Category: Personal

My Fifth Automattic Grand Meetup

Last week, our entire company — 400 of us now — gathered in Park City, Utah for our annual Grand Meetup. And grand it was.

Park City is stunningly beautiful. The weather was well above normal — in the mid-20s, Celsius. We were treated to bright blue skies almost every day.

The view from my room.
The view from my room.

I learned so much and had such a wonderfully inspirational time, that I’m still processing the experience. I got the chance to co-work with many of my team members and others within the company during the week. We hatched some great ideas. I enjoyed fantastic conversations with smart people. I met many new friends and reconnected with old ones. (I actually keep a list of people I want to make sure that I connect with during the week. That list gets longer every year!)

One of the beautiful things about Automattic is that there are no invisible social barriers. At a meal table, everyone is welcome. The conversation might start with, “tell me about your role at Automattic,” and then quickly migrates to hobbies, interests, and passions. I learned about nomadic life, took notes on new books I need to read, had a fascinating conversation about social prejudices online, learned others’ Automattic origin stories, discussed books, sat in awe of Automatticians jamming, took an epic bike ride and gutted out some crazy inclines, got some new ink, ran four miles on the mountain, bonded with flash talkers over similar experiences, almost bit through my lip trying not to burst into tears during my own flash talk, witnessed the musical talents of Automatticians on stage, and danced along with the Jane Doze at the 10th Anniversary Party. Note to self: never ever book a 7:30 a.m. return flight again. You miss out with a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call.

I ran four miles on the mountain and was treated to this stunning view.
I ran four miles on the mountain and was treated to this stunning view.

Just getting the chance to talk to others, to learn more about them, and their lives outside Automattic expands my heart and mind. This past week reminded me once more, of just how lucky I am.

Oh by the way? We’re hiring.

Any old Wednesday

wednesdayrun Only three-and-a-bit miles plodding along through the snow. But I did it. :)

I find music is critical to keeping me motivated, although some song lyrics become especially poignant, given Winnipeg’s weather conditions:

The season rubs me wrong…

I hope wherever you are, is a better place than this…

The second song, Carry Me Along by Express and Company, (on, yeah!) is timed to start just as my walking warm-up ends. It’s a toe tapper and helps get me moving:

It’s been a great run

Today, with the release of issue 356, I’m retiring as editor in chief of A List Apart. For the last six years, I’ve had the privilege of making a great magazine with an amazing team of co-conspirators.

Thanks and praise
Anyone who publishes anything knows it takes a group of people to do it well. I owe a debt of gratitude to these fine folks:

  • Producer-magicians: I had the great fortune to work with Andrew Fernandez, Ryan Irelan, Tim Murtaugh, and Erin Lynch, who helped me navigate the mysteries of ExpressionEngine with steadfast grace and aplomb. For their deep knowledge and trouble-shooting prowess, I will be forever grateful.
  • Visual wizards: Thanks to Jason Santa Maria for outstanding creative direction and continuous image guidance. Thanks to Kevin Cornell for ever-delightful illustrations.
  • Acquisitions all-stars: We have the best authors in the business and I thank Carolyn Wood, Candi Ligutan, and Rose Weisburd for bringing them home.
  • Technical editors extraordinaire: Big thanks to Dan Mall, Aaron Gustafson, Andrew Kirkpatrick, Ethan Marcotte, and Mat Marquis who past and present have given mountains of time and attention to ensure that ALA articles are sound technically, from concepts large, to code snippets small. I am in their debt.
  • Editorial visionaries: It was an honour to work with Erin Kissane and Mandy Brown, superlative editors who taught me to edit deeper, and question harder.
  • Our gentleman publisher: Thanks to Jeffrey Zeldman for taking me on six years ago, giving me the freedom to run ALA the way I wanted to as editor in chief, and for his constant kind support.

Thank you, authors
Special thanks to our authors: those brave, incisive folks who are passionate enough about their beliefs in code, design, standards, and content to risk sharing their ideas with the world. We the community, are forever grateful.

Thank you, readers
Above all, thanks to the readers for reading and coming back issue after issue, for your thoughtful comments, for your on-point feedback, and for helping to share our authors’ ideas with your colleagues, your employers, your clients, and friends. For without you, where would we be?

Murphy Stevens

May 24th, 1995 – June 20th, 2012

Murphy was a part of our family for 17 years. We brought him home at eight weeks old. He was born on May 24th, 1995, the runt of his litter. I remember the day we went out to a place on Henderson Highway to look at a litter of Bichon puppies. They’d named him Sam at birth, to tell him apart from his brothers and sisters. I remember picking him up and tickling his belly. He was so small his entire body fit in the space between my elbow and wrist. Here’s what he looked like at about 12 weeks:

As a puppy, he loved to play fetch with his ropey, and chew ever so gently on his stuffed bear. He taught us what a FRAP was, running dozens of circles around the coffee table at top puppy speed only to flop on the carpet five minutes later, happy and exhausted. At the time, we had two Siberian Huskies, who lived outside. Mike would walk all three, with the little white dog leading the pack.

Murt would “put me to bed.” After I went to sleep, he’d hop off the bed and run into the living room and start tugging on Mike’s sleeve, wanting to play.

When Murt was a young dog, he loved to stalk squirrels. He’d lie on the deck at the cabin and watch for squirrels and chipmunks that came to eat the seeds that fell out of the bird feeder. Eventually a squirrel would appear, and Murt would ever so slowly attempt to creep down the stairs, and try to sneak up on it. It took every ounce of willpower he had not to charge them, and he quivered the whole time, this white snowball slowly stalking through the green grass. Murt learned that when the rodents fled they always ran to the bushline and he started to flank them. He never did catch one, but he never tired of trying. Here’s Murt waiting for a squirrel to appear:

Murt loved the lake and especially the boat. He was a great swimmer and enjoyed every minute in the water, the tip of his tail sticking out as a rudder.

Here’s Murt on the boat, just waiting to head out for a ride.

With the sun on his face and the wind in his hair, in his favorite spot on the boat.

Over the years, he slowed down a bit, as old dogs do. He needed help with stairs as his vision faded. His hair thinned along with his body. His hearing was all but gone. We’d been softening his food with water and warming it for him for several months to make sure he was eating enough. We made sure he got the cushiest spots to relax in the sun.

He’d been doing well until this past Sunday. He stopped eating and his breathing became rapid and raspy. When he began having trouble standing, his hind legs slipping out from beneath him, we knew it was time to do the right thing and take him to the vet. It’s hard to lose your best friend.

Welcoming, gracious, and above all, personal:

I’ve been enjoying Readmill for a few months now. I was fortunate to get an invitation to Readmill when it was still in beta. The application is beautiful and has since become my reading application of choice. I’ve shared some feedback with Readmill via Twitter, some love, and some suggestions. They’ve always been prompt, gracious, and above all personal in responding. Today I received an email to thank me for being part of the beta release of the application. The email was lovely. What delighted me, was seeing the reply-to address:

Never in my online life have I seen such a lovely invitation to customers to keep offering feedback. No anonymous “no-reply@” or off-putting “do-not-reply@.” Instead, customers see a welcoming and wonderful opposite. Please reply. Gracious and personal. When I wrote back to express how delighted I was to see it, I received a personal reply from David Kjelkerud who promptly credited Orson Kent for the idea.

Readmill opened to all recently. If you haven’t yet, you must sign up. I hope you love it as much as I do.


Since joining Automattic in January, I’ve had the chance to travel three times, once to Austin for SXSW, once to Minneapolis for Confab, and most recently to Amsterdam with team Polldaddy for my first team meetup.

Last week was full of many firsts for me; first time meeting John, Eoin, and Donncha; first time on a 777; and my first trip to Europe.

Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.


Superlatives fail to describe how much I enjoyed the city. Experiencing a city with such rich history was inspirational. I saw buildings with numbers on them like 1605 and 1659 and those numbers weren’t the addresses.

Seeing Dutch people pedaling around on old two-wheeled bicycles was fascinating. Old people, young people, men and women in business wear riding with umbrellas, young women dressed up for the disco in boots with three-inch heels, parents with small children in barrows and carriers—everyone rides bicycles. Baskets and saddle bags loaded with provisions, they boldly navigated crowded streets and absent-minded pedestrians with only quick reflexes and bicycle bells.

I saw boats cruise down the canals that formed the median to many a street. I ate delicious Indian, Thai, Indonesian, Argentinian, and Italian food. I sampled Amstel, Heineken, Kingfisher, Singha, Hoegaarden, and Bintang. I saw original Vincent van Gogh paintings at the Van Gogh Museum, standing only inches from the famous Boats at Saintes-Marie, a reproduction of which has hung in our cottage since we built it fifteen years ago.

Getting the chance to see how other people move around in their cities, the kinds of buildings they live in, where they shop, and where they go to meet others makes me reconsider my own city; how we’ve failed to preserve old buildings, pleading time and expense over history and story.

As we walked the narrow bricked streets, lined with well kept three-story buildings, and endless black, two-wheeled bicycles, I couldn’t help but wonder about the people who had lived in these places over the years, about the lives they had lead, about the work they had done, about their individual stories, that taken together, formed centuries-old narratives.