How is WordPress.com made?
One of my favorite shows is How It’s Made. I love seeing how things I use every day are actually created. In that spirit, here at Automattic we’ve thought about sharing more about how we work and think. For starters, here’s a recap on a few things.
Where are we? Everywhere.
People are surprised to learn we are a distributed company. Most of our employees live in different cities and countries around the world. We have a headquarters in San Francisco, but most of our employees are elsewhere. This means we are working round the clock and we’re informed by many cultures, places, and cuisines (we like food).
How do we work?
Toni, our CEO, has written about the advantages of distributed work before. We are a publishing and services company, and we passionately believe in the power of blogs as group communication tools. We use a WordPress theme called P2 for much of our internal communication, and they function as a combination of specifications, bug reports, brainstorms, watercooler chats, and more. You can read Matt’s take on how P2s changed the company (includes of a video of P2 in action).
Everyone at Automattic is organized into a team of 5-10 people, each team focused on different areas. For example, I’m the lead for Team Social, and we work on improving things like comments, publicizing posts to social networks, and other features. We have teams for Systems, Themes, VIP services, and more.
On a daily basis, everyone works with high autonomy. We do this by choice, since we’re distributed by time as well as distance. We use P2s, IRC chat, and Skype to communicate, picking the right medium depending on how time sensitive a message is. One surprise is how little we use email. I’ve been at Automattic for 7 months and have received only a couple hundred emails, many from people outside the company.
How are new features and improvements made?
A high percentage of improvements come entirely from the WordPress.org community, the open source project WordPress.com is based on.
Here at Automattic we implement, test, and release changes to WordPress.com dozens of times a day. We do it with love, trying to make it so you don’t always know why, but definitely feel your blog gets better and better all the time.
Each team works differently, but each developer, working with a team lead and a designer, decides what changes to make and when to release them. Bigger projects like VaultPress require the work of a dedicated team for weeks or months. Other things like bug fixes or minor features are often finished in days or hours.
We get ideas from many different places. Our stellar Happiness Team constantly reviews issues and discovers ways to make things better, and they’re one primary source for what to work on next. But we also keep lots of data on which features get used, and where it seems people have problems. As a result, every day on our blogs many ideas get pitched, sketched, and prototyped. As productive as we are, we only get to a fraction of them. But when we do ship something, we get feedback instantly on what we’ve done, and often respond quickly to small things we missed, or realize didn’t work quite right, despite our best efforts.
We hope to share more about how we work, and how we think about the future of the web. We have opinions and ideas to share.
If we do this, what would you like to know? No promises, but we’ll sneak around here behind the scenes and see what we can do.