On React and WordPress

I have a great deal of respect for Automattic in general and Matt Mullenweg in particular.  They have done an amazing job with WordPress, which is now used by more than a quarter of all websites.  But they are also a great example of how companies can work in the Open Source software space.

It’s not all just business.  Automattic raises the ethics bar quite high.  And today there is an excellent example of how they do it.  Check out this blog post by Matt on why WordPress will be moving away from the React JavaScript framework developed by Facebook:

I think Facebook’s clause is actually clearer than many other approaches companies could take, and Facebook has been one of the better open source contributors out there. But we have a lot of problems to tackle, and convincing the world that Facebook’s patent clause is fine isn’t ours to take on. It’s their fight.

Respect!

A Million Words Published at Work in a Remote Company

Sara Rosso shares some thoughts on what to document and share, after publishing over a 1,000,000 words while working at Automattic.  Here’s the gist of it:

  • If you’re the go-to person for something in your company, consider how much of it is just gatekeeper information you could document properly to help someone else learn/grow from or work on independently.
  • Separate out processes and historical background from your strategic expertise. Processes and backstory are not really ‘what you know.’ It’s much better to be a person someone asks ‘why’ or ‘when’ to do something vs. the logistics of a ‘how.’ How can and should be documented for others to build off of regardless of your involvement. This should free you up to be more involved in the why, the new, and the next of your work.
  • If you’re repeating yourself in private chats or (gasp!) email on a specific topic, document it. That’s also what drove me to create this blog – being able to answer someone’s question with an answer you’ve already carefully crafted for someone else is a great feeling (and a great use of your time)!
  • Will someone want to know why you decided or executed something a specific way later? Share as much background as possible so colleagues are brought up to speed immediately. Share the setup & thought process you went through, where to find more information, and even the facts, ideas, or information you considered but deemed outside of scope for the particular project. My goal is to hopefully never have someone ask “where did this come from?” or “what’s your source?” or “did you consider this?” (when I had) and instead focus on enriching the discussion or challenging my ideas vs. asking me for information I should have provided in the original post.
  • Gather the best, most complete, or authoritative things you’ve authored and submit them as potential onboarding materials for new team members. Challenge them to ask questions and to find something you need to document.
  • If important progress is made, be sure to update your documentation, or retire in favor of something newer or more complete. We do this by linking from old posts to new ones, and all it takes is a quick comment and a link on an old post.

GPL : Matt Mullenweg and Automattic vs. Wix

The General Public License (GPL) has been the source of many discussions since it was created in 1989 (with a few versions in following years) and applied to numerous Open Source Software projects.

Currently, there is one more such discussion going on.  It was kicked off by Matt Mullenweg, the founder and CEO of Automattic, the company behind WordPress:

Anyone who knows me knows that I like to try new things — phones, gadgets, apps. Last week I downloaded the new Wix (closed, proprietary, non-open-sourced, non-GPL) mobile app. I’m always interested to see how others tackle the challenge of building and editing websites from a mobile device.

I started playing around with the editor, and felt… déjà vu. It was familiar. Like I had used it before.

Turns out I had. Because it’s WordPress.

He proceeds with the open letter to Wix:

Dear Wix,

This explicitly contravenes the GPL, which requires attribution and a corresponding GPL license on whatever you release publicly built on top of GPL code. The GPL is what has allowed WordPress to flourish, and that let us create this code. Your app’s editor is built with stolen code, so your whole app is now in violation of the license.

What does Matt want Wix to do?  Very simple:

Release your app under the GPL, and put the source code for your app up on GitHub so that we can all build on it, improve it, and learn from it.

Did Wix respond?  Yes, they did.  First, one of their lead engineers, Tal Kol, wrote this blog post.  I think it’s quite sensible and boils down to a misunderstanding.  Or so I read it:

I apologize if I appeared to take credit for somebody else’s work. This was definitely not my intention. I think you guys are doing a great job.

Second one though is a bit less so, written by Wix CEO Avishai Abrahami.  While trying to appear friendly and casual, it does dodge the whole issue of the GPL violation, misrepresents the facts on the branding, and ends with an awkward invitation for a coffee.  WP Garage has a good summary of why this response is weak.

Here are a few more resources with commentary that help to understand the issue:

Personally, I am a big fan of GPL, Automattic, WordPress and Matt Mullenweg, who I had the opportunity to meet and talk to back a few years ago.  But as a CTO of a startup (and not for the first time), I have to admit that Open Source Software is difficult when it comes to business.  It requires a huge effort to make a company understand what Open Source Software is, what are the intricacies of the major licenses, and what are the consequences of using Open Source Software for different kinds of projects (internal tools, client projects, company products and services, etc).

Here are the important points that I want to highlight in regards to this conversion:

  • If you are using Open Source Software, make sure you understand the licensing and the culture behind it.
  • If you made a mistake, admit to it and figure out a way to resolve it.  Dodging or finger-pointing is not a resolve.
  • Legal action is not the only option.  Often, it is not even the most preferable.
  • Be nice to people. :)

I’d like to finish with this tweet, which I think highlights the most important point.

P.S.: Some people say that GPL has not been enforced in courts.  This page lists a few cases in several countries, which provide examples of the contrary.

Automattic and .blog domains

I was very excited when six years ago Automattic, the company behind WordPress, became a domain registrar.  Registering, renewing, and managing domains is still a painful process today as much as it was six years ago.

So, what have the company decided to do with its new super power? Well, they’ve integrated domain registration with their WordPress.com hosted blogging service.  And now they are promoting the new .blog domains:

Millions of short, easy to remember domains will be available when the .blog domain goes live November 21. Apply now to secure the perfect domain for your blog.

This sounds cool, until you check the prices.

leonid.blog

30 EUR per year is not cheap.  But an additional 220 EUR early application fee on top of it makes it a no deal for me.  I wonder how many bloggers out there will go for this.

I understand that managing a top level domain is not an easy thing to do.  Everything from infrastructure to technical support costs money.  But at those prices, I think I’ll wait until the technology gets cheaper.  Because it inevitably will.

Top 10 companies winning at remote work culture and their secrets

Remote work is a complex subject.  More and more individuals want to do it, yet very few companies offer it.  Communications, project management, knowledge sharing, remunerations, time tracking, team building – are just some of the issues.

Here’s the list of 10 companies that are very successful with their remote work cultures (read the article for details):

  1. Automattic (aka “the WordPress people”)
  2. Buffer
  3. Zapier
  4. Groove
  5. Basecamp
  6. Baremetrics
  7. Treehouse
  8. InVision
  9. Help Scout
  10. CloudPeeps

 

Jetpack is now available on GitHub

I can’t think of a way to put it better than WordPress Tavern did:

The Jetpack plugin code is now available on github and the team welcomes your pull requests. With the addition of Jetpack, Automattic now has 106 public repositories on github. That’s a lot of shared code!

Read the rest of the article for instructions on how to contribute.

Toni Schneider – Automattic As A Distributed Work Force

Toni Schneider – Automattic As A Distributed Work Force

Lots of Automattic employees within 7-9 months tell Toni that they can’t imagine going back to a regular job.

Automattic has been 100% distributed since day 1.

180 people, 28 countries, 138 cities make up the Automattic workforce.

Interesting point about people working from home. The assumption is that people would goof off. But Toni mentions how they have the opposite problem of people working too much.

This sounds awesome, but, personally, I don’t think I have the discipline to work this way.  I need to be in the office and I need face-to-face time.  I still appreciate the flexibility Automattic offers though.

The RedHat of Drupal

The RedHat of Drupal

Matt Mullenweg shares a piece of hilarious SPAM he received.  This. Is.  CLASSIC!

I apologize for the cold email. I was researching Automattic , Inc. and wanted to ask you if there was any gaps/pains within your CMS and website. I work for the “Redhat of Drupal”, (Acquia) and we have seen an explosion of Drupal use in the Media, News, and Entertainment Industry.

Some companies using Drupal/Acquia include Warner Music, Maxim, NBC Universal, and NPR.
If you are evaluating your current system or are looking into new web projects, I would love to connect and discuss Drupal as an option.

Would it make sense to connect on this? If there is someone better at Automattic , Inc. to speak with, perhaps you could point me in the right direction?

2012 year in blogging

I said it before and I will say it again, Automattic is an amazing company and they do a lot of really cool stuff.  Today I received one more confirmation of that – an email with the link to the report of my blogging through the year.

Blog stats

 

I’ve seen plenty reports, graphs, and analysis.  In fact, I have to go through a few pretty much every week.  But I don’t remember seeing anything that awesome!  First of all, the whole page looks beautiful.  It’s an inspiring design with many elements that work nicely with each other.  Secondly, there are no boring graphs or dry numbers.  A few, carefully selected, metrics create a perspective and make it all sound cool.  I don’t know much about other reports yet, but mine said that this blog “had more visits than a small country in Europe”!

On top of that, the report is a technical masterpiece.  Probably, not many would notice the uniqueness of the fireworks at the top of the page.  But if you just spend a moment, you’ll realize that this fireworks display is unique for every report.  It’s a timeline of blog activity.  That’s why there is a month and day shown for every fireworks shoot out.  (If you are interested in the technical aspects of it, have a look at this GitHub repo).

As I said, the whole thing is pretty awesome, original, and inspirational.  I wish more companies were doing this.  It would make the world so much better…