I finished reading The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun Thursday night. It’s already one of my favorite books ever, but I’m obviously incredibly biased here!
It’s weird to read a book covering a big chunk of your own life. I was employee 10 at Automattic and worked there for five of the best years of my life. I was there for most of the time that Berkun was, though it felt like we were at opposites ends of the company. I left Automattic about six months before Berkun left. I wish I had this book to read while I was at Automattic. It would have shaped my thinking!
Of course, this is going to be my favorite Berkun book, but there is a huge awkwardness of it all — are there other business leadership books of this style? has anyone pulled off keeping themselves in it? Berkun comes off as machiavellian, when I don’t think he really is.
There is a real reason why all autobiographies are incomplete, and great biographies either burn relationships or are written about the finished and the dead.
I’m eager to hear and read Automatticians, “formermatticians”, and other insiders thoughts on the book, particularly expanding on or challenging the history and stories of Automattic that Berkun shares. Don’t get me wrong, the insights that can be applied regardless of how Scott’s experiences and perspective align. The book is fully of incredible project management and business leadership insights that will stand on their own through the tests of time.
It’s only been a week since the release, but I haven’t seen any reviews that really expand on the history of Automattic.
I do really enjoy how mdawaffe, aka Mike Adams, ends his post “Seven Years Without Pants” with:
I’m pretty sure the party was only the eighth time Scott and I had ever met in meatspace (a.k.a. “real life”). A good friend, my former boss, and a formative teacher of mine, Scott and I have only ever seen each other eight times. If you don’t understand how that’s possible, read the book.
I’ll update this article with online discussions from insiders as I find them.
- Evan Solomon in “A Two Year Old Conversation Shows Up In a Book”
I think [letting someone be employee and reporter at the same time is a] mistake. It puts employees in a difficult and ultimately lose-lose situation to be unsure whether conversations are private or public. It doesn’t bother me much that Scott was frustrated by my communication style, but I don’t think it’s his place to share that frustration with the world any more than it would be my place to talk about my current colleague’s personal habits at work without their permission. I would consider doing that a clear violation of trust.
- Raanan Bar-Cohen
“A bit surreal to read about your own work, and I’ve found over the years that all my colleagues have a great work ethic.
What I like is that Scott hits on a point that I find very true — which is that companies that have big audacious goals such as ours, and give employees freedom to define the methods of achieving them – tend to attract people who are passionate and love what they do. And that combo tends to result in amazing outcomes and companies that have a culture that attracts fantastic talent.”
- Beau Lebens
- Andy Peatling
- WordPress.com Interview by Krista Stevens
Berkun: I was most surprised to rediscover that it’s the fundamentals. If you can build trust, provide clarity, and hire well, every other obstacle can be conquered. My story in The Year Without Pants follows how I tried to achieve those things despite a decade age gap, 100% remote workers, radically different culture, and more, any of which would be terrifying to most managers on their own, including myself.
- Alex King
I found Scott’s story to be interesting and self-aware; an introspective and honest account of how his team operated. I am fortunate to be friends (or at least friendly) with many of the people mentioned in the book. Scott’s characterizations of them, their personalities and humor struck me due to their accuracy with my own experiences. This made it easy for me to fully embrace what I was reading.
- Paul Maiorana
- Hugo Baeta
- Lance Willett
Matt mentioned “This news comes in a fun week generally: Scott Berkun’s book about Automattic is out today and getting rave reviews” in More Tiger Secondary.
What topics around Automattic and the WordPress.com business are you most interested in learning more about?