Ten Years of Automattic | Matt Mullenweg

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I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.

— The Automattic Creed

via Ten Years of Automattic | Matt Mullenweg.

When I was still running my old business, I always had in my back pocket the idea that if I were to ever close up shop and work for The Man again, there would only be one man I’d want to work for, and that’s Matt Mullenweg. I’ve been a WordPress user and fan for years, but I’ve also been kind of a Matt groupie, ever since I read his “How I work” profile in Inc.

It’s kind of weird now to actually be working for Matt, be on a first-name basis with him, and even get to chat with him now and then. But now that I’ve been here for just over a year and have become a part of the Automattic, I’ve come to realize that the WordPress and open source communities are bigger than any one person. While there’s a part of me that will always be a tiny bit starstruck by Matt, I’m in even greater awe of how much this little software project has grown to power nearly a quarter of the Internet. It lets everyone from giant media organizations like the New York Times and Fortune to mom bloggers with hyperlocal audiences have a global platform from which to share their ideas, their vision, their message with the world. And heck, you can even do it for free.

Remember the days when you needed to get the word out about anything, even if it’s just your neighborhood yard sale? Or when beautiful, innocent animals would perish in local shelters, forgotten because they received so little attention, and municipalities and volunteer groups struggled to get any kind of media attention? Now, if you have a message, you have the means to blast it out to the world, and at no cost to you other than your time. I’m still in shock that this has all come about in such a short period of time, but most of all I’m so incredibly proud to be a part of the company driving this forward and inspiring so much change.

We’re celebrating 10 years of being in the biz this week, and I can’t wait to see what the next 10 will bring.

Amazon to pay Kindle authors only for pages read – Telegraph

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Amazon’s new system will cut the royalties for self-published authors who fail to hold a reader’s attention until the final page

via Amazon to pay Kindle authors only for pages read – Telegraph.

This is horrifying and a terrible precedent. Frankly, I don’t understand the position of author Kerry Wilkinson, who is quoted in the article as asking, “If readers give up on a title after half a dozen pages, why should the writer be paid in full?”

If I go to the emergency room with a heart attack and die on the operating table because the EMTs didn’t get me to the hospital in time, is my family still liable for the bill?

If I buy a dress but then take it altered to my favorite tailor because I think the hem should be 2″ shorter to truly flatter me, should I get a refund from the designer for whatever percentage of the dress I cut off?

If I book a flight to Paris, but then fall in love with someone while on layover in London and decide not to continue my journey, should I demand that the airline reimburse me for the percentage of the flight that I didn’t complete?

And yes, as Peter Maass is quoted as saying in the article: “I’d like the same in restaurants — pay for how much of a burger I eat.” Or a glass of wine I drink. Or if I walk out of a movie halfway through, I only want to pay half the bill. Or better, yet, hell, just give me all my money back.

Yes, it’s true that writers can “opt out” of the Kindle Select program, and frankly, it’s not that great a deal anyway since you’re essentially getting pennies so that someone can read it for free. But it sets a terrifying precedent to a future in which writers are mere commodities in the same way that education has become a commodity, valued only for what it can produce for in a free market.

I used to think that I wanted to live forever, but now I just want to die before it all goes to hell and writers will be mere content producers, not the scribes of an age.

Carolina On My Mind

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"South Carolina State House." Photo by Mikel Manitius. Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/cirXzE.

“South Carolina State House.” Photo by Mikel Manitius. Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/cirXzE.

The shootings in Charleston have been on my mind quite a lot lately, not least because I lived there for several years in the late ’90s, both for graduate school and for a couple of years of work after I finished my studies at the University of South Carolina.

I’ve always thought the genteel, quietly elegant and polite society of South Carolina was far more sophisticated and mature than just about any city I’ve ever visited or lived in here in the United States. Outsiders only see the Confederate flag flying on the state capitol grounds, but while the black heart of racism clearly still beats in this otherwise verdant state, and deep, crippling poverty afflicts a shockingly high percentage of the population, there’s so much more to South Carolina that can’t simply be reduced to what you see in the national headlines.

There is, of course, so much genuine kindness, compassion, and generosity overflowing in every city South Carolina. The outpouring of forgiveness and unfathomable grace that the community of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston extended towards the killer during his appearance before a judge last week is but one example of just how much that city has truly earned its moniker, The Holy City. There is also hate and there is plenty of resentment. There is a deep well of grief and sadness with roots woven tightly into family histories dating back generations. There is ugly racism, social inequality, and the ever present shadow of vicious hate groups devoted to the denigration of other races.

But during my four years in Columbia, where my route to and from school was within the shadow of the Confederate flag when it still flew over the capitol dome, I also met some of the finest, most welcoming people, many of whom later became dear friends. I worked at a private college that was surrounded by a predominantly African-American, poverty-stricken community, and the administration was (and is) active in breaking down the barriers between “town and gown” that often afflict institutions in similar settings. I lived in the same neighborhood myself, and I and a close friend often ran for miles through its maze of dark streets at 5:30 am and never once felt unsafe.

I’m also not white, in case that’s not obvious, and while racial relations in South Carolina was and still is defined largely along black/white lines, I was welcome to attend and participate in panels and workshops that addressed the ongoing struggle to move beyond the struggles of the civil rights movements of decades past and forge a better future. And yep, there was plenty of discussion, plenty of words spoken, lots of handouts distributed. Outsiders assume that, as in many parts of the country, South Carolina doesn’t know how to — and doesn’t want to — face the intractable problem of racism that still exists in the Palmetto State, but the truth is that it does and wants to.

It could certainly move much faster, and clearly, as the events of the past week have demonstrated, there remains a lot of work to be done. But the way that Charlestonians and South Carolinians everywhere have come together to grieve and honor its dead, and how swiftly Governor Nikki Haley and other elected officials of both parties called for the removal of the Confederate flag after years of ignoring the issue, demonstrate just how much things have changed and will continue to change, and that no one will be ignored, whatever their skin color.

As Fitbit Goes Public, It Will Have To Outrun Competition : All Tech Considered : NPR

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“We believe that as health care costs continue to rise and as employers continue to seek ways to keep their employees active, engaged, and productive, more employers will implement or enhance their corporate wellness programs.”

via As Fitbit Goes Public, It Will Have To Outrun Competition : All Tech Considered : NPR.

Am I the only one who thinks that employee-sponsored wearables and wellness programs are a bad idea? It smacks of Big Brother surveillance, only this time BB is also paying you a salary. The dream of the twenty-first century worker is to have the flexibility and creative freedom to pursue fulfilling work that they can balance with their personal responsibilities and interests. The remote, distributed workplace is part of that dream for a lot of jobseekers and employees, and with good reason. Working from home, especially if it comes with the ability to choose your own schedule, is a tremendous perk, and one still elusive to most full-time employees.

But what if one of the other benefits is a wearable that also tracks your sleep, physical activity, heart rate, and a number of other biometric data that, previously, only your doctor was privy to? There are already employers who dangle that carrot to their employees, ostensibly as an incentive to maintain their fitness and health in an otherwise competitive, stressful industry. Is it really as benign as it seems?

Once upon a time, I worked for an employer who offered a free wellness program. It included giveaways like pedometers and water bottles, and at the end of a certain period, if your activity sheet (which the company distributed) recorded at least one activity a day, your name was added to a drawing for a couple of high-value prizes. I think one of them was actually a laptop, which in 2007 was definitely a big deal.

Execution, though, was inconsistent at best, and humiliating and painful at worse. Case in point: they brought in a couple of volunteer paramedics to the office to take blood samples from each of us and also measure our BMI. The paramedic attempted to draw blood from my arms at least a half-dozen times. He had such horrible technique that by the time he was done, I had a 7-inch discolored bruise on my upper arm that lasted weeks. I fared better than others, though. One of my co-workers actually had blood drawn from her fist – that’s how bad that paramedic was. I still cringe thinking about the pain she must’ve felt.

The worst part, though, was when he measured my BMI (Body Mass Index). He used both a tape measure and calipers, and for some odd reason he came up with a BMI of 31. Thirty. One.

Note that I am 5’3″ and, at the time, weighed about 125 lbs. While that’s actually a few pounds more than my ideal weight (I have a relatively small frame and don’t hold extra weight well), I don’t know how anyone could argue that I was obese. All my doctors reassured me that I was well within a healthy range. But 31 is right there under the “Obesity” category of the BMI scale.

The number was duly noted and was included in my health assessment, and god knows how my employer used it. Several of us complained to HR about our experiences with the paramedic, and even the HR manager gasped when she saw the massive bruise on my arm. I doubt anything came out of it — I suspect our health files ended up in some dusty warehouse somewhere, kind of like that final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Still, I’ve been suspicious of wellness programs ever since, and more so when technology raises the stakes by introducing even more intrusive means of tracking intimate employee data. It’s enough that my employer gets my intellect, my physical energy, a big chunk of mindshare for the majority of my waking hours. I’d like to reserve the privacy of my body and my health just for myself, my doctor, and when necessary, close family members. I hardly think it’s too much to ask that my employer stay out of that part of my life.

A perfect EFF score! We’re proud to have your back.

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Marjorie:

Yep, this is where I work. And I couldn’t be more proud.

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

Concerns about online privacy and illicit government snooping are at the top of users’ minds, now more than ever. We appreciate that you trust us to safeguard your sensitive information on WordPress.com, and Automattic has a long-standing commitment to defending your rights and holding firm against legal bullying and over-reaching government requests. We work to have the most stringent, user-friendly policies possible within the law, and to be as transparent as we can about information requests we receive and how we respond to them.

Our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), on organization dedicated to defending your digital rights, recognized our efforts in their latest annual Who Has Your Back report, which evaluates the user privacy practices of prominent online service providers. We’re proud to receive a perfect score of five stars on the report, one of only eight (out of 24) companies to earn that honor. You can learn more about EFF’s evaluation…

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The Father Of “Getting Things Done”: You’re Getting Me All Wrong | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

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Some people need to focus more on their goals. Some people need to stop focusing on their goals and actually get shit done.”

via The Father Of “Getting Things Done”: You’re Getting Me All Wrong | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

Note: Great article about the Getting Things Done philosophy of productivity and mindfulness, and interview with its creator, David Allen. I’ve been a fan for years, ever since I read the book back in 2009, and have been struggling to perfectly implement it in my work and personal lives. This article is making me rethink how I interpreted GTD (despite the fact that I’ve read the book cover-to-cover and listened to the full audio book at least 3-4 times!). I especially enjoy the analogy to Zen Buddhism, a philosophy and spiritual discipline that really resonates with me. Worth a read and won’t take more than 10 minutes to do so.

The Dalai Lama’s Daily Routine and Information Diet | Brain Pickings

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Compressed into this humble and humbling morning routine is the entire Buddhist belief that life is a “joyful participation in a world of sorrows.” This daily rite of body and spirit is the building block of the Dalai Lama’s quiet and steadfast mission to, as Iyer elegantly puts it, “explore the world closely, so as to make out its laws, and then to see what can and cannot be done within those laws.”

via The Dalai Lama’s Daily Routine and Information Diet | Brain Pickings.

Giveaway: Starbucks and WordPress. – Surviving and Thriving | Surviving and Thriving

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And when I thought of journals I flashed on those “Coffeehouse Cliche” giveaways that I’ve done in the past. When Groupon offered me a $10 Starbucks card today for $5, how could I resist?

via Giveaway: Starbucks and WordPress. – Surviving and Thriving | Surviving and Thriving.

*Note: What could be more perfect than the combination of Coffee + WordPress? Deadline to enter is Tuesday, June 16, so be sure to sign up!

The Quantified Self as a Writer

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Using Scrivener at Starbucks.

Using Scrivener at Starbucks.

I’ve been a dedicated follower of the sci-fi writer (and software developer by day) Jamie Todd Rubin, ever since I read one of the blog posts extolling the virtues of going paperless. He’s an Evernote Ambassador (apparently an unpaid honor that entitles Rubin to a free Business plan and an audience of Evernote fans to tap into to promote his own writing), and as a productivity devotee and Evernote user myself, it didn’t take long for his name to pop into my consciousness.

Rubin’s in the middle of a massive writing streak. Massive, as in, he’s been writing at least once a day for nearly 700 consecutive days. He hasn’t missed a day since July 21, 2013.

Rubin doesn’t have a word count goal, nor is he aiming for a specific number of pages per day. Rather, he simply squeezes in as much time as he can in his very busy days to get some writing done, whether it’s a couple hundred words a day or 1,500. Since he launched his writing streak, though, he’s discovered that the more he writes, the more efficient he’s become, the better his writing, and the easier (relatively speaking) the writing gets. Writing is never easy, of course (not to me, anyway), but like with anything else, as Rubin has demonstrated, you do get better at something the more you do it. It doesn’t matter how little talent you have to begin with (and Rubin is clearly talented) – if you keep at something and persevere, you will get results. You may never find yourself playing solo at Carnegie Hall someday, but if you push yourself to practice the piano every single day for years on end, you will improve.

It’s a discipline I’m working on now as I hit my mid-forties. I dreamt once of finishing a novel by the time I actually reached 40, but clearly that’s well behind me. Still, the big war novel is begging to be completed – I left my protagonist stranded in steamy Singapore, waiting to learn of his fate, wondering where the Girl is and if she’s still alive. I’ve several bookshelves groaning under the weight of dozens of World War II novels, biographies, and histories. I think this book, this story – even if it’s fiction – belongs up there, too.

Rubin uses a script he created (did I mention that he’s a software developer?) to automatically tally up his word count every evening. He writes directly into Google Docs so that he doesn’t have to mess with learning a new program like Scrivener, which is beautiful to use and packed with features, but which does have a bit of a learning curve. As a quantified writer who likes to track not only his writing output but also his sleep and his fitness milestones and probably his diet, too, Rubin doesn’t want to waste time that he already has so little of on something not directly related to the act of writing itself. There’s something to that. I’m surrounded by at least 5 dogs nearly every day, have a full-time job that demands a huge chunk of my mental processing power, a husband with his own demanding career, and a house that needs occasional upkeep. Once my head hits my pillow each night, I’m usually asleep within five minutes. Every day is a packed day.

As much as I’d love to try out Rubin’s script, I think I’m going to aim for the already-challenging goal of writing 500 words a day. Not 200 or 100 or 50, which is the pitiful low barrier I’ve been hurtling myself over, but something that will actually get me closer to my goal of completing the damn thing. Fifty words is better than zero, but it’s so easy to lose momentum that way. I like to let my hands do the writing and let my brain hang around for the ride. It can make for some interesting detours in the story sometimes (I switched POVs halfway through), but that’s what the editing process is for.