The Distributed Podcast is an in-depth conversation about the future of work — with the companies and leaders driving it. Hosted by Co-Founder of WordPress and CEO of Automattic Matt Mullenweg. Subscribe >
Back in April, when entire sectors of the economy had just recently — and abruptly — transitioned to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Matt Mullenweg shared an aspirational roadmap, describing the five levels of autonomy companies go through along their journey from fully colocated to truly distributed. With increasing signs that we might never go back to the old normal, Enrique Dans, at Forbes, reflects on what executives and employees alike have learned in the intervening months. He takes Matt’s five levels as a starting point to ask how our collective understanding of remote work has changed as well, and what the near future might hold.
Where are we headed? Toward levels 4 and 5, characterized by the optimization of working practices, which means changing the synchronous-asynchronous balance: fewer rounds of endless video conferences and more short videos recorded for later viewing, much more Slackand similar communication tools, along with less time spent sitting in front of a screen listening to other people. Shared documents people can work on synchronously — coordinating in the chat window — or asynchronously are infinitely more effective than a marathon video conference. A spreadsheet, text document, or presentation that requires input from several people is an ideal solution for Google Docs, Office 360, or any of their competitors.
Tech news site The Information recently launched a new series, “Out of Office,” focusing on the rapid growth of remote work. Automattic CEO and Distributed Podcast host Matt Mullenweg appeared in the inaugural column, talking to reporter Nick Wingfield about his home-office setup and gear preferences:
Naturally, he has a perspective on what technologies to invest in to improve the quality of video calls, a key part of working from home. “I definitely think of a hierarchy,” says Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic, which operates WordPress[.com], Tumblr and other digital properties. “For me, it goes internet, audio, lighting, video.”
Distributed host Matt Mullenweg recently appeared on Sam Harris’s excellent podcast, Making Sense, sharing the “five levels of autonomy” when it comes to distributed work. Listen to their wide-ranging conversation on how companies transition to remote work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We love Sam’s podcast, Making Sense, so for more go to samharris.org/podcast/ and you can also subscribe to get his premium content, which is totally worth it.
Looking back over the 2019 run of the Distributed podcast, one is struck by the wealth of insights our guests have shared in each and every episode. We’ve spoken to CEOs, activists, lawyers, authors, and a life coach, among others — a diverse cross-section of people with a deep interest in the future of work.
To close out the year, our host Matt Mullenweg is joined once again by Automattic’s Mark Armstrong to discuss the state of distributed work as we transition into a new decade. Matt discusses his key takeaways from his 2019 conversations on the podcast, and reflects on his year as the CEO of a growing distributed company.
Our host finds himself on the other side of the mic on the latest episode of The Rework Podcast. Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson invited Matt for a friendly debate about tech monopolies, power in open-source communities, and how Matt views his role as the CEO of a successful company that contributes to the WordPress open-source project.
Launching the Distributed podcast has given me space to reflect on the last 14 years at Automattic. In 2019, distributed work has spread throughout the Bay Area and beyond, but when we were getting started, having no corporate headquarters was seen as quirky. Our distributed status has come to define our company, but we didn’t set out to be distributed. It was common in open source projects and our initial team was spread around the world. But over time it became who we are.
I’m originally from Houston, Texas. In 2003, web developer Mike Little and I, along with a few other online friends, developed a web publishing tool called WordPress. It quickly became popular, but we had no inkling that it could ever be a revenue-generating project. We just wanted to make better publishing tools so that non-engineers could express themselves online with their own blogs. For me, it was satisfying simply to hang out on IRC (an early chatroom protocol) with smart, curious people working on an interesting collaboration. I was spending all my free time online, hanging out and coding with people all over the world, having an absolute blast.