This pioneering tech company figured how to make work-from-home work
A decade-plus of experimentation has led Automattic to its current set of tools:
Slack, a business chat app used for day-to-day communication
P2, a WordPress theme modeled after Twitter’s stream with in-line replies for more in-depth discussions
Wikis, field guides with content that rarely changes
Zoom video conferencing
But there were many pain points before it arrived at this arrangement. Originally, Automattic used Internet Relay Chat (IRC), a text chat protocol that predates AOL Instant Messenger, for instant messaging. But with the proliferation of mobile devices, employees sought an easier way to chat from their phones. Skype was far from a perfect solution, but it had a mobile app, making it one of the better offerings in 2008. The main drawback was that conversations were siloed into individual groups, which “is terrible for distributed companies,” says Schneider.
There was an awkward transition period where employees were expected to be on both IRC and Skype. Eventually, the company migrated to Slack en masse, but even that came with its false starts, as various teams had used and abandoned the chat app before it finally stuck for good in 2014. “Our lifeblood today is Slack and [a WordPress theme] we created called P2,” says Mullenweg.