WordPress.com and the Future of Work
Let’s get one thing straight: titles don’t get any more original than this!
And if you scroll down a bit to see the photograph of Scott Berkun we’ve chosen for you, we bet you’ll have no problems linking the face to the name!
“The Year Without Pants” lives up to its title.
We hope our summary will live up to the book.
Who Should Read “The Year Without Pants”? And Why?
“The Year Without Pants” is a book written by a former employee of one of the largest companies in the world.
That might be just enough for a fancy-tickling blurb, but we can do you one better. Namely, the writer is also a former Microsoft employee, and the book was chosen by Amazon as one of the best books of 2013.
So, managers, entrepreneurs, daydreaming start-up freaks – dive in! With a little effort, you can learn a lot about leadership and management techniques from Berkun and the practice of WordPress.
About Scott Berkun
Scott Berkun is a bestselling American author and management expert. He has worked for Microsoft and has taught creative thinking at the University of Washington. Ever since living Microsoft in 2003, he has focused almost exclusively on writing, earning his living in the meantime by giving public lectures.
His books include: “Making Things Happen,” The Myths of Innovation,” and “Confessions of a Public Speaker.”
You can read more about him and by him at his website: http://scottberkun.com/.
“The Year Without Pants Summary”
Even if you don’t know what WordPress is, you’ve actually seen its final product millions of times before.
In fact, this is it: our website was created and is managed with WordPress. Just like 60 million other websites, which accounts for about a third of the internet. No wonder wordpress.com is the 50th most visited website in the world!
Yes, it’s large!
So large, actually, that we’d be amazed if you weren’t able to just skip the last two paragraphs.
And it all started with some stress and frustration inside the head of an 18-year-old photographer.
His name: Matt Mullenweg.
Just like many people out there, he was a fearsome advocate of open source software. And he was really happy with one such blogging tool, b2/cafelog, via which the teenage Matt posted photographs on his blog, photomatt.net (now: https://ma.tt/).
B2/cafelog was originally developed by a French programmer named Michel Valdrighi, who in 2002 called it quits. Matt wouldn’t let that happen. And since b2/cafelog was open source, he announced on his blog that he intends to build a fork.
Mike Little, an English programmer, joined in immediately. Soon enough, WordPress was born. And just two years later, Matt founded the mother company, Automattic.
(No, that’s not a spelling mistake. It’s a pun. You’ll get it.)
And boy, what a strange company Automattic seems to be!
However, very few people knew this before Berkun got a job there. Interestingly enough, that’s exactly why he got the job in the first place. Don’t get us wrong, it was a real job nonetheless, but it was primarily a practice in investigative and participative journalism.
You know, that thing which makes people go to North Korea for no sane reason whatsoever.
“The Year Without Pants” documents Berkun’s experiences from start to finish, so there are many things inside that may be interesting exclusively to WordPress enthusiasts. But, they have probably already read this book.
These are the best bits for the rest of you.
First of all, Automattic is based on a three-fold principle: transparency, meritocracy, and longevity. In other words, in Automattic every single discussion and decision is public, and everyone gets as much as he or she deserves. And everyone knows this.
One of the most visited websites in the world doesn’t even have headquarters! All of its employees are scattered around the world and meet each other only once a year at a company meet-up. Moreover, they usually don’t have any deadlines or production schedules!
So, how are they as effective as they are?
Two reasons, probably.
Number one: theoretically, each of the employees can be a leader, based on his or her expertise and the project they’re working on. (By the way, there are currently more than 600 Automatticians; back in 2010, Berkun was merely the 58th employee).
Number two: they communicate regularly in more than one way. But, once again, in their own way! Namely, about three-quarters of Automatticians’ discussions take place on internal blogs (called P2s), 14% on IRC, and only 6% combined on the most popular methods, Skype, and email.
Talk about being unconventional!
And yet, success is there.
So, maybe we should stop conforming once and for all?
Key Lessons from “The Year Without Pants”
1. The Open Source Movement Wins and Wins
2. Unconventionality Does It Once Again
3. If You’re Planning to Start a Website, Use WordPress
The Open Source Movement Wins and Wins
By opting for free license and universal distribution of blueprints, the open-source model encourages collaboration more than any other model ever imagined.
In fact, if it hadn’t been for open source, the Internet itself may have been a lot less appealing and developed.
Unconventionality Does It Once Again
But, Automattic seems unconventional even for that world. No headquarters, no priorities or deadlines, employees working online from home all around the world, yearly meet-ups and communications via internal blogs and IRC…
And it works.
If You’re Planning to Start a Website, Use WordPress
There are at least two noteworthy reasons why you should do this.
First of all, it’s great! 60 million people and companies are using it, so there’s no reason why shouldn’t you.
Secondly, it’s open source. Meaning: it will always be there, even if Matt Mullenweg decides to back out.
After all, that’s exactly how WordPress was born.
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“The Year Without Pants” QuotesBureaucracies form when people’s jobs are tied strictly to rules and procedures, rather than the effect those things are supposed to have on the world. Click To Tweet The single-sentence vision for WordPress had always been to democratize publishing. Click To Tweet Anyone who’s an expert, guru, executive or coach has likely lost any real sense of what real work is. Click To Tweet It was the community at work: people were willing to drop whatever they were doing to lend a hand to people they didn’t know. Click To Tweet While we have a universal measure of wealth called money, there is no comparable measurement for meaning. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
As we said in our introduction, Scott Berkun is quite an original guy. For better or for worse, so is “The Year Without Pants.” From cover to cover.
The good part of this is that there are not many books like it: an entertaining and funny behind-the-curtains look inside a rider of the third wave, the book is a joy to read from start to finish.
The bad part is the same: don’t expect too many lessons unless you’re willing to read between the lines. Because, Berkun is neither didactic nor boasts with a straight-to-the-point kind of style. He’s content with describing his experience in a novelistic fashion.
But, there’s just enough to get from that as well.