Reddit plays host to events called AMA or Ask Me Anything. In this instance, Matt Mullenweg participated in a version classified as IAmA.
Basically, /r/IAmA is a place to interview people, but in a new way. “IAmA” is the traditional way of beginning the description of who you are; “AMA” is the traditional way of ending the description; the acronym means “Ask me anything.” The interviewee begins the process by starting a post, describing who they are and what they do. Then, commenters leave questions and can vote on other questions according to which they would like to see answered. The interviewee then goes through and responds to any questions that he/she would like, and in any way that he/she prefers.
After spending three hours answering questions, here are a few of the ones I found to be the most interesting.
Andrewry – Hey Matt, I was at your State of the Word in SF and you talked about moving WordPress more towards being an application framework rather than a CMS or blog platform. What specifically do you have in mind for this (better settings API, developer features, etc)? And then if you could break backwards compatibility (which really isn’t a option for WP), what would you really like to completely redo or add to WordPress? Thanks!
Matt – First and foremost the most important things for a platform are stability, speed, and security. To do those well you need the ability to push updates and fixes as close to real-time as possible. And it needs to work in every language. User authentication, data and caching abstraction.
A lot of what people think of as platform stuff is actually at the CMS layer — custom post types, taxonomy meta,
If backwards compatibility wasn’t a concern I would rename all the inconsistent column names and variables to match our style guide, drop TinyMCE, simplify the user roles and capabilities system, replace widgets with page blocks, redo the admin menu system, denormalize the DB, flatten dependencies and deep hierarchy in function execution, and completely reorganize the code so the bare minimum of files are included with any given request.
Ericmann – What do you see as the biggest challenge facing WordPress (in the context of competitive software or just un-met customer needs) for the next year?
Matt – By far and away it’s the high attrition rate of new users. We look at posting a lot in that context but I think it’s far more important to look at customization — theme discovery and tweaking, widgets, menus.
GetSource – If you could wave a magic wand and instantly rewrite WordPress in any programming language, which would it be?
Matt – Go. :)
ShaneHudson – Hi Matt, I’m a long time WordPress dev (since day 1 moreorless) so thanks very much for starting it. Just wondering what your opinion of Ghost is? http://www.tryghost.org/
Matt – I left a lot of thoughts in the comments on this puff piece:
They say or imply lots of things about WordPress that aren’t true. They’ve also done things like had a quote from me looking like I was endorsing Ghost on their Kickstarter page even after I asked them to remove it several times. (Lots of people were confused or thought it was a plugin for WP.)
Of course I had to add this one!
WriteNoWrong – Hey Matt, where do you think the future of the independent WordPress news community lies, with your recent purchase of WPTavern and the recent sale of WP Daily to WP Engine? Do you think there is a space for an impartial WordPress news website?
Matt – I’m glad that new ones are being started as fast as old ones are shutting down. There is some really interesting stuff going on in the community and I think there’s space for real journalism and strong commentary.
VegasGeek – Of all the WordCamp’s you’ve been to around the globe, what was the most unusual location for the event itself and, separately, the after party?
Matt – Oh by far and away the strangest location was Davao in the Philippines. I can’t find any pictures at the moment, but my talk was essentially at a restaurant with a swimming pool courtyard — the audience was on the other side of the pool from me, and the food buffet was behind me so when the Q&A got slow people would grab food. The PA system had an echo because I think it was normally used for karaoke. And then the bats came out!
Best after-party is hard to pick, but I had a great time after WordCamp Las Vegas which aligned with my 25th birthday a few years ago.
Eddiemoya – How directly involved are you in ongoing development of core? Are you relatively hands on, do you ever drive decision making or do you leave it to the community?
On a completely different subject.
I met you at WordCamp Chicago this year (I told you about a widget plugin that turns them into a post type and such).
I created these wooden WordPress logos with my 3D Printer, I meant to give you one but I forgot about it. You still want one?
Matt – Would love a wooden WP logo, as long as it’s not a fauxgo. :)
I’m as involved in WordPress development as I was 10 years ago, it just manifests itself in ways that tend to be a lot more behind the scenes and less visible, which I don’t mind as I’m way more interested in things moving forward and the results than credit or recognition for any specific thing. (I get plenty of recognition regardless, don’t need more.) The only downside is that folks who I don’t work with on a day-to-day basis assume that my role at Automattic or WP is more as a traveling figurehead or “evangelist” which can rub me the wrong way sometimes.
For 3.8 I’m going to take a swing at the release lead role again, which should be fun.
The most important thing I’ve done since WP started, though, isn’t in a line of code or a feature people use, it’s getting the right people involved and creating an environment for them to thrive. It’s the single most important thing any founder can do, whether of an OS project, a non-profit, or a for-profit company even though there’s not a single thing you can point to as the result of it other than the overall success and movement of the project.
eddiemoya – Thanks for your response! I have to admit that I asked this questions for the very reason you just explained – I wasn’t sure if you were just a figurehead for WordPress core, and kept more to running/development for Automattic, or if you kept heavily involved in development and decision making in core.
Seems like it would be a difficult balance to strike – between looking uninvolved or like your doing things behind closed doors on one hand – and looking like your dictating/micromanaging where things go.
I think it will be a good move for you to be visible in your activity – I think it will make things seem more open, rather than a vague suggestion that you might or might not have been involved.
Oh – and these are the logos I made. http://eddiemoya.com/2013/06/30/wooden-3d-printed-wordpress-logos-wcchi/
Matt – It’s more fun being visible at first, but it also draws more flak and criticism that impedes process, for lack of a better way of putting it the normal conversations and back and forth that’s an everyday and critical part of OS development get warped when I’m a part of them, some people digging in or disagreeing as much for trying to get “points” over someone powerful as much as the substance of the issue. If I engage I end up looking dictatorial and take time away from more important tasks, or if I don’t it disenfranchises a contributor. I have contributed anonymously a few times before under different accounts.
jb510 – What individual do you think is the most under recognized contributor to the WordPress community at large?
Matt – That’s a tough one… I’m going to say the volunteers on the support forums. There are 2M+ posts there, and it’s easy to forget that a huge number of WP users end up in the forums and get help that allows them to use the software when they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
Last but not least
ashenkar7 – Hi Matt, have you read Chris Lema’s blog post http://chrislema.com/wordpress-for-the-enterprise/ What is your response?
Matt – I have. It’s also funny because I think Gartner is about to come out with a “magic quadrant” that puts us in the crappy quadrant (low vision and ability to execute). Their leaders? Adobe, Sitecore, SDL, Oracle, HP, Opentext…
I completely agree with Chris on all the ways that enterprise currently works, and their concerns. (People assume because we choose to do things differently that we don’t understand the other side.) But I’m not willing to compromise getting better software into the hands of users as quickly as possible, if that means Gartner thinks we’re a visionless niche player so be it.
We’ve done long-term support branches before, it was a big development burden and almost no one used it or cared. There will be businesses that embrace keeping their technology moving at the speed the web does, and there will be those that go out of business and become irrelevant.
3 Hours Worth
I’m not going to post every one of the questions and responses but these are the ones that really caught my eye. I encourage everyone to check out the Reddit post and browse through the questions and responses yourself.
It’s a common experience, to go to a website and find some geekified feature … wagging the dog.
This is one of the ways that it ‘comes out’, in computers & software, that the person who plays the ‘engineer’ in the field tends to become (or clearly feels he should be) the de facto ‘executive’ or leader & Decider-In-Chief, to a much stronger degree than … normal.
The infamous character in the TV sit-com All in the Family, Archie Bunker, didn’t need to explain to other family members (or visitors) that the best chair in the living room was HIS. Major computer projects suffer, because too many supporting cast members feel that they have as valid a claim to the Big Chair, as Archie.
Some will wince at the Archie Bunker metaphor. But those who object most-strongly, invariably are those who will most-benefit. Or know (or should know) that their claim to Leadership & Command is illegitimate.
It’s good to see here, that Matt Mullenweg continues to recognize that preemptive access to the Big Chair is the key to the whole drama.