Matt Mullenweg at WordCamp Chicago 2013

Recently had the privilege of attending a town hall discussion with Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg at the 2013 WordCamp in Chicago. The entire weekend was amazing and filled with highly informative sessions as well as abundant opportunities for networking with exactly the kind of people I want to get to know.

But Matt’s talk was pretty special as it was a unique opportunity to hear first hand from the guy who started all of this what was happening in the world of WordPress. I’ve seen many videos of Matt speaking online and have always enjoyed what he had to say. But more than just the information, I have always been struck by his attitude. Matt always comes across as incredibly…genuine, I think. Now I think it helps to understand that the basis for his success has been the open source application he helped create and that now powers 1 in 5 websites. WordPress has been a tremendous success because it is a community driven project. All across the world, amazing designers and developers have collaborated to make WordPress what it is today. And it is amazing.

Matt Mullenweg speakingI believe it really is this emphasis on the community that has made WordPress such a hit and, subsequently (although somewhat indirectly it would seem) Matt. And it’s precisely this that really comes across when he speaks. I observe how passionate he is about what’s going on and not just in a superficial way because he stands to benefit financially or because of any personal ambitions. These could very well be his sole motives as I’ve no way to read his or anyone’s thoughts, but I tend to doubt that’s the case. Matt’s passion comes out when he speaks about the WordPress community and the amazing collaboration that is happening every day.

And I can see why. I love this collaboration. It is incredible to look around in the WP world and witness so much…giving. It truly is the norm, the standard, the basic expectation for everyone to give back to the community. People invest their time, energy and talents to create amazing things and they don’t put price tags on them. Instead they GIVE them away. When users seek the support forums for assistance they don’t get quotes from companies. They get free help from generous users just like themselves.

I have been accused before of wearing rose colored glasses, always seeing the glass half full and being optimistic and naive. Guilty. I don’t apologize for seeing the good. And when I look around at the WordPress community and listen to Matt talk about the direction we are taking and his zen-like philosophy on the web and our role in it, I feel uplifted.

During the open discussion I attended, Matt fielded a variety of questions and shared some interesting information. It wasn’t the most educational session and might not have even been the most inspirational (there were some really great speakers there) but I’m really glad I attended. I asked the first question actually, although I don’t think it was a very good one. Mostly I just really wanted to ask a question. So I stood up and inquired about something vague and random about setting standards and what Matt’s general thoughts were on influencing the direction contributors take. Others had better questions for sure. To be fair, I’m no WP veteran. The first time I used it was in the summer of 2011. But I learn fast.

Anyway, Matt shared some interesting stories and insights about things like Akismet and how he uses a Dvorak keyboard. He also made most of us reflect a little and borderline blush when he referenced the bad rep WordPress gets because the spammers who use it are the only ones who don’t bother to remove the “Proudly powered by WordPress” message from their footers.

All in all, I enjoyed the experience of meeting Matt and hearing what he had to say. I also really look forward to my next WordCamp.

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