SWITCH Conference, Coimbra: José Fontainhas [en]

Running notes from the SWITCH conference in Coimbra. Are not perfect. Feel free to add info in the comments, or corrections.

Jazz and the art of Chaos

About how José became a better musician. Everything not in English at Automattic has something to do with José. But first and foremore, he is a drummer.

Where it began: a few years back, José decided he wanted to be his own boss. Wanted to develop ideas that don’t thrive well in the online world. Generic websites. Found WordPress: open source, easy to use, and named for jazz musicians. Started WordPress-Portugal.

Playing solo doesn’t work for all musicians. Freelancing felt a bit like playing solo, studio work. He came across Automattic.

Automattic does WordPress.com, but many other products: Akismet, BuddyPress, VideoPress, etc. 11 mio blogs on wp.com.

1200 servers running across a whole bunch of data centres. The service speaks more than 60 languages, and this is where José comes in. Portuguese is the third most popular language after English and Spanish.

He sent in his application, and a few months later got an answer. Whee! Felt like getting a positive response from Mick Jagger saying he’d love to play in the band or something 🙂

He thought they would be like other companies, but they’re crazy! Same kind of craziness as him, however.

  • work is completely distributed, everybody works from home (50 people!) — 12 US states, 10 countries
  • everybody sets their own work hours
  • no offices (Pier 38 in SF though, but it’s more a space/lounge rather than an office) — used as a coworking space, open to others
  • communicate using p2; IRC channel, conversations logged, indexed and archived, but it became too busy => but afterwards, moved to p2 (they use e-mail, but really not that much)
  • in-person meet-ups every six months or so, to see each other’s faces, etc.; weeks with fun activities and small projects and workgroups to be delivered at the end

Point: the system is chaotic. No titles. No diagrammes. No PAs. But there are responsibilities. Each person needs to be grown-up enough to find his or her place in the journey.

They push code changes live to production upto 20 times a day. Direct from dev to live.

It’s a jam. Embrace the chaos, don’t fight it. Improvisation. Be a better musician. He is the master of his instrument, and his band mates know he is and trust him to use it the best.

*Here’s a video of Zé’s talk (minus a little bit when my memory card was full, oops!) if you want to listen to it.*

3 thoughts on “SWITCH Conference, Coimbra: José Fontainhas [en]

  1. I believe the speaker said Portuguese is the second language used in WordPress. English is first one, and Spanish third one. Am I wrong?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *