So what we’ve done over the past few years is actually offer the same compensation bands globally. So wherever you’re doing the work, you can have the opportunity to make the same amount. It’s not perfect, because we pay people in the local currency and sometimes currencies can move quite a bit and we have to adjust for that.

Matt Mullenweg, NY Times interview

This definitely wasn’t my experience. There is a lot of secrecy around compensation at Automattic, much more than “the same compensation bands globally” would imply. Any discussion of salaries was subtly (and not-so-subtly) discouraged under the banner of “you should be more motivated by impact than money” – as though you could only care about one or the other.

Prospective Automatticians, expect to spend weeks in the application process (and many, many hours of your time on interviews and trial projects) before you’ll be told the salary that’s on offer. And don’t expect to negotiate – you can take it or leave it.

If Automattic were truly a company with fair, equitable, and transparent compensation policies, is this the kind of behaviour you’d expect?


Blog criticizing Automattic victim of high volume attack exploiting WordPress vulnerability

Ever since this blog started criticizing Automattic, it has been the target of several mild attacks. Over the weekend this changed. This site was victim of a vicious high volume attack exploiting the WordPress XML-RPC feature to ping other sites. This allowed the attacker not only to force this site to consume high resources and eventually try to bring it down, but to also abusively attack other WordPress sites that are innocent and have no relationship with this site.

/kudos @nearlyfreespeech Thanks for identifying and defeating the abuse and not just taking this site offline.

One would hope that someone employed by a company that seeks to “democratize publishing” would not be behind this.

But who knows?


Motivated by Impact more than Money

This part of the creed is brought up every time someone tries to talk about compensation. But at Automattic:

  • Employees do not receive equity (shares) as part of their compensation. At least in the US tech industry, this is extremely uncommon. Everyone from startups to Amazon include equity as part of their compensation.
  • The shares that employees can buy is some sort of weird second-class citizen stock, with a vague promise that Automattic will “treat you fairly” in case of an acquisition or other type of financially significant event.
  • There is no performance based bonus or reward, regardless of how much impact you make at/for the company.


  • Automattic goes from a valuation of $1B to $3B in five years, thanks in part (mostly) to its unique and passionate workforce.
  • The above success is achieved while Automattic’s philosophy of autonomy, flexibility and work-life balance appears to be eroding.

Who benefits from all this “success”?

Does this look like “motivated by impact more than money”?



There is this thread going around where the story of equal pay for equal work lives on.

It’s already been posted that salary is always adjusted by cost of living.

Another big differentiator is that 50% of Automattic’s employees are hired as contractors and as such they get no benefits (retirement savings, health insurance, etc) nor job security.

A contractor costs a fraction of what an employee costs; yet in Automattic’s case, zero of these savings go to the contractor.

If you’re not a tax resident of an English speaking country, you may be happy to know that here are several remote companies that in the same situation offer a solid benefit stipend to those they can’t employ through entities. And also that don’t bend reality as much in their marketing.


Pay, Leave and Discrimination

A post about facebook’s pay being “barbaric” is making the rounds. If paying people different amounts depending on location is a bad thing then Automattic has been blazing that trail for years.

A javascript developer in say Texas and another in say Italy will not be paid the same despite the fact they do exactly the same work.

A happiness engineer in France will not be paid the same as a happiness engineer in India despite the fact they do exactly the same work.

What you – or anyone – is paid at Automattic is a secret between you, HR and anyone else at a level to oversee that.

There is an argument here for ‘cost of living’ but secrecy creates uncertainty, bad feeling.

But there is more.

On their “Work with Us” page it states:

Open vacation policy (no set number of days per year). We encourage all employees to take the time they need for vacation, to pursue their own interests, to stay healthy, and to spend time with friends and family.

This is not correct.
HR have stated that it is expected that you take an amount of vacation that is typical to your country.
In the USA? That’s two weeks
In the EU? That’s more like four to six weeks
Leave is also at the discretion of the team lead. If they want to give you a hard time they can. It has happened that team member #1 (in the USA) takes a third week off and gets grilled why, yet in the same team member #2 (in the EU) takes their fourth week off and nothing is said.

By having multiple teams, and several layers of management discrimination like this it is both baked in and deniable.

Looking to apply to Automattic? Ask direct questions.


Tone deaf

The world: so there’s a pandemic out here and people are getting killed in the streets, police departments are on fire

Matt: so let’s talk about my $9k streaming setup


Is Distributed Work a Divide and Conquer Strategy?

Obviously this site exists because people have had negative experiences at Automattic. But many people have also had very positive experiences at the company. Could it be that the distributed nature of Automattic allows for such varying experiences?

It does seem like the distributed nature makes it harder for colleagues to compare notes and experiences. You work alone most of the year, and when you do meet up, you’re too exhausted by the work, activities and parties to have any serious discussions.


Wanted: A script

Happiness Engineers in Live Chat are now being flagged if their responses to users are too slow. Currently 180 seconds is the target time.

A request for a Tampermonkey script.
This should auto-insert a custom response into the chat window at varying time intervals.
This should enable any HE to enter their own list of responses that they would typically use. This reduces the chance of being accused of using a script.
This should also have a range of times in seconds when the insertion will happen.

HE’s can then get on with doing their actual job instead of worrying about their leads spying on them.

Who is driving this increasing micro-managing of HE’s? And what do they do?


Incompetent people

One thing which annoys the hell out of me is that incompetent employees are rarely dealt with. There are some HEs that *every* HE knows is just bad, awful at the job, yet, they are given a pass. They do the bare minimum; they pass the buck; they use every method at their disposal to just send out their shitty replies and hit their target number for the day, and then they check out. Good for them for having a well-paying job that requires a minimum of effort from them, but this behavior hurts every other HE in their team and division.

I’ve seen the same thing happen in other roles as well: people who are clearly incompetent, who don’t meet any goals, who shift blame, who are basically dead weight, yet they stay in place for years and years.

I’m not saying that a8c should ruthlessly fire anyone the moment their productivity drops, no. But, when the slackers are allowed to stay, year after year, it kills the morale of everyone around them.



There’s a lot of happy, shiny press coming out of Automattic right now. The narrative they’re pushing is that it’s a distributed utopia where everyone is supported and empowered to do their best work.

If that were true, this blog wouldn’t exist.