Just read the words Matt

The CEO of Automattic needs a teleprompter as evidenced by his latest post where he says that to stream effectively you need a lot of expensive kit.

Trump spokespeople had teleprompters.
Newscasters have teleprompters.
Game show hosts have teleprompters.

Who is writing the words of the Automattic CEO that he needs a teleprompter?

In addition, how much can Automattic employees expense for their Zoom meetings? Or are they stuck with the 720p Macbook cam?


Outsourcing Support

Internal quote:
“In May 2020, we piloted the outsourcing of a temporary team of 29 part-time freelancers to offer English language email support for a subset of support topics.”

In that same post, Happiness Operations mentions plans to consider several different outsourcing firms.

Internal quote:
“bring our cost as a percentage of revenue down to 13%.”
There is a 3 year plan to reduce Support costs.

The fastest way to achieve a drop in support cost is to reduce the cost of labor.

Automattic is hiring new Happiness Engineers because it is less costly than continuing to pay for long time Happiness Engineers and their raises/benefits ex: sabbaticals.

Automattic’s Legal team is not prepared to allow Happiness to outsource sensitive support topics ex: billing and PII.

A long time Happiness Engineer would be eligible for a sabbatical in 2020 or Q1 2021.

Have any Long Time Happiness Engineers been asked to leave this year when they’re due for a sabbatical prior to taking it?



The Mysterious Status of .blog Domains

When the .blog TLD was started by Automattic, employees were given the option to reserve a domain for free. In return for this “generous offer”, they asked that the domain be used as a primary domain (no forwarding to a different site), and that the site be updated with new content at least once a month.

From the very beginning people asked “What happens if I don’t hold up my end of the bargain?”. As far as I can tell, no one ever clearly answered that question. Some employees found that silence worrisome and declined to take the offer, while others trusted that Automattic would surely not be a jerk about the whole thing.

Well, guess what happened? Earlier this year people started receiving emails from Automattic telling them that they don’t appear to be holding up their end of the bargain. The email asked that the owner either start using the domain according to the requirements, or return it to Automattic.

Now this is really problemattic (see what I did there with the extra “t”?). Even if someone is not using the domain to host a website, they might be using it for email. Losing the domain could be a very serious security threat.

So who really owns these domains? According to most customs, gifts aren’t normally something that can be taken back. Can Automattic even legally take any of these domains back? Aren’t they officially registered to the individual owners?

In my case, their automattic (I did it again!) script made a mistake. I got that clarified and I also asked if they could answer the questions I had about who really owns my domain. I pinged them several times and never got an answer. Thanks for that.

Now I have a .blog domain that I want to use as my main site… but not if Automattic can take it back any time. I don’t want to be at their unpredictable mercy. What if I decide I don’t want to blog anymore and just want to point my site to I wish I had just purchased the domain myself to avoid this mess.

I think it’s fair for Automattic to ask people to use their free domain according to the terms that were specified. However, taking the domain back shouldn’t be the only option for people not following those terms. How about revoking the free offer and making those people start paying for the domain?


[Not] Leading by example

Why aren’t Leads or HappOps in the ticket queues 3-4 hours a day helping out if we are in such bad shape that we’re cutting CSS Support?

Either they cannot do Support, or they see themselves above it.



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