in Interesting

WordPress.com and its distributed workforce

“I would say going into the office every day is a productivity loss,” Mullenweg says. “Most offices are fairly soul-crushing environments. I think part of the reason is that they’re… via Matt Mullenweg: Distributed Workforces are All About Results.

I first learn about wordpress begin a distributed company from Philip at my first wordpress meetup. He shared his experience as a Theme Wrangler at Automattic Inc (the parent company for wordpress.com and many others) and the working culture. And I’m actually pretty amazed that for a company like Automattic Inc that runs wordpress.com has only  have 131 employees.

The best thing about it is the employees are located around the world. They are distributed. The tradition thinking is to have all employees under the one roof so the “boss” can see what the employees and doing also to build up the culture in the firm. But Automattic has build it’s own culture by begin distributed. They have also proven themselves to produce results just like what Matt mentioned. (see left)

So I was pretty interested in the tools they used for communicating, things like emails I guess would be the most important tool. But I was wrong, Philip shared he had checked his email for work stuff less than 20 times (i may remember wrongly, figures could be lower) since he join Automattic. And he shared the few tools they use.

They are:

  1. The P2 wordpress theme – a twitter like interface blog theme and everything is transparent in the company. maybe for co-workers salary and super secretive stuff but mostly all informations are shared on their P2, so everyone knows what’s happening in the company
  2. IRC – sharing between team members, if I did not remember wrongly; the teams are no larger than 10)
  3. Jabber – the original IM service based on XMPP and one of the key nodes on the XMPP network.

Sometimes we hear fellow startups facing problems with their outsourcing partners, we have the same application tools for us and Automattic has done it so well. It’s true that Automattic is communicating to it’s employees while we are to our outsourcing partners but I believe the key lies in communication and executions.

Using internet technology to break communication barriers and everyone can be working at their comfort area is so awesome. This also means that Automattic can get talent not just in US but also around the world and they will not have issues with things like visa or even employment passesFurethermore, because they are located in different time zone, there are always engineers looking after the site. Maybe this is why wordpress.com downtime is so low.

With the talent crunch in Singapore and employment restriction, I really loves this idea of running a distributed company and I would certainly love my startup to be manage in a similar manner. How about you? What is your take on distributed workforce?

  • http://juliusparrisius.wordpress.com juliusparrisius

    Love the post, wordpress really stands out in this regard! I just read the book 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss and in large parts it is also about liberating yourself from a 9 to 5 office job, because you can be both more productive when not in the office and have much more freedom.

    • http://leetucksing.wordpress.com Bryan Lee

      Hi Julius, thanks for the comment.
      Yeah. I really think wordpress.com is amazing too :P

  • http://juliusparrisius.wordpress.com juliusparrisius

    Love the post, wordpress really stands out in this regard! I just read the book 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss and in large parts it is also about liberating yourself from a 9 to 5 office job, because you can be both more productive when not in the office and have much more freedom.

    • http://leetucksing.wordpress.com Bryan Lee

      Hi Julius, thanks for the comment.
      Yeah. I really think wordpress.com is amazing too :P

  • http://aishyza.wordpress.com aishyza

    made me curious about the type of people and culture within WordPress – how it’s is built and maintained long distance. Amazing that a community centered tied around work can be built over mediated channels – what could their common denominator?

    • http://leetucksing.wordpress.com Bryan Lee

      Hellooooo :D
      Thanks for the comment, I would love to find out too.
      Maybe I will drop a mail to one of the guys I met at the meetup to see what’s their common denominator

      Cheers

  • http://aishyza.wordpress.com aishyza

    made me curious about the type of people and culture within WordPress – how it’s is built and maintained long distance. Amazing that a community centered tied around work can be built over mediated channels – what could their common denominator?

    • http://leetucksing.wordpress.com Bryan Lee

      Hellooooo :D
      Thanks for the comment, I would love to find out too.
      Maybe I will drop a mail to one of the guys I met at the meetup to see what’s their common denominator

      Cheers

  • shuq

    Their work culture from a first-person employee perspective is captured in this book as well:
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Year-Without-Pants-WordPress-com/dp/1118660633

    • http://bosslee.co/ Bryan Lee

      Awesome! Must get the book :)
      But there is also an debate that for an early stage company, it is still better to be physically together because things change real fast and communication is upmost important. What’s your take? @shuq

      • shuq

        I think every company is a different beast, with different cultures. I agree that being physically together is best but like you wrote, talent may not be in the vicinity of where the company is based.

        Not all talent is suitable to work remotely. There must be some best practices for communication within the company. Employees must be willing to over-communicate in the beginning to find the levels where clarity can be achieved. Remote employees might feel left out if they do not receive information at the same speed as local employees. All these things make it very tough. So without a commitment to work this way, can really be quite tough.

        I worked remotely for a while as well and the timezone difference also made things slower for certain activities. Feedback on work done was not as fast, which in the beginning is not so ideal.

        So understanding the costs (all of the above issues) vs the benefits (you have access to really talented individuals who can be super productive given some independence), if you can figure it out, then like WordPress, huat liao.