Podcast & Highlights from Soapbox w/ Founder of WordPress
Matt Mullenweg, Founder of WordPress
The soapbox with Matt Mullenweg last Friday was off the hook! We had close to 100 guests join us to help celebrate WordPress's 8th birthday and chat with Matt about the ups and downs along the way. As usual you can listen/download/subscribe to the podcast as you read through the highlights. Enjoy!
Matt started off by sharing how they keep everyone working on Wordpress in line with the mission:
What kept us on track is that we had a shared set of philosophies. People use WP not because it's software but because it aligns with something they believe in. That's why it works as an open source project. You don't do it for money, you don't do it for fame, you do it because you love it, and it's exciting, and will hopefully create a little bit of an impact.
What was the most controversial update of WP?
1.2 - WP introduced the plugin system - wasn't controversial
1.5 - WP introduced a theme system - highly controversial! People did not think themes should exists.
2.0 - WP introduced WYSIWYG which was the biggest argument to date that threatened to tear the community apart. The very idea of having a visual editor inside WP vs. having people just write HTML bothered people. Matt mentioned that in the open source community, you can develop elitism: "If you don't know how to write code, you shouldn't be blogging." - this is an actual argument which was being made. They went ahead with it anyway.
2.7 -"We did a novel thing which we never did before" Matt explained "We did some testing. You guys should try this, it really works!" Customization was the big change for this release:
What we learned is that not everyone is going to use the software the same way. We'd already had a lot of customization possibility on the front end by we resisted in on the back end. We were arrogant. We felt that we will be able to create the best possible user experience everyone. We were wrong. People use the WP in so many different ways: blog, commerce - customization lets them do it any way they'd like to.
What is the most important part of creating products?
Trust. You have to be able to let go if you're going to scale. That has been one of the hardest things for me to learn. For a while we would hire people but I would still try to do everything myself. It doesn't work. It's not fun for person being hired. It's not fun for me. Eventually how we got out of it is that we hired people which I knew were so much better then I was at whatever we hired them to do that it was easier for me to let go.
We discussed a lot of things during the talk: motivation, hiring talent, advertising, and oodles of questions which followed from the WordPress fans. Everyone, from 12 years old and up, was excited to meet Matt and some blogged about the event a few hours after. A big thanks to Matt for such an insightful talk.
Matt: People use WordPress, not just because it's software, but because it aligns with something they believe in. Not everyone is going to the software the same way. But it's difficult to create a really unified user experience in a completely modular way. The more invisible we can become, sometimes even literally on the screen, the more we can get out of your way and allow you to create things that are really beautiful.
Moderator: Super excited to introduce Matt Mullenweg of WordPress at ZURBsoapbox. The man has been named in the top 50 web people in the world by PCWorld, 30 under 30 by Inc. Magazine, and, of course, one of the top most influential people on the Internet site, BusinessWeek. With that, let's welcome Matt to ZURBsoapbox.
Matt: Does anyone want to come forward? We've got room here, there. You can take that office chair. Pretty comfortable. We've got pillows. I'm not good at speaking loud. People way in the back. Also it looks cooler. I'll take a picture of you guys. I'm blogging this.
Moderator: As we speak live. Today is actually the 8th birthday of WordPress. It's been 8 years.
Matt: Today, this very day.
Moderator: Pretty exciting day for you, Matt.
Matt: All right. Everybody smile. One, two, three.
Moderator: It's going live on Matt's blog.
Matt: It's actually not a skin. It's a custom iPhone. I called up Steve and I was like, "Hey, could you do one for me?"
Moderator: So Matt, let's kind of go back. It's WordPress's birthday. Let's go back to your vision for WordPress, early on. How did you share this vision with people that you were working with very early on? And then as you added more people — you're at 80 or 85 people or so now — how did you keep sharing this vision? Did you ever see it geared toward the direction where you didn't want it to go, and you had to steer it back to the place where it lines up with your vision for the project?
Matt: Good question. Well for sharing the vision, we found that blogging works really well … Surprisingly. So, we had to make some software to do that. It started where WordPress was based on some existing software in B2. So, I was just a volunteer on the forum. I didn't know a lot, but no matter how little you know, there's always someone who knows less on the Internet. So I was just helping out on the forums and became involved in that community. That development, that volunteering helped me learn about it. And as I learned more, I started to do hacks for b2 and everything like that, which eventually culminated in the fork of WordPress.
Moderator: Okay. Throughout the eight years, did you ever have a time where it kind of geared toward a direction where you kind of had to steer out of at all?
Matt: It's kind of always steering in that direction.
Moderator: And you kind of have to correct it, put it back in place.
Matt: I think open source software is not typically known for its design or its usability or its simplicity. Where open source has flourished the most historically has been on the server side, things that are under the hood that aren't really seen and used by people. It's really in the past six years that we started to see mainstream open source. Sharing programs, a couple open source ones there. Firefox, WordPress, and maybe like a 80 or more [inaudible @03:59] or something like that.
You have open source design for regular, everyday people. It's tough, because most open source development in the old days happened on things like mailing lists. Mailing lists, I think, are almost designed to reward the conversation of the people who have the most time to spend on the mailing list, not necessarily the best ideas.
To go back to your original question, which I kind of didn't answer, but I'm going to do it now. We have a clear set of philosophies all the way back to our original tagline, coded poetry. People use WordPress not just because it's software, but because it aligns with something they believe in. That's why it works as an open source project.
There are 1500 people who have contributed to WordPress in the past year, who have written code that's been accepted into the mainline branch. You don't do it for money. You don't do it for fame. You don't do it for talking at a ZURB Soapbox. You do it because you love it, and it's exciting, and you create something that hopefully has a little bit of impact.
Also, does anyone contribute to open source here? Has anyone ever contributed to open source? No one's contributed to open source? We've got a couple. It is such a rush. I remember in the early days, I had submitted a patch that was accepted to B2, and I just got the total high from the idea that literally dozens of websites around the world are running code I had written. I've been kind of addicted to that ever since.
Moderator: You launch a feature, and it's out there.
Matt: It's really cool.
Moderator: You know 2.7, the redesign, has been one of the biggest redesigns since 1.0. There are a lot of new features in there.
Matt: Though it wasn't the most controversial. Since it's the 8th birthday, we can get nostalgic. The most controversial things in WordPress is history. In 1.2 we introduced a plug-in system. That actually was not controversial. In 1.5 we introduced a theme system. Highly controversial. People did not think themes should exist.
Then probably the biggest argument, it almost tore the community apart, was Wysiwyg, the idea of having a visual editor inside of WordPress, versus just having people write HTML. The code mode was a long and protracted debate.
It's interesting, because in open source communities, you can almost develop like an elitism. Like, if people don't know how to write HTML, they shouldn't be blogging. It was an actual argument that was made. Maybe we should have stuck with that, I don't know.
Also, WYSIWYGs were so bad at the time. I mean, they're still rough. We've all run into something where it formats things incorrectly or eats something. It's getting better. We decided even though it wasn't perfect, we were going to try and do it anyway. I think that was 2.0. We redesigned in 2.5, and then I said we were never going to redesign again. And then within a year, we were redesigning 2.7.
Moderator: You went back to square one, right, in 2.7?
Matt: And 3.2, which comes out shortly actually, has a bit of a design refresh as well.
Moderator: What was the methodology there? What was the thinking? I know you've spoken before, and you said you've added some features into WordPress. It was you that was adding them, and you added them, and you didn't know whether they'd do well or not. Then in 2.7, you kind of went back and re- evaluated some of the features in there. What was the whole process there with 2.7, with the redesign in terms of which features to keep, which figures to improve.
Matt: We didn't really do a ton of feature changes in 2.7. It was largely interface and design. We did a novel thing we had never done before, which was testing.
You guys should try this. It works. We learned a lot of things. We did some eye tracking studies. Those are pretty cool, with the lasers. Actually, now she's a leader in the community and she's an old friend of mine. Her name is Jane Wells, who was at the time at Schematic, a joint thing between Schematic and Ball State University up in New York. So they had all these labs, and they literally had like a month between a Comcast project and a Microsoft project or something.
She was like, "Hey, if you want to use the lab, you can do it really cheap." So we just got in there, got some WordPress users in there, made videos, watched things. The laser tracking is super cool. They actually have a mobile version of it that they can mount and you can walk around, and they can tell whether you prefer men or women by the way you look.
Moderator: How does that work? Your eyes?
Matt: I don't know how to explain.
Moderator: That's cool. Any kind of insights? How did that testing go, and what kind of testing did you do?
Matt:The testing we did, we did sort of usability reviews. We did maps where people put things in the order they think they should be in. I don't know, I think there were Legos. It was an interesting process. I think what we learned the most was that people, not everyone is going to use the software in the same way.
The thing we introduced a lot in 2.7 was customization. We'd always had a lot of customization possibilities on the front end, but we'd resisted it on the back end, because we were arrogant. We felt like we would be able to create the best possibly user experience that would be right for as many people as possible.
In 2.7, we made it so you could change almost anything. A cool feature not many people know about is you can minimize the menus so it's just the icons, and it sort of pops out. That's a lot more apparent in 3.2. We made the dashboard widgets drag and droppable. We changed it so the post page, you can rearrange. You can make it one column, two columns, things like that.
It allowed people . . . I think this is important, because people use WordPress in so many different ways. For some it's a blog. For some it's a real estate site. For some it's a content management system. It's really sort of infinite how people address the software. So there's not a one size fits all interface for all those use cases.
Moderator: I heard that about 50% of sites is actually websites and not blogs.
Matt: It's probably more than that now. It's not too often you see just a pure blog anymore. Even if you're making a blog, you're going to put pages on it and put other things on there to sort of spruce it up.
Moderator: You were talking about features and testing. I remember you talking about instant gratification on posts.
Matt: Instant gratification.
Moderator: Saying that on Twitter, when you put something out, you get a response right back. With blogosphere, you have this RSS feed, and people read through the RSS. They read it, and they comment. You don't get that instant gratification. I remember you mentioning this before. So I was wondering where you were heading with that thought when you were talking about that. The future of WordPress, what do you imagine for that?
Matt: I don't remember when I said that, but it's not that big a deal anymore, because now when you blog, it goes to your Facebook. It goes to your Twitter. We have subscriptions now that are really popular, so it'll go out to everyone who subscribes to your list via email. Like my mom does. So it can go out there wherever people are, so actually I think that time has gotten shorter.
Before, it was like you'd do a blog post, and then you'd have like 5 or 10 minutes. I actually used to publish things. On m.wordpress.com, blog.wordpress.com, it's our main blog for wordpress.com. What I'd do is I'd publish something, and then I'd send it to my colleagues to edit it, fix the typos, everything like that.
I did this until relatively recently, when I was looking at our subscription stats. We have 1.8 million people subscribed to that blog that get an email whenever there's a post. So I started thinking, "Oh no. These people must think I'm illiterate."
I was sending all these emails full of typos and everything. So now, I actually get a little more nervous when I post to there. It's going to so many people.
Moderator: RSS. What are your thoughts on RSS? Is it dead or no?
Matt: It's never dead.
Moderator: There are still a lot of posts out there that we were talking about.
Matt: I think that RSS has actually won, because we don't really think about it anymore. It underpins so many things we deal with everywhere, but you don't notice it. Even browsers are starting to remove the RSS subscription thing, because you don't need to go to this XML feed and copy and paste the URL into Google or something like that to get updates when someone posts something new to their blog. There's better ways to do that. There's more usable ways to do that.
But it is kind of beautiful that every single blog in the world has essentially a programmatic interface to it for input and output. For output, you have RSS feeds, and WordPress supports basically an RSS feed for everything. RSS feed for searches, tag pages, category pages, tag intersections. Pretty much anything you can do in the query string in WordPress you can make a feed out of. And then for input, we have very standard APIs and MetaWeblog API and things like that. So it means that blogs are kind of like the superglue. You can put everything into it and take everything out of it.
Moderator: I use RSS all the time in Google Reader and everything, but getting these emails from folks that are just like... there's Twitter, Facebook. I've got all this other stuff I don't care about it anymore.
Matt: That's good. People should consume content wherever they want to consume content and however they want to consume content. If you make whatever you're writing promiscuous, it should be in as many places as possible and just let people come to you.
The only thing I don't like about that is you get a fragmentation of the conversation. There are some comments on your blog, some comments on Facebook, some comments and replies on Twitter. I don't really see a good solution to that. I've seen it where they try to bring in the Twitter replies, but that's usually junk. It's just 200 retweets clogging up the page, hiding the real comment. I've seen it where you try to bring up Facebook comments.
I wonder if it's actually a bad thing or if the different places where your content is being pushed out to, each deserves its own conversation, because it's contextual. The people who read your blog and respond on Facebook might be different from the ones who read it on Twitter or come to it directly.
Moderator: What are your thoughts on advertising, particularly advertising on blogs. WordPress doesn't make that much money ... on the actually advertising, right? It's mainly enterprise hosting, things like that. But I've heard you speak about it before and the CPM model and the banner model. What are your thoughts about that and the future of blogosphere? Is it going away? How is that going to evolve?
Matt: You have to break it down, because WordPress is open source software that today we are celebrating the 8th birthday of. So it's a nonprofit project. It's completely separate. I have a company called Automattic, which has WordPress.com, so it gets a little confusing, and that makes money. Advertising is actually about a third of the revenue there.
But a third from advertising, a third from upgrades, so people buying domains, VideoPress, things like that, and about a third from the enterprise stuff, which is where we host the big sites. So, advertising has actually been pretty strong for us, and I think the reason is that we have a very, very broad audience across almost an infinite amount of topics.
So WordPress, we reach, I think on WordPress.com it's around 360 million unique visitors per month to the blogs that we host. So that's a lot of people, and it's two- thirds outside the United States. So it's huge amounts of people. And even if you don't make very much, it adds up over time.
But advertising on blogs is pretty mediocre. The best thing out there is still AdSense. If you're fancy and you get a lot of traffic and you do these higher custom deals or go to FM publishing or something like that. But I haven't really seen anything yet.
What's cool about Facebook and Twitter's advertising models, both of which I like in different ways, is that they're endemic to the site. So the ads that work on Twitter are the promoted tweets, the promoted searches and things like that. And it's nice, because they're tweets.
On Facebook, you can pay them lots of money to show your Facebook page that people will hopefully like. So, you're paying them money to send more traffic to other Facebook pages, which I think is genius. And if you're lucky, they leave Facebook someday to come to your site and buy something. I don't know.
But it's nice, because what you're advertising is a Facebook page. Just like a Facebook profile. Just like anything else. So they're endemic to the whole experience.
I haven't seen a model of blog advertising which is endemic to blogging, where the advertisement is a blog post or something you consume a blog with, at least in a scalable way.
Moderator: Right. How do you build culture at WordPress? It's very hard to bring in people that are very like-minded and that are aligned with the vision there that are very passionate about it. How do you do that? How do you bring talent in? How do you make sure that they're aligned, have the same motivations as you, as the rest of the folks there and motivate them day-to-day?
Matt: For WordPress, it's all volunteers. So if you're involved, you probably agree with what we're doing or you wouldn't be involved. Or you're so pissed off you want to change it, which is also a good type of involvement. Both are good. At Automattic, where we hire people, we hire about three or four a month, and we get a ton of applications. Maybe 200 a week. I'm not even sure. I read them all. So, if you email jobs@automattic, I see that.
And what we do, we've tried everything. You've got the interview questions. Why are manhole covers round? How many taxicabs are in New York? How many pianos are in New York City? All the random stuff. I think it's all BS. It doesn't matter. It shows that the person is good at answering funny questions, or they Google all those beforehand. Decoding tests, like Comp Sci type tests. Build a bee tree optimizer. Stuff like that has very little correlation to web skills, being good at that.
So ultimately, what we came down to is that the best way to find if it's good to work with someone is just to work with them. We have the interview process where we talk to people about a few things. I just sort of separate out people who shouldn't be there at all.
But after that, what we do is we do a trial project with every single person we hire, where we aim for a two to four week thing. We hire them as a contractor and pay them part- time and just try something, something we want to do, a feature. They'll work with one of the teams.
We find nothing can recreate the process of just working with someone. We see how they communicate, how they collaborate, how they approach problems. What do they do when they get stuck? All of that is super valuable. And also, Automattic is kind of a weird company in that we're completely distributed. It's 86 people now in 72 cities. So, we've got people all over the world. And that distributed model doesn't work for everyone. You can have really good people who might just work better if you're all in an office together and you have, what's it 16 whiteboards you can go to?
Matt: 19 whiteboards. That's a really good way to work. That's the way people have worked for a long time. That's not the way we work. So if you're not good at a distributed model, the communication that you need to do online, everything else, you probably won't enjoy the job.
Moderator: Philip Rosedale of Second Life actually did a pretty cool distributed approach there in terms of developing a website. He got something like 300 developers to contribute to his Love Machine project.
Matt: I thought that was pretty cool.
Moderator: He crowd sourced the developers, and it worked out really well. He was here last Soapbox. We talked a lot about that.
Matt: I think the flaw in his model is that he sees humans as fungible resources. He approaches it like an economist, which I really love. I love all of the ideas. They're so cool. They did the thing, the company people love, and it aggregates up to be the bonus and stuff like that.
Moderator: Everyone can see each other.
Matt: Everyone can see each other's points. It's kind of like creating game mechanics within a company, which is kind of cool, kind of scary, but I like it.
Moderator: And he did the bonus thing where he gave $1,000 to everybody. You've got to take 50% and give it to somebody else.Matt: Yeah. But with the ultra-distributed model, everything is just a loose collection of contractors, of freelancers, I think that you lose something. The beautiful thing that happens when you work together for a long time is you sort of develop a higher level of communication. You sort of grow as a family together, and trust.
I think trust is probably the most important thing in work, in design, in product creation, in everything, because you have to be able to let go if you're going to scale. That was the hardest thing for me to learn. For a while, we hired people, but I still tried to do everything myself. That doesn't work.
It's no fun for the person you hired. No fun for you. So eventually how we got out of that is we just hired people who I knew were so much better than me at whatever we hired them to do.
Moderator: Right. It was easier to let go then.
Matt: Yeah. The people were too, I just hadn't figured it out yet. But you have to start trusting them and let them go. That's the only way you're ever going to get beyond the personal.
Moderator: Well, I'd love to open it up to folks. I know you guys have some questions for Matt.
Matt: This is a cool group.
Moderator: It's a very cool group.
Matt: Thank you all for coming out, by the way, and celebrating the birthday.
Moderator: So, if you have a question, raise your hand.
Matt: Who's a WordPress user first, out of curiosity? Oh, cool. It's a smart room.
Audience Question: I just want to hear your take on WordPress versus Drupal. I use both a lot, and I'd just love to hear from you what you think the difference is between them and how you see them [inaudible @23:11].
Matt: There are three of us that are kind of open source cousins. Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress. We all have sort of similar genesis stories. We've all been around the same amount of time. We all kind of keep an eye on each other. In fact, I talk to Dries on a semi regular basis. He's a cool guy.
I think that there are some core philosophical differences. While WordPress started as blogging systems, and then we started becoming, as we added pages and plugins and things like that, we sort of tried to keep that base simplicity and elegance of experience while adding on functionality around the site.
I've always seen the beauty of Drupal in that it's 100% modular. The core is ... you can't do anything. But you can collect your modules and create something that's highly bespoke and really powerful. But it's a different approach, because I think at some point, at least where we fall on that, is that not everything should be a plugin.
That's actually an argument that comes up frequently in WordPress. Take out every feature and make it all plugins. It typically happens when we add a feature someone disagrees with. They say, "Just burn them all." But it's difficult to create a really unified user experience in a completely modular way. Even the phone iPhone came with a few apps.
That's, I think, our core philosophical difference. But they're both good. You should check out both. And I strongly believe that anything you can do with Drupal, you can also do with WordPress, and vice versa.
Audience Question: [inaudible @24:53]
Matt: I'm not as familiar with Joomla, so I can't say that. I'm not as familiar with the community or anything.
Moderator: I'll let you pick.
Matt: How about we start left and then go right.
Audience Question: How do you see WordPress being different from some of the newer blogging sites like Tumblr and Foursquare. They try to say, blog you made here. So, is WordPress moving that way? How do you see it?
Matt: I'm not a blogger made harder. The cool thing about the new social blogging systems are they've unified the reading and writing experience. If you basically look at the interesting platforms, I'd like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, over the past five years, you consume content there, and you're usually a click away from producing something or sharing something or communicating with your friends. There's some sort of communication mechanism inherent in the whole thing.
Right now, WordPress is just about writing. So we only have half of that equation. I think that's really something we're going to have to figure out this year. How do we marry the consumption and creation experience, because it's the yin and yang. They're a loop. Right now it's very loose. You have the entire Internet that you consume, and some of that goes to WordPress. I think we can tighten that and make it a little bit faster.
Audience Question: [inaudible @26:16]
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. Throughout its whole history, we don't have very many original ideas. Everything that WordPress has done has been done before. I was having lunch with Ed the other day, and I was showing him how we manage those projects internally. We use this thing called p2, which is a theme for WordPress, which allows you to write all the comments and things on the homepage. It has a postbox right on the homepage.
It looks kind of like, remember FriendFeed? Kind of like a FriendFeed, but built on a WordPress theme. So you still get search and tags, and you can run it yourself inside your Internet or whatever. And the first thing he said was, "Man, this is exactly what Pyra was." 10 years ago. I said he should tell me everything else he did 10 years ago so I can try to catch up with the rest.
Moderator: Let's check in with the online folks. We had a bunch of folks.
Audience Question: First off real quick, five years ago when we were evaluating Joomla and Drupal and WordPress, at that time, we were going back and forth. Finally, we said, "Let's just go to WordPress." We did it, and we haven't looked back. It's really helped us a lot.
Trust, you were talking about trust internally as far as employees, but what about from a consumer standpoint? To me, WordPress and Automattic and the whole open source movement at WordPress has a good trust factor, because you have the portability of the data, and control over it. And I'm wondering, how does that conflict with . . . like Facebook, I don't really trust them with my data. Do you see WordPress potentially, or some of the platform of WordPress, kind of supplanting Facebook? The question is how important is the trust factor from the consumer's perspective?
Matt: I think philosophically at WordPress, one of our first principles is that the easier you make it for people to leave, the more they'll stay. There should be nothing locked up. But it's something that's kind of crucial in open source. Until about two or three years ago, I wouldn't always recommend WordPress. Sometimes I'd recommend other things.
But now I have no hesitation, because even if you start with WordPress.com, you can get 100% of your data out of it and run the exact same software we do on your own host. You can change any live code. You can look at everything. And I think that's pretty powerful. The thing about that is trust takes a very long time to build up, and you can lose it in an instant.
Somewhere where we struggled with trust is on security issues. For example, because WordPress runs so many websites now, it's targeted by hackers or even just scripts that. For example, when they get into a server, they just modify every indexed .php file. Half of those are going to be WordPress, because it's the most popular application on all web hosts.
If your site is hacked or anything like that, it's incredibly disempowering. It's almost like your house being burgled. You feel like someone came into your personal space and messed things up. Two, it's often around the technical ability of most people to remove that in a way that actually removed it, because they'll hide files in different places and things like that.
It took us probably . . . it's not talked about so much anymore, but it's one of the biggest challenges we've faced. We really had to attack in a lot of different ways. One, of course, is on the software, just being a lot more thorough auditing the software and learning more about the techniques and things like that.
Two, working with Google. So Google webmaster tools, for example, will tell you if they notice anything amiss about your site. And three, working with a web host. Because ultimately, even if WordPress was 100% secure, we had a lot of people getting hacked just because something was going on with the web host.
So we sort of insisted that we were able to use our market clout to insist that web host, if they did the one-click install, they also had to do a one-click upgrade essentially. Because we had the situation where so many people would just click the button to get the WordPress, and they could never upgrade it or they were scared to upgrade.
So now, the vast majority of WordPress installs are on an auto-upgrade, which means they're always on the latest, most secure version of the software, and the hosts are way smarter about both separating user accounts better, so if one gets compromised it doesn't affect everyone else on the server, and just dealing with these issues.
So, it's hopefully something that people don't think about as much anymore. We also created a product around it called VaultPress, which is sort of our security and backup service that ties you to the WordPress cloud.
Moderator: You guys had in April, I guess, issues.
Matt: Yeah, that was exciting.
Moderator: Security — it got reported all over the place. I think they [inaudible @31:06]
Matt: Yeah. It was on CNN. I was like, "Can't we get the good news on everything?" If it bleeds, it leads.
Audience Question: I'm not [inaudible @31:18].
Matt: I'm not either.
Audience Question: I'm a [inaudible @31:25].
Matt: Nice plug.Audience Question: [inaudible @31:41] 4 people to 25.
Audience Question: At some point [inaudible @31:46]. Stick with [inaudible @32:04]?
Matt: I think a good way to look at it ... and advantage of using WordPress as your CMS and your platform for building other things is that probably, you have a long, long, long way to go before you get to something that no one's done before, or that you scale to a point that it hasn't scaled to before. Partially it's benefited by the fact that we run WordPress as well to serve billions, tens of billions of pages every month. So it can do that.
What I usually do when people are having this conversation, because you can talk about it all day and it won't be very convincing, but if you notice the first tab in WordPress.org, there's one called the Showcase. It's basically just a directory of cool WordPress sites.
Every month or so, I spend a couple hours there, because it is so much fun. You can get lost in there. There is every type of website you can ever imagine, and there's huge ones. CNN's breaking news is all on WordPress. All the tech blogs, TechCrunch, GigaOM, etc ... etc.
There are really, really creative things. People that do things that don't look like a blog at all. It's just a really beautiful website. And the fact that WordPress happens to be on the backend means that they don't need to train people on a custom CSS when they get new writers. It's easy to find people to work on it, because there's tens of thousands of WordPress developers around the world. You get benefits from the shared open source platform. Does that make sense? You can also say that I told them to.
Audience Question: [inaudible @33:36].
Moderator: Probably another two questions or so. We've got one from online. All right, let's do one more.
Audience Question: You mentioned earlier that up until a couple years ago, there were instances where you would not recommend WordPress and you would recommend something else. We have a question online about, other than WordPress, what are you seeing out there from other content management systems that is [inaudible @34:02] today?
Matt: I keep an eye on everything. I love some of the design aspects of Tumblr, and particularly how they work with photos. I love the idea of Posterous. I love Blogger's redesign actually. We look at every single thing out there to see what works and what doesn't and try to synthesize the best fit into our future development road map. Regardless of all the testing or good ideas we have or anything like that, you're never going to have all of them.
One of the features I'm most excited about in 3.2 is really cool. It's like a Zen mode. So basically, when you're on the right screen, you can press a button to go full screen, and everything just sort of fades out. So you can focus. The tagline at the bottom says "just right." You can focus on just your words, so the core activity of blogging. I thought this was a really cool idea.
When we started it, we found a plugin that did the exact same thing. It was cool. We contacted the guy and said, "Hey, let's work together on this." So, everything out there has been done. I think it's just a fact of listening to your [owners 35:11], and so you get a sense of what's the best direction to go in. If you just copied someone, you'd always be steps behind. So, you have to be inspired by what people do to find what's best for your audience.
Audience Question: One more. Hopefully, it's a good question.
Matt: Better be good.
Audience Question: I think it's appropriate to ask on your 8th birthday with WordPress, what keeps you inspired and motivated to keep moving forward? Do you wake up some days and think you're finished? This tool is so established, and everyone here probably uses it very frequently, and they know it very intimately. How much more innovation can go into WordPress alone, or have you wake up and say, "Oh, there's an end in sight. Maybe we can shift focus to a new project."?
Matt: That's a good question. Well, what's Joel Spolsky say? It takes 10 years to make good software. So in two years it'll be good. So, there are different parts. I do wake up some mornings. I think that's something in entrepreneurship that's not talked about a lot. Sometimes it's very hard.
There are some days where it just everything seems to be going wrong, or you're on the news for the wrong reasons. There's the internal conflict in the community or you can't get your ideas across. There's a million things that are very, very hard, and I think that's one of the things that makes it worth doing, because most people aren't going to stick with it
In terms of where WordPress is going, there's so much I want to do. I think that's one of the things ... so the two things that inspire me are one, how frustrated I am with the software still. I'm glad a good chunk of this room uses, but I'm also sorry.
I apologize personally for every upgrade that didn't work, for every plugin that wasn't compatible, for every time we tried to edit a theme and it didn't make sense. All those. We can make it so much better, and it's really excited to be able to work with people all over the world who are passionate every day about making it better. Everyday we can suck a little bit less than the day before is a good day.
Sometimes when it gets slower, actually what helps a ton is the stories. You told me a story a few minutes ago when you came up about how you set up a blog, you raised money for Japan. There are so many examples of that. I'm continually amazed and delighted by how people use this software. Almost without fail on the day where I just can't look at WordPress anymore, I'll get an email in my inbox, and it's like, "Hey, we did this thing," or "It really helped" or "My grandmother started blogging to share her story, because she got cancer, and she wants her children and the grandchildren she doesn't know yet to be able to read these things."
It's just sort of the human condition boiled down. WordPress is just a tool. It's like a hammer. It's like a shovel, or a canvas and a paintbrush. What people create with it is ultimately the most inspiring thing. Going back to Zen mode, the more invisible we can become, sometimes even literally on the screen, the more we can get out of your way and allow you to create things that are really beautiful.
Moderator: All right. Let's thank Matt.
Matt: Free blogs for everybody. And you have a blog. And you have a blog.