Five Years at Automattic

Earlier this month I celebrated my fifth(!) anniversary at Automattic, where I lead our WordPress.com VIP team (and occasionally serve as its mascot).

Famously, Automattic is a 100% distributed company: we don’t have a central office, and instead everyone works from where ever they happen to be—home, coworking spaces, cafes, parks, planes, trains, and automobiles.

For me, when I’m not traveling or invading the offices of the country’s largest publishers, that’s my home office.

And I’m lucky to have two great kids who know when I’m working and will give me the space (and usually, silence) I need to do that. Once in a while though, they sneak into my office and we’ll take some silly pictures together. I hadn’t noticed, but we now have hundreds of these pictures spanning the past five years.

Many technology companies are generous with their salaries, employee benefits, and perks—Automattic gets all of that right, and so much more. The value of these little moments together is immeasureable.

If that sounds interesting to you, we have a few positions open on my team—and many more elsewhere at Automattic. Join us!

Why Do Pharmacists Still Exist?

I’ve spent part of this otherwise relaxing Thanksgiving weekend at the urgent care with a sick kid, then making subsequent phone calls and visits to both the pharmacy and the doctor to clear up some confusion with the prescription—and found myself wondering: why is this necessary?

As far as I can tell, a pharmacist’s job is to 1) count things, and 2) prevent medications from having negative interactions.

These both seem like things doctors (nevermind computers) are capable of doing for us. Why can’t doctors distribute medication directly to their patients?

12 Months

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One year ago today I started running regularly—the first time as an adult that I’ve maintained a consistent exercise routine (one prior attempt in 2009, with fatherhood looming, lasted about a month until I was overtaken by new dad sleeplessness).

In twelve months I’ve run 450.7 miles, for an average of about 9 miles/week. I had been on pace to beat 500 miles until the dregs of New York’s winter set in; I don’t mind the cold—I ran through December (actually my best month at~60 miles logged), January, and half of February—but then slipped into a six-week hiatus when the really gross, wet, and icy weather set in.

This year I’m hoping to get my weekly average closer to 12-15 miles by reintroducing distance runs, and upping routine runs from 5k to 4m, which should put me well over 500 miles twelve months from now.

I’m posting this to help keep me honest :)

A few miscellaneous suggestions for others new to running:

  • Don’t cheap out on sneakers! I waited way too long to upgrade my ancient running shoes, but when I did it had a huge impact on my gait, leading to less fatigue and fewer injuries. You should absolutely visit a local Running Company or similar, where their staff will put you on a treadmill, watch you run, and recommend the best shoes for your specific needs.
  • Break up the monotony however you can. I usually prefer to run alone, but will occasionally bring the dog out for the first mile (or recently, my four year old) just to mix things up.
  • Stick to your schedule. If you’re traveling, or tired/hungover/whatever, get out there anyway…even if you walk a bunch and kill your pace stat, it will help keep you mentally checked-in. For me anyway, skipping one day often turns into two, or three, or…a lot more.

Gas Pump Screen Could Save Millions of Liters of Dripped Gas

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Gas Pump Screen Could Save Millions of Liters of Dripped Gas:

Spilling gas on your shoes after you fill your car seems like just a small annoyance. But it happens to everyone, and apparently all that wasted fuel adds up to about half a billion liters of fuel lost every year. An epidemic this simple mesh cap promises to solve.

I had this exact idea yesterday, reminiscent of the popular 39 drops of solder anecdote about Rockefeller. Like most of my good ideas, someone has beaten me to it by a few years. It’s criminal that these aren’t required on every gas pump in the country.

Remembering Big Ed

Author/illustrator David Weitzman included Ed as an apparent easter egg in his book “Superpower”, and later dedicated “A Subway for New York” to him too.

“Big” Ed Rutsch was a close family friend, an accomplished archaeologist, a storyteller, and a giant in both stature and personality. He died twelve years ago today.

I was in my early twenties, and not mature enough then to fully appreciate the impact Big Ed had on the world, and on all of us around him. It’s so obvious to me now though…I can draw a line from Ed, alongside my parents, to much of what I value in life: friendship; humility (but also pride); craftsmanship; an appreciation for hard work and the people that do it.

When he died, a Yahoo Group was setup for his many friends to share their Big Ed stories. Because everyone has a Big Ed story.

A mutual friend, Bill Sandy, also posted his eulogy there—it captures all the things I loved about Ed. I’m sharing it here to archive it (and am slowly archiving the other group messages as well)—I’d hate for it to disappear someday.

Big Ed Rutsch was the ultimate Jersey Boy. When National Geographic needed a story on New Jersey, writer Jim Hartz started out with Ed: “Ed is a Native of New Jersey, an archaeologist dedicated to preserving the structures that embody the history of the industrial revolution in the state. He is a great bear of a man, 300 pounds and more, streetwise with brass knuckles opinions on everything”.

Ed then talked about an industrial stretch of Turnpike skyline and said “This is the place people love to hate, the part of New Jersey that turns so many people off. But this is where you find the real current and juice of the state. I know all the jokes about New Jersey. This place doesn’t have to apologize. New Jersey produces. It hustles. It’s tough.”.

Ed was the kind of Jersey boy that people loved to love. He was hooked into the current of where ever he was, but especially so on places like Chemical Beach, or the great IA tours. Ed was not everybody’s idea of an archaeologist. But, like the Garden State he loved, he did not have to apologize to anybody. He hustled, he was tough.

Over the last 20 years I got to work with Ed at sites throughout New York and New Jersey. He was my boss, landlord, friend & teacher. On one of our first digs together, I reintroduced him to my old friend Patty. Ed was loyal, honest, and straightforward. Ed and his team at HCI routinely planned to lose money on specific projects in need of detailed historic preservation studies. The projects Ed helped reads like a New Jersey travel brochure: Atsion, Whitesbog, Long Pond, Paterson, Cooper Mill, Metlar House, Delaware and Raritan Canal, Morris Canal and Liberty Park to name a few. He also explored less well known places, like Route 3, Route 21, Route 7, Fish House Road and the Dundee Canal.

The discovery of New York’s incredible African Cemetery was due to Ed’s detailed search plan. He never got credit, and he did not care. Although he stood to profit if the cemetery dig continued, he was an early and strong advocate for ending the dig and preserving the site. The Plymouth Rock for American Blacks is how Ed put it. A place as important as the Statue of Liberty is how the city’s expert described it. During the course of the project, Ed’s idea that archaeologists should be paid a living wage led to increased wages statewide.

Ed became famous in the early 1970s, when he was able to stop an interstate that would have been bad for what is now the Great Falls landmark. In the late 1990’s Ed was able to return to work again in his beloved Great Falls Historic District in Paterson. Ed claimed he had simply outlived his opponents.

Because of Ed, we have a better understanding of who we are and where we come from. This knowledge strengthens our efforts, not just in historic preservation. Ed has taught us to have the courage of our convictions. Ed has outlived his opponents bigtime.

Ed was always looking for a “clubhouse”, some comfortable place where all his friends and family could get together and celebrate. This will do nicely.

The Messy Business Of Reinventing Happiness

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The Messy Business Of Reinventing Happiness is a behind-the-scenes look at Disney’s MagicBand rollout, wherein they endeavored (and, in large part, succeeded) to replace tickets, hotel room keys, credit cards—even airport x-ray machines—for the 17 million people that visit the park every year.

Iger planned to pump nearly $1 billion into this venture, called MyMagic+, a sweeping plan to overhaul the digital infrastructure of Disney’s theme parks, which would upend how they operated and connected with consumers. At the core of the project was the MagicBand, an electronic wristband that Iger envisioned guests would use to gain entry to Disney World and access attractions; make purchases at restaurants; and unlock their hotel room doors. It would push the boundaries of experience design and wearable computing, and impact everything from Disney’s retail operations and data-mining capabilities to its hospitality and transportation services.

We just spent a week at Disney World with the kids, and I was really impressed with the MagicBand experience. Everything just works—sometimes too well: frictionless payments-on-your-wrist paired with Disney’s infamous merchandizing prowess ($12 balloons!)…my bank account never stood a chance.

Yahoo Pipes To Be Shuttered

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Yahoo Pipes To Be Shuttered:

As of August 30th 2015, users will no longer be able to create new Pipes. The Pipes team will keep the infrastructure running until end of September 30th 2015 in a read-only mode.

Sad, but not unexpected—Pipes is a quirky product, and from the beginning it felt destined to be short-lived. I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did, especially given Mayer-era Yahoo hasn’t been shy about sunsetting services. Still, it was an endlessly useful tool for some of us jack-of-all-trades digital media nerds.