On Matt-bombing

Woman in front of a computer, looking frustrated

In “The Year Without Pants”, author Scott Berkun describes his time working at Automattic, the company behind Wordpress.com. It was of course not impossible to work remotely before “The Pandemic”, it was just less common. So uncommon, in fact, that it was possible to write and publish a book about it.

This is not a review of said book, but I can recommend it, just because I think it’s a good read.

Anyway, one thing that stuck with me was the term “Matt-bombing”, and the topic of this blog post.

Scott and his team would be working on a project, and using their “P2” (a kind of internal message board) to communicate regarding the architecture and design of the project.

Matt Mullenweg, founder and CEO of Automattic, as well as the creator of Wordpress, would sometimes drop in and leave a comment or a question in the P2, only to then disappear and not partake in the conversation anymore.

This would leave the team in a state of limbo. Was Matt’s comment a suggestion? A question? A demand? Coming from the CEO, it could feel a bit awkward to ignore it, but at the same time, it was hard to tell if he had just handed out a demand, or if he was merely curious about the progress of the project. I don’t think it was ever Matt’s intention to confuse his employees, but it happened anyway.

Let me just say I understand the confusion Scott and his team felt. I’ve been there myself, and I’m sure you have too.

And to to be fair, I’m as guilty as anyone of doing this. I’ve left comments in chat rooms and in emails, only to then find myself preoccupied with something else for an extended period of time.

Granted, I don’t have the same authority as Matt Mullenweg, and my comments don’t carry the same weight, but I’m sure it’s caused both confusion and frustration for my colleagues.

After reading the book, however, I’ve tried to be more clear in my communication. If I have a question, I try to make it clear that I’m asking a question, and not making a demand. Same goes for suggestions and speculations. And if I have a demand, I try to make that clear as well.

I’m not always successful, but I’m trying.

I think we all should.

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