about management and communication was probably the biggest thing. How would you recommend people learn about that stuff?

MATT: Just reading, I think, is a fantastic way to do it. I try to read. I’ve, this year, been reading a lot more fiction and sort of things on the more spiritual side of things, but poetry. I still try, at least once a quarter, to read a hard core management book or some sort of management theory, communication, or something like that, something more professionally minded. That doesn’t sound like a lot. But then, over 10 years you’ve read 40 of these books, which is a pretty sizable library.

Early on, I read a ton. I was probably reading, like, one to two a month because I was so worried because I was not that experienced. But I was working with people who had sometimes decades of experience in their respective fields, and I wanted to be able to keep up. Books are a very focused way to get things.

Today I would say podcasts and blogs as well. Definitely, some of the blogs that I read were pretty good. But now there’s just so much better information online, whether that’s HBR, which is Harvard Business Review, whether it’s podcasts like I really love the Andreessen Horowitz podcast. It’s been short, but also really densely packed with great information.

PIPPIN: This year, as you have kind of retaken on the role of leading some of the WordPress development, obviously you’re getting a little bit more back into the dev side of things, whether that’s testing code, reviewing code, or just reviewing the end result. In this case we could say the editor. I think developers turned business owners tend to lose their ability to write code as often as they would like.

Obviously, as the CEO of a major company with 500+ employees, and I know you’ve had a few roles over the last few years, but you started out working as an employee at CNET and then on an open source project, WordPress, where you were coding all the time. I mean you even said a little bit ago that when Automattic first started with 10 to 12 people, you were actually one of the developers on it. Do you still find time to actually write code today? Do you want to? And if you do, what do you choose to work on? Do you choose to work on something actually within WordPress, or do you go write something completely different?

Let me give you an example. Mark Zuckerberg recently wrote a pretty interesting, really fascinating blog post, actually, about how, in his spare time, he’s been playing with building an AI in his house and how he’s been programming all of that. How about you? Coming from a developer, are there still code projects that you find the time to work on?

MATT: It’s a good question. In terms of code, most of what I’ve done, say over the past 12 months, has been more just trying to learn about things so that, if we’re doing something or making a decision around something like React versus Vue, that I can actually understand it enough to really deeply understand the arguments on both sides. And so think of that as more like coding for the purpose of learning.

When I still do code and have never stopped is like personal tools, which is nice because there’s only one primary user, which is me. I still love scripting things, tying together Web APIs, scraping pages and running regex on them. You know I have a very complicated email set up, so all my emails actually run through a WordPress plugin, if you believe it, that puts different things into the databases that I use for stats and routing and copying certain emails to certain people, and sometimes filing differently to me so that I can make things go to different folders. All of these kind of combination of things are more of my, like, I invest time in that because it makes me more productive or it helps me make better decisions.

For fun, where I’ve actually shifted a bit, too, is just like tinkering, especially with home networking and smart home stuff. I’m not writing an AI. That’s a little showy of Mark, and I think he also has a bit of help on that, but–

PIPPIN: I’m sure.

MATT: –he’s doing things as well. I don’t know. It’s fascinating to me because it kind of gets me back to the days when I used to build computers, you know, assembling the parts and everything like that. I really love this particular vendor called Ubiquiti. They make a wireless system called UniFi. They have a camera system and everything like that. It’s all kind of Linux driven, and I run it on an AWS container remotely. Then I can log and manage the network.

Just stuff like that, even like yesterday when I got to Houston. Comcast just installed fiber, so I now have synchronous gigabit fiber. They put in, like, four extra devices, so I’ve been kind of like unwinding all that. I can simplify how the home network works and how the fiber can plug directly into my devices rather than going through theirs. Just stuff like that I find really fun and fascinating.

You end up learning things like it’s a bunch of Juniper hardware, so I’m like, okay. I’ve never used that before, so let me figure out how Juniper stuff works. Or I learn when I reach out, so I kind of hit a little bit of a wall with some of it, like negotiating the fiber connection. Luckily Automattic has an amazing systems team that run a huge amount of networks managing thousands and thousands of servers across multiple users. On that team there’s probably a few team who both know Juniper configurations really well and have configured hundreds of fiber systems, so if I hit too much of a wall, I might ping them. Then I’ll learn, in working with them, to fix it or sort of like simplify the system.

BRAD: Many in the developer community, so like the greater developer company, not just WordPress, not just PHP, everyone, I think a lot of them consider WordPress to not be very fun to work with, unfortunately. I just get this impression from Hacker News and other sources similar to that, Stack Overflow. There just seems to be a lot of negativity around working with WordPress, especially among engineering type developers who are kind of more advanced developers, I guess. Do you find it a challenge to recruit more advanced developers for Automattic that are willing to work with WordPress, or do you see that as a problem at all?

MATT: That’s a good question. With Automattic it’s probably not something we run into as much because the vast majority of the new, important stuff we’re doing is in JavaScript. With there, with Calypso and everything else, it is kind of the latest and greatest, modern frameworks, and methods of development and everything. But that said, I will say that for WordPress core itself, like where we’re doing the PHP or the API side work, or whatever it might be, there are some developers that are a bit more sort of fashion focused, I guess is the best way to say it. Sometimes that lines up well with people who spend a lot of time every day on Hacker News.

What I try to look for, regardless of whether we’re hiring someone to work in Calypso or with our store code–like the store, I’d say, would be something in Automattic that’s a little bit scarier to people, like payments in store, I’m sure which you understand well yourself–I want to find a developer who, he or she, is solutions focused. You know, so like the code is a means to an end. What really matters is the impact of the code, not whether it’s in Go, PHP, or Bash scripting even.

We’re kind of looking for the best tool for the job and also keeping in mind the fact that other people are going to have to edit this code later, and it needs to integrate with a bunch of other systems. So introducing a language, even if it’s 10% better, there might be a 20% additional cost in maintenance or overhead in supporting this separate VM from every other VM we run in the Automattic.

I look for developers that are just kind of very solution oriented there. That often, but not 100%, lines up with folks who are more experienced, who have kind of been around the block at least once or twice and have written something, like, sort of followed the fashion of the latest, greatest thing, and then had to fix it later or had to rewrite it later. That’s actually a great experience because you kind of learn a little humility with approach to the problems we’re trying to solve.

I believe code is poetry. I believe that there is a beauty in and of itself in something that’s well written. But I think you can execute that regardless of language, regardless of some of the other surface level things that people often look at when saying, like, you know, this program is good, or this program is bad.

With WordPress, I would say we have an additional thing where there are a lot of people who call themselves WordPress developers where they’re really, like, assembling plugins or themes, or might not have an understanding of the technology underneath. There’s also a lot of plugs and themes that aren’t that well written, like, objectively, because WordPress makes it very easy for people to get started.

Finally, that WordPress is extremely popular, so just like you can be really good, like a Drake or Kenjo Komar (phonetic), but if you’re at top of the game, which we are in many ways, there’s going to be some haters. There’s going to be some folks who, because you’re in front, people will resent that or find tradeoffs that you’ve made in sort of making it to a level of success that they would disagree with or that they don’t have to deal with. That combination of things helps with the perception. But at the end of the day, if we can solve problems, that doesn’t matter because that’s what the market is going to reward.

PIPPIN: Well, when you’re at the front, I think people tend to nitpick and look for the things that are wrong instead of celebrating the things that are great.

MATT: If it were just language choice and, like, framework that made things adopted widely, then I mean Ghost would be the most popular blogging system, but it’s not.

BRAD: Let’s step outside of WordPress and tech completely. What’s the thing that you’re most concerned about, just in general, today?

MATT: In the world? Oh, my goodness.

BRAD: Yeah, we’re going to big.

MATT: I mean I don’t know. I try to only worry about things that I have control over or have the ability to influence. My date-to-day, I definitely worry a bit more about things that are in the WordPress world because, you know, I hope that I can have an influence there, even if it means doing something that’s different than we’ve done before, like taking over the core development.

More broadly, I think that I worry about things that are at a low level, existential issues. You know, is the world becoming more free and more connected or less free and less connected? It is the health of loved ones, you know, some things that you can maybe influence, but not have as much control over, are really, really important and do keep me up at night sometimes.

PIPPIN: To wrap up, Matt, you’ve been very generous with your time and we really appreciate it. What is something within the WordPress world that you don’t feel people talk about enough, there’s not enough attention given to it, whether it is a philosophy or a feature or something? If there was something that you could get people to have a conversation about more, is there something you would highlight?

MATT: I would look back to something we talked about earlier, which are the downsides of a concensus driven model creating products. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I think that almost everyone at some point in their career has had a bad manager. And sometimes our reaction to that is to say that no one should be making decisions. There should be no managers. Sort of like a more reactionary approach to it because that is true that it does solve the problem of the bad manager.

I think what we miss is the only thing worse than a bad manager is 100 bad managers, which is sometimes what we get when we just try to make decisions or drive development of something like WordPress–which is, at the end of the day, a user product–based on who shows up to a dev meeting that day, or what the loudest voices in the room might advocate for. Even policies that we’ve adopted in the past with WordPress, let’s say the 80/20 rule, which is on our principles page, can be misused and, I think, probably have been misused more the past few years than it’s been used in the way it was intended. Just that kind of getting back to, like, how does this change a user’s life or not, and that reflects itself in an open marketplace through adoption. That is, I think, good to just remind ourselves of regularly because everyone, myself included, can get kind of down in the weeds of a particular ticket or idea we have or idea someone else has that might not be productive.

I think the second thing — I know you asked for one thing.

PIPPIN: That’s okay. Two is good too.

MATT: It’s related to the first thing. At certain points it might be effective to appoint a decision maker and just disagree and commit, or agree and commit, to the decisions that are made because, in many cases, I think any decision will be better than no decision, which is what many things in the WordPress have had sometimes for as long as seven or ten years.

The second thing is we need to throw out our rule book and just talk about when doing that is appropriate. We, for often very good reasons, do things like say WordPress is WCAT compliant and no new code should come in that is not. That’s a tradeoff, and that’s a tradeoff that we’ve enshrined. We should readdress it if we think that that tradeoff, whether for a particular feature, a particular user experience, or a particular benefit, is worth it.

Again, that hashtag #WorthIt that we talked about. Backwards compatibility is one. Certain rules around accessibility, I think, are one. Things around, say, mobile devices, I think, are one where it’s still shocking to me how hard it was to get MP6 in the core a few years ago. But if we hadn’t done that, I mean that was the thing that made the WordPress admin responsive. That was a real struggle.

As we’ve seen over the past–what was that–I think, five years ago since MP6 started, four or five years ago, mobile devices and sort of Android and iOS driven devices have become the dominant competing platform on the planet, outstripping even the desktop platforms, Mac, OS, and Windows. If we hadn’t done that, I don’t know if WordPress would even be relevant today, or it’d be more like a PHP nuke. And so there’s probably some decisions that we’re facing today that are that existential where there’s technology changes coming around the corner that, if we don’t make some big, painful and, I would say, highly controversial changes, remember MP6 was blocked by the core team from coming into core for almost a year.

Things that will feel that drastic, hopefully they will look as silly and non-consequential as MP6 does in hindsight where we’re like, of course we did that. It made perfect sense. But at the time it felt like a real battle. We’re going to have to make some of those battles over the next few years, I think, to set us up for the coming decade. To me, that’s the most important thing.

Part of the reason I was working on Automattic or other things more than core is because that’s where I felt like the most impact would be for democratizing, publishing, and for getting the Web running on an open source operating system. Operating system meaning like WordPress as a Web operating system. Now I feel like the biggest impact there is at core, so that’s where I’m spending my time. We all should think about that. Think outside both of our — think bigger than our plugin or theme and think about the world and what is our impact going to be there.

PIPPIN: Thank you, Matt. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on. Thank you for sharing some time with us. We really appreciate it.

MATT: I really appreciate you all taking the time, and I also want to say thank you to the work both of you all do in the WordPress community.

PIPPIN: Well, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.

BRAD: Thanks a lot, Matt.

MATT: No problem. It was good chatting.

PIPPIN: Cheers.

MATT: Talk to you later. Bye-bye.

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