The Northstar Podcast: Matt Mullenweg: Operating System for the Open Web

Full podcast here

  • The web is the most important way for us to increase our rate of evolution as a species. [2:07]

  • The web is fundamentally about communication. Money and transactions are a form of communication. [5:44]

  • The best interface in the world is someone you trust and like showing you how to do something. [8:47] 

  • Writing is not the most important thing. Thinking is. But writing is probably the best way to improve your thinking. The process of writing and editing makes your thinking so much better. [18:48] 

  • What I’m looking for in potential colleagues [also things you can’t learn or coach]: 1) Taste 2) Work ethic 3) Curiosity 4) Ethics [22:46]

  • Matt started working on Wordpress 16 years ago: I started writing on the internet using hosted tools [live journal, blogger etc]. This what led me to working on the tooling. None of these had the right mix of what I wanted to publish online. It’s fundamentally not that hard to put text in a database and get it out so I just started hacking on the software. [29:52]

  • I didn’t really know anything [about technology]. I would just search online and I would find something that someone else had already figured out. It was so cool that people figured something out and shared it. Why not do that? It doesn’t cost you anything. It makes humanity better. This was my early exposure to the idea of the acceleration of evolution. [32:56]

  • We evolve through communication and ideas spreading. Learn something, mash it up, and put it back out there. Someone will read it, mash it up, improves it, and puts it back out there. That kind of ping pong is all of human progress. We improve that process by publishing. [33:22] 

  • I like to think about the ratio between how long it takes to create the content to how long it takes me to consume it. Many people’s first book takes a lifetime to write. Think of Nassim Taleb’s first book Fooled by Randomness. That was the culmination of his life’s work until then. I can read that in 6 to 10 hours. Wow. That is an off the charts ratio. [37:56]

  • Matt’s advice for writing online: Write for one person. You are publishing to the world but write like you are writing a letter to one [specific] person. [42:46] 

  • Why Matt ended up working in Open Source: Open Source software is essentially publishing your software so other people can comment on it, change it, and react to it. It is a fun mental exercise to imagine what if we worked together. [45:35]

  • Getting better is all about iteration. Anything you enjoy in the world has gone through countless iterations. [47:19]

  • I think most of the problems in the world come from “short-termism” [focusing on the short term] Under the short term you can ignore externalities, you can pass the buck to someone else. Sometimes we pass that buck to future generations. Expanding your thinking to a longer time frame acts as an amazing filter. [54:09]