I was told Windows installation should take less than 20 minutes, but these ones have been sitting outside my house all day while the builders sit on the roof and listen to the radio. Do I need a faster processor? #TechSupport
What do you complain about the most?
I’m British. So I complain about very little. Instead, I tut loudly to myself.
But the thing that makes me tut the loudest, perhaps, is when I discover that somebody has put a roll of toilet paper on its holder the wrong way.
I’m aware that there are some people who do not hold a strong opinion on the correct orientation of a horizontally-mounted roll of toilet paper. That’s fine; not everybody has to care about these things. Maybe you’ll be persuaded that there’s a “right” way by this post (and there is), but if not, no problem.
But for the anybody who deliberately and consciously hangs toilet paper the wrong way… here’s why you’re mistaken:
- Hanging it the right way puts the loose end closer to the user, which means they’ve got less-far to reach.
- Hanging it the right way means the loose end is easier to find, which is especially useful if you didn’t turn the light on yet because you’re not ready to fully wake up.
- Hanging it the wrong way increases the amount of time the paper spends cleaning the wall, which isn’t something I want or need it to be used to clean.
- Hanging it the wrong way increases the risk that the loose end is in a place where it is inaccessible, sandwiched directly behind the roll and against the wall, requiring the user to manually turn the roll to expose it. When the same thing happens on a roll hung the right way (which is rarer on account of gravity) a pinched end self-corrects as soon as you pull the roll slightly away from the wall.
- It’s been argued that your way is “tidier” because unused toilet paper sits closer to the wall which which it’s approximately parallel. Sure (although I disagree that it’s tidier, but that’s clearly subjective): but I counter that I don’t need it to be tidy, I need it to function.
I share a home with a wrong-way hanger, but about 13 years ago we came to a household agreement: I’d quietly “correct” any incorrectly-installed toilet rolls in shared bathrooms1, and nobody would deliberately switch them back2, and in exchange I’d refrain from trying to educate people about why they were wrong.3
(While researching this article, I was pleased to discover that no major emoji font depicts a toilet roll in the wrong orientation. 🧻🎉)
I’ve open-sourced a lot of pretty shit code.
So whenever somebody says “I’m not open-sourcing this because the code is shit”, I think: wow, it must be spectacularly bad.
And that only makes me want to see it more.
What are your favourite sports to watch and play?
I’ve never really been very sports-motivated. I enjoy casually participating, but I can’t really see the attraction in spectating most sports, most of the time1.
My limited relationship with sports
There are several activities I enjoy doing that happen to overlap with sports: swimming, cycling, etc., but I’m not doing them as sports. By which I mean: I’m not doing them competitively (and I don’t expect that to change).
I used to appreciate a game of badminton once in a while, and I’ve plenty of times enjoyed kicking a ball around with whoever’s there (party guests… the kids… the dog…2). But again, I’ve not really done any competitive sports since I used to play rugby at school, way back in the day3.
I guess I don’t really see the point in spectating sports that I don’t have any personal investment in. Which for me means that it’d have to involve somebody I care about!
A couple of dozen strangers running about for 90 minutes does nothing for me, because I haven’t the patriotism to care who wins or loses. But put one of my friends or family on the pitch and I might take an interest4!
What went wrong with football, for example
In some ways, the commercialisation of sport seems to me to be… just a bit sad?
Take soccer (association football), for example, whose explosive success in the United Kingdom helped bolster the worldwide appeal it enjoys today.
Up until the late 19th century soccer was exclusively an amateur sport: people played on teams on evenings and weekends and then went back to their day jobs the rest of the time. In fact, early football leagues in the UK specifically forbade professional players!5
As leagues grew beyond local inter-village tournaments and reached the national stage, this approach gave an unfair advantage to teams in the South of England over those in the North and in Scotland. You see, the South had a larger proportion of landed gentry (who did not need to go back to a “day job” and could devote more of their time to practice) and a larger alumni of public schools (which had a long history with the sport in some variation or another)!6
Clamour from the Northern teams to be allowed to employ professional players eventually lead to changes in the rules to permit paid team members so long as they lived within a certain distance of the home pitch7. The “locality” rule for professional players required that the player had been born, or had lived for two years, within the vicinity of the club. People turned up to cheer on the local boys8, paid their higher season ticket prices to help fund not only the upkeep of the ground and the team’s travel but now also their salaries. Still all fine.
Things went wrong when the locality rule stopped applying. Now teams were directly competing with one another for players, leading to bidding wars. The sums of money involved in signing players began to escalate. Clubs merged (no surprise that so many of those “Somewheretown United” teams sprung up around this period) and grew larger and begun marketing in new ways to raise capital: replica kits, televised matches, sponsorship deals… before long running a football team was more about money than location.
And that’s where we are today, and why the odds are good that your local professional football team doesn’t have any players that you or anybody you know will ever meet in person.
That’s a bit of a long a way to say “nah, I’m not terribly into sports”, isn’t it?
My employer Automattic‘s having a bit of a reorganisation. For unrelated reasons, this coincides with my superteam having a bit of a reorganisation, too, and I’m going to be on a different team next week than I’ve been on for most of the 4+ years I’ve been there1. Together, these factors mean that I have even less idea than usual what I do for a living, right now.
On the whole, I approve of Matt‘s vision for this reorganisation. He writes:
Each [Automattic employee] gets a card: Be the Host, Help the Host, or Neutral.
You cannot change cards during the course of your day or week. If you do not feel aligned with your card, you need to change divisions within Automattic.
“Be the Host” folks are all about making Automattic’s web hosting offerings the best they possibly can be. These are the teams behind WordPress.com, VIP, and Tumblr, for example. They’re making us competitive on the global stage. They bring Automattic money in a very direct way, by making our (world class) hosting services available to our customers.
“Help the Host” folks (like me) are in roles that are committed to providing the best tools that can be used anywhere. You might run your copy of Woo, Jetpack, or (the client-side bit of) Akismet on Automattic infrastructure… or alternatively you might be hosted by one of our competitors or even on your own hardware. What we bring to Automattic is more ethereal: we keep the best talent and expertise in these technologies close to home, but we’re agnostic about who makes money out of what we create.
Anyway: I love the clarification on the overall direction of the company… but I’m not sure how we market it effectively2. I look around at the people in my team and its sister teams, all of us proudly holding our “Help the Hosts” cards and ready to work to continue to make Woo an amazing ecommerce platform wherever you choose to host it.
And obviously I can see the consumer value in that. It’s reassuring to know that the open source software we maintain or contribute to is the real deal and we’re not exporting a cut-down version nor are we going to try to do some kind of rug pull to coerce people into hosting with us. I think Automattic’s long track record shows that.
But how do we sell that? How do we explain that “hey, you can trust us to keep these separate goals separate within our company, so there’s never a conflict of interest and you getting the best from us is always what we want”? Personally, seeing the inside of Automattic, I’m convinced that we’re not – like so much of Big Tech – going to axe the things you depend upon3 or change the terms and conditions to the most-exploitative we can get away with4 or support your business just long enough to be able to undermine and consume it 5.
In short: I know that we’re the “good guys”. And I can see how this reorganisation reinforces that. But I can’t for the life of me see how we persuade the rest of the world of the fact6.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
I know what I’d do, and I’ll get to that. But first, let me tell you about the lottery game I play.
Not the lottery
I don’t generally play the lottery1. I’ve made interactive widgets (now broken) to illustrate quite how many losers there are in these games and hopefully help highlight that while “it could be you”… it won’t be.
But if I ever happen to be somewhere that the lottery results are being announced, I sometimes like to play a game I call Not The Lottery.2 Here’s how you play:
- Set aside the money it would have cost for a ticket.
- Think of the numbers you’d have played.
- When those numbers don’t come up, congratulations: you just won not-wasting-your-money!3
Want to play Not The Lottery retroactively? Cool. I’ve made and open-sourced a tool for that. Hopefully it’ll load below and you can choose some numbers (or take a Lucky Dip) and have it played through the entirety of EuroMillions history and see how much money you’d have won if you’d only played them every week. Or, to look at things from a brighter perspective, how much you’ve saved by not playing. It’s almost-certainly in the thousands.
Winning the lottery
But that’s not what the question’s really about, is it? We don’t ask people “what would they do if they won the lottery?” because we think it’s likely to happen4 We ask them because… well, because it’s fun to fantasise.
And I sort-of gave the answer away on day 20 of Bloganuary: I’d do my “dream job”. I’d work (for free) for Three Rings, like I already do, except instead of spending a couple of hours a week on it on average I’d spend about ten times that. I’d use the luxury of not having to work to focus on things that I know I can do to make the world a better place.
Sure, there’s other things I’d do. They’re mostly obvious things that I’d hope anybody in my position would do. Pay off the mortgage (and for all the works currently being done to
infuriate the dog improve the house). Arrange some kind of slow-access trust or annuity for the people closest to me so that
they need not worry about money, nor about having to work out how to spend, save, or invest a lump sum. Maybe a holiday or two. Certainly some charitable donations. Perhaps buy
really expensive ketchup: the finest dijon ketchup5.
But mostly I’d just want to be able to live as comfortably as I do now, or perhaps slightly more, and spend a greater proportion of my time than I already do making charities work better.
I don’t know if that makes me insufferably self-righteous or insufferably simple-minded, but it’s probably one of those.
What books do you want to read?
Well, I probably ought to start with my backlog! Between our traditional Family Christmas Book Exchange and my birthday, it’s pretty common for me to have a lot of books on the “next to read” pile on my bedside table, this time of year1.
Antkind is quite something. Here’s a synopsis: film critic “B.”, its protagonist, discovers an independent filmmaker who’s spent literally his entire life producing a film with a three-month runtime. The filmmaker agrees to show it to B., but only if thon3 watches it in a single sitting: the film is scripted to provide opportunities for breaks for sleep, toilet trips, eating and so on. B. watches it and discovers to be a masterpiece and the most impressive piece of art thon has even seen.
Despite the arduous effort required to watch the film, B. decides that it’s a sufficiently important and significant piece of work, with great artistic merit, that it needs to be seen by the world!
Thon takes the print for distribution… and then promptly loses the entire thing in a fire. All but one frame, with which – with the addition of thon’s own memories of their single viewing of the movie – B. attempts to reconstruct and recreate. The process drives thon somewhat insane, and the story begins (continues?) to be told by an delusional and unreliable narrator in a an increasingly surreal-to-the-point-of-absurdity setting.
I remember getting to the bit set in the far future, where there’s a war between the employees of a fast-food chain and an endlessly replicating army of robot replicas of Donald Trump… and as I reached that part of the story I thought to myself… wait, how did I get here? Every step along the way felt like it was part of the same narrative, but if you compare what’s happening right now to what happened at the start of the story then you wouldn’t believe for a moment that they were in the same book.
It’s truly bizarre and I’m looking forward to my re-read of it4… just as soon as I can face lugging the mammoth tome off the shelf.
In other news: after doing Bloganuary for 27 straight days, this is now my longest consecutive daily streak of blogging, beating a 24-year-old record streak from late 1999! Hurrah!
Write about a few of your favourite family traditions.
We’ve got a wonderful diversity of family traditions. This by virtue, perhaps, of us being a three-parent family, and so bringing 50% more different traditions and 100% less decisiveness over which to accept than a traditional two-parent family. Or it might reflect our outlook and willingness to evaluate and try new things: to experiment and adopt what works. Or perhaps we just like to be just-barely on this side of the line across the the quirky/eccentric scale1.
But there are plenty of other traditions we’ve inherited or created, such as:
- Pancake Brunch Sundays sort-of evolved out of a fried Sunday breakfast that used to be a household tradition many years ago. If you come visit us for a weekend you’ll find you’re served pancakes (or possibly waffles) with a mixture of traditional toppings plus, usually, a weekly “feature flavour” around midday on Sunday. For no reason now other than it’s just what we do.
- Family Day is an annual event, marked on or near 3 July each year, with gifts for children and possibly an outing or trip away for everybody to enjoy. It celebrates the fact that we get to be a family together, despite forces outside of our control trying to conspire to prevent it.2
- Family Film Night takes place most months: in rotation, the five of us take turns to nominate a film or two that we’ll all watch together along with snacks and sweet treats. It might be seen as a continuation of the pre-children tradition of Troma Night from back in the day, except that we don’t go out of our way to deliberately watch terrible films: now that happens just as a result of good or bad fortune! We also periodically schedule a Family Board Games Night, and a Family Videogames Night.
- Christmas Eve Books: a tradition we stole from Iceland is that we give books on Christmas Eve. Adults in our household now don’t really get Christmas gifts, but everybody present is encouraged to exchange books on Christmas eve and then sit up late reading together, often with gingerbread, chocolate, and/or a pan of mulled wine keeping warm on the stove. I find it a fun way to keep my reading list stocked early in the year, plus it encourages the kids to read3
- Festive meals, while I’m thinking about that end of the year, are pretty-well established. Christmas Eve is all about roast duck pancakes. Christmas Day sees me roast a goose. New Years’ Eve is for fondue. Plus vegetarian (and sometimes vegan) alternatives to the otherwise-unsuitable things, of course.
I’m certain there must be more, but the thing with family traditions is they become part of the everyday tapestry of your life after a while. Eventually traditions become hard to see them because they’re always there. I’m sure there are more “everyday rituals” that we’ve taken on that are noteworthy or interesting to outsiders but which to us are so mundane as to be unworthy of mention!
But every single one of these is something special to us. They’re an element of structure for the kids and a signifier of community to all of us. They’re routines that we’ve taken on and made “ours” as part of our collective identity as a family. And that’s just great.
What do you enjoy doing most in your leisure time?
What is a song or poem that speaks to you and why?
Landslide, by Fleetwood Mac.
At 5½ years older than me, the song’s been in my life effectively forever. But its themes of love and loss, overcoming naivety, growing up and moving on… have grown in significance to and with me as I’ve grown older. And to hear Stevie Nicks speak about it, it feels like it has for her as well, which just doubles the feeling it creates of timeless relevance.
In concert, Nicks would often dedicate the song to her father, which lead to all manner of speculation about the lyrics being about the importance of family. And there’s definitely an undertone of that in there: when in 2015 she confirmed that it was about a challenging moment of decision in her youth in which she was torn between continuing to try to “make it” as a musical act with her then-partner Lindsey Buckingham or return to education. Her father was apparently supportive of either option but favoured the latter.
Ultimately she chose the former and it worked out well for her career… although of course the pair’s romantic relationship eventually collapsed. And so the song’s lyrics, originally about indecision, grow into a new interpretation: one of sliding doors moments, of “what ifs”. In some parallel universe Stevie Nicks dropped out of Buckingham Nicks before Keith Olsen introduced Lindsey Buckingham to Mick Fleetwood, and we’d probably never have heard Landslide.3
Stevie still sings Landslide in concert, and now it feels like it’s entered its third life and lends itself a whole new interpretation. Those lyrics about turning around and looking back, which were originally about reconsidering the choices you made in your youth and the path you’d set yourself on, take on a whole new dimension when sung by somebody as they grow through their 60s and into their 70s!
In particular, coming to the song as a parent4 is a whole other thing. Its thoughts on innocence and growing-up, and watching your children do so, reminds me of my perpetual struggle with comparing myself to the best parent I know. An intergenerational effort to be my best me; to look forwards with courage and backwards with compassion for myself.
All of which is pretty awesome for a song that under other circumstances might be just a catchy twist on a classic country rock chord progression with some good singing. Sliding doors, eh?
Name an attraction or town close to home that you still haven’t got around to visiting.
I live a just outside the village of Stanton Harcourt in West Oxfordshire. It’s tiny, but it’s historically-significant, and there’s one very-obvious feature that I see several times a week but have never been inside of.
When William the Conqueror came to England, he divvied up large parts of the country and put them under the authority of the friends who helped him with his invasion, dioceses of the French church, or both. William’s half-brother Odo1 did particularly well: he was appointed Earl of Kent and got huge swathes of land (second only to the king), including the village of Stanton and the fertile farmlands that surrounded it.
Odo later fell out of favour after he considered challenging Pope Gregory VII to fisticuffs or somesuchthing, and ended up losing a lot of his lands. Stanton eventually came to be controlled by Robert of Harcourt, whose older brother Errand helped William at the Battle of Hastings but later died without any children. Now under the jurisdiction of the Harcourt family, the village became known as Stanton Harcourt.
The Harcourt household at Stanton in its current form dates from around the 15th/16th century. Perhaps its biggest claim to fame is that Alexander Pope lived in the tower (now called Pope’s Tower) while he was translating the Illiad into a heroic couplet-format English. Anyway: later that same century the Harcourts moved to Nuneham Courtenay, on the other side of Oxford2 the house fell into disrepair.In the mid-20th century the house was restored and put back into use as a family residence. A couple of decades ago it was routinely open to visitors throughout the summer months, but nowadays guests are only admitted to the chapel, tower, gardens etc. on special occasions (or, it seems, if they turn up carrying a longbow…), and I’ve not managed to take advantage of one since I moved here in 2020.
It’s a piece of local history right on my doorstep that I haven’t yet had the chance to explore. Maybe some day!
Cache removed and temporarily disabled. The council have just started installing new signage to advise of a new 20mph speed limit around here. 🎉
When they recently did the same in a nearby village, they removed a cache of this type as a (presumably accidental) side effect. I don’t know if this cache’s host is among those that’ll be affected but I suspect it will so I’ve temporarily removed this one as a precaution and I’ll reinstate it after the works are complete.
List five things you do for fun.
This feels disappointingly like the prompt from day 2, but I’m gonna pivot it by letting my answer from three weeks ago only cover one of the five points:
Let’s take a look at each of those, briefly.
Code is poetry. Code is fun. Code is a many-splendoured thing.
When I’m not coding for work or coding as a volunteer, I’m often caught coding for fun. Sometimes I write WordPress-ey things. Sometimes I write other random things. I tend to open-source almost everything I write, most of it via my GitHub account.
Now I don’t work in the city centre nor have easy access to other magicians, I don’t perform as much magic as I used to. But I still try to keep my hand in and occasionally try new things; I enjoy practicing sleights when I’m doing work-related things that don’t require my hands (meetings, code reviews, waiting for the damn unit tests to run…), a tip I learned from fellow magician Andy.
I started teaching myself piano during the Covid lockdowns as a distraction from not being able to go anywhere (apparently I’m not the only one), and as an effort to do more of what I’m bad at.2 Since then, I’ve folded about ten minutes of piano-playing3, give or take, into my routine virtually every day.
I fully expect that I’ll never be as accomplished at it as, say, the average 8-year-old on YouTube, but that’s not what it’s about. If I take a break from programming, or meetings, or childcare, or anything, I can feel that playing music exercises a totally different part of my mind. I’d heard musicians talk about such an experience before, but I’d assumed that it was hyperbole… but from my perspective, they’re right: practicing an instrument genuinely does feel like using a part of your brain than you use for anything else, which I love!
I wrote a whole other Bloganuary post on the ways in which I integrate “play” into my life, so I’ll point you at that rather than rehash anything.
At the weekend I dusted off Vox Populi, my favourite mod for Civilization V, my favourite4 entry in the Civilization series, which in turn is one of my favourite video game series5. I don’t get as much time for videogaming as I might like, but that’s probably for the best because a couple of hours disappeared on Sunday evening before I even blinked! It’s addictive stuff.
As I mentioned back on day 3 of bloganuary, I’m a lifelong learner. But even when I’m not learning in an academic setting, I’m doubtless learning something. I tend to alternate between fiction and non-fiction books on my bedside table. I often get lost on deep-dives through the depths of the Web after a Wikipedia article makes me ask “wait, really?” And just sometimes, I set out to learn some kind of new skill.
In short: with such a variety of fun things lined-up, I rarely get the opportunity to be bored6!
If you could make your pet understand one thing, what would it be?
The strangers who we keep inviting into our house do not want to steal your toys and do not need to be “seen off”.
Lately, we’ve had a lot of strangers in the house: builders, plumbers, and electricians, all working on some significant building works.
And even though she’s got to be starting to recognise the same old folks coming and going, day-in and day-out, our little pup still goes completely mental every time the builders turn up, each morning.
I get it. They come and go but don’t smell like they live here. They make a lot of noise and dust. But seriously, dog: these people aren’t going to bring us any harm2. Just chill out already!
Today we’re having one of the biggest bits of work done: the removal of the ceiling in the main hallway and the installation of a new staircase. So the dog’s spending the day… elsewhere! We’ve sent her off to play with her little doggy friends at our dogsitter’s house. It’s probably for the best.
Write about your first name: its meaning, significance, etymology, etc.
First eighteen years
When I was born, my parents named me Daniel, possibly as a result of Elton John’s influence.1 I wasn’t given a middle name, and – ignoring nicknames, some of which are too crude to republish – I went exclusively by Daniel for my entire childhood.
The name comes from a Aramaic and Hebrew roots – din (judge) and el (god) – meaning “judged by god”, but I can’t imagine my parents knew or cared. They’ll probably have been aware of its Biblical significance, where Daniel2 interprets dreams for the king, gets promoted a whole lot, but then because he prefers worshipping his god to worshipping his king they throw him to the lions3 before getting rescued by an angel and going on to have a successful career predicting the end times (long before John of Patmos made it cool).
Next eight years
When I went to university in 1999 I started volunteering with Aberystwyth Nightline.4 They already had a Daniel, so for convenience I introduced myself as Dan. By the time I was going by Dan there I figured I might as well be Dan in my halls of residence and my course, too, so Dan I became.
People occasionally called me Dan prior to my going to university, but it was there that it became cemented as being my “actual name”. “Other” Daniel graduated and moved away from
Aberystwyth, but I’d settled pretty well on Dan. I updated my name in my email
From: line to reflect the change in circa 2003, which felt plenty official enough, and I
didn’t do well at maintaining many of my pre-university friendships sufficiently that I’d hear “Daniel” from anybody at all.
Last seventeen years
Eventually, my then-partner Claire and I got to that point where we were talking about what we wanted out of it in the long term. We agreed that while marriage wasn’t a good representation of our relationship, but we quite liked the idea of having the same family name someday. And so we started, on-and-off, talking about what that surname could be. Neither of us wanted to take the other’s and double-barrelling was definitely out: we decided we’d far rather come up with a completely original name that was just ours.
It took us years, because we were pretty indecisive, but we eventually cut out choices down by committing to a single-character surname! When we chose ‘Q’ as our new surname and wrote out some deeds poll I took the opportunity to change my legally-recognised first name to just Dan, at the same time. That was what everybody5 called me by now, anyway.
It didn’t take long before I’d updated it on my ID and everywhere else (although some government organisations made a fuss about it). Now nobody could deny that I was, for all legal purposes, Dan.
What’s your dream job?
It feels like a bit of a cop-out to say I’m already doing it, but that’s true. Well, mostly (read on and I’ll make a counterpoint!).
I’m incredibly fortunate that my job gets to tick so many of the boxes I’d put on a “dream job wishlist”:
- I work on things that really matter. Automattic’s products make Web publishing and eCommerce available to the world without “lock-in” or proprietary bullshit. I genuinely believe that Automattic’s work helps to democratise the Internet and acts, in a small way, as a counterbalance to the dominance of the big social media silos.
- I get to make the world a better place by giving away as much intellectual property as possible. Automattic’s internal policy is basically “you don’t have to ask to open source something; give away anything you like so long as it’s not the passwords”.1 Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation, and all that.
- We work in a distributed, asynchronous way. I work from where I want, when I want. I’m given the autonomy to understand what my ideal working environment is and make the most of it. Some mornings I’m just not feeling that coding flow, so I cycle somewhere different and try working the afternoon in a different location. Some weekends I’m struck by inspiration and fire up my work laptop to make the most of it, because, y’know, I’m working on things that really matter and I care about them.
- I work with amazing people who I learn from and inspire me. Automattic’s home to some incredibly talented people and I love that I’ve managed to find a place that actively pushes me to study new things every day.
- Automattic’s commitment to diversity & inclusion is very good-to-excellent. As well as getting work work alongside people from a hundred different countries and with amazingly different backgrounds, I love that I get to work in one of the queerest and most queer-affirming environments I’ve ever been paid to be in.
But you know where else ticks all of those boxes? My voluntary work with Three Rings. Let me talk you through that wishlist again:
- I work on things that really matter. We produce the longest-running volunteer management system in the world3 We produce it as volunteers ourselves, because we believe that volunteering matters and we want to make it as easy as possible for as many people as possible to do as much good as possible, and this allows us to give it away as cheaply as possible: for free, to the smallest and poorest charities.
- I get to make the world a better place by facilitating the work of suicide helplines, citizens advice bureaus, child support services, environmental charities, community libraries and similar enterprises, museums, theatres, charity fundraisers, and so many more good works. Back when I used to to helpline volunteering I might do a three hour shift and help one or two people, and I was… okay at it. Now I get to spend those three hours making tools that facilitate many tens of thousands of volunteers to provide services that benefit an even greater number of people across six countries.
- We work in a distributed, asynchronous way. Mostly I work from home; sometimes we get together and do things as a team (like in the photo above). Either way, I’m trusted with the autonomy to produce awesome things in the way that works best for me, backed with the help and support of a team that care with all their hearts about what we do.
- I work with amazing people who I learn from and inspire me. I mentioned one of them yesterday. But seriously, I could sing the praises of any one of our two-dozen strong team, whether for their commitment to our goals, their dedication to making the world better, their passion for quality and improvement, their focus when producing things that meet our goals, or their commitment to sticking with us for years or decades, without pay, simply because they know that what we do is important and necessary for so many worthy causes. And my fellow development/devops volunteers continue to introduce me to new things, which scratches my “drive-to-learn” itch.
- Three Rings’ commitment to diversity & inclusion is very good, and improving. We skew slightly queer and have moderately-diverse gender mix, but I’m especially impressed with our age range these days: there’s at least 50 years between our oldest and youngest volunteers with a reasonably-even spread throughout, which is super cool (and the kind of thing many voluntary organisations dream of!).
The biggest difference between these two amazing things I get to work on is… only one of them pays me. It’s hard to disregard that.
Sometimes at Automattic, I have to work on something that’s not my favourite project in the world. Or the company’s priorities clash with my own, and I end up implementing something that my gut tells me isn’t the best use of my time from a “make the world a better place” perspective. Occasionally they take a punt on something that really pisses me off.
That’s all okay, of course, because they pay me, and I have a mortgage to settle. That’s fine. That’s part of the deal.
My voluntary work at Three Rings is more… mine. I’m the founder of the project; I 100% believe in what it’s trying to achieve. Even though I’ve worked to undermine the power of my “founder privilege” by entrusting the organisation to a board and exec that I know will push back and challenge me, I feel safe fully trusting that everything I give to Three Rings will be used in the spirit of the original mission. And even though I might sometimes disagree with others on the best way forward, I accept that whatever decision is made comes from a stronger backing than if I’d acted alone.
Three Rings, of course, doesn’t pay me4. That’s why I can only give them a few hours a week of my time. If I could give more, I would, but I have bills to pay so my “day job” is important too: I’m just so incredibly fortunate that that “day job” touches upon many of the same drives that are similarly satisfied by my voluntary work.
If I didn’t have bills to pay, I could happily just volunteer for Three Rings. I’d miss Automattic, of course: there are some amazing folks there whom I love very much, and I love the work. But if they paid me as little as Three Rings did – that is, nothing! – I’d choose Three Rings in a heartbeat.
But man, what a privileged position I’m in that I can be asked what my dream job is and I can answer “well, it’s either this thing that I already do, or this other thing that I already do, depending on whether this hypothetical scenario considers money to be a relevant factor.” I’m a lucky, lucky man.