Matt Mullenweg

Founder of WordPress, Automattic, Jetpack, and Audrey Capital

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 22, 2015


Matt Mullenweg@photomatt · CEO, Automattic
Howdy everyone, Matt here. I'm the co-founder of the open-source blogging platform, WordPress, the most popular publishing platform on the web which powers about 24% of websites and the founder & CEO of Automattic, the company behind and Jetpack. I also run Audrey Capital, an investment and research company with about 70 investments so far. Feel free to ask me anything!
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
It seems distributed teams (something Automattic is known for) and remote working is growing in popularity and acceptance. Why is that, Matt? Relevant: @levelsio created a great collection of products for digital nomads and remote workers.
Matt Mullenweg@photomatt · CEO, Automattic
@rrhoover First I think there was a huge gold rush to SF in particular and the Bay Area in general. My rent when I moved to SF was $2700 for a 1100sf two bedroom. (I sound old saying this, I'm only 31.) That has at least doubled. Now multiply that by the number of employees you're trying to put in an office with skyrocketing rent you're going to outgrow in a year... So this causes people to go back to first principles, what actually matters about what we're building, how we're working together, what we're creating. What are the actual advantages of being in the Bay Area, and what is just window dressing. Does the entire team need to be there to get the advantages, or just some people, some of the time? What about the new generation of highly sophisticated investors outside of the Bay that have economic models and timelines better suited to how startups operate today, not in the 90s or 00s? We're going to come out of this cycle with a lot of failed startups and a lot of much-wealthier landlords. Every dollar you're spending toward something that isn't directly benefiting your users or your growth is a distraction, in the early stages for sure, but doubly so once you have lots of dollars.
Hertz Lovers@hertzlovers
Hi Matt! So glad a founder like you is doing this. Thanks a lot. Seriously. I would like to ask about mobile native-like experience when it comes to browsing WP sites in mobile/tablets. What do you think? Is WP getting there? Is something missing? Have you ever consider leaving PHP behind and switching to a "Single Page Application" kind of website? Thanks bro!
Matt Mullenweg@photomatt · CEO, Automattic
@hertzlovers For visitors to blogs / sites I think a server-side rendered approach is going to be the most effective and efficient to get a drive-by visitor the content as quickly as possible, though many themes could do a lot more optimization and this is something we're definitely try to help people with the Jetpack plugin. For the admin side of WordPress, which contains a lot of deep and complex functionality, a "Single Page Application" approach could be really interesting.
Luis Herranz@luisherranz · CTO at @getworona
@photomatt @hertzlovers That's interesing. Maybe with the upcoming WP-API, a Single Page Application could be possible for both the front and the admin side. If so, we could have WP sites without any PHP or even MySQL, only based on the "WP-API language". What do you think? Could WP become only "a language"?
Nikhil V.@nikvimal · CEO, Pedal
Hello Matt, with the upcoming release of the WP REST API in WordPress core, what do you hope to most see built with it’s capabilities?
Matt Mullenweg@photomatt · CEO, Automattic
@techvoltz I'm hugely excited about the REST API! Once the infrastructure is in, I think we'll see really widespread adoption from plugins that right now are creating their endpoints in very ad hoc ways. Once we iterate a bit more on the core content endpoints and authentication I think we'll see a lot more specialized interfaces built on WP as like a content kernel, an engine powering a wide array of applications and interfaces you'd never imagine having WordPress behind them today.
Jack Reichert@jackreichert · Full Stack Philosopher
@photomatt @techvoltz Do you see wp-api evolving to include a Parse like library for mobile development? I'd love to see what plugins could be built off the sort of data that is generated by apps.
Fercho@madebyfercho · eso si
Hi Matt!! Thank you for answering our questions. I'm a WP plugin developer, and I've always wondered how plugins are ordered in the search results from WP's plugin repository. Are there any good practices to follow in order to get my plugins well positioned for specific search terms? Thank you!!
Matt Mullenweg@photomatt · CEO, Automattic
@madebyfercho We're experimenting more here in the coming year. The things we'll emphasize are the things that make your plugin a good citizen in the world: support your users, don't upsell, update frequently, have multiple contributors, translate, test frequently, be responsive to security issues.
Andrei Barbuta@andreibarbuta · Freelance Front-End Developer
@photomatt Hi Matt, I was wondering if you, having accomplished so much, have ever had a burnout and how did you recover? If not, do you do something to avoid having one?
Matt Mullenweg@photomatt · CEO, Automattic
@andreibarbuta Definitely. Everything is connected, so if one of ( health | diet | relationships | family | work | soul | creative outlet ) is running on empty for too long, it will impact the others and you might end up treating the symptom rather than the cause. Recovery always comes from the people around you who give you unconditional love and support, which I've been lucky to have since I was an infant. To avoid it now I try to take small mini-breaks frequently, be that a ten minute meditation every day, jogging a few times a week, or taking a few days to recharge once a month. I find that's better (and less stressful) than trying to do a big blow-out reset or vacation once a year. Conversely, a lot of times when people think I'm on vacation I'm actually working as much or more than when I'm at home, just from a more interesting location (often with fewer distractions). Funnily enough I'm more likely to actually take time off and unplug at home, and more likely to be working when in an exotic location.
Jack Reichert@jackreichert · Full Stack Philosopher
@photomatt @andreibarbuta which remote locations have surprised you the most as best places to get work done?
Andrei Barbuta@andreibarbuta · Freelance Front-End Developer
@photomatt @andreibarbuta Thank you, the mini-breaks are interesting I think especially if you get to change routine and do something different, in my case I think a little get away with my fiancee and no tech gadgets (think I need a detox on that) :) . By the way, I started using Calm couple of days ago (I had it installed for months), so thank you for that also, it's a great app. Have a great day!
Fernando Moreno@fmorenoper · Worona
Hi Matt, thanks for taking the time to do this! Do you think that WordPress responsive themes are enough to offer the user a full experience from mobile? What are your next steps in WordPress regarding mobile traffic? Thanks!!
Pete Indelicato@protopete · Product Lead and Co-founder, GrowthHax
Hi Matt - what kind of policies and practices do you have, if any, that help remote teams work well together within teams and across teams? Or, do you let teams figure that out for themselves and see a bunch of different things work well?
Mario Y. Peshev@no_fear_inc · WordPress Architect, DevriX
@photomatt hey Matt, thanks for the AMA. What would you advice freelancers and businesses around WordPress that have to deal with the constant race to the bottom, lack of quality standards/training courses for newbies and overall perception that "everything in WordPress is free"?
Matt Mullenweg@photomatt · CEO, Automattic
@no_fear_inc The everything-is-free anchoring is tough to deal with, and definitely something we run into at Automattic as well. I don't think of it as a race to the bottom though, in fact it mirrors which happens in the larger business world which is you have to be constantly evolving and upping your game to remain competitive. It has nothing to do with being WordPress-related or not, there's always someone out there looking for a better way to do things. As Jeff Bezos put it, “Your margin is my opportunity.”
You've spent a lot of time, money, and energy on trying to catch up on creating a great mobile experience in WordPress via dedicated apps. As more of the WordPress backend becomes responsive, how will this affect (if any) the priority level of developing the mobile apps versus putting that time and effort into a 100% responsive WordPress backend?
Sandeep Tripathy@kingdomof_s · Creator of Upcoming.Ninja
@photomatt Hi Matt I’ve been a WordPress user/designer since 2009 and seeing it evolve over a period of years, it makes me wonder when will WordPress become a complete web development framework instead of only being a CMS? Components like Buddypress, bbpress etc have already given a lot of extensibility for WordPress though its still is mostly used as a CMS and not as a platform to build new apps(be it web or native-mobile), which I’m sure it can. I also remember something that you said in 2012 that WP will soon be a web operating system which was really exciting news for a many of us. So, does the WordPress Foundation have any plans regarding this?
Tys Bradford@tysbradford · App Developer & Founder of BlueTropical
G’day Matt! Your accomplishments with Wordpress have literally changed the face of the internet and enabled people without programming skills to make beautiful and functional websites. Do you think this could be replicated ever with mobile applications (iOS/Android)? I have seen a few companies try, but none have come close to delivering in the way Wordpress is able to.
Matt Mullenweg@photomatt · CEO, Automattic
@tysbradford Thank you! The ecosystems and app stores for iOS and Android right now are too locked down, and the discoverability and overhead of apps is too distorted, for an approach like WordPress' to work for mobile applications. The environment for the foreseeable future there is going to favor more centralized apps, my only hope is that at least a few get really successful (including ours) that aren't advertising-driven.
Ionut Neagu@hackinglife7 · CEO at
@photomatt Hey Matt, Thanks for doing this! Due to the GPL thing I believe once the market will become even more mature paid themes/plugins will more or less disappear, how do you see themes/plugins future ? ( I am not talking about SaaS kind of things )
Ignaty Nikulin@ignaty · Founder and CTO at Cone-headed Cat
@photomatt when rest api will be merged to Wordpress core? Thank you!
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Matt, Welcome! :D You became a founder at a very young age. If you could go back in time and give advice for your, say, 20 year old self, what would you tell yourself? How about 25? also: latest rap song or artist you've discovered?
Matt Mullenweg@photomatt · CEO, Automattic
@eriktorenberg To my 20-year-old self I would say to be okay with things building up over time. Something I didn't appreciate until recently is that there any many productive decades ahead with which to build the things that I feel need to exist in the world. One of the best things I did then was avoid any press or capitalization on my age (to the extent I could) because youth is an ephemeral asset and just a novelty in business. To my 25-year-old self I would tell him to slow down and think about health more, I burned the candle at both ends that year. I would also say to not get as caught up in mailing list and IRC arguments and discussions, just focus on building. Favorite rap song discovery recently is Everyday by A$AP Rocky, in fact that entire album is fantastic, and Big Sean's Dark Sky Paradise. A rapper I just started to hear and been intrigued by his lyricism is Logic. He's not a rapper but keep an eye out for Arrow Benjamin.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@photomatt @eriktorenberg love this answer. i've appreciated that you've documented many parts of your journey on your blog throughout.
Matthew Kay@matthewgkay
Some would say that you use a Dvorak keyboard and can type over 120 words per minute. Would you by any chance be using a Dvorak keyboard and typing at around 120 words per minute as you reply to questions on this thread? Would you say that the Dvorak keyboard enables you to be a more efficient typist? Why is this and why aren't more people using Dvorak?
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful
Hi Matt, Thanks for doing this AMA! In the early days of WordPress, what was the 20% that got you the 80% of the results? Thanks, Sydney
Matt Mullenweg@photomatt · CEO, Automattic
@sydney_liu_sl There's no simple answer there, if I had to pick one thing it would be "luck."
Chris Koerner@ckoerner
@photomatt What advice do you have for someone looking to join Automattic. What stands out in a strong candidate to you?
Matt Mullenweg@photomatt · CEO, Automattic
@ckoerner There are two sides. First, do interesting things and learn a lot. It doesn't matter where you went to school (or didn't), or if you've been in the same job for a decade, but what have you done above and beyond that? Personal projects, open source, community service, volunteer, education, things that demonstrate your passion, creativity, attention to detail, and work ethic. Second, does your application tell that story? Think about how it stands out, how you can demonstrate the above not just in what you've done but how you apply to the job. Lots of our hiring process is geared toward determining if skills are at a level to contribute to Automattic, and they work great, so what I primarily look for is the four qualities you can’t teach: work ethic, taste, integrity, and curiosity.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What is your best, natural skill? How and when did you discover you had this skill (or personality trait, or combination of skillsets?)
Matt Mullenweg@photomatt · CEO, Automattic
@eriktorenberg I'm not scared of getting up in front of a group, or taking the initive to make something happen rather than waiting for someone else to. I realized this partly through Boy Scouts, and later through starting/leading a computer club in HS and the Houston Palm(pilot) Users Group. The related and more-important thing is hiring.
Mike Sukmanowsky@msukmanowsky · Product Lead,
@photomatt a few questions about distributed product management: 1) what was the hardest part about Automattic moving to distributed and autonomous product teams? 2) How do internal WordPress teams manage their roadmaps? 3) Any tips in general for scaling distributed product/engineering organizations?