Just doing shit

I was doing tickets today and I had to head on over to the Akismet docs site and it brought back memories of weekend I created it.

One thing you have to understand is when I have an idea that I think needs to be happen nothing will usually stop me from making it happen. About three years ago when I first started working on Akismet I was surprised to find out that we didn’t have any docs. We had a few things on the contact form and some predefs but nothing in the way of support docs. I found that really strange and suggested that we create something. I don’t remember exactly what happened but it soon became apparent that it wasn’t going to get prioritized anytime soon.

I was bored one Saturday night so I just built it. It’s nothing special, just a regular WordPress.com site that I added some custom CSS to make it look like the regular site. I used the list pages shortcode to generate the front page and wrote up all the docs based on the issues I saw coming up all the time. Today that site is getting over 5k views a week and is something I’m proud to have brought into the world.

So keep in mind that if you say worry about it later to something but I can do it myself I probably will 🙂 .

SolicitedFeedback.com

I’m always looking for ways to keep busy, so far I’ve been unsuccessful. I think my main trouble is I’ve always attempted things that required too much money or depended on too many other people. So I’ve come up with a new idea. People who know me know that I’m pretty opinionated. I can’t help it. I have an iterative mind. Whenever I look at something my mind instantly starts thinking of how I would improve it.

What if I turned my OCD into a business. I’m going to start a business called SolicitedFeedback.com, it’s basically my brand of unsolicited feedback but people will actually ask me for it. I’m going to focus on WooCommerce sites as ecommerce is what I’m really passionate about and I want to position myself as a Woo master.

So what will my service entail? I’m not going to give you SEO advice or check your code. Think of my service as asking your friend what he thinks of your site. But your friend is super knowledgeable and not afraid to hurt your feelings 🙂 . So basically I’ll look at your site as a whole and give you feedback. If your product descriptions suck I’ll tell you. If I think your categorization is crap don’t worry I’ll let you know. I’m basically going to answer the question what would nick do (WWND) with your site.

I’m going to charge a flat rate of $39 per site. You gotta charge something as people don’t trust free things. But I’ll also offer a 100% money back guarantee if you don’t think what I’ve recommended was worth the fee. I don’t expect to make all that much money but what I really want to do is meet a bunch of really passionate people doing super fun stuff.

Swag Legacy

One thing I think quite a bit about is what would happen to the swag game if moved on to other things and wasn’t around anymore. No one is as crazy about it as me and I kinda worry about what would happen. I’m sure to most people it’s the least important thing but I honestly believe that swag plays a big part in well rounded marketing plan and is essential to keeping employees happy.

I’ve been looking for projects to tackle over Christmas break and thought it might be fun to write down all of my crazy ideas in one place. That way once I’m gone there will still be a river of ideas to put from until someone takes up the mantle. There is nothing more fun for me than coming up with new ideas. I registered swaglegacy.com today and if someday there comes a point where I disappear from the WordPress swag scene head on over there for some inspiration 🙂 .

Holy crap, people listen to me

I said this:

and got this response:

It looks like a super fun plugin. Now that I know people actually listen to the random crap I say maybe I should be a bit more careful. Or actually on second thought maybe I should tweet even more ambitious ideas 🙂 .

The Swag Machine

I knew that with my new company I wanted to make a really neat sticker design. Since the name is based off Scooby Doo I decided to make a Scooby Doo based design. I think it turned out really great and I can’t wait to print some up and hand them out.

Jetpack pitch

I often get bored and need to find ways to amuse myself. Today I was looking at the Jetpack marketing copy that we give to WordCamps and decided to take a stab at it “improving” it.

Here is the current wording:

Jetpack is a free WordPress plugin that simplifies managing your sites by connecting to WordPress.com. This connection enables Photon (global CDN for images), uptime monitoring, brute force protection, traffic-boosting tools, single sign on, multiple site management, and automatic or bulk plugin updates. Additionally Jetpack includes several features that help you customize the look-and-feel of your site without needing extra plugins. More information can be found at jetpack.me

The current wording isn’t bad, it just really doesn’t speak to me. I think it focuses too much on the features, which are called things that no one really understands. I would focus more on what it can do for the users and less on the individual features. For me the only thing that I really care about is time, that’s the only thing that I can never have enough of. With that it mind, I came up with this.

Time, the One thing there is never enough of. Simplify your life, TAKE BACK SOME OF THAT WASTED TIME WITH JETPACK. From our powerful sharing tools that allow you to Spend less time getting your message out. To our advanced site management features (powered by WP.com) that free you up to work on more important things. Even Security, which can be complex & time consuming, is no problem with Jetpack. rest easy knowing that your site is protected by our state-of-the-art security tools.

Take your life back today at Jetpack.com

Edit: I’m not suggesting we use this for WordCamps due to the restrictions. The WordCamp sites was just where I found the above information. I’m more concerned with non-WordCamp events, events without restrictions 🙂 .

New site alert | swag incorporated

I think I’ve been pretty transparent in my desire to pursue swag based marketing full time. With the utmost humility I can honestly say that I believe that I’m the greatest living swag maker 🙂 . Someday I will pursue marketing/swag making full time and I want to prepare for that day by creating an entity to showcase my skills. I’ve done that a little bit with my blog and other sites but I needed something a bit more formal.

So I created Swag Incorporated. The name pays homage to one of my favorite tv shows Scooby Doo and their company Mystery Incorporated. I’m having a really neat sticker design done up right now along that same line. I’ve decided that I can’t wait around to make amazing swag, so now whenever I have an idea I’m just going to do it myself, no waiting for official support. SI is where I’ll show off all the items I’m really proud of and blog about things I’m really excited about.

The site itself is built with layers by my friends over at Obox. I’ve been using it for a while but didn’t really come to understand how powerful it was until I used it for a real project. If you are looking for a really awesome site building experience you should really check it out.

But anyway please check out the site if you are interesting in swag based marketing or if you just like seeing really cool shit.

WordPress Guitar Picks

For summer NAMM we did some WordPress guitar picks. They turned out pretty good but I think we can do better. What bothered me the most is the picks were all the same thickness. Now I don’t play the guitar but when I started making custom picks a few years ago I discovered that the color of the pick corresponded it’s thickness. By ordering all picks of the same thickness you are turning the pick from something useful into something promotional. I would love it if the musicians actually used the picks and left them in places all over the world.

I also like doing picks in various sizes as that means various colors which is more visually appealing. I’ve looked through 1000’s of pictures from last year’s NAMM and the most impressive displays were picks in a bunch of different colors separated by color. We also only had the logo on them which I felt wasn’t the best. If you are a WordPress fan you know what the logo is but most people there have no clue what WordPress is and without a url or something to remind them they are likely to never figure it out. I would also like the use the simplified logo. The double ringed logo didn’t look good on that small space. What we need now is something simple and clean.

Jetpack Experiment

There’s something I’ve always wanted to try with Jetpack. So let’s get real for a second, 37 modules is nuts, absolutely nuts. No, don’t get me wrong I don’t think there is too much functionality, I just think the way we grouped things/set up modules isn’t working nor is it sustainable.

So how do I propose to fix it? Well, let me tell you. We need to redo all the modules. There is no reason why there needs to be a Publicize, Sharing, and Likes modules. We should just have a “Suped up Sharing” module that contains all three. They all serve a similar purpose, letting people know about your content, what’s the point of them being separate.

Let me make this clear, I’m not talking about grouping modules all 37 modules into module groups. That wouldn’t solve anything. I’m talking about merging features into brand new modules based on what area they broadly effect. I want one toggle for each module below. If they don’t want to use a particular feature they just don’t have to use but it will still be active. Some people want pinpoint control over every Jetpack feature but those people you’ll never make happy anyway. The majority of the people just want to set it and forget it. The easier you make it for them the better the chance they’ll actually use it. We can’t deliver on our promise of simplifying WordPress without first simplifying ourselves.

  • Suped up Sharing: Sharing, Likes, Publicize, Subscriptions
  • Editor Enhancer: Beautiful Math, Shortcode Embeds, Post by Email, WP.me Shortlinks, VideoPress, Contact Form, Markdown, Spelling and Grammar, Related Posts
  • Image Improver: Tiled Galleries, Carousel, Photon
  • Worthier Widgets: Widget Visibility, Extra Sidebar Widgets
  • Better Backend: JSON API, Enhanced Distribution
  • Fantastic Frontend: Gravatar Hovercards, Comments, Infinite Scroll, Mobile Theme
  • Crazy Control: Custom CSS, Custom Content Types
  • Advanced Administration: Notifications, Single Sign On, Site Verification, Omnisearch, Site Stats, Monitor
  • Superior Security: Protect, VaultPress
  • Daring Dotcom: Manage

Now have ten modules. Ten is totally manageable, ten makes sense. No one is going to accuse a ten module plugin of being bloated. How many users are going to get overwhelmed by a ten module plugin? Part of the WordPress philosophy is decisions, not options. Here you replace 37 options with 10 easy decisions. Let’s try to get more out of WordPress by doing less.

WooCommerce Sticker Concept

Right now the WooCommerce stickers are cute little animals with the WooCommerce logo underneath. They aren’t bad, they are well designed and very cute. I’m so happy they aren’t just boring logo based stickers. Unfortunately, I think they have very limited marketing value. Giving them out doesn’t really help advance any of our company goals.

You are probably wondering why I feel that way? I feel that any piece of swag should communicate what the company does either through it’s imagery or words. If I let you look at one of these stickers for 2 seconds could you tell me what the company does. If you caught the small logo on the bottom the word “commerce” might give it away but the animals just don’t.

What I would like to see is something that invokes feelings of ecommerce. I would also like to do something that allows for easy variations. I’m also not a fan of blanket swag, swag that you bring to every event regardless of what the event is about. That’s just lazy, you are spending a bunch of cash to be there why not put in the extra effort. People notice these details.

Above is a crude mockup of what I was thinking. I really wanted to use a bag instead of the shopping cart but the bag looked too much like what Shopify is doing. I think with something like this you know exactly what WooCommerce does. You can also easily make event specific variations by just changing what is in the shopping cart. If we are going to a NAMM fill it with musical instruments or if we are going to the 2016 SwagConf (my conference) we’ll fill it full of t-shirts.

For recruiting the Automattic brand should be abandoned

Ok, I promised you some radical ideas and here is the first of many. Whenever we go recruiting we do it as Automattic and I think that is a problem. I’ve been to a dozen events and people have no clue who Automattic is. It’s a really bad problem when you first have to explain who the heck you are before trying to convince them to work for you.

Once you do tell them who you are they are all excited because most people (who we are trying to hire) have heard of WordPress. It’s a big brand with lots of name recognition. The only way I get out of being made felt bad by my former law school classmates is I tell them I work for “WordPress” (I know it’s a tad misleading) and they are all impressed. If I told them I worked for Automattic they probably would try to give me some cash or something as they feel bad for me 🙂 .

So I think our recruiting efforts should be done by our most recognizable brand, WordPress.com. I know there is some weirdness over WP.org vs WP.com and we don’t want people thinking the open source project is owned by Automattic but I think those issues can all be resolved. I’ll estimate that our applications and such will go up by 3453% if we started recruiting as WordPress.com and moved our job listings to careers.wordpress.com (or something similar).

Automattic won’t go anywhere, we’ll still be employed by Automattic but I think it would be ok if the corporate entity was not as visible. This is done all the time in the web world. MailChimp’s parent company is Rocket Science Group, have you ever heard of them? I haven’t, but I’ve heard of MailChimp and since all their job listings are on MailChimp.com (their most recognizable brand) I’m sure they have no trouble recruiting people.

How to approach hiring?

I was sent to Japan to work on recruiting so I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. I tend to treat everything as a business so when I think I about hiring I go into marketing mode. What I’m curious about what people care about when looking for a job. My own personal experience is pretty non-existent as I’ve only ever applied for one job ever and I’m still here. What are people looking for? if we only have a postcard or a small ad to get their attention what do we include?

At Automattic our pitch seems to center mostly around our amazing work from home policy. While that is pretty great we’ve had people leave and go work back in an office. What did they find at their new job that made that trade off livable? Other things like good salaries, insurance, etc seem to be about the same anywhere. I don’t know if those are things that will get people to leave their current job for you.

I know for me if I ever left Automattic it wouldn’t be for more money or perks. I would only leave if I found a job that was more fun, let me do more of the things that I love. Is fulfilling work something most people are looking for? Is that something we can advertise? If so, how do you communicate that working here would allow you to do something that matters and that you feel is important. I don’t really know.

Maybe I just need more data. It would be interesting to hear from people why they have applied to Automattic and also to hear from people why they left.

For me it was all about the people. I needed a job and I meet some cool people at WordCamp SF 2011 and thought I wanted to work with people like this. The work from home thing was great as it meant I could at Automattic even if I lived in South Dakota but I think I would have been fine working in a office. I wasn’t particularly passionate about the work, back then there were only a handful of positions and it was the only thing I was qualified for. I had no clue how much Automattic paid, I didn’t really care about any of the benefits, so I guess for me it was all about culture. If that is something else people care about and how do we communicate that? Is it possible?

I’ll tell you right now that my time on the Akismet team was the greatest time in my working life. I didn’t necessarily always like what I was doing but the people I was working with were so great I didn’t care. So I’m rambling now but the basic point is I have no clue what to include in our advertisements and such but I’m going to keep trying different things until I find something that works 🙂 .

Communicating Value

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we communicate our product’s value to potential customers. You don’t really think about it all that much until you work an event and someone asks you why should they use your product. I think when you are too close to it you don’t really realize that it’s benefits aren’t as straightforward as you thought.

First it’s pretty obvious that there are many options for doing backups. Some hosts provide backups, there are various WordPress plugins that provide backup capabilities (some are really good), and there are even other WordPress plugins that back up and save your backups to their own server. So what’s our unique selling proposition? What do we offer that no else does?

I’ll be completely honest, back when I was using WordPress heavily for myself and others I never even considered using VaultPress. I saw the price, walked away, and never looked back. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford it and it wasn’t that I didn’t need it. I basically looked at the features they were offering compared them to other solutions and found that the free solutions worked fine for me. Fast forward to today and I wouldn’t even consider suggesting a free plugin, mainly for the reasons I’ll talk about below.

What do I think VaultPress has going for it?

  • Unlimited Storage Space — Right now we don’t have a hard limit on what we’ll backup and I don’t know if this will always be the case but this is pretty huge. Back in the day I used backup buddy + dropbox and there is no way I could do that now as all my Dropbox space would be eaten up by backups. Also both Updraft and Backup Buddy limit you to 1gb of storage space.
  • Offsite backups — During my WordPress heydays I used Media Temple and they provided me with free backups. The problem was the backups were on the same server as my site so when shit really hit the fan I lost access to my backups too. I would much rather have my backups safe in the Automattic cloud than on my VPS or personal hard drive.
  • Trust — Offsite backups are great but they are only as good as the people hosting them. There are other companies who store your backups but I know 100% that their infrastructure isn’t as good as WP.com. I have no fear keeping my backups with us. My entire world is on WordPress.com now and I wouldn’t give that level of trust to anyone else. WP.com is popular/trusted we should let people know how safe their stuff is.
  • Support — In 2015 I think people are paying more for support than anything else. If my site was down and I didn’t know how to fix it myself I would love being able to have someone help me. Last week a website I set up for one of my law school professors went down and even though they hadn’t talked to me in three years they called me up as they needed help, right away. I know for a fact he would have no trouble $5/month for VaultPress for the sole fact that he had someone to ping if something goes wrong. Piece of mind is priceless for some people, we are only asking for $5/month. You don’t get this with free solutions.

 
So looking at the current VaultPress plans page we are “promoting” that we do backups, restores, and provide safekeeper support. Every single backup solutions has those features. We aren’t giving our customers any reason why our backups/restores are any better. I also dislike the use of cutesy names. No one has any clue what a Safekeeper or Happiness Engineer is. Let’s prioritize being clear over being clever.

If I’m being completely honest I wouldn’t sign up for VaultPress based on our current plans page and I’m kinda surprised that people actually do. But I think if we updated the copy to better reflect our strengths and what makes us better than other solutions I think choosing VaultPress would become a much easier decision.

WordPress Ugly Sweater style

I’m a big fan of taking big swings, my personal motto is f*** the status quo. So yesterday I decided I wanted a new piece of WordPress apparel and I wanted to do something a bit crazy. So I dusted off the old swag rolodex and contacted one of my favorite t-shirt designers as I knew he had a style that would be perfect for my latest idea. I gave him a few phrases/images and said do whatever you want.

Here is what he came up with. I’m fully aware that this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I like pushing boundaries (as that is where change comes from). I think it looks pretty neat and I’ll be rocking it at WCUS.

Wapuu McFly

wapuu waited until the last minute but we finally got all the pieces together for his halloween costume. I think it turned out great and he can’t wait to show it off in tokyo.

AC/DC WP Shirt Parody

I was looking through last year’s NAMM hashtagged photos on IG last night and I saw so many people wearing rock style shirts and it gave me an idea for a WordPress one based on a classic AC/DC design.

football wapuu

Last week I was at the Automattic grand meetup and there was quite a bit of Fifa playing going on and it got me thinking, I wonder if wapuu plays any sports. So I asked him and he sent me this pic of him playing football this summer. Since he refuses to let go of the ball he makes a perfect goalie 🙂 .