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.

What’s next?

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.


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Scott Berkun

228 Comments

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  1. manioban

    What can I do for you? I would like to work you too. Where can I apply?

  2. The Writing Runner

    Very cool. In this day and age, if you hire the right people (personally driven and motivated to do a good job because that’s what you do), I think a lot of companies could be run this way…!

  3. justincarmony

    I would love some “How It’s Made” from your Systems Team on how they manage, deploy, and handle WP.com’s growth. Seeing how they fit different tools and technology together would be awesome. Thanks.

  4. doshloans

    thank you for that article and I will give it a good read so all my staff can learn how to blog to each other.

  5. cherioux

    Since you asked, i’d be very interested to know about the economic side of things. What is your business model ? Do you get paid for what you do ? Where does the money come from ?

    • Matt

      WordPress.com makes money from upgrades (like domains, custom CSS), advertising, and the VIP program. We also make money from our third-party services largely aimed at .org users, like Polldaddy, VaultPress, and Akismet. Right now we reinvest basically all revenue back into making things better for you guys.

  6. brutug

    This blog is well timed and very informative. It helps me as a newbie understand the mechanics and a bit of the approach to why you do what you do so well.

  7. shmode

    I’ve always been curious about some inner workings of WP, thanks for putting this out there.

  8. KChristoph

    No employer in Germany ? Greetings full of sun from Hannover, Germany

    • Matt

      We have at least one German, but he doesn’t live in Germany. My last name is also German. :)

  9. raisethegaze

    Thank you for this message.
    It is enlightening to me, since I have not worked with WordPress, having opening an account just recently.
    So far, I haven’t started a blog of my own with WordPress, but enjoy visiting several friends’ sites and commenting.
    Your timely communications, however, are helping build my confidence for when I may commence a blog.

  10. Διαγόρας ο Μήλιος

    Thank you for sharing this with us, it was very informative.

  11. K

    So do you people have code junkies working from a basement? Or is everyone coding from a cubicle? Whichever it is — great job guys !

    • Hew

      Nope, no cubicles or basements here. We tend to work from our homes on most days, but we can work wherever there is an internet connection.

  12. David (1MereMortal)

    It’s nice to have a peek at what’s behind the curtain. Excellent post.

  13. purimata

    I like how wordpress.com’s team works

  14. hanginoutwithgod

    I just want to leave a note about the “Happiness Team.” When I first started with WordPress, I misunderstood one thing that I needed to do in order to create two different blogs. Because of the misunderstanding, I ended up with a really aggravating problem. When I contacted the Happiness Team, they were very quick to respond and very cordial. It took a little while to actually fix the problem, but they worked at it until it was done, and now I am as “happy” as they are. Thank you so much. I appreciate the opportunity to use WordPress and be a part of your blogging community.
    Sandra

    • Matt

      Yep, the Happiness team is very special, and their level of attention to every problem is one of the things we provide that services that rhyme with Frogger probably never will.

  15. struckawake

    Thanks for all your hard word… Just getting started with my blog, find it all very fascinating!

  16. happycontessa

    I kind of thought you were based outside of the U.S.A. Your day ends around 7:30 pm Eastern Time. Anyways, I don’t know how you manage to give so much to us all. Not only that, but your operation is as far as I am concerned, First Class. Thank you for providing this wonderful outlet.

  17. Chittaranjan

    Numbers Pls…….

    Not exactly Financial info (though if you could let out whatever you can, would be great)

    Great Job, all of you!

    P.S: Automattic has people in New Delhi, India? Didn’t know that!

  18. pinkunderbelly

    How can we not love a place that has a Happiness Team? For real! I love WP and as a new blogger and not-so-technologically-savvy at-home mom, I appreciate how easy & intuitive WP is. Keep up the good work!

  19. Ron Jesser

    If ever I’ve read an interesting post about a product I use, this one is it! Thanks for taking the time to let us know what goes on behind the scenes and keep up the great work!

  20. barbarapatrick54

    In these days of remote and faceless working, it’s nice to know how you guys do it. Keep up the good work!

  21. patatahooligan

    Quite interesting. Let me ask : do you have internships or things like that for people who want to learn more about wordpress or be trained in this kind of work?

  22. Eric

    The Happiness Team! What an awesome team name. Maybe have some interviews with the staff from different countries in a future blog post?

  23. Jean

    This is all I need to know about WordPress as a company. I would only want to know more if I wanted to work for the company or if I was scoping out WordPress, for a competing firm.

    As a customer and blogger of WordPress I’m more interested in seeing demos of innovative use of WordPress.com. I appreciate Freshly Pressed but feel perhaps the scope of Freshly Pressed could also include innovative applications of WordPress.com. I realize VIP services highlights their corporate customers who pay a fee for great and more robust use of WordPress.com.

    Could we have something similar as part of Freshly Pressed.

    Of course, am always interested in upcoming new blog features and themes.

  24. rolandhairston

    Would love to know more about the types of teams you have and how they work together. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  25. C. Matt Hewes

    Nice one, Scott!

    For some reason (unknown to me) I chose for WordPress, and I’m glad I did; your post just confirms my gut feeling, here (@ wordpress is an ‘actual team’ at work to keep things on the go, whereas on other blog services, I get the ‘Ivory Tower’ feeling…

    Hats off to you and your colleagues!

  26. Overland Park Services

    Very good information, thanks. In fact I was just doing a google search for WordPress this morning to find out more about your company. I’m looking for a web hosting service that is well-versed in working with websites that target small business advertisers. I plan to sell business listings and advertisements for a specific target area.

  27. Harold

    Pay attention to those behind the curtain! They have good ideas! Thanks for the peek!

  28. Margie

    How are themes developed? How do you gather information about features that your users want in themes? In what direction are themes headed?

  29. Homes for Sale Portugal

    As a beginner, this article was very useful. Of course I then visited the .org and found so much information that the mind boggled.

    Your “best” sites look fantastic, and I hope in time to design one of my own that I can be proud of.

  30. Old Bent Nail

    Very well timed post, Scott. Lotta blog portals out there, and it is obvious that WordPress has their collective heads into the game. I am slowly moving in from another blog that frankly looks sophomoric when compared to WP. Oh, and I know that I could use the import tool, but I have changed my style as I have matured, and am happy to rewrite my stuff and post it here. I chose WordPress, and love it here!

  31. miketodd50

    well done Scott

  32. gideonbosompim

    hi guys
    thanks so much for the post…i loved reading it from the start to the end.
    I never used to like writing blogs till i started using wordpress. From the Google maps i can see you don’t have a team in Africa? Well i guess it is in the long run.
    If i May ask what does it take to be part of this wonderful team (automatic)
    thanks

  33. Andrew McGuirk

    TOTALLY fascinating! Here I am in cold Liverpool UK (though a great place to live) and I thought you guys were all in a swanky office in California, heading off to surf at lunchtimes! Great product and great Customer service : thank you All! Andrew.

  34. Pingback: Weird week « Matt40k
  35. Gus

    Love what you do! There’s just one thing on my wish-list I’d love to see added. That’s an option in stats to see where in the world my hits are coming from. Any chance of adding something like that?

  36. primarythoughts

    I had an issue on my site over the holidays. Your team worked to identify the problem and provide a bug fix. Can’t wait to hear more. I would specifically like to know if there are any plans to offer different options on the archive widget functionality. I see some flexibility with the drop-down features on the .org sites, but .com seems to be limited. Hopefully, I’ve simply missed it and it’s already available. Thanks so much. :)

  37. beyondanomie

    Very interesting peek under the bonnet (your UK-based employees will understand that idiom, at least, and I leave it to them to translate it appropriately for the rest of the world… ;) )

    The stuff about P2 was interesting; hadn’t really noticed it before. Clearly positioned against Twitter, though whether it will match it given the headstart it’s had is another matter. Also impressed by how lean your operation seems, given the scale of the framework you deliver. Keep up the good work.

  38. tinkwelborn

    WHAT? no one from Virginia? Hmmm.

  39. Intelligent Challenge

    Thank you all – you do a great job

  40. Kiki

    One of the most interesting posts I’ve read in a while! You never really stop to think about all the people and things going on behind the scenes enabling us to use a great product. The happiness team has made me happy quite a few times, too, with their patience and competence. And to think I can use all the WP services for free – makes me happy to have chosen WP as my blog home, and I’m looking forward to hear more behind the scences stuff.

  41. Mikalee Byerman

    I’ve always imagined a diverse workforce in diverse locales…looks like I imagined correctly!

    I’m surprised at the lack of Australian sites…so many cool Aussie bloggers out there.
    :)

  42. Chris

    Completely amazed. True example of team work if you’re able to pump out such a great product from being all around the world. Keep up the great work!

    - Chris

  43. Shirley Buxton

    I love WordPress. I’m a writer and a photographer and have posted thousands of words and images on WordPress. Loved reading this friendly article that has given me more insight about the inner workings of this great place. Know one of the things I love? I don’t have to worry about how it works! I just sit down at my trusty computer, place my agey hands on the keyboard, and ZIP!, around the world goes my little creative marks–all because of the smart people at WordPress. THANK YOU, and blessings to all.

    Shirley

  44. Job Conger

    I engaged two other blog providers before discovering WordPress and haven’t considered any other provider in more than 1,000 posts. I would like and support a “notch up” option to be made available to bloggers who ARE professional writers, whose work might be evaluated by WordPress pros and shared at a premium blog arena which would pay bloggers as well; I’d be happy to serve as part of a team of evaluators.

    It’s terrific that you’re reaching out to those who use WordPress, am confident I will always be a WordPresser and wish you all the best.

    – Job Conger

  45. valsjewels

    How refreshing the Internet getting personable. Thank you WordPress – Kudos – makes me feel like there are “real” people out there, not just software and robots.

  46. drintegrity

    Cool idea Team Creative

  47. kiwidutch

    gideonbosompim …

    in reply to your comment “From the Google maps i can see you don’t have a team in Africa? Well i guess it is in the long run.”

    I enlarged the map and saw one marker in Africa. Looks like the country would be islands of Sao Tome and Principe (I’ve been to Sao Tome!)
    It’s a small start, but it’s a start!

    regards…

  48. Deli Lanoux, Ed.D.

    Believe it or not, you’ve shared some truly worthwhile information!

    Based on what I’ve gleaned since joining WP, I figured y’all were spread out all over the place… and your graphic shows this perfectly, though I’ve always thought… I don’t know why… that y’all occupied lots of places in TX. Could it be because I’m in TX?!!

    And, yes. Knowledge is good for this highly inquisitve ol’ pea brain ’cause the more I know about WP, the more I’m certain that y’all have some pretty terrific folks working behind the scenes to make us look goood.

    Y’all are so awesssomely fantabulous!

  49. The Axis of Ego

    An interesting look at how the proverbial sausage gets made. From WordPress to my screen. Although I must say it’s a little disappointing that there’s not some centralized WordPress “compound” filled with frisbees and nerf products of myriad description to “stimulate creativity” among employees. Oh well. We can always dream.

  50. suzanneas

    I’d like to be a part of your team. I live in lebanon middle east. If interested you have my e-mail…thank you

  51. Alicja Mann

    Thank you for this post. I am relatively new blogger and this information makes it easier for me to understand how you operate. My impression is that you are a very friendly company and I hope that you will continue to be this way in spite of an inevitable growth.

    With sunny greetings from Tucson, Arizona
    Alicja Mann

  52. Steven Sawyer

    Great information to know about WordPress. Thanks for sharing.

  53. hearingissweet

    Thanks for the updates and the inside information, it always helps to get to know who I am connected with. I appreciate the hyperlinks as that makes things more efficient in my books. I know some people who would love to work like this because they home school their children and need the flexibility…do you have any openings? Happy working :)

  54. 1heartaday

    Awesome!! Sounds like a great company to work for. You guys are doing a great job behind the scenes.

  55. Dave Bonta

    A click on the map reveals that one of your employees is currently swimming off the coast of West Africa. This distributed model clearly has a lot going for it.

  56. The Editor

    Hi Scott. Great blog. No wonder you’re the lead for Team Social! Interesting how it changes how you feel about a person or business once you know where they ‘live’. After visiting someone’s home or office for the first time you then have a mental picture of how they live, whenever you phone or Skype them, and a deeper understanding of what makes them tick. So it now is for me with WordPress. I think your service is outstanding. Having tried other blog platforms, I must say WP is very sophisticated, very intuitive, very sleek. I have a little problem however with a new Premium theme I purchased yesterday, but now I know to address that to your ‘Happiness Team’. Thanks for the nice letter. Have a lovely day. Maureen

  57. Ron Ludekens

    I love WordPress. But I am curious about your business model – mostly how you generate the funds to support all this free great stuff we use.

  58. Técnico Superior en Programación

    Nice business-model and nicer job indeed, I hope it goes better, I know it will be. There is a big thing offered by WordPress and I think it make many people be able to achieve things otherwise could remains in the bin of the impossible.

  59. sorrygnat

    Way to go one and all; you are making a creative and aesthetic impact. gratitude……

  60. Jim Morrison

    Thank you for this e-mail note. I am impressed. I work with 2 other persons in a distributed network on Vancouver Isloand. We’re only 150 km. apart, but we depend on e-mail. So your comments on almost no e-mail caught my attention. I will take time to think of WordPress as an alternative, particularly for the next stage of business development. Thanks, Jim.Morrison

  61. Birdie

    I work for a global firm as part of a group of 10 people in the US. We are often referenced as a highly effecient, high-performing team, especially given the remote nature of our situation. Has WordPress.com considered consulting on your flexible nature? Many organizations which seek to be like mine would definitely benefit from the philosphies and values you could share. Indeed, even my group/firm may even benefit. Further, there is a lot of research that shows productivity increases alongside flexibility in the workplace. WordPress.com knows that. My firm knows it. But, there are thousands of organizations which are still operating as if it’s 1990 re: workplace flexibility. There’s a place for your organization to show blazing success, efficiency, and productivity through innovative organizational workstyles. Please continue to share your story broadly and formally (Working Mother Media, DiversityInc, Fortune, etc). Thank you for starting this discussion! BB

  62. sallybr

    Loved to know a bit more about WordPress…. and as a food blogger, of course it got me a special thrill to see you mentioned “cuisines” and “love of food” in your first paragraph!

    Obviously, a great company!
    :-)

  63. Stevie B

    Very informative. I didn’t understand a bloody word of it but informative nonetheless.

  64. tutorialsbysandy

    Thanks for all your great work! I’m so happy with my blog, now i got my own domain..!

  65. solmil

    Are you guys paid? How do you make a living from WordPress? Love and peace, Sol

  66. Mozes

    Wow, one of those markers is literally like, 2 miles from where I live.

  67. Skaperen

    Thanx a lot for all the work and effort you guys put in. It’s highly appreciated!

  68. shamballa9944

    Love the backstage pass!!! More, More!

  69. Renee Lalane

    Thank you for the insight. It is nice to know who is reponsible for all of the pleasure I have while using WORDPRESS.

  70. sonagiristories

    This is very interesting and informative and i thank you Scott. But where’s Australia? I’ve been working with WordPress for years from here and am certain that i’m not the only Australian doing so very appreciatively. And India should be better represented on your map; i work there six month a year and know i’m not the only Indian either.
    Be thanked, encouraged and admired. Apeetha Arunagiri

  71. lauriecag

    love wp – yes, I want to know! :)

  72. Pingback: How is WordPress.com made? | Gardening News
  73. wonone1

    With an approach like that, you are winning me over!

  74. district818

    great stuff!

  75. rastus74

    Dear Scott, I, like sonagirlstories (Apeetha) wonder why Australia and New Zealand have been omitted from your world map? I enjoy being a subscriber of WorldPress. Like Apeetha, I am feeling somewhat invisible at the moment. In any event, cogratulations on your ongoing efforts to keep people better informed. Regards, Warwick

  76. draguscn

    There is no Indonesian? We love wordpress.com too.

  77. that girl again

    @ all the people wondering about the absence of Australians: Automattic did have an Australian employee once, so don’t worry, you’re not being deliberately snubbed ;)

  78. NiHAWmA

    Total Team Effort is the key to success. Thank you and have a nice day wordpress.

  79. soniacreativearts

    great, I love the community feel of WordPress and that, unlike other more tightly controlled services, i.e. Facebook, you guys are really open to the user. You also handle things incredibly quickly and respect each blogger as a professional. I have been pleased by my experience, I love all the integration and customization features you have added as well!

  80. zoroyz56

    I am one who does not blog a lot, because I am new to the whole thing. I find I’m a little lite on the opinions: you do what you
    what you like to do and I do what I like to do; no problems here.

    The article did although impress me at how many countries are involved because of my business, I find I may have chosen the correct avenue
    for neworking. WorldPress.com, you guess impress me vey my and and I hope I get the hang of this venture soon.

  81. shaoyu0728

    well done already,do better future!

  82. elegantblogs

    Glad to know how you’ve been doing all these. Keep up your good work!

  83. adventurewriter

    Most intriguing, I’m a bit of a “way things work” person myself – it’s always fun to what goes on behind the scenes, and would love to learn more!

  84. Ugly Bug

    Hey, I live in San Francisco, and I didn’t know the wordpress headquarters were here. You guys should have a party and invite us local bloggers. I love my wordpress blog. The best part is the detailed stats, which I obsessively check many times throughout the day. Tech support has always been great, too. Keep those improvements coming!

  85. just1jane

    Thank you for enlightening us on your process. I work for a more traditional but still multi-national company and elements of your method for forming teams and selection of communication tools would definitely apply to us as well.

  86. Gregory West

    It is always nice to get a peek at the inside. How about some inside tips to increase traffic to our wordpress blogs?

  87. Caryn Rae

    You rock! Keep up the great stuff! Thanks so much!

  88. originsmile

    Success, depends upon right vision with right joining hands. It is very informative, convenient and assist in promoting the concept!
    smile, Enjoy!

  89. Troy

    Nonetheless, I appreciate WordPress. I’ve been blogging on this site for nearly four years and have loved every minute of it.

  90. AJ

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve always wondered how WP is run. But one question: What if SF is swallowed up by the Pacific Ocean? Will our blogs go down with the city?

    • Hew

      We utilize multiple data centers spread across the US to ensure something like that could never happen.

  91. Guillermo Bautista

    Great article. Many companies work this way to day. I am a GeoGebra blogger, I create a lot of GeoGebra tutorials, and I think GeoGebra employees (volunteers) are also all over the world.

    Keep up the good work. May God bless you and the entire WordPress team for a job very well-done.

  92. Dev

    Would love to be a part of such teams…Don’t you have investment teams?? ;-)

  93. Shafali

    Hi Scott,
    Thanks for sharing your story. I love WordPress for its simplicity, which wraps tons of utility! I am amazed at how much you’ve accomplished with your distributed team. I’d like to thank everyone on the team for creating this beautiful place that I call my virtual home. I’d not be blogging if it weren’t for wordpress.
    Regards,
    Shafali

  94. nrhatch

    Interesting post, Scott. Thanks!

    It’s nice to see the men and women behind the curtain ~ the wizards of WordPress.

  95. Sapna

    Thanks for putting it out there. Would like to see some pics next time. Also some interviews would be great! :)

  96. dhimasln

    cool.
    but i dont see any mark on Indonesia.
    u can contact me if u needed some employees from here. (ngarepdotcom :P )

  97. Jenn

    I am not ashamed to admit that I applied to be a Happiness Engineer for Automattic. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any reply from them. But making a resume for them was already fun. :)

  98. Connie T

    I love wordpress. Thankyou for being here for us to blog.

  99. Lord Vader

    Let the Force be with you, guys! :)

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