I gave a talk at USC earlier this week about Automattic and WordPress — something I’ve done for 3 years in a row now.
It’s always a ton of fun, and I make sure to do a survey (by show of hands) each time to see what these undergrad & grad students are using in terms of popular services.
Here are the results:
- WordPress: about 75%+ use WordPress in some capacity
- Facebook: 100%
- Twitter: about 75%
- Tumblr: 33%
- Note taking: Evernote vs Simplenote vs Pen & Paper: About 33% Evernote, the rest a combination of email, other apps, or nothing. And one person still using a pen & paper.
- iOS vs Android: 75% iOS, 25% Android
- SMS vs GroupMe vs MessageMe vs Snapchat: SMS still used by everyone, but the surprise here was Snapchat being used by over 50% of the class.
I asked the obvious question of what they were using Snapchat for – and the answer was that it was just a free SMS-like service, easy to send media, works all over the world and w/ friends overseas — and basically that everyone is on it. Was pretty clear it’s moved beyond the salacious roots (or at least how it was covered early on).
Twitter turned 7 years old this week. It makes me more grateful than ever for WordPress. Without WordPress, I would not have learned to write with my own voice and style.
WordPress is an awesome platform. WordPress is pretty damn open. Matt Mullenweg is really accesible. Matt is the founder and still pretty much in charge. He was like 15 when he started it. WordPress has community. WordPress powers so much media, but is rarely in the media. I meat Tony Conrad, Stocktwits first venture capital investor, through WordPress. Tony was Matts first investor.
In the physical world, when you shop at a bodega you don’t instantly compare it to an experience at a high-end Dean & DeLuca. When you purchase headphones at the airport, you don’t compare it to the selection and speed of buying something at B&H.
But when we consume digital services or buy stuff online, something radically different happens — at least to me. I get very disappointed when any service doesn’t deliver what the very best service out there is doing. It’s to the point where I change my behavior or try to convince others to adopt the very best. It’s unfair, and doesn’t mirror the offline world, but it’s happening and I suspect it’s driving lots of consumer behaviors these days.
For example, when I purchase any physical product online, I expect shipping to take 2 days max, maybe even just one day. Which is what Amazon/Zappos has trained me to expect. Any service that doesn’t do that, will cause me to double check if I can’t just buy the same thing on Amazon.
I’m a huge fan and user of Uber Conference which allows you to do conference calls with a visual browser interface, provides stats, easy calendar hooks, and calling-in from Chrome. Now when I have to use some other conf calling service with a 10 digit ID and no way to see who is talking – I feel underserved. I try to get the sender of the conf info to switch.
So what’s the conclusion ? Bigger marketshare for the leading services ? Probably. Build something that is at least as good as what the very best is offering ? Yes, but tough to pull off on all fronts.
I think one definite answer to all of this is to do deeper integrations with the very best and build on top of these platforms. If you sell physical stuff, work with Amazon Fulfillment or something similar. Doing voice services, start with integrating Twillio. Building a publishing app, build on top of WordPress.
Otherwise I think you’ll find that your customers are going to turn away when a certain core feature isn’t the best.
As I write this I am thinking of how WordPress works. At the core of WordPress is a for profit organization – but also one of the tasks of Automattic is to ensure the health of an ecosystem that is the larger WordPress ecology in which thousands of independent developers who do not work for Automattic make a living. I think of Wikipedia. At the core of Wikipedia is a set of rules about how Wikpedia has to work and how people in Wikipedia have to behave. Surrounding this core is a cadre of “White Blood Cells” AKA editors – that ensure that this DNA is kept healthy. I see no way now that Wikipedia will not be here in 50 years.
Why my confidence?
If you look at WordPress and Wikipedia you will see the key. In a network that really is a network – like WordPress and Wikipedia – the costs go up in a shallow linear curve while the outcomes rise exponentially.
Back in late February I met up with Raven Zachary and his team from Small Society as well as our own Matt Mullenweg, to figure out if we could get an iPad app for WordPress ready in less than 30 days.
We sketched out a rough plan that I captured from my iPhone:
We were committed to getting the app out for the iPad launch, and leveraged much of what was already in the popular WordPress for iPhone app functionality wise, but completely redid the UI and interactions for the iPad version. Matt Thomas who did a ton of great work on this app and redesigned iphone.wordpress.org, described the goals of the initial app like this:
“So what’s new for the iPad? In order to ensure that using WordPress on your iPad would be a great experience from day one, we decided not to add any new features. Nada. This release is all about taking advantage of a huge 9.7″ touchscreen. Writing and editing posts is far easier than before. Skimming through your comments and moderating them is far faster than before. And using the app is simply more beautiful than before. “
On a personal note, I’m excited to get my iPad tomorrow and ditch the simulator for a while I’m eager to see what my usage patterns will be with a device that clearly falls in between my iPhone and MacBook Pro. I’m already seeing positive anticipation from top bloggers as well, such as Om Malik — and my hunch is that for content consumption and drafting of new content, this will be a killer device. And no question that for managing your WordPress site — managing comments, editing posts, and even writing some long form posts — this will be an experience unlike any other.
Awesome to see the WordPress for Android app being featured immediately when you load up the “Market” on any Android phone. The app is getting some really good traction & reviews:
I travel a lot, but when I’m in San Francisco, I usually work from home. Everyone else works from home, too. We’re a virtual company. We recently got an office on Pier 38, a five-minute walk from my apartment. I’ll go to there once a week, usually Thursdays, and for board meetings, which happen about once every two months. We leased it so we wouldn’t have to keep borrowing conference rooms from our VC partners. It’s kind of sad; we have this great space right on the water — and six days a week, it’s empty. Of the 40 people working for the company, eight are in the Bay Area, but that’s just a coincidence. They could be anywhere in the world.
We all communicate using P2, something we launched that allows users to publish group blogs in WordPress. It’s a bit like Twitter, but the updates come in real time. With P2, we can share code and ideas instantly. There is a dedicated channel for each part of the company, and when there’s a new message, it shows up in red. It may be someone talking about development or what he or she had for breakfast. I also use Skype for one-on-one and mini group chats.
In my home office, I have two large, 30-inch computer monitors — a Mac and a PC. They share the same mouse and keyboard, so I can type or copy and paste between them. I’ll typically do Web stuff on the Mac and e-mail and chat stuff on the PC. I also have a laptop, which I have with me all the time, whether I’m going overseas or to the doctor’s office. I’m pretty rough on my laptops. I go through about two a year. I keep a server for my home network in the closet. I really enjoy computer networking. I sometimes do tech support for our employees who live in the Bay Area.
In an effort to encourage Iraq to use social media to rebuild itself, the State Department sent representatives from Twitter, Google, YouTube and WordPress to Baghdad in late April. For five days, they visited universities, met with technology companies, and sat down with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani.
Raanan Bar-Cohen was there. He’s vice president of Automattic, which leads the WordPress open-source project, a blog-publishing tool. Raanan spoke with Word of Mouth about how he observed Iraqis using social networks during his visit.
You can listen to the interview (MP3) here.