Thriving in an AI World, Tips for Life’s Darkest Hours, & The Art of Sabbaticals | Matt Mullenweg

Thriving in an AI World, Tips for Life’s Darkest Hours, & The Art of Sabbaticals | Matt Mullenweg

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Tim Ferriss: Matthew. Matty. Matt Mullenweg: Yep.  Tim Ferriss: Dr. Mullenweg. Matt Mullenweg: Not a doctor. At all.  Tim Ferriss: In my heart of  hearts, you're always a doctor.  Matt Mullenweg: I think in Argentina  I got an honorary degree, actually. 

Tim Ferriss: Really? Matt Mullenweg: In that country.  Tim Ferriss: I'm so jelly. Argentina.  I haven't been back in a hundred years,   but we're not here to talk about my  aspirations and dreams, although, maybe.  Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, I hope to hear some. Tim Ferriss: Well, we'll dive in and out.  

Bob and weave. For people who don't have  context on the Argentine Dr. Mullenweg,   could you give people just a snapshot? Matt Mullenweg: Sure. Matt Mullenweg,   domain, which is pretty fun. Tim Ferriss: Excellent domain. 

Matt Mullenweg: I got my domain at .TT  sometimes. Born and raised in Houston,   Texas, a few hours from here, in Austin.  At the age of 19, I co-founded open source   software called WordPress, which is a blogging  content management system. Fast-forward 20 years,   it's been 20 years now, and runs over a third of  all websites in the world. A few years after that,   I co-founded or founded a company called  Automattic, which is kind of like the for-profit   side of commercializing things around WordPress. Tim Ferriss: Auto-Matt-ic, M-A-T-T?  Matt Mullenweg: Yes. It's like any egotistical  founder, I snuck my name into the company  

and we started with just sort of Akismet  anti-spam and kind of easy   ways to get going with WordPress, but since  have expanded to e-commerce with WooCommerce,   one I'll talk about with messaging, we've done a  number, over 25 acquisitions, so we're trying to   be a digital Berkshire Hathaway, like a buyer of  first resort for amazing things on the internet.   Pretty much everything we do is open source or  open web. Oh, we bought Tumblr, so we're running   Tumblr for the last few years, basically trying  to — I would like future generations to grow up   with a web that is more open, more free, gives  more liberty, and so open source is really my   life's work, even above WordPress and anything  else. I hope to work on it the rest of my life.  Tim Ferriss: You are one of the rare examples,  and I'm so envious of this particular sort of   mental state of focus that you have, which is  this clarity on what you want to do, something   you could do for the rest of your life with that  degree of certainty. It's something that's always   struck me as rare and maybe not as a consequence  of being rare but precious in a sense. Anyway, I'm  

happy for you. I don't run across that much from  a professional perspective, when someone's like,   "I want to do this for the rest of my life." Matt Mullenweg: I think it's because the open   source freedom and liberty's somewhat abstract, so  there could be lots of things under that. In fact   I just mentioned probably too many things.  Some people will call me very unfocused,   but you have that too. We talked about it on  the last podcast around teaching, learning,   education, lifelong — that's the rest of your  life. I think if you can find those principles,  

you can keep them and then the job might  change, other things might change. I'm lucky   to work at the same job because I'm probably  unemployable anywhere else at this point,   but it's been a lot of fun. Oh, Automattic's now  over 1,900 people in 97 countries. We were fully   remote and distributed since 2005, so we've  been kind of early on a few of those trends,   open source, distributed, et cetera. Tim Ferriss: I know we've talked about   this before and you've certainly talked about it  in other places, but we're going to get into a   lot of new territory, before we do that though,  open source, just for people who may not have   familiarity with that term, what does that mean? Matt Mullenweg: Normally when you sign up for   software, you click through that license that no  one ever reads. Ours actually has Easter eggs in   it just to see if anyone will find them. Most  of those licenses are about all the rights you  

don't have. Sometimes you're not even allowed to  look at the thing and see how it works. There's   a whole right to repair movement right now  where you can buy things that you're not even   allowed to repair yourself. Open source is the  opposite. It's all about almost like a bill of   rights for you as the user. WordPress belongs  just as much to Tim Ferriss as it does to me,   which is kind of amazing. There's rights and  freedoms you have to use it for any purpose,   to modify it, to see how it works, all these sorts  of things that no one can take away from you.  Even myself as a co-founder, or even if all the  other developers got together, and we all agreed   to become evil, we couldn't take it away from you.  It's that bill of rights, those inalienable rights  

is the core of open source and there's lots  of examples. Wikipedia is open source applied   to an encyclopedia. It used to be really bad and  Encarta, Encyclopedia Britannica were way better,   but then over time lots of people working together  made it better and better. Why did they work   on it? For free, for fun, and also because it  belongs to them. WordPress has many thousands,   probably tens of thousands of contributors at  this point. Why do they do that? Is it Tom Sawyer   painting the fence or is it the other guy? Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I need more   caffeine to be on my literary references. Matt Mullenweg: We should both know that. Wow,  

I'm embarrassed for both of us. Tom Sawyer,  and — it'll be the first thing in the comments.  Tim Ferriss: Huckleberry Finn. Matt Mullenweg: Huckleberry Finn,   yeah. It's because it actually belongs to  people. Sometimes people come in and just   fix one bug that's annoying them. Or sometimes you  have the pride of knowing that code you wrote is  

running on a third of all websites in the world,  which is actually a real thrill as an engineer   developer, and that's just a lot of fun. Tim Ferriss: It's openly collaborative in   that way. Not to state the obvious, but it's  a contrast to actually this news item I saw   in — "news" is probably giving it a little bit  too much gravitas — but I read this story which   seemed credible based on the source, I'm not  going to give it too much, but this engineer   joins a startup and fixes one or two bugs  or develops a feature that he wanted in the   product and then put in notice and that was it. Matt Mullenweg: Two weeks later, yeah. I love   that story because I know so many on the spectrum  of engineers that would totally do that. It's a  

beautiful hack, right, where, "Oh, I've just got  to get this fixed." There's actually companies   I would do that. One thing I have considered is  secret shopping, seeing if I could get hired by   my own company under a fake identity or just  something like that. It would be kind of fun. 

Tim Ferriss: Why would you do that? Matt Mullenweg: One, to experience the   hiring process, which is difficult for me to  debug. It's set by secondhand accounts. Two,   to see how my code still is. Tim Ferriss: Do companies provide   mystery shopper-like services for hiring  processes or no, because mystery shoppers,   this would be the equivalent of, say, retail  where there are companies you can hire,   they send people into stores to experience the  touch points and the flow or lack of flow and   then to report back so you can improve your  operations, and you have that for security,   right? You can hire people to red team and  try to exploit or defeat your security and   then you get a report back and you  can improve things. Does that exist  

for something like a hiring process? Matt Mullenweg: It probably does,   but I'm a big believer in, especially executives,  going and doing the work themselves. Engaging with   the customers, doing customer support, trying out  the product, building a website, whatever it is   that your thing is. I think that's so key. Tim Ferriss: I might be making this up,   but something along the lines of two  weeks of frontline service. Even if   it's a CFO or someone who's — Matt Mullenweg: No matter the   job you're hired for at Automattic,  you start with two weeks of support,   and then every single person rotates back in one  week per year, and I'm running out of year, so I'm   actually squeezing mine in at the very end here. If you go to support in the next two   weeks, you might get me. I talked to executives  at Salesforce, I was really impressed. They were   saying they spend 50 percent of their time with  customers. This was a top executive running an  

organization of thousands of people. I was like,  wow, that's inspiring to me. I'm probably 25 or   30 percent right now. So it really made me think,  am I spending enough time with customers? Also,   we might have some executives that are spending  closer to zero percent time. How do we make   this a cultural thing throughout the company? Tim Ferriss: You're an enthusiastic fellow.   Part of why I like spending time with you. Good  vibes, lots of smiles, lots of laughs. You also  

find a lot of things that are interesting out  at the edges and you're an immaculate packer of   bags also. For those who do not know "What's in My  Bag" every year gives the latest and greatest of   Matt's tech gadgetry and assorted doodads and  doohickeys that he's traveling with as a road   warrior who travels, fair to say, most of the  time. Your schedule, we're going to get to my   first planned question in a second. I recall maybe  it was five months ago, six months ago, who knows,  

you sent me something along the lines of just in  case we can overlap, here's where I'll be in the   next year, and it was one of the most absurd, it  was like a Rolling Stones tour. Are you continuing   to do that in terms of travel for the next year? Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, currently. Why do I go into   it? Well, it's a global community, so one, I have  a global company and a global community. Our hack   for Automattic, because we're apart most of the  year, is the teams get together a couple times   a year. If you're an individual contributor, you  might travel two, three times a year. But as CEO,   this means that every week there's a couple of  meetups happening and I try to hit the bigger   ones and sometimes the small ones too, but mostly  the really big ones where there's a couple hundred   people there, but that's happening at least once  a month. Then for WordPress, there's three major  

work camps per year that have thousands of  people. There's all these different — I just   did State of the Word in Madrid. You just take  those, you're traveling a week out of the month   already, and then you got to add in some fun. Tim Ferriss: You're not going to die of a fun   deficiency, you know how to have fun. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, it really adds up. But,  

it does take more of a toll than it used to,  I've got to be totally honest. There were years   I did well over 400,000 miles and looking back  I was like, I don't know if I still have some   of the energy or I'm getting more radiation in the  plane. I don't know, maybe I'm just getting older.  Tim Ferriss: That does happen to people. Matt Mullenweg: 40 in a few weeks.  Tim Ferriss: I know. Thank God. No more of this 30  under 30, 40 under 40 nonsense. You've accumulated   700 lifetimes worth of those. You mentioned  gatherings and the first, I suppose, cone that   we're going to weave around on this slalom of  a conversation is things that are exciting you,   things you're excited about, five or more. I enjoy  this format. It's very simple. I haven't done  

it much and it's a shame because I always have a  good time doing it. Where would you like to start?  Matt Mullenweg: Well, I mentioned messaging. If  you look at Automattic's history, it was like   2005. Blogging CMS, 2016 Commerce, Blue Commerce,  it's grown to over 30 billion of sales or GMV. We   entered our third major area this year, which was  messaging. We acquired this company called Texts.  

You might remember these sorts of programs, but  we all have 20 different messaging apps. Texts   currently takes 10 of them. It'll take more  in the future. Signal, WhatsApp, Telegram,   Facebook Messenger, Instagram Messenger, Twitter  DMs, all these sorts of things, some of which have   terrible interfaces. It brings them into one power  user app right now, desktop only because it's all  

ultra secure so it doesn't break any encryption  or run anything in the cloud. It's all on your   device, which is I think very, very important. Engineers, you have a code of ethics. I think   we need to build things extra secure now. It  brings them all together. It's really nice.   I often acquire apps or invest in things  to make up for my own deficiencies. Like  

investing in Calm in 2012 or whatever it was, I  felt like I needed to meditate. I was so behind   on messages. I'm like, "Okay, we've got to  buy this company and make it available."  Tim Ferriss: It's like a much more expensive  version of the guy who gets hired and fixes   the bugs and then leaves. Buying companies. Matt Mullenweg: A small team, really, really  

exciting. I'd love for you to try it, actually. Tim Ferriss: My team is using it and they love it.  Matt Mullenweg: That's right. [BLEEP]  actually told me about this even before   I had heard about it myself. Some credit there. Tim Ferriss: The team's loving it. I have used   it and it is a great product. Where can  people find it or learn more about it? 

Matt Mullenweg: T-E-X-T-S dot com. Tim Ferriss: All right.  Matt Mullenweg: If you go on desktop and it's  a paid product right now, so 15 bucks a month,   five bucks a month if you're a student or pretend  to be a student, but we're also going to explore   some different things. Mobile app is coming out  next year in the early part and we're going to   explore some different pricing as well. Maybe  making it free for one or two networks paid for  

more. That's some very exciting stuff there. Tim Ferriss: All right, so I want to ask you   a strategy question to the extent that you can  discuss it. You were kind enough to spend a lot   of time with me just as a friend overall, which  I really appreciate, love spending time with you,   and also just because disclosures are important.  I am available at your beck and call, advisor with  

Automattic from the early days. I am fascinated  by not just how you operate in the world,   but how you think about the world because  that's a prerequisite for making a lot of,   not necessarily contrarian because you can be a  different form of sheep as a contrarian too by   just doing the opposite of what everyone  else does. That's easy. But picking and   choosing where you're going to be unorthodox or  approach things obliquely is more challenging. 

The question, and I'm going to set the table  with some other examples, but the question   is how you choose what you're going to get into  in terms of areas, products, et cetera, because   there's diversification, there's lack of focus,  there's synergy, these words we can throw around.   I would love to know how you think about, for  instance, or thought about getting into commerce,   which I think is a more obvious leap in my mind  than say messaging. What I've observed is say in   the media landscape, well the media landscape and  the social media platform landscapes have collided   in such a major way in the last five to 10 years  where you have Amazon Studios, you've got Netflix,   you've got messaging, and then video and so on  that are seemingly all being pursued on some   level by a lot of these large platforms. In the  forms of, say WhatsApp or whatever it might be.  How do you choose what to engage in  next? You said some people might say,   "I'm unfocused," I don't consider you  unfocused, but there are sometimes hidden   or unspoken rationales or logics behind. How do  you think about what you're going to do next?  Matt Mullenweg: I do think about it for a long  time. We've been thinking about messaging and   actually making investments in this space for four  or five years. I think a lot about environment and  

incentives. The reason there used to be these  multi-messaging apps 15 years ago and they all   stopped working was the networks all blocked  them. There is a political environment now   which I think is more conducive to being more  customer and user-centric. This is our data,   this is our messages, it's all secure,  it's not breaking security or anything,   so why shouldn't we be able to run this. Tim Ferriss: Can you give an example of a network  

blocking these multi-message tools in the past? Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, it happened last week.   There was another one called Beeper that  supported iMessage and Apple decided to   just shut it down. They broke it all and Beeper  actually charged its users. They had to refund   everyone. It's also more subtle things they  could do. They could just subtly degrade if   they make it so your messages don't go through  five percent of the time, it's not blocking you,   but you're going to stop using it. Tim Ferriss: It's like throttling   your hotel speed on Wi-Fi. So you upgrade to  the premium, you're like, "Okay, all right." 

Matt Mullenweg: They don't need to block  you, which might draw attention. They can   just make you a little wobbly. Tim Ferriss: More painful.  Matt Mullenweg: It doesn't take a lot of friction  for people to move away, especially in messaging.   The regulatory framework, both with the  EU doing a lot of sometimes misguided,   but also sometimes really smart, they have  an act coming in called the DMA that requires   some interop between messaging services. We  will talk about USB-C, which I'm very excited   about. Thank you EU, for forcing Apple to  finally drop lightning and give us USB-C.  

Then in the US I think there is bipartisan, this  I actually don't agree with, but it is a reality,   some extra scrutiny on big tech. I think it's  actually good for them. Again, what are their   incentives? I think it's actually really good for  them to show that they're open right now. I don't   want to fight these folks. They've got more  money than most countries. They could squash  

us like a bug if they really, really wanted  to, but we're always doing things open source,   user-centric, and so it's — Tim Ferriss: It'd be a   bad look for them to try to squash. Matt Mullenweg: If you have the people on your   side, I feel like that's what truly matters in  long-term. People are what, short-term, lobbying,   et cetera, but long-term in the US, functioning  democracy, politics is accountable to its people.  Tim Ferriss: If we come back to what you said and  the whole point of this format is scaffolding,   and then we can deviate. We're deviating right  now. People may have noticed. Talking about a,  

let's just say next, next gen or digital Berkshire  Hathaway. Berkshire Hathaway could have, well,   originally textiles, but they  could have insurance, then they   could have something that is — Matt Mullenweg: Chocolates.  Tim Ferriss: Chocolates, right? See's Candies,  things that are completely unrelated on a   face-value business level. They're not integrated  in the way that a CMS or having a gajillion   blogs and websites running on your platform  would combine very easily with WooCommerce,   right? Those two pair very nicely. Are you  thinking about, say in the case of  

that is a standalone in the same way that some of  these Berkshire Hathaway might be a standalone?  How do you think about building and acquiring in  that way? Are they standalones? How much do they   need to help each other or not? In the case of  Berkshire, right, the insurance premiums and so   on, as I understand it, provide a huge bolus of  cash for all sorts of other purposes. The capital   can be utilized across the family, in a sense.  How do you think about, because there's so many   different ways you could rank order the priorities  when looking at potential acquisitions, is it just   like customer pain point, converging trend lines  in terms of regulation and public sentiment and —  Matt Mullenweg: Which Berkshire navigates  beautifully in highly regulated industries,   including insurance, railways. How I think  about it, I like to study these people. I   know you love doing that too. Study high  performers, that's your thing, right?  Tim Ferriss: I do that sometimes.  Yeah, occasionally do that.  Matt Mullenweg: I mean, Charlie Munger, rest  in peace, 99 years old. Warren Buffett, I don't  

know exactly. I think up there as well. I try to  think if Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger were   hackers in their 30s or 40s today, what would they  build versus what they built in their time with   the opportunities in technology afforded? I like  to think they do some open source because it's,   obviously, the future. I like the Berkshire for  atoms companies versus — atoms versus bits — and   in the industries, they're in — Tim Ferriss: A-T-O-M-S.  Matt Mullenweg: I think there would be a lot of  coordination costs and they try to optimize for   giving the companies under them as much autonomy  as possible. They find great leaders and they also   try to find great businesses. I think Warren  Buffett said something like, "We try to find   a business a monkey could run, because someday  they will," something like that. What business  

is so good, it would survive even bad leadership.  What we do with a digital version of that is we   lower coordination costs between the different  products by open source. They don't need, like   For WooCommerce, to build on top of WordPress.  It doesn't need a meeting, doesn't need to talk,   doesn't even to know the people developing  WordPress. There's open APIs, open source,   there's a plugin framework, et cetera. That  removes a lot of the coordination costs that  

you normally get in a multi division company. Tim Ferriss: Now when you say coordination costs,   are you talking about people internally, say,  full-time employees? Or are you talking about the   communities that surround some of these things? Matt Mullenweg: In proprietary software,   if you want to integrate with something, like if I  wanted to add a new feature to Mac OS or something   like that, I can't do that. Now, they have APIs,  they have operating systems. Smart companies like   Slack or Shopify will create marketplaces that  you can extend them. However, you're subject  

to their terms so they can change their mind.  Remember Twitter used to have all those clients,   or Facebook did too. They were like, "Oh, we  don't want this anymore. You're all kicked off."  Tim Ferriss: Rough Tuesday. Matt Mullenweg: Don't build on   proprietary platforms. They can pull the rug and  will pull the rug at any point. In open source,   one, the rug can't be pulled. Two,  typically they're ultra pluggable.   You can really change every line of WordPress. Tim Ferriss: Not to interrupt, but would you  

mind giving a real world example of what this  lowered integration cost looks like in practice?  Matt Mullenweg: Yeah. Let's talk about a  company like Salesforce, which has done a ton   of acquisitions. One criticism of a Salesforce  or Cisco or even Google: sometimes their own   products don't integrate with each other as well.  Sometimes even external things do. So even with  

the best acquisitions, and most acquisitions fail  by the way, even when you do a really good one,   maybe say YouTube, sometimes the integrations  aren't as strong. Remember when YouTube tried   to do the Google+ thing? Tim Ferriss: I do.  Matt Mullenweg: Every single division in Google  was incentivized by how much adoption Google+   got. They really tried to push it into  everything. A lot of coordination costs,   maybe not as responsive to users. That was  ultimately an unsuccessful push. Google's  

another example. All the messaging platforms  they have, you need text just to work with the   five messaging platforms at Google. There's  examples like that where you get duplication,   you get different incentives of executives, maybe  they're more rewarded for launching new things   versus integrating things. Those are coordination  costs. This comes up in economics terms where  

why shouldn't everyone just be a freelancer? Well, there's some coordination costs there.   It's nice to have people employed full-time by a  company. Then you don't need to rehire them every   time. They're not going to be poached by someone  else. Maybe you have a gap in the gig and they   just take another gig, that sort of thing. I feel  like for us, the common platform of open source,   particularly WordPress, allows us to plug things  in and do acquisitions in a way that is more set   up for success. We have a set of products that  run directly on WordPress or get distribution  

from WordPress and Tumblr. That's, I would  say, our core area. There are some which are,   I would call, philosophically adjacent.  It's the same philosophy. Day One is   a great example. Day One doesn't share  any technology with Tumblr or WordPress,  

but it's a fully encrypted local journaling  app. Journaling is another word for blogging.   You can use it like I do as a local blog. I  posted every day for the past 200 or 300 days.  Tim Ferriss: What does "local blog" mean?  To the untrained ear, they'd be like, "Wait,   so I have a blog that I'm publishing on  my own computer? How do people see it?"  Matt Mullenweg: Well, this is why people usually  call it a journal. But when you think about it,   like a "notes" app, like the Notes app, I  don't know, typically things are undated,   right? The metadata associated with them is  somewhat loose. Often the list is ordered by   most recently modified. That's kind of a UI. In  a blog, it's reverse chronological. We have a lot   of metadata associated. Day One attaches a date,  location, we can store the weather when you post  

it. All these different things that kind of make  it a bit richer. When it's local, we usually call   it a journal, just because that's the concept.  Apple just launched a built-in journaling app.  I call it a blog because fundamentally if you  kind of look at those principles, it's got all   the same ingredients as you post a blog reverse  chronological. Now why do I really like it? I   prefer dated entries because I'm usually taking  notes each day. Kind of like Benjamin Franklin. He  

would log everything he does every day. I do that  as well. I love the search, I love tagging, I love   all those metadata things. Help me find stuff. You  can also interlink the notes, which is actually   pretty cool. Not unlike a Roam Research or some of  these other — Obsidian. You can interlink things.  Tim Ferriss: Okay, so we took a  little side alley if we come back   to things that you're excited about. Matt Mullenweg: I didn't actually   answer your question on messaging. Tim Ferriss: You did not, yes. 

Matt Mullenweg: So why messaging? It is not  built on top of WordPress and it's not part   of our publishing kind of thing, but I do believe  it is fundamental human right to have private and   hopefully in the future, open source messaging.  Again, I only want to work on things I feel   like I can work on potentially the rest of my  life. So publishing commerce and messaging,   that covers a lot of human activity. Tim Ferriss: It does.  Matt Mullenweg: And if you have those things  truly free, I think you have a free society.   And that's also exciting to me because how do  we help bend the long arc towards more freedom,   more liberty across the world? And technology does  that better than, I think, any sort of diplomacy   or anything else that at least I could work on. Tim Ferriss: Are there any other people or  

companies that stand out as being  aligned or philosophically adjacent   with the ethos you're describing? Matt Mullenweg: Oh, yeah. Well, one,   there's a lot more open source companies now.  GitLab is a really great one led by Sid. They're   actually even more open than we are. They publish  like everything and they're a public company now,   like nine or $10 billion. So that's pretty  cool to have those examples. I think Element,  

which is built on the Matrix ecosystem,  so open source messaging, actually the   competitor to text Beeper, really awesome  company, I think philosophically very aligned.  So what's cool is more and more of this is  happening. Also, there's a fun trend where   sometimes people who did proprietary companies  and then made a ton of money off them, what   they do next is often open source. So Jack Dorsey  made him a ton of money off Twitter, Square. One,   he's taken Square to more of a crypto direction.  He wants to enable that. And two, what's he   funding? Something called Nostr and Bluesky, which  are two competing open source Twitters, which is   really cool. Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp.  What's he doing today? He's running Signal,  

which is an open source nonprofit messaging app,  which is amazing. Signal, very philosophically   aligned. So Wikipedia, Mozilla, there's a  lot out there both for-profit and nonprofit.  Tim Ferriss: Based on the very little I know, and  you track this type of thing much more than I do,   but in terms of number of users per  full-time employee pre acquisition,   how would you place WhatsApp? I mean, it's — Matt Mullenweg: The messaging apps are tops.  Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: I think Instagram  

was a pretty good size with 13 or 14 when they  sold. Telegram's actually pretty amazing today.   Signal is pretty small team. I'm not sure the  size of the WhatsApp team now, but they were very,   very small when they were acquired. It's actually  pretty incredible because messaging — there's not   really any user support. It's all self-serve.  And so those businesses can scale quite a bit   with very few people and it also attracts  really amazing engineer. The Texts team is   incredible. And so their aspiration is to remain  a sub-20, sub-30 team, even as they grow to tens  

of millions or hundreds of millions of users. Tim Ferriss: So how do you, as the buyer first   resort, hopefully the aspiring buyer, first  resort, Berkshire Hathaway, known as Automattic,   how do you find these various companies or threads  to pull on or how do those people find you?  Matt Mullenweg: Oh, people do reach out  sometimes, which is always nice. But yeah,   I guess fundamentally it's usually just driven by  me as a user. I'm always trying out new products,  

friends recommend it. My colleagues actually,  of the people we employ, they tend to be very   early adopters and very digitally savvy. So  I mean, that's why we launched Bitcoin in   2012 when it was $12. I wish I could say that  that was me being brilliant. No, it was one of   my colleagues who was like, "Oh, this thing's  so cool, we can add support." And I think he   hacked it over a weekend, and so, all right, cool. Tim Ferriss: Amazing. I'll tell you just a quick   anecdote that I haven't mentioned really. I don't  know, I haven't mentioned it anywhere because why  

would I? But you mentioned Charlie Munger, rest  in peace. I was, if I'm remembering correctly,   I mean I was definitely tentatively scheduled, I  think it was to interview him the next Tuesday.  Matt Mullenweg: Oh, my goodness. Tim Ferriss: Yeah.  Matt Mullenweg: He had just started doing podcasts   for the first time. Tim Ferriss: Yep.  Matt Mullenweg: He did the one with  the Collisons, right? John Patrick   — or Invest Like the Best, I think. Tim Ferriss: He did, I think it was   Acquired. I can't recall exactly. Matt Mullenweg: But we'll link  

it up. It was a really great episode. Tim Ferriss: Yeah. So for people who didn't get   a chance, we'll link to that in the show notes. Matt Mullenweg: I appreciated that when he passed,   for someone who I've been so obsessed  with for many years, when he passed,   I actually had a feeling of wow, what a life  well lived and so appreciative how much he's   published over the years. So even though he hadn't  done a lot of these podcasts or modern stuff,   he has been doing the meetings and speeches and  other things for decades now. So you don't always   have to meet your mentors. I think you talk about  that as well. Sometimes it's really great to just  

have the book or the speech or something like  that and it can really live with you. You can   grow up with it, you can reread it over the years,  like rereading Siddhartha. I know you have some   things that you read. Is it Zorba the Greek? Tim Ferriss: Zorba the Greek is spectacular.  

I think we might've been together. Matt Mullenweg: When you found that book.  Tim Ferriss: Yeah, in Greece, when I  found that book of all places, in Greece,   in Santorini. And absolutely loved that book, yes.  So that is one I go back to revisit. There are a   lot of books I go back to revisit, Awareness by  Anthony de Mello would be another one, very short,   very fast. I'm increasingly a fan of rereading,  that includes some fiction too, as you mentioned,  

Zorba the Greek. Any books you reread? Matt Mullenweg: Siddhartha.  Tim Ferriss: Why? Great cover. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, just an interesting story   of enlightenment and journey and it's  actually my Twitter bio is, "I can think,   I can wait, I can fast." Tim Ferriss: That's a  

great line. Something like that, yeah. Matt Mullenweg: I probably have it out of order,   but I do them out of order too, so it  works. What else do I like to reread?   Essays for sure, Paul Graham. Tim Ferriss: Which essays?  Matt Mullenweg: "Acceleration of  Addictiveness" is a really good one.  Tim Ferriss: I haven't read that one. Matt Mullenweg: He has one on speed. He   just published what I consider his magnum opus,  apparently worked on it for a year. I think it's  

called "How to Do Great Work" or something like  that. Man, that one's really good. That could be a   book. Yeah, it's interesting that there is authors  now blogging essentially, publishing these essays   like Slate Star Codex, Scott Alexander, Shane  Parrish, Knowledge Project. There's these writers   now that really drive a lot of folks. I mean,  your WordPress blog started that genre in a lot   of ways, like the longer form, like super essays. Tim Ferriss: Yeah, yeah, a thousand plus blog   posts, a lot of blog posts. And it's sometimes  easy for me to forget that that was essential  

for the entire, I don't know if I would call it  trajectory, meandering, developing "career" that   I've had. Without the blog, it doesn't happen.  I mean the blog was started before the first   book. It continued — I mean it still continues, But I have a question for you related to blogging   actually. And then ultimately led to the podcast,  but without the blog, very hard to drive people   to the podcast and show notes. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah. 

Tim Ferriss: So the blog was both jet fuel and  bridge and connective tissue and still continues   to be. I have thought a lot about next chapters  for myself recently. I love doing the podcast. I   plan on continuing doing the podcast. The  10th anniversary is coming up next April.  Matt Mullenweg: Wow. Tim Ferriss: 10 years of,   on average, 1.4 episodes per week every  week. It's been going for a long time.  Matt Mullenweg: Wow. Tim Ferriss: And I wasn't the  

first podcaster, nor will I be the last, but 10  years is a good stretch and it's an opportunity to   pause and reflect, think about things. And when I  was doing that recently, it's the end of the year,   I noticed that often I enter a game that is new.  I'm not the first participant, so I'm not at the   absolute cutting edge, but I'm on the sharp edge. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, yeah. Pretty early. 

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, pretty early. And then  I stick around for a while and I focus on   it with incredible enthusiasm and OCD. Matt Mullenweg: Ridiculous intensity.  Tim Ferriss: Yeah, intensity. And then  it often gets a bit crowded or saturated,   and then I do something else. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah. Yeah. 

Tim Ferriss: So that was true a bit with the blog,  but it wasn't so much that blogging got crowded,   but other opportunities surfaced. And then  there was the startup investing and then that   was a focus from, say, 2008 to 2015. Then I took  a hiatus for a while. I took a startup vacation,   took a complete break from that. That was in  tandem with books, took a break from the books   after The 4-Hour Chef, that's when the podcast  was started, 2014. Have done that for a while.   And now I'm looking at various trends, various  types of collective and individual behavior.   I'm like, "Okay, there's a lot more zero-sum  behavior. Things are getting very saturated,  

things are much more algorithmically driven  now." So you can effectively have an attention   rug pull where you're pursuing format X and  all of a sudden format X becomes invisible.  That could be long-form audio. Then you get pushed  to video and then you get pushed to short video,   then you get pushed to clips and now you're  in reels, but you're not appearing where you   used to appear, etc, etc. And I've been thinking  about what to do next and have posed the question   to some folks, I'd be curious to get your two  cents, maybe we'll talk about it over dinner   tonight is what you would find interesting for  me to do next. And part of what's baked into   that is as was true with these early chapters  in each of these new arenas, where do I have a   particular differentiator, an ability or access  or combination in some weird Venn diagram that   gives me an advantage? That was true with the  startups because I had the blog actually. I  

had the platform and the visibility through the  first book, which allowed me to become an advisor   with various companies and that was what enabled  that as well as geographically being located in —  Matt Mullenweg: Bay Area. Tim Ferriss: Bay Area.  Matt Mullenweg: Although some  cool companies like Shopify or us,   which were not really Bay Area companies. Tim Ferriss: That's true, that's true. And   actually a lot of my greatest hits are from,  they are from outside of the Bay Area. Being   in the Bay Area created a certain high level of  resonance with discussion in those communities,   which then extended to places like  Ottawa. What I've been also thinking,  

this is getting a little long, but I really  respect your opinion on all this stuff and   I know you pay close attention is that the new  thing isn't always a new thing. So for instance,   I was chatting, I'm not going to name him  because he probably doesn't want to be named,   but I was chatting with a friend of  mine and he came back to writing.  He was like, "You can write." And he's  like, "Everyone has a TV show now,   effectively." If you want to have a podcast, you  are building out a studio. And the truth of the  

matter is people are really good, really good. I  mean there are some spectacularly well-produced,   well-organized, well-researched, well-executed  shows out there and it's going to get more   crowded. I mean you can use, for instance  right now, you can go to ChatGPT and say,   "Provide me with 10 questions in the flavor of  Andrew Huberman, Tim Ferriss, Rich Roll, pick your   favorite podcaster, if he or she were interviewing  so-and-so," and it will spit out questions.  

And they are quite good. They're not bad. Matt Mullenweg: That's hilarious actually.  Tim Ferriss: Yeah, right. So if you have notes in  front of you and you're presentable on camera or   via audio, now you're a formidable competitor.  The hurdles used to be a little higher,   it used to be a little harder. So I've thought  about going back to writing, it is very high   labor. There's a reason there's so many podcasters  in the sense when COVID hit, people could have all   become writers. When the writer's strike happened,  people could have all become writers. Writing  

is really, really difficult, I think, so — Matt Mullenweg: I'll interject here if I can.  Tim Ferriss: Interject. Matt Mullenweg: Also, I felt like your   writing process had a lot of solitary. Tim Ferriss: Yes.  Matt Mullenweg: And what I observed  as you got more into podcasting,   other things is you really loved the — Tim Ferriss: The social piece.  Matt Mullenweg: — social piece of it, yeah. Tim Ferriss: The interpersonal, like the   direct you and I sitting across  from a table in a personal piece. 

Matt Mullenweg: It's more of a team doing  it. Also, there's this with the guest and —  Tim Ferriss: 100 percent. Matt Mullenweg: — that's   actually a pretty cool element of the format. Tim Ferriss: Absolutely. That's a huge piece.   You're totally right. And I think there's part  of me that has recognized how nourishing that  

is for me. And I'm hesitant to go back into  monk mode in the cave staring at a blank page.   I don't know, do you have any thoughts that  percolate? We can certainly continue this,   I'm just wondering. I mean, at the very least  this is just like a confessional, which is nice.  Matt Mullenweg: No, I love that. I love  psychoanalyzing Tim. It's one of my pastimes.  

That is a good question. And I think how you laid  out how the market changes and becomes crowded is   very, very true. So the thoughts that come to mind  is first, also just as your friend, I would love   to see you focus on things where it's not just  outcome based. Because as you talked about this,   you're like, "What about the traffic?" Those are  my outcomes. So where are there things? And I   think actually podcasting is true for this, where  the journey itself is very rewarding for you. 

Tim Ferriss: Totally. Matt Mullenweg: If no one listened to this,   this was still a fun afternoon. Tim Ferriss: Absolutely.  Matt Mullenweg: And we're just recording  what we might do anyway, which is neat.  Tim Ferriss: Best job ever. Matt Mullenweg: So I think that's   nice. So I would say, I think actually I find  writing, although it can be unfun at the time,  

so rewarding afterwards. Tim Ferriss: Type two fun.  Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, type two fun. And so I  wonder as well if that's — I'm not sure how   much you're writing right now. I know you did  some fiction stuff and some comic stuff and so   that's interesting. Tim Ferriss: Yeah. 

Matt Mullenweg: Those questions of creativity. Tim Ferriss: And those also, when I bleed out   of nonfiction is when it gets easier for me  to collaborate, which maybe is the way I go,   not necessarily fiction per se, but just different  formats. That would be an ability to experiment. I   mean the other thing is, and I'm not going to have  the right attribution, maybe it's Neil Strauss,   maybe it's Seth Godin, but anyone who's really  been consistently productive in the sense of   words on pages, the vast majority, at some point  I've heard say, "There's no such thing as writer's   block. It's when your standards are too high.  You just need to lower your standards until   you can get out of rough draft." And I'm of course  grossly generalizing, but it's along those lines. 

And so I've also thought, I think part of the  reason that writing is so intimidating to me is   I look at some of my blog posts and they're not  quite Tim Urban, God bless his soul, they're not   50,000-word posts, but they're long. I mean these  are significant investments of time and energy.   And maybe the answer is, "You know what? Just you  can't write more than four paragraphs. That's it."  Matt Mullenweg: Some constraints. Tim Ferriss: Closer to, say, some of Seth's   shorter pieces. Even shorter, much shorter than  Paul Graham. I'll give a nod to Paul also. I have,  

I think, it's "The Top Idea in Your Mind" that  is one of his essays that I have bookmarked so   it's visible in my browser. There are others  of course, I mean the "Maker's Schedule,   Manager's Schedule," or "Manager's Schedule,  Maker's Schedule," which I think is a perennial   reminder worth paying attention to. So I've  thought about the constraints, maybe making it   shorter, but I do think to underscore what  you said, the social piece is a big one.  Matt Mullenweg: How do you make it social?  So if I were to brainstorm about your blog,   some things I'd recommend trying  are like what would a really amazing   comment section look like? If that were  really jazzed up, maybe more like forums,   maybe more like building community. You've  experimented with events before and I think   that's actually pretty exciting. I found a lot of  value because I've been blogging now for 20 years,   and some gardening, so meaning returning to some  older pieces, some of which still get traffic. And  

do the links work? What's the update to it? At the  top, do I link to a new thing? Does this inspire   me to write a new version of this? Tim Ferriss: That's interesting.  Matt Mullenweg: Really lovely, actually.  It feels like you're creating a corpus,   you're creating a body of work that even the  old stuff reflects some of your best today   thinking and being able to return to the  old Tim or when I return to the old Matt,   it's often sometimes surprising. I'm like, "Wow,  I said this?" Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised.  

Sometimes I'm like, "Ah, I was young." But then  maybe that's a cool grist for something new.  Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: Like, "Hey, I said this 15 years   ago." I'm like, "Wow, I've learned so much since  then," and maybe you're at my 15 ago version. And   here's what changed my mind. Tim Ferriss: Yeah. 

Matt Mullenweg: I guess we have a list of things  to change your mind on, community and also I think   multimodal formats. It's like you're going to  take this podcast and slice it up for TikTok,   Shorts, Reels, whatever you're putting it on. I  think people don't do that enough into blog posts.  Tim Ferriss: Tell me more. What does  that mean? You mean converting things  

into blog posts or taking blog posts  and turning them into other derivative –  Matt Mullenweg: No, I think every podcast you  do has 10 to 15 blog posts worth of stuff in it.  Tim Ferriss: Oh, I agree. Matt Mullenweg: Easily.  Tim Ferriss: Easily. Matt Mullenweg: And so — 

Tim Ferriss: I just don't want to — I  mean, you've known me for a long time,   so I'm going to start with my fears. Not all the  amazing ways this could go, let me talk about all   the terrible things that could happen. I guess  what I want to be very cautious of is the siren   song of high volume content farming. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah.  Tim Ferriss: Because I have seen people  who are very good, they're very smart,   but they're really video first, just  churning out just an assembly line of   hot dogs of content in every form,  including text. So how would you  

think about quality assurance on that? Matt Mullenweg: We've actually talked   about this. We brainstormed a bit on your site  around if you imagined, almost like   a Wikipedia where each guest was like a topic  and that could be referred to in many episodes.   And so I think that might be the antidote to  this, to where the content, the transcripts,   everything. How this works on blogs, it's kind of  clunky right now. I think you have a post for the   show and then a post for the — Tim Ferriss: Transcript.  Matt Mullenweg: — notes script  or transcript. And that should   honestly be one URL, like it should be — Tim Ferriss: It's clunky. It's clunky in  

part because it's a lot of stuff.  The show notes are very extensive.  Matt Mullenweg: They're long. Tim Ferriss: And then the transcripts are very   extensive. So it turns into an enormous — it's  basically a book. It turns into a book length.  Matt Mullenweg: I would love if the transcript  tied to a player, video and/or audio,   so you can click on it and listen. You  could listen and read at the same time,   sort of like a karaoke scrolling through. Tim Ferriss: I mean, I use YouTube that   way with transcripts. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah,  

they have some cool features there. Yeah. Tim Ferriss: Surprisingly good, surprisingly good.  Matt Mullenweg: I would love for everything  to be linked, auto linked. So any time a book   is mentioned, anytime an essay is mentioned,  that goes to a page which pivots. I want to   see every time Paul Graham's been mentioned  across all of your — how many episodes now?  Tim Ferriss: It's close to 700. Matt Mullenweg: Yeah. That's interesting.  Tim Ferriss: I've been invoking  Paul Graham like Candyman, Candyman,   Candyman for years now. But as of yet, we have  not had a podcast conversation. Maybe someday. 

Matt Mullenweg: I don't think he does that many. Tim Ferriss: He does very few. He   had a conversation with Tyler Cowen. Matt Mullenweg: I love that one, it was hilarious.  Tim Ferriss: Which was hilarious. Which was  hilarious. And I have the utmost respect for   both of those guys. Tyler is also a one  of a kind. He has stylistically produced   a very novel and helpful show. There is no  one like Tyler, he has an inimitable style. 

Matt Mullenweg: The rapid-fire question. Tim Ferriss: The rapid fire, no follow-ups.  Matt Mullenweg: Of different things, yeah, I'm  kind of terrified about going on a show. He's the   reason I started blogging. He was a big influence. Tim Ferriss: Okay, tell me, I'm   not sure I knew this, tell me more. Matt Mullenweg: Because he's been doing Marginal   Revolutions for, I think, over 20 years. Tim Ferriss: Yeah.  Matt Mullenweg: And when I was in high  school, one of the super cool things I did,   you did wrestling, I did this economics  competition run by the Federal Reserve Bank. 

Tim Ferriss: Sexy. Matt Mullenweg: I know. Let me tell you.  Tim Ferriss: You must have been  beating the girls off with a stick.  Matt Mullenweg: Somewhat. My macroeconomic  insights were not quite driving the interest   I hoped for since beginning the  computers and jazz and stuff. So —  Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: But we did this  

economics competition and it provided, it really  opened a lot of opportunities for me. I got to   go to Washington DC, meet Alan Greenspan. Tim Ferriss: What does it mean to have an   economics competition? I mean is this  econometrics mathematics competition?   What are we talking about? Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, it was   an interesting format. So have you heard of  the FOMC, the Federal Open Market Committee?  Tim Ferriss: No. Matt Mullenweg: So   that is the committee of bank presidents and  Federal Reserve leaders that come together to   determine what's called the Fed Funds Rate, which  basically trickles down to be the interest rates.  Tim Ferriss: Man, I bet a lot of people would  like to be in that room, wouldn't they? Yeah. 

Matt Mullenweg: It's a pretty cool meeting. Tim Ferriss: It must be.  Matt Mullenweg: And they're basically — Tim Ferriss: That's like the Illuminati.  Matt Mullenweg: And they've been doing an  amazing job too. Think of all the recessions   we've avoided and all the problems they don't  have. So it was, I think Volker who said their   job is to take the punch bowl away as the party  starts going and by turning up the interest rates   slows down the economy. So they have a lot of  levers and some new ones as well. So the first  

15 minutes is we would do a mock meeting. So  you would be Greenspan, I'd be Ben Bernanke,   like we pretend role play the different presidents  and we'd read their essays and speeches and things   to try to have their style or their point of  view and based on data up to when the competition   started. So if new economic data was released  that morning, we might incorporate it into the   presentation. So do 15 minutes of that. And  then the second 15 minutes is they can ask you   any question about economics they want. Tim Ferriss: And do you have to still   be in character or is this — Matt Mullenweg: No, this is   more that they’re quizzing you as like the five  high school students. And that part was really   fun because it's a little more improvisational.  I love Q and A. And Houston just weirdly ended  

up being one of the most competitive districts  in the country. So the first year we just got   creamed. By the way, I went to arts high school.  So we had never won an academic competition,   ever. Like, Beyoncé went there, Robert  Glasper. We weren't known for academics.  

But had this awesome teacher, Scott Roman,  who was an economics teacher. He was like,   "Hey, let's do this." So first year we  got creamed. Second year we won Houston,   won the region. Tim Ferriss: Hold on.  Matt Mullenweg: And then — Tim Ferriss: So second year   they're just like, "All right, we're giving  you guys all the roids. We're giving you  

guys all the specialist top secret Chinese  training programs." How did you just go from   getting creamed to winning in the second year? Matt Mullenweg: Yeah, I credit the teacher a lot.  Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: It was first period,   so it was the same class every morning. We all  picked different newspapers like Financial Times,   Wall Street Journal. We'd read them  every morning. We discussed things.  Tim Ferriss: How old were you then at the time? Matt Mullenweg: It was high school, so it's —  Tim Ferriss: Okay, 15, 16, 17. Matt Mullenweg: — 17, 18 probably. 

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: Or 16,   17. He had us teach each other a lot of things and  you really learn something when you have to teach   it. So he'd be like, "Scott or Iram, teach about  some macroeconomics concept," and we'd rotate   through that. And then a lot of practicing. We'd  get together on weekends. Over the summer we went  

to DC as a summer program. Tim Ferriss: Yeah.  Matt Mullenweg: But anyway, got to meet  Alan Greenspan, which is pretty cool.  Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Matt Mullenweg: The follow-up to that is the year   after there was a conference hosted by the Dallas  Federal Reserve Bank honoring Milton Friedman. And   because one of my teammates had gone to intern for  the Federal Reserve — and actually maybe Mr. Roman  

might've started consulting for them or something  like that. I got an invite as a kid. At this   point I haven't done WordPress, I'm just going to  University of Houston, barely passing my political   science major. So I got to go to this and Tyler  Cowen was there, and his blog actually was one of   the big — I mentioned the newspapers, I probably  learned more from Marginal Revolutions than I did   from Financial Times textbooks, etc. And he has  textbooks and stuff. So he was there, and this   is actually, I blogged about this and so it's on  my blog, a post about meeting him. And I asked   him for advice and he said, "Write every day."  And I've basically been doing that ever since.  Tim Ferriss: That seems to have worked out. Matt Mullenweg: And it's kind of cool also  

now that I can look up this history. Tim Ferriss: Okay. I'm going to do a   bit of follow up on this. Matt Mullenweg: I have 14   more things I'm excited about. Tim Ferriss: Oh, I know. I know,   I know. We're going to get to — Matt Mullenweg: This format —  Tim Ferriss: We're going to get to the other  things. Maybe I have an idea for how we're   going to do that. But with the economics  competitions, you said barely passing in  

political science. And I know you credited the  teacher and said he was an excellent teacher. But   what was it about the economics, the competition,  the teacher or the combination that made you give   so much to that versus other classes? Matt Mullenweg: Well, at one point I   got kicked off the team, which — Tim Ferriss: You got kicked off?  Matt Mullenweg: Which was, it really worked. I get  it now, the psychology of it. So I think by a lot   of ways you would rank things or look at strengths  I definitely should have been on this five-person   team. However, as actually you experienced today,  I'm not always the most timely person. This was   the first class of the day. Tim Ferriss: Yeah.  Matt Mullenweg: So I was late a lot to school.  And at one point this teacher kicked me off the   team and I was like, "This is ridiculous.  What do you mean? We've got to win. What's  

happening?" And then he made the challenge to  me. So his other thing, which was actually true,   I didn't really appreciate this until my 20s,  but he was like, "You have no physical tone," or,   "You don't..." I just thought I was a brain  in a vat. It didn't work out. And by the way,   the school had no gym, we had no sports.  So he was like, "To get back on the team,   you need to run two miles with me," because he was  a jogger. And I think he got me a book called Body  

for Life or something, one of these really — Tim Ferriss: Oh. Yeah, Bill Phillips,   I think, back in the day. Matt Mullenweg: And so that   was what I had to do to get back on the team. I  had two months to run these two miles or whatever   and I had to show up on time. So I started showing  up on time. And then we did the run. By the way,   I really had not trained, but I just made  it through sheer force of will because  

2023-12-30 13:21

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