It’s not every day that two titans of technology get together in the same room and gab for an hour, but that’s exactly what happened recently when Matt Mullenweg, the CEO of the web development company Automattic and the co-founder of WordPress, sat down with LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. The two gabbed like old friends about a wide variety of topics, including content, the history of WordPress, and the future of publishing.
You can watch the video, which appeared on LinkedIn’s blog, by clicking here.
The conversation began with the transformation of publishing content over the years. “One of the things that has been great is that many people thought the growth of social networks would kill blogs, but in fact what’s happened is that [social networks] are driving a ton of distribution, which is invigorating,” the WordPress co-founder said.
He added, “The downside is that a lot of the conversation that happened on blogs is now taking place in other places. People tend to talk about content where they were first exposed to it, so they respond to the Tweets, and what might have been a rich discussion… is not disaggregated. Sometimes the blog can be a bit lonely.” In essence, much of today’s conversation is occurring on various social media outlets.
Knowing what he knows now, is there anything Mullenweg would have done differently? “Lots of things,” he humbly said. “Almost everything. Things that come to mind are how we deal with media. I think that’s still a weak point for WordPress… We’re pretty good at text. Beyond that, it’s a little tricky. One transition we’re making now that I wish we had done four or five years ago is moving away from the document model.”
Despite the abundance of social networks and limitations with video, audio, and other multimedia, WordPress is growing leaps and bounds. Mullenweg commented, “People read blogs every single day… Providing a way for people to have a great reading experience is something we’re still figuring out and still working on.” There’s also still plenty of room for new and original content.
Mullenweg and Hoffman also talked about WordPress as a communication tool at Automattic. Instead of sending e-mails back and forth, as most of us do, Automattic uses WordPress to facilitate idea generation. “People are surprised at how little e-mail there is at Automattic,” Mullenweg said. “I get maybe 5 to 10 e-mails a week and that’s mostly HR stuff. Everything else is on these private internal blogs.”
He questioned, “What do we use email for? Communication. What are the downsides of that? Well, it allows anyone to interrupt you… Think of what [we do] like a CRM for all of your information and projects. By having everything public, searchable, and tagged, it’s really cool stuff.”
Mullenweg and company are working on a product called O2, which, according to its website, “liberates your company from the digital suffocation of doing business over e-mail.” He explained, “We’re trying to move the center of gravity for communication to something that’s open. We’re actually redoing the system… If you check out GetO2.com, you’ll be able to use it.” O2 is the reboot of Automattic’s internal system, which is called P2.
Finally, the conversation turned to the future of publishing. “I am a strong believer in long form and book and written content,” Mullenweg said. “That’s something that will be at the core of communication for a long time to come. Conversations are great, but [I like written responses]. I can think about it and I can throw it around to some people and really work on it.” Rather than shoot off quick thoughts in 140 characters, blogging and WordPress allow for comprehensive reflection. After all, not every industry can allow someone like a stock broker to become a theme developer!