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In today’s episode, Joe talks to Matt Mullenweg, one of the founding developers of WordPress and the Founder and CEO of Automattic – a distribution company committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion with the goal to democratize publishing and commerce.

Matt talks about the systematic approach of Automattic, WordPress, and the rest of the Automattic web brands, as well as scaling and hiring skilled engineers, and the upside and downside of content distribution on different social platforms. 

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 02:51 Welcome to the pod, Matt!
  • 03:09 How does Automattic work?  
  • 04:08 Get to know QuickForget – a tool designed to assist in sending sensitive information through email
  • 07:17 WordPress VIP on upscaling and continuous business growth
  • 09:32 Is there a cross collaboration between WordPress and Automattic?
  • 11:48 Finding good engineers is still challenging
  • 15:14 Four immutable aspects we can look for in new hires
  • 17:30 What separates Automattic from WordPress
  • 18:47 WordPress and Automattic remain a platform that enables
  • 20:55 Should platforms take responsibility for all content published on their site?
  • 26:04 Preventing negativity and the spread of misinformation and fake news
  • 33:13 Trustworthy and reliable institutions are necessary in our society
  • 34:50 The conflict between Wix and WordPress

Episode Resources:

Podcast Transcript:

Joe Howard: [00:00:00] Howdy folks, Joe Howard here this week, I got to sit down and chat with Matt Mullenweg. Now, if you don’t know who Matt is just listened to the first few minutes of today’s episode, you’ll get to know pretty quickly, but we got to have a really cool conversation. I. Prepped a lot for this episode, not a lot, but you know, five, six hours.

I was listening to other podcast episodes he’s been on. If you want hear more about him on other podcasts. And Matt report has a great episode that went out a couple months ago and Michelle did a great episode on WP coffee talk, both of which I listened to and really enjoyed. I thought maybe I wasn’t going to get a ton of time to ask him everything I wanted to, you know, I didn’t get to ask him everything or talk with every about every single topic I wanted to, but I got most of what I wanted to really talk about at the core.

We talked about automatic scaling that company, how they do hiring and recruiting there for engineers and for other positions, how they made it from 200 employees to 1400 really interesting stuff, especially from my perspective as a business owner. We talked about democratizing publishing and the era of fake news.

Matt has a really nuanced perspective on fighting fake news, the role of moderators, the role of companies, and section two 30, really some cool stuff there. And so, yeah. And the final thing we kind of talked about at the end, not kind of the final thing we chatted about was the Wix versus WordPress saga that is happening right now.

So if you’re. A core member of the community, you know, about all that stuff that’s happening. And you’ll get to hear mats opinion about that, my everything going on there and very eye-opening to hear some of the reasons why he wrote his letter on his blog or his blog posts there to clarify a few things, but also for some personal reasons as well.

So I’ll let him tell it because I can’t do it better than him. All right. Without further ado, please. Welcome. The one and only Matt Mullenweg enjoy today’s episode.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:02:03] the WP MRR WordPress podcast is brought to you by WP buffs. WP buffs manages WordPress websites, 24 seven. And powers digital growth for agencies, freelancers and WordPress professionals. Join our white label program Graham. And by next week you could be offering a 24 seven white label website support to your clients and passively growing your monthly recurring revenue or become a WP buffs affiliate to earn 10% monthly payouts every month for the lifetime of every client.

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Joe Howard: [00:02:46] We are live on the pod this week, uh, with the one and only Matt Mullenweg. Matt, I’m gonna do like a quick intro for you because most people listening probably know who you are at this point.

You are the co-founder of WordPress and CEO of automatic, but I kind of wanted to start around automatic because I think most people think about automatic and. They really focus on the WordPress side of things. I’d love for you to just kind of like break down the different pieces of automatic 1400 employees, automatic, you know, I don’t think they all work on WordPress core.

So I’d love you to do like a quick breakdown, like of all the like kind of sub companies or sub areas within automatic. That’d be cool.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:03:25] Sure. So off the top, we try to follow a five for the teacher. So that means about 5% of those 1400 people just work on WordPress core. Cause that’s about 70, a lot of that’s on Gutenberg.

Some of it’s on community organizing Josepha leads that for us and is obviously a prominent figure in the wordpress.org community. We also try to take 5% of the company. To work on what we call other bets, which we kind of shamelessly stole from Google products, going from zero to one new things or things that might be a little more nascent sensei could be a good example of that.

It’s a LMS plugin for WordPress that, that we work on the rest of the business is largely divided in kind of consumer. Where there’s like either like, do it yourselfers or developers or agencies who buy something with a credit card, like Jetpack or wordpress.com business plan or something like that. The anti-spam backup there’s enterprise, which we call VIP.

So that’s people spending usually North of 50 or a hundred grand a year for like a really, really elite proof WordPress that will like never have a problem. It’s like e-commerce through WooCommerce. And, um, we do some advertising as well. Most of that goes through our tumbler business, which is, was a competitive blogging platform.

Probably one of WordPress’s best ever competitors that we were able to buy in 2019. And we’re actually in the process of switching it over to be powered by word best. So yeah, we really want everything in the world will be powered by WordPress, wherever it

Joe Howard: [00:04:55] makes sense. Yeah. Cool. I heard a little bit about you talking about that kind of integration and transition into Tumblr on Matt, other math podcast, Matt Madeiros his podcast.

Um, and that was definitely an interesting part of that conversation. How about quick forget? I don’t know if that’s something that’s like still in your brain. Is that something that people say work on it automatic or is it kind of just its own thing that lives? Yeah, it’s

Matt Mullenweg: [00:05:17] cool that, you know, that one, that’s still one for like sharing a secret one time, right?

Yeah, exactly. That is just kind of a side project that we do. We give our engineers and we basically can create anything under our umbrella. And, um, sometimes there’s something that needs to exist in the world. Like an open source, trustworthy way to share a one-time secret that we’re pretty sure it gets deleted afterwards.

And that’s what grit for it is that, that, wow, that’s a deep cut. I actually. A while and kind of forgot that that was from

Joe Howard: [00:05:45] us. It’s fun to bring up those things from the past, we use it pretty frequently actually for folks passing things like login credentials to us safely, you know, people don’t want to do the, just the text format and an email link.

Well then Google probably has your email. So you want to keep it safe and secure. So that’s one method we actually use pretty frequent. I think someone on our team found it one day and was like, Oh, this is cool too. And then in the subheader, it’s like automatic. Family product or something like, Oh, cool.

Didn’t even know this existed, but I guess we do now

Matt Mullenweg: [00:06:11] across all of it. The number one thing that we try to do is just build trust and, you know, automatics about 15 years old now. And we just try to put more and more on the trust bank, whether that’s user that sees Automatic’s name on something, they know that it’s going to be.

You know, user centric, privacy centric, easy to get a refund. It’ll work well, it’ll be fast, it’ll be secure. And then as you know, other entrepreneurs also think maybe of selling their businesses or joining something larger, we can say, Hey, this is a place where, you know, it’s a, it’s a good place to work.

You have great colleagues really, and we’ll be able to accelerate and be a good home for the thing you built for a long period of time.

Joe Howard: [00:06:49] Yeah, very cool. You mentioned building that trust and that’s actually something I do want to dive into a little bit later in this episode there. So that’s a good little segue for something I like to talk about in a little bit, but the first thing I actually want to do was kind of talk more about.

Automatic the size of the company, how you’ve gotten to this point in 1400 employees is a lot, it’s a few more than we have, but WP buffs, you know, so man, that’s really thinking into the potential future for me, but I kind of wanted to know, because I listened to Matt. Madeiros his podcast with your new mentioned, you know, it actually may have been your podcast episode with Jack Dorsey.

On distributed podcast. I can’t remember. I listened to both because I was trying to do some prep for this podcast, but in one of them, you did talk about how WordPress VIP is about 200 people now. And one thing that you said that kind of stuck with me was you said, you know, if I’m misquoting a little bit, I’m just kind of reviewing about what you said, which was that the form of the scaling was very effective in terms of how.

It was a similar structure when automatic was at that point as when, at what VIP is right now. And I kind of actually wanted to dive a little bit more into that as a business owner, myself, as someone who’s, who wants to know kind of about scaling. Who’s had some scaling challenges in the past year, myself, you know, we’ve definitely been working on some things I’d love to know from you and dig a little bit more into that.

Like the similarities between where VIP is right now at about 200 people. And when automatic was 200 people and like, how did that 200. Turn into, you know, about seven times that many people, that’s an interesting direction I’d like to talk about.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:08:24] Yeah. So our VIP business has a CEO, Nick earner. I’m not the CEO of that.

Uh, it has an executive team, you know, I had chief revenue officer, chief marketing officer, you know, just kind of its own suite of executives. Has an informal board, which right now is opposed of, you know, me and automatic CFO and things like that. But over time, we’ll start to get more outside directors in there as well.

And they really, they own their roadmap and everything they do. So it’s, it’s, you know, I’ll review things with Nick, but by and large, 99% actually, VIP, especially, it’s not like I’m even asking them to build anything. Like I might ask like Jetpack or wordpress.com too. They’re really owning their own roadmap, their own go to market their own sales, their own acquisition.

Like we just acquired parsley and integrated that team. So that’s, that’s kind of the idea that it’s like its own company in a lot of ways.

Joe Howard: [00:09:16] So it sounds like it really fully has its own structure kind of under the automatic umbrella, but executive team, obviously its own CEO. It has, uh, a board which you’re on that kind of goes across, you know, that you’re maybe working on it with a few of the different.

Teams under automatic actually kind of leads to my next question, which was like how much cross collaboration are there between those teams within automatic? Like is the CEO of VIP, like, are all the CEO is getting together in a yearly meeting themselves. Talk about what they’re doing, what they’re seeing successful or do you kind of try to keep them independent?

I’m sure there are pros and cons to both, but I’d love to know how you kind of handle the. Multiple kind of business units within one business unit is WT buses started to get into this acquisition area and we did one earlier this year. And again, I want to know, cause I’m like, wow, I really do have to, you know, plan for the future if we want to keep doing this.

So how does that work at automatic? Yeah.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:10:07] Yeah. So we have some shared services that we think of like a service organization. We actually call it bridge because it bridges all the teams and, uh, that thinking about like legal HR. Finance, obviously, fundraising is something we run centrally. So infrastructure, you know, all the data centers, all the technical scaling, some security work, you know, so there are some things that are central services that just like, it wouldn’t make sense for VIP to have its own data centers and wordpress.com to have its own data’s.

Cause like we can, we can share some things there. And we do have a common platform which has WordPress. And so everything that we build forward, press like VIP started to do a lot more WooCommerce. A lot more WooCommerce actually. So they’re working with the WooCommerce team a lot. And like, as a, if they find a scaling bottleneck, they can work with the WooCommerce core developers to get that fixed up.

Jet pack is really central to really everything we do. And that platform that provides like real-time backup elastic, search security scan, like that is key for really everything Jetpack and WordPress are kind of our common base layer. So yeah, lots of collaboration that goes across them. We try to make that collaboration because it makes sense.

Not because you’re forced to do it so we can make those internal services really, really, really good people want to use them. And then also occasionally we’ll, we’ll say, Hey, this internal service is not living up to what you need. So let’s try and experiment where we do something else. Maybe that’s the biggest bottleneck in our company right now is, uh, hiring engineers.

So in 2021, I need to hire more than 200 engineers. I’d love as many as 300. So that’s just a lot of people.

Joe Howard: [00:11:48] Is that something you feel like has been a challenge during COVID specifically when like everyone’s going remote so everybody can hire, so it makes it more competitive for you or is it just like a general challenge?

Like finding good engineers is difficult. Is some

Matt Mullenweg: [00:12:00] of that finding good engineers is difficult? Oh, well I think it’s that a lot of good engineers don’t know about automatic. So we need to like, you know, get our story out there a bit more. And it was just has a biggest celebration of our business and particularly on the e-commerce side in the COVID post COVID world.

So. But there’s just a lot more needs, a lot more opportunity. Yeah.

Joe Howard: [00:12:20] Continue to lead into my next question. Very well. So keep it going. I kind of wanted to talk about, because I’ve heard you say that you do want to make some big hires this year. Are those hires that you’re an automatic is planning to make via.

Direct hiring, you know, do you have recruiters that are helping you to get, you know, find and recruit new engineers and you plan to do more direct hiring? Or is this more hiring through acquisitions, through echo hires or just. Potentially making a purchase that would bring a team of solid engineers, maybe not one at a time, but like 40 or 50 or a hundred at a time.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:12:55] Amber is for hiring that’s our hiring goal. So if anything comes in via acquisitions is a bonus to that. And it wouldn’t lower that hiring goal because that’s just what we need for like our existing stuff. I would say a mistake that we made was not building internal recruiting earlier. So we are just now starting to have internal sourcers recruiters and be a little more systematic in our approach there, you know, I see other companies where that’s one of the first 10 or 20 hires.

And particularly if you need to scale quickly, I think that could be a, a good investment or finding a great firm to work with. And so, and the. And that kind of experimental we’re, we’re a very experimental company. We’re also working with several externs or recruiters that are going to try to help us meet these goals, which has some bonuses and challenges.

Like they often come with their own networks when it doesn’t go well, sometimes they might send a, you know, uh, not well targeted email or we’ve had it before where we say like, Hey, please, don’t send emails to our partners. We, we don’t try to fish in the same pod. Was that the workman’s comp. You know, there’s plenty of room for us all to grow.

So that sort of thing, sometimes there’s mistakes that happen, which actually goes back to the earlier trust. Like we build trust for a long time. I a hundred percent there and guarantee that we’re going to mess things up sometimes too. And that’s just human inevitability. And what we try to do is.

Correct. Those mistakes quickly acknowledged them and hopefully have built enough trust in the past that it really is seen as a mistake and not like, ah, this company’s evil or did this on purpose.

Joe Howard: [00:14:25] Yeah. It’s somehow kind of nice for me as a smaller business owner to hear bigger businesses have challenges with hiring and recruiting as well, because almost every.

WordPress professional. I talk to every other business owners, plugin companies, theme companies, or WordPress web website management companies, hosting companies. Every time we have a conversation around the challenges we’re having, most of the time, it comes back to like hiring and finding good people and finding people who are great fits for these positions, you know, getting the right people on the bus and then getting those people in the right seats of the bus really complex.

And it’s almost like because I have background in more marketing stuff and it’s like optimizing a sales funnel or a marketing funnel. That I can do. Yes. It may take some time and some ingenuity, but I could do that. But optimizing like for people, Whoa, that’s like a way more complex problem. Um, so I would like to know a little bit more about, it sounds like you.

Are doing a lot of experimenting to find the best and most effective way to grow the team effectively. Whether you go in the direction more of, you know, using more outside recruiters or whether you pull that more internally, it sounds like testing is a big way that you’re going to test and then see the results of those different areas.

And then try and push forward on that hiring. Does that in general kind of the direction you’re going in?

Matt Mullenweg: [00:15:40] Yeah, I mean, I think part of that is hiring people who are open to doing experiments. Yeah, because change is scary. Yeah. I do like to think of kind of the four immutable aspects that we can look for for new hires, which are things that are difficult to learn or teach.

And the first is just work ethic. I think some people just enjoy working more than others. So we want more of that integrity is of course, like a baseline. It just, everyone needs to be able to trust each other curiosity or desire to learn. Learning by the way sucks. Sometimes it’s like, it’s really tough.

And like, you’re like, I know this thing. Why do I have to learn this new thing? Or you have to go through that, like Deb, where you’re like, terrible, like maybe the first day that you’re learning a new sport or to ski or to surf or something, the beginning can be like really challenging. And you’re just like falling and hurting yourself.

There’s the intellectual equivalency sounds like

Joe Howard: [00:16:29] entrepreneurship too.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:16:30] Yeah. I don’t think I look for it’s just taste and taste is, um, I think can be expressed. Yeah. It’s not being like a good designer or dressing cool or anything like that. It’s really like, you know, whatever you’re into. Do you have something you’re really into.

And like, try to hone that. And maybe that’s quilting, maybe that’s, you know, I don’t need like a really fancy resume. Maybe you created like a beautiful ASCII one, you know, just with texts, plain text, you know, do all the links on your site where there’s some basic things, you know, but to me it kind of shows that conscientiousness, that you’re thinking about the experience of whoever’s interacting with this thing that you created.

Yeah,

Joe Howard: [00:17:10] we put an operations professional position up that we were hiring for. We got like 2000 applications and the ones that stood out were really the ones that we ended up moving forward with people who like shot a loom video or people who like created a page on their website to talk about the WordPress knowledge.

Like the unique pieces were important. They’re so cool. I want to switch gears a little bit into the mission of automatic, which of course is to democratize publishing.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:17:36] We differ from WordPress as mentioned by two words. So WordPress is to democratize publishing and automatics to democratize publishing and commerce.

And

Joe Howard: [00:17:45] commerce. I see, uh, postal commerce, uh, slight adjustments, but I’m sure you have. Yeah, exactly. Hey, you’re testing. You have to be flexible around the things you’re doing. So I get it. Okay. I actually didn’t know that. So thanks for teaching me something on the pod. It’s this interesting time. I feel like I’m talking to you, Matt, because I just finished the, um, uh, queue into the storm, which is a Q and a documentary on HBO.

I don’t know if you’ve seen it or checked it out. No. I, you know, obviously there’s a lot in there and I do not want to talk about you and John on this podcast. But what I do want to talk about a little bit is eight Chan, which is the platform on which a lot of, uh, very pro free speech to the point of really letting anything be said on that platform, which led to some pretty bad stuff happening.

So I guess my general question. For you is really in this ecosystem that we’re like currently in 2021, you know, the challenges we’re having with fake news and the challenges we’re having around just verifying what is a fact versus what is not a fact? Are you still as bullish on those missions at WordPress and automatic as you always have been?

Yeah,

Matt Mullenweg: [00:18:54] I am. You know, freedom isn’t free. Democracy is messy. There is. Downsides to these things as well. But I think overall, we want to live in a society that follows these things. You know, we want to work at companies that believe in these principles, you know, moderation is tough and I believe again, not to dive into it, but like my understanding was the person pretending to be cute.

Might’ve been or taken over by the person who who’s running HR. So I don’t know if that’s a great example of like a free speech platform or if it was really just like. Someone tried to use a fig leaf of free speech and then actually promoting their own sort of, you know, need for influence or powers something.

If you actually look at the platform platforms, they don’t want to have that sort of stuff, you know, like they don’t want hate, they don’t want calls to violence that like, this is pretty clear. We’ve had a good track record, you know, for sure things that we run and host keeping a healthy environment. Um, I definitely gained a lot of empathy for larger social networks when we bought tumbler, because it was both a lot harder and a lot messier.

So I think the larger that you are, and then the more people are doing more social media stuff, the harder it can be. So I actually don’t like dunking on Twitter or Facebook because I think that what they’re doing is really, really, really hard. I think they can and should do better, but yeah. It’s unimaginably hard to moderate across that amount of things.

But for us, what we’re doing is creating the platform that enables, and I think that the software needs to exist in the world. The responsibility, I think, falls a bit to the folks hosting or distributing that software to follow the laws and principles of the place where they choose to do business and try to make the world a better place.

A lot of things in that answer, but it’s a tricky topic.

Joe Howard: [00:20:44] I agree very much that it’s a tricky topic, as much as I feel like sometimes I want to dunk on Facebook and Twitter. I totally agree with you that it is just, how do you moderate at scale? How do you do that without using algorithms and bots to hire literally a million people to moderate?

Like, I don’t think that’s a very scalable solution, you know, so I understand the infrastructure issues.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:21:04] They have literally millions of people moderating Facebook. So they hired 10,000. Maybe that’s not enough, you know? And then. That creates other issues. Like, you know, what is the experience of the people doing the moderation I think is

Joe Howard: [00:21:17] right.

I do agree. One thing I did want to key in on what you mentioned was you feel like the platforms do have some responsibility for the kind of content that does appear on their platforms. Um, which kind of like goes into this whole article. Two 30, which is, you know, a law that I actually have it written down here.

So I can say it for people who may not know what it is. Section two 30 C one provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an interactive computer service. That’s in quotes, interactive computer service, who publish information provided by. Third party users. So what do you think about two 30?

I mean, I guess the real question is, do you feel like Plath should be responsible for the kind of content that is published on their platforms, even though they just are the platforms or do you think they should be immune from that responsibility?

Matt Mullenweg: [00:22:04] Well, I think the conversation centers largely around like Facebook and things like that, but everyone listening to this two 30 is really important.

So if you have comments on your blog, Two 30 is what keeps you from going to jail. If someone posts a bad comment and it publishes to give you another example where two 30, if it work on the wordpress.org forums or plugin reviews, or, you know, our Wiki pages that anyone can edit, like all of those within become things that wordpress.org could have real liability for if something were published.

So you have to move to essentially where everything is pre moderated, probably with humans. And I mean, that gets tricky. We have thousands of posts a day on the wordpress.org support forums. I guess we would then try to get volunteers to people like it. It just gets to be a really kind of mild situation.

Now there are other laws that essentially do you post moderation. So after something is published, if it’s reported as being bad, you have like a, a window to, uh, to fix it. Um, most famous as it is being the DMTA. So let’s say that. I don’t know. I’d say I post a comment on your website and I include the copy-written lyrics to a Taylor Swift song.

And now I saw

Joe Howard: [00:23:21] your post that you just posted that before we came on this podcast.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:23:24] Now they’re coming after you and saying, Hey, Joey, you violated our copyright. You’re republishing. This thing. The fines could be a hundred thousand dollars. I mean, they could take you to court. They could, there could be all these sorts of things that happen right now with the DMC.

You have kind of a protection where they notify you. You can say, Hey, you have like, uh, an undefined amount of time, but let’s call it like a week or two to either say, actually that’s fair use or it’s fine. Or take it down. That’s a huge protection for you as a website operator. So I worry is that sometimes these battles of the giants like Google and Facebook and Microsoft are fighting each other, the collateral damage is all of us in the independent web.

So like some of these privacy things that were, I think, targeted at like Google and Facebook essentially now mean that every other website in the world has to have one of these terrible cookie banners. And third party advertising networks have been decimated and it actually sent into centralizing power with Google and Facebook.

They now have more of the ad market than they did before some of these regulations happen. So there can be unintended side effects of, I think even well-meaning regulation. I think what everyone agrees with is a lot of these laws were written in like the nineties, the eighties, the seventies, and they don’t.

You know, sometimes they still kind of work, but it’s not perfect. And something more modern, I think could be really nice. Yeah. You know, especially if it was hashed out, you know, through, in America, through our legal system, you know, we have this, how a bill becomes a law. She ever see that, uh, that cartoon is that called.

That’s right. Yeah. Like that is by definition, it’s on purpose to be an adversarial process and, you know, people will, should fight and then they kind of work out a compromise and hopefully that’s what’s best. That is something that I, um, I hope we can have some more of in the future, but just a broad scale, like repealing section two 30 would be disastrous for independent website publishers and lots of like volunteer open source projects.

The big companies could afford to hire another 10,000 moderators. I don’t know what we do for something like a wordpress.org or GitHub what’s like code. Like if someone posts like it have is protected by this too, someone posts something that violates it. GitHub is not liable. For the code that someone puts in their own repository.

So

Joe Howard: [00:25:49] yeah, I appreciate that nuanced answer. Honestly. One of the reasons I was excited to talk to you is because I’ve listened to you on podcasts and all sorts of stuff before, and you are very nuanced in your answers. And I knew I was going to learn a lot this podcast. So I think there’s, there’s a lot there.

I would like to like the challenge around. Fake news is a very difficult one. And it’s maybe there’s a Venn diagram where it’s kind of part of the intersection of two 30 and the other things we talked about, but one of the things I’m going to quote you here. Uh, one of the things I have heard you say before is disinformation can make its way around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on.

Or get ready. I’ve never heard that quote exactly like that before, but I think what you were really talking the study, you know, there’ve been multiple studies around how, you know, fake news travels and gets shared at a rate that is what six, seven, eight times, whatever. I don’t want to put an exact number out there, but it’s multiple times.

Faster and more shared than factual stories. And as someone in your position who runs automatic, a lot of the content on the web, I’d love to know your thoughts on how like in 50 years, or maybe let’s say 10 years in 10 years, let’s say we’d like figured out how to, I don’t know, not have fake news, be such a driver of bad things happening in the real world.

What’s that? Solution or maybe like the beginning. So that solution,

Matt Mullenweg: [00:27:14] is this a tricky one and to full credit for that quote? I think it’s like a Winston Churchill quote. I mean,

Joe Howard: [00:27:21] to quote someone else. Yes.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:27:23] It’s good to think of a spectrum. And I believe this concept comes from Ben Thompson, that the closer you are to the wire, like network provider, the more that you should try to not be too much and like deciding what is right or wrong and more just following the laws of the lands.

Uh, which do tend themselves towards being a bit more open with rules, for calls to violence and other things like you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater. That’s not free speech, but you know, saying something that just straight up wrong is okay right now, as you get more on the spectrum where you’re actually distributing things.

So it’s not, does it, is it allowed to exist, but more like, is it getting put in everyone’s news feed and in front of everyone? I think as you move along that spectrum, you get a lot more into the responsibility for the type of content that you’re distributing and how to maybe have high. There are lower trust given to certain sources, or I think there’s been a lot of us around COVID information.

You know, a lot of COVID misinformation out there and a lot of the networks have put like labels on things are, might even prevent certain things being shared. I mean, I don’t love that

Joe Howard: [00:28:37] you don’t love the part of it that’s stopping the information or you don’t like the information. I

Matt Mullenweg: [00:28:43] don’t love the part that stopping the information, but I think what they’re trying to protect against which by the way has happened a lot in the past year is some false information goes out.

Especially if it’s localized, a mob can literally form and people can die, you know, before it’s corrected. Yeah. There’s example and examples in BMR there’s examples in India, where there were allegations that, you know, someone was assaulted, people of a different group got really angry about this. They started attacking, I remember it was Hindus Muslims.

There was there’s some version of this story and, you know, I think that the networks are not responsible, they didn’t create the fakeness, but they, I think they do have a responsibility to try to insert something in there that increases the friction a bit, or sort of catches things. Yeah. If they’re, they’re escalating out of control.

Let me give you an example, which is not that controversial, which most networks have social networks, for example, on tumbler. If you start to post things that make it look like you’re going to harm yourself. There’s certain things that people search for or my post, or do there’s a bot actually that just kind of algorithm detects that says, Hey, here’s a number you can call if you’re feeling terrible.

And it’s essentially like a suicide prevention, it’s actually some of the first code I worked on my first job. When I moved to San Francisco, it was actually a question, a Q and a sites, uh, run by CNET called help.com. And it was a Q and a set kinda like Yahoo answers or core or something like that. I poured it into WordPress who answers, but it turned out that a number of people with type health.com when they were going through a challenging, personal situation or mental health issue or something like that.

And so part of what. We did was create something that could sort of point them to resources that said, Hey, you know, in this moment, here’s another thing to do. If you look at it, that’s kind of what people are trying to do when they say like, if you’re posting LinkedIn, something here is the official COVID information or here’s what the science says.

Or the doctors are saying about vaccines where I don’t love it as also, you know, sometimes the authorities or they’re wrong, you know, or, or they learn things over time. I think though that we conflate the fact that everyone is wrong sometimes with the idea that everything is probably wrong all the time.

And you must like find your own sources. So like, yes, the CDC has made mistakes in early part of COVID, but are those mistakes still there a year later? No they’ve corrected them. And so I think you do kind of want to look at the, not just does a source make a mistake or not, but how do they correct it over time?

And that being a proxy for trustworthiness over time and all the examples of this, like thinking there were weapons of mass destruction and Iraq, and the attire was the New York times was saying that CDC who like. Every single authority will make mistakes. It’s kind of similar to the trust I talked about earlier, where I said is going to mess things up at some point, maybe that’s like accidentally putting it at a bad ad for jet pack or something like that.

But how do we correct it? And that behavior over time is where trust comes from. Not imagining that anyone’s perfect. Cause no one is. Yeah. Thinking there because I saw you make so many faces while we were talking about that, man.

Joe Howard: [00:32:00] I was just thinking that what you said about just the fact that people make, make mistakes doesn’t mean they make mistakes all the time, or you said something like that.

And I think about that with like the news all the time, and people make mistakes, like using that as an example, like just because the CDC. A very trustworthy organization over time that has built up trust over time has made some missteps and COVID, and the issue around that is although most people or a significant amount of people would say, yeah, they made some mistakes.

You know, people will make mistakes, big organizations make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. Some people will take those mistakes and use it to political advantage in my opinion, and will use a certain thing. Someone said to spread it out and then it spread seven times as fast as the truth does. And that I think is still a big challenge.

So yeah, I think around that moderation is we, it needs. To take steps forward, but how it does take steps forward is a challenge because the people moderating also have a political leaning. So, and it felt like you were kind of in the middle of that a little bit, like you don’t like what could potentially be censorship, but you also do think that moderation is necessary at a point.

And it’s like, where’s. The middle of there. I don’t know.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:33:13] It’s also really important to have institutions that we can trust and rely on, like it’s necessary for a functioning society and particularly a democratic society. If you look at regimes or leaders that try to say question everything, they’re usually saying question everything.

It’s set me. And this sort of idea, which meant that I couldn’t in Russia voluntarily and was like, these types of leaders are part of their playbook is to say, don’t trust the media. Don’t trust doctors. Don’t trust, like, you know, these more democratic institutions, because they’re either trying to just create a general fear, which then they can capitalize on.

Or they’re essentially trying to create this like strong man populism. Yeah, it is one of the dangerous forces in society today. If you look around the world or where that is happening, um, those are societies, which over time you and I probably don’t want to live in. Now.

Joe Howard: [00:34:12] Yeah, I think I would agree. It, it, it felt from my point of view, like I was living in there from 2016 until 2020, but that’s a whole nother conversation.

The one thing I did want to dig into a little bit, again, I’m going to switch gears a little bit, cause we don’t have unlimited time here on the pod, but I wanted to talk a little bit about. The Wix versus WordPress. I don’t know if I’ll say versus here, but the Wix slash WordPress may have put WordPress first WordPress slash Wix saga.

Yeah. That seems to be kind of unfolding over the last 10 days or two weeks or so. I’m just going to kind of review things solely and Matt, you can. Step in with corrections or anything like that. But from what I’ve seen, Wix sent folks, WordPress influencers, I guess you could call them. I didn’t receive one of them.

I’m actually a little bit disappointed. Wix, what has happened there? They send some more press influencers, some headphones, and then started this whole, these were like Bose wireless headphones with a link to a new marketing campaign that became more public kind of bashing WordPress. Maybe I’ll remove the word kind of from there, bashing WordPress and, you know, giving people a reason why they should jump over to Wix and WordPress folks in WordPress based.

We’re not very happy about this, including yourself. I’d imagine you have a blog post that you wrote it like an open letter to Wix on Matt, M a T T that you know, I read in full. Um, and then the CEO of Wix wrote an open letter back to you, you know, kind of throwing swings back. I just kinda wanted to get your.

Feelings over it. And it feels like, I don’t know, like as in your position, everybody is somewhat susceptible to some kind of stress in their life. I’m sure this hasn’t been like a super fun two weeks for you, but maybe you’re just laughing it off. Maybe you’re just like, whatever, but I’d love to know what you’re thinking right now.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:35:53] Just a few things I’d like to clarify there. I was not writing a letter to works or their CEO. I have no interest in writing a letter to him or talking to him. I was kind of trying to say just what had happened, which was really bizarre. And a fight that we did not start nor want to participate in. You know, so part of what they were doing is they were actually impersonating WordPress.

Which is kind of weird so that the headphones that came out were, like I said, here’s something I sent for you, like from WordPress. And then the video that you would see was kind of like this like guy who actually had a WordPress logo on his quarter, a jacket, and he’s saying, Hey, I’m WordPress. Let me tell you.

And so some people are going, his confusion was real. So people really thought that maybe the WordPress, I guess the WordPress community had done this as like a thank you.

Joe Howard: [00:36:42] Oh, I didn’t, I didn’t catch that.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:36:45] Yeah, because the video said, Hey, I just want to say Wix is about to attack me. And so we got to like watch out.

And so it was kind of that impersonation, I think was, um, was kind of strange because. Uh, yeah, that was weird. And then once the commercials came out, it was part of their plan though. So these commercials came out. I just found it a little tasteless where, you know, in the midst of a pandemic, when a lot of people are struggling with mental health, the post I wrote was a few days before the anniversary of my father’s passing and this, this kind of WordPress character was kind of like, kind of like a drunk absent father character.

And they had a son in like a therapy session who was like saying. Essentially in this abusive relationship with this absent father character. And, and it was that sort of personification and the kind of tastefulness of that I found was a little, a little odd, even for an attack ad. We get attack ads all the time.

I know there’s been one from Duda and others in the past that we don’t respond to or worry about, but that’s why I wrote the blog posts both to also clarify that this wasn’t from us, for people who are legitimately confused. Andrew saying like, Hey, this is a low blow. Then I took a few shots at Wix too, because I think it’s, you know, we do have a history with that.

Where are they a few years ago, stole GPL code, embedded it illegally in our proprietary application, then denied it and then lied about it and then rewrote it essentially when they, it was clear that they were caught. And then more recently I’ve made the point that Wix doesn’t allow you to export contents.

Squarespace Weebly, Webflow, Facebook, Google, everyone in the world allows you to export content. Of course, WordPress.

Joe Howard: [00:38:34] I liked how the other CEO’s note to you said like, yes you can. But like when your blog posts, like the featured image on social is literally like their policy and like you’re not allowed

Matt Mullenweg: [00:38:43] to do this.

I feel like we’re taking big pot shots because it was a screenshot of their own documentation. It wasn’t like for us, they’re also trying to, like, they’re saying one of the things they made fun of was out of memory errors. I guess when you’re upgrading at a memory errors, honestly, I don’t know. That would be even top 10 on my list for things that we need to work off because every host, I think, is corrected for that, unless you’re with like a really terrible, like really bad web host, they get out of memory errors are much, much more rare because the GoDaddy is a blue host.

So WP engine’s the site grounds, like all of the automatic stuff. Like we now have higher requirements, you know, that, that hasn’t been as common of an error in the past. So. And they will also conflating wordpress.com on WordPress at Oregon. Some people are like, Hey Matt, you had an issue with that. Why did you write this up behalf of the community versus like riding it for automatic competition, but literally on their landing pages and the footer, they said to clarify, this is about wordpress.org.

And so that’s why I was kind of wearing my wordpress.org hat and trying to defend on behalf of the wider community. Now  has always been an aggressive company. They have every right to their customers, proprietary software, et cetera. Like it just, you know, leave us alone. Right? Like we’re, we’re not focused on the competition.

We’re focused on our own users. I have our top 10 list of problems. Like, gosh, like we need the block patterns to work better. I want themes to be more customizable. Like, like I do want upgrades to be easier, but I want them to be totally automatic. So you never think about them. Like we have the list of things we’re working on with the four phases of Gutenberg with every release of WordPress.

And we’re not taking the pot shots, but to be honest, you know, there’s another quote that I forget. I don’t attribute it to me. It’s like, Don’t wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty. The pig likes it. I feel bad for taking the bait. Um, I actually wrote the post a few days. I want to use that for a few days.

And I had shared the draft with some friends and someone was like, you know, this is not that bad. You just, just post this out. But obviously they were planning for that. So that’s why they had their letter ready to go and stuff. But in the WordPress community, I would say if this has, has bugged, you. The number one thing we can do is just help a friend, teach someone WordPress, teach them, you know, the advantages, if any of them are having problems like around those videos, show them the easy ways to get by like getting a good web host.

And if you have anyone you love that uses Wix, maybe, maybe help them upgrade.

Joe Howard: [00:41:21] I have a friend who uses a good friend of mine who has their website on Wix. And honestly, until this. Whole thing happened. I was like, Wix fine. I actually didn’t know as much about the stealing of the GPL information. And I think the challenge there is using it for proprietary software.

That’s clearly aware of the bounds of GPL licensing stops, but I actually sent her that article and I sent her your blog post as well. And I was like, Hey, just so you know, like there’s some shit happening. And so you should probably know about it. If you have somebody, you know, she’s not a. Website person.

She runs just her business on it. So she may not care too much, but it’s important for her to know the kind of company she’s working with. So I did send that to her, Matt. So I got it.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:41:59] If you can help migrate the site, they don’t provide an export. So it’s a little tricky, but, but you can, you can even upgrade the design or something like that, I think is kind of a nice way for us to kind of.

Just do our own community thing. And it’s true, by the way, you might also experience how hard it is to get a refund from Rex. That’s another dig. I took it though, which by the way is not like me making stuff up. It’s just on the internet. You can compare even like, you know, automatic complaints, every business has complaints, but the ones about wakes are like 10 times more, which obviously means they’re doing something very different when you try to cancel your account.

Joe Howard: [00:42:33] Matt, thank you for jumping on the podcast. I really appreciated you jumping on. I really did enjoy talking with you. I learned a lot personally, and I think listeners will have to the second to last thing I like to ask our guests to do is just tell folks where they can find you online. Read blog, contents, find you on social media.

I know you say you’re kind of, you’re active in some Slack groups. Where can folks reach out to you or find you.

Matt Mullenweg: [00:42:55] Okay. The plug section. So a plug, two things, business-wise do it, you know, back.com will commerce.com for a lot of the audience here. I think that those are two great products to be building on jet back to.

Sort of make your site faster and more secure and we’ll commerce. If you want to sell stuff, a lot of people still don’t know that on wordpress.com business plan, you can actually run plugins and themes and have full control over code and SFTP access. So keep that in mind, as you’re deciding between managed word process, I am at Emmett ITT.

It’s my blog. That’s where you can see this Wix thing on Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter. I’m Fotomat P H O T O. M a T T and I think I’m just Matt on wordpress.org. So you can hit me up on the Slack there, or, or, you know, look for my tickets or plugins or anything like that. I love connecting with community and I really appreciated connecting here.

So, you know, let’s do this again and that’s, I’ll make this the last time we get together having to come back on every year or so. And, and, uh, please reach out next time. You want me back on the pot? You

Joe Howard: [00:43:56] got it. You got it. And last thing I like to ask guests to do is to ask our listeners for a little Apple podcast review.

So if you wouldn’t mind asking folks listening for little review,

Matt Mullenweg: [00:44:05] I’d appreciate it. I guess if you enjoyed this podcast or if he didn’t leave her more reviews the better.

Joe Howard: [00:44:14] Yeah, totally. If you liked it, you can go leave the five-star review. If you didn’t like it, then you can email us and you don’t have to leave a review at all.

Exactly. Cool. Send me a Twitter. Yeah. Right, right. Awesome. If you are a new listener to us here on the show, we’ve got a hundred plus a hundred Matt. You’ll probably be on episode 140 something of the podcast, but we’ve got a whole bunch of older episodes. You can go back and listen to WP mrr.com forward slash podcast.

Go to use the search feature there. Do you have trouble on pricing or growing your business? How to make more MRR, how to help democratize publishing can find this episode, lots of old topics to dig into. If you want to bus a review on Apple podcasts, WP MRR forward slash review. That new, we used to, it used to be four slash iTunes, but we updated it because I tend to say Apple podcast.

So that should be live by the time this podcast goes live. If you have questions for me on the show, email, yo Y O at WP, M R r.com. Uh, I like to do Q and a episodes every once in a while as well. So shoot questions to me. Uh, or you can find me on Twitter, Joseph H. Howard at Joseph’s H Howard fan. You can hit me up.

There as well. That is it for this week. We will be in your earbuds again next Tuesday morning, Matt. Thanks again for being on. It’s been

Matt Mullenweg: [00:45:33] real. I really appreciate this and keep up the good work. This is awesome. What you’re doing for the community and key man

Joe Howard: [00:45:39] late everybody.

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