Thrilled to announce I’ve joined Tumblr as head of product and technology. This new role means I get to work alongside industry veterans on a brand and a platform that I’ve admired for years — all while engaging with and creating new experiences for an amazing and diverse community of fans, creators, and brands.
What most excites me is the fit of my skills and experience with this new challenge. New learnings. Combines years of experience as a hands-on product developer with cross-functional operations at the executive level. My full range! Success means nurturing and developing an outstanding technical organization, purpose-driven to support a thriving online community and grow a healthy, sustainable business.
For any business owner, freelancer, entrepreneur, or anyone interesting in building an online business or side gig. This free webinar from WordPress.com web design pros (YouTube) will teach you tips on site design, SEO, monetization, and mobile optimization.
Two weeks ago, my colleague Marjorie asked if I’d be interested in helping run a webinar for small businesses, with tips on getting the most out of their website. She knew I’d done a lot of public speaking and thought I might be interested. Even though we wouldn’t have a lot of time to prepare, it took me all of three seconds to accept.
Fast forward to yesterday, when my colleague Steve Dixon and I presented a one-hour online workshop called Optimize Your Business Website: Secrets from Web Design Pros. Topics included essential pages for business sites, layout templates, the WordPress block editor, and what it takes to optimize a site so it’s both easy to find in search engines – and easy for visitors to use. We also looked at how to make sure your site is both accessible and mobile-friendly, along with a few different ways to…
Automattic is hiring engineers across mobile and web, frontend and backend. Recently we partnered with Key Values to highlight our top values, from open communication and open source all the way to flexible work location and a focus on teams.
Top values include:
Open communication: As a distributed company, communication is our oxygen.
Open source contributor: We believe open source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation.
Committed to personal growth: The first line of our creed: “I’ll never stop learning.”
Flexible work arrangements: Set up remotely in a way that works for you — and take the time off you need.
High employee retention: Automattic employees tend to stay at Automattic: Our retention rate for Code Wranglers and JS Engineers is 86% over the last 5 years.
Heavily team oriented: Teams are how we organize our work, communication, meetups, and impact.
Engages with community: We are more motivated by impact than money.
Engineering-driven: First and foremost, we are an engineering company. Engineers are the ambassadors of our company and community.
WordPress was my first introduction to the idea of distributed work — we didn’t need to live in the same place or work in the same office to build something that changes the world. So when I started building Automattic in 2005, we took the exact same approach. All you needed was good WiFi and a dream.
Fast forward to 2019, and Automattic remains a fully distributed company, with 900 employees working from 68 countries and no central office. Now that we’ve been working this way for over a decade, I wanted to create a podcast to tell the story of distributed work — not just sharing everything we’ve learned at Automattic, but speaking with other companies, executives, and creators who are pioneering the future of work. We’re going to learn about the practical application of distributed work in our daily lives, but also answer the bigger questions about why it’s important.
Forward-looking new series about distributed work from the founder of WordPress and Automattic (my employer).
In The big secret of small improvements Tal Bereznitskey explains how to improve “quick fix days,” where software teams take time to make small improvements. Those small changes can together mean a big win for customers and the business.
At Automattic we’ve experimented with both 1-day bug scrubs in one team all the way up to a full “hack week” — so Tal’s principles strike a chord with me.
Framing the problem is halfway to solving it — I love how he suggests rewording the subject line of a software change to fix a bug as something actionable, not just a description of the problem.
6. Well defined. Only work on tasks that are defined properly. Prefer “Make content scrollable” over “Bug: can’t see content when scrolling”.
Create positive feedback loops — I remember during my days answering WordPress.com Themes bug reports and how rewarding it was to hear directly from the people I helped with a bug fix.
7. Thanks you. There’s nothing like hearing a customer say “Thank you!”. When a quick-fix was suggested by a customer, let the developer email him and tell him the good news.
This is the work: customer kindness — Our latest iteration at Automattic speaks to this customer focus as the goal of the maintenance work — it isn’t just polish or cleanup, this is the product work. We even have a fun acronym for it now! H.A.C.K. — Helping Acts of Customer Kindness.
Tips from my coworker and prodigious mobile app maker Aaron Douglas on being mindful during video calls. Great tips, not just for remote workers, either. “I’ve come up with a bunch of little tweaks to help with attentiveness and mindfulness during the call. It is important to show you’re listening.”
Working remote means I’m on a lot of video calls. I’ve come up with a bunch of little tweaks to help with attentiveness and mindfulness during the call. It is important to show you’re listening.
Look at the camera often
When you’re in person you look at people’s eyes to show them you’re listening. Doing that on a video call requires a bit of counter-intuitive body language by looking at the camera. You won’t be looking at the person but they’ll see you looking directly at them. It’s a subtle difference but I’ve found it highly effective.
Also try to place the video call window up the screen towards the camera. Also decrease the size of the window so the person’s eyes are naturally closer to the top of the window (closer to the camera). When you’re not looking at the camera while the person is speaking it’ll still look…
About this Inclusive Design series —Today (February 16, 2018) I’m giving a talk on inclusive design at WordCamp Phoenix 2018. Leading up to the conference I’ve been publishing notes on voices, stories, products, and other resources: everything I’m learning about this emerging practice. Read more about the series.
Inclusive and diverse teams make better, stronger teams — and these teams make better decisions. Because our work and thought patterns are influenced by our background and biases, working with a diverse group means not only fresh, new ideas, but we also counterbalance the tendency to design for people just like ourselves. A higher standard.
And that is why representation matters, not just to those who are represented, but to all of us. Because it expands our sense of what’s possible, and what we have reason to expect. —Cate Huston
For maximum learning and a broader perspective, not limiting yourself to your immediate team or company; seeking out a wide variety of inputs from mentors, coaches, and other advisors.
If your team is limited and you don’t have the ability to expand, actively seek out people with other perspectives to consult or act as project advisors, and give special consideration to their feedback.
As a company that wants to unleash the potential in every team, depicting people is especially important. How we represent the people who make up teams should be just as important. We’ve always known that the best teams are balanced; made of a diverse group of people with different backgrounds and perspectives, but our illustrations haven’t always reflected that.
The authors found that even though their team aspired to be more inclusive, how they represented themselves visually wasn’t keeping pace with the true diversity of the team.
Promoting diversity and inclusion within our brand is a persistent and multi-faceted effort. And it’s a challenge to depict diversity without it feeling merely perfunctory or symbolic until the reality of our industry truly represents the customers we serve and the world at large. More needs to be done outside of the brand to promote an inclusive workplace, but we’ve found that the results of constant vigilance and open conversation are worth the time and energy.
To truly represent our customers is something Automattic is improving — we still have a long way to go. If you missed the story about updating the WordPress.com brand illustrations to be more diverse, see Inclusive Design, Day 5/15: To See Yourself in Imagery — with illustrator Alice Lee and my designer colleague Joan Rho.
For a thorough treatment of this topic, I highly recommend reading and bookmarking “On Improving Diversity in Hiring” from my Automattic colleague Cate Huston. In this in-depth article, she shares her hiring expertise to build diverse teams, everything from onboarding and recruiting to specific tips and tricks during interviews.
This rule of thumb about stopping the behavior before someone is hired hit home with me as this is something I need to improve on personally. An off-color joke here, a comment there; I’m learning to speak up more when I notice these things.
A good rule for inclusion pre-work to diversity is to stop doing things you would have to change if the demographics of your team better reflected the demographics of the world. —Cate Huston
One practical tip shared by Cate that I’ve put to good use is Textio, a service to help make job descriptions more inclusive. I used it in 2016 to update the Excellence Wrangler job posting, replacing phrases like triage ruthlessly with triage efficiently.
Cate’s influence in the last year or so has helped me improve my hiring to be more inclusive, both in mindset and in practice. She’s inspired me to read more broadly, and think more openly.
For day 15 of 15 of inclusive design, the last day, I’ll share a recap of all the inclusive design learnings I’ve shared in this series so far.
About this Inclusive Design series —Tomorrow I’ll give a talk on inclusive design at WordCamp Phoenix 2018. Leading up to the conference I’ve been publishing notes on voices, stories, products, and other resources: everything I’m learning about this emerging practice. This is day 14 of 15. Read more about the series.
Speed and connectivity should be considered be a major factor in exclusion. Just ride the BART in San Francisco. 😀
Joking aside, much of the world does not enjoy the wonders of high-speed bandwidth yet. Like William Gibson famously said, “The future is here, but it’s not evenly distributed.” Kansas City Google Fiber gigabit on one end, on the other Tegucigalpa less-than-Edge with wires hanging off a string.
As evidence of the disparity consider the “lite”* apps built by tech giants for markets where they want to drive adoption. The need for a reduced-weight experience in places with low-speed wired broadband and tenuous mobile broadband highlights the case of exclusion. Where large populations are left out of the “modern web” due to connectivity limitations, cost of entry, archaic device types, and many more reasons both cultural and political. (*Side note: what the heck is with that spelling?)
One story I noticed recently that mentioned speed as a leading tech market indicator involved WhatsApp’s growth in India even as Facebook lags behind them, via The Economist, January 27, 2018. Sluggish web app performance is a factor in Facebook’s lack of adoption in India. People who pay by the megabyte or gigabyte prefer to use a service that is leaner, faster, less bloated. They’re voting with their app choices.
In more ways than one, WhatsApp is the opposite of Facebook… whereas Facebook requires a fast connection, WhatsApp is not very data-hungry.
As a result [of this and other reasons], WhatsApp has become a social network to rival Facebook in many places, particularly in poorer countries. Of the service’s more than 1.3bn monthly users, 120m live in Brazil and 200m in India.
Extend the Benefits to Everyone
On the plus side, designing for speed brings about broad improvements to everyone else in the world. People should love the simpler interface with fewer settings and menus, alongside the bandwidth savings and reduced footprint for the app’s data storage needs.
Back to the trend of tech giants creating lighter versions of their apps. When I take a closer look at the apps like “Twitter Lite” and “Facebook Lite” — at first they appear to be primarily designed for speed on slow connections. Yet the changes bring a new and different experience to many people who are mobile-first or non-technical.
The design enhancements resulting in a simpler and more intuitive app extends the benefit to a wide variety of people. For example, better readability from larger text size and the usability win from simpler navigation and clearer labels. That sounds like something the AARP crowd would all buy or click on or subscribe to.
If you’re curious about the “lites” — here’s further reading.
With Facebook Lite, our goal is to provide the best possible Facebook experience to everyone, no matter their device or connection. And we hope that by sharing how we built the app, we can encourage more people to build for the next billion coming online. — via How we built Facebook Lite for every Android phone and network
The next billion coming online! Ambitious.
Is Calypso Fast Yet?
Goal: Calypso is the WordPress Lite.
Calypso designers also pay attention to the user interface, of course — recently we’ve made the text size larger and improved the color contrast for readability. My team at WordPress.com is now digging into label changes and interactions needed for a refreshed, simpler navigation for managing WordPress websites.
For those curious, we track speed improvements in Calypso on this data-rich website: iscalypsofastyet.com. And, we’re hoping to improve both the mobile web performance and the usability of the app even more in 2018.
In a blog post Speed is a key design attribute John Maeda highlights two strong voices in recent web history — speaking out on the value of speed and performance: Marissa Mayer and Lara Hogan. They’ve both been preaching this same topic for years. I’m sure today no one argues the pivotal role of speed in Google’s early success and how it led them to market dominance.
I’ve felt this slowness most times I travel, even in the US — in airports, hotels, taxis, trains. Most definitely when in other countries, because I’m limited by my data plan’s built-in speed limitation. Or, as when I visited a WordCamp in Nicaragua, the slow mobile “broadband” is the reality for everyone living there.
Keeping in mind much of the world now sees the web only through a mobile device. Which brings us to a message from Wapuu: Mind the mobile!
For day 14 of 15 of inclusive design, I’ll share behind-the-scenes details of the work Automattic designers put into our inclusive guide and checklist.
About this Inclusive Design series —In 2 days I’ll give a talk on inclusive design at WordCamp Phoenix 2018. Leading up to the conference I’m publishing notes on voices, stories, products, and other resources: everything I’m learning about this emerging practice. This is day 13 of 15. Read more about the series.