An Interview with Matt Mullenweg

Matt Mullenweg is the co-founder of the open-source blogging platform, WordPress, the most popular publishing platform on the web, and the founder of Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com and Jetpack.

“The dangerous thing about creating blogging software is that you give your customers megaphones and they use it to complain about you.”

SM: Vision for the company?
MM: Democratize publishing. I want to see most of the internet powered by open source software. On the internet, we trade freedom for convenience. I think it’s important to own your channels (used eg of Twitter handle which belongs to Twitter).

SM: Experimentation and continuous deployment big part of culture, so how do you keep the vision?
MM: Use internal blogs and everything is open by default. Now over 1000 postings a day. We built alerts so that you can know when something is of interest to you. MM notes he hates CCs on email, the blog system works against “push” communications.

SM: Accountability and metrics within WP?
MM: What does it mean to be working? Sounds like a “factory” model (someone doesn’t show up drunk?) there is a lot of creativity outside those norms. It’s about productivity. Sure there are ways to measure but it’s very simplistic. I don’t care what hours you sleep, when you pick up your kids. I care about output.

SM: Why, 5-10 people on teams?
MM: It works, resembles the team we had in the beginning. There is no compensation when you become a lead in our company. A lot of our leads rotate and we try and demonstrate that as a best practice.

SM: No deadlines?
MM: You can iterate and learn on estimations, deadlines are never really real. We treat our employees as adults, we hired them because they’re good.

SM: How do you grow and keep that as part of the focus? Has it changed the way you lead?
MM: I’m still figuring out. I can have trouble articulating so that is something I’m working through. I’m anti-roadmap but a lot of people find that comforting. The biggest part of my job is hiring, nothing has the impact like having the right people. You can’t manage your way out a bad team. You need to create an environment where people want to work. So everyone is hired on a trial ($25/hour flat rate for everyone) and we both need to make the decision together about whether they want to work with us. We have extremely low turn over, Have only had 10 leave the company and 25 we’ve had to let go.

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