Decays over time?

Automattic makes a thing called P2 which is the way communication happens there. I think they use Slack and other things too, so I’m not 100% sure how it all works. Maybe it’s more “official” than those other things? More like public forums than chat.

There is a quote from Matt Mullenweg on the homepage of it:

That’s from a 2014 article. But the P2 homepage looks to be a pretty fresh design, so I imagine he largely feels the same way.

I’m curious what “decays over time” means there. Like an individual email becomes less useful as it ages? Maybe? Or the overall global concept of email is degrading? Seems less likely. I would think he means an email thread can be hot-and-important on a given day, and then fade into obscurity, only to be found via search, later on.

“Empowering the sender” is even more interesting. Is that true? It feels kinda true at first though. If I’m the one asking things of people, I’m the one getting those asks. But I’d also think the power dynamics at play here exist well outside email itself. Probably a lesson there in being the person sending email rather than the hamster on the reply wheel.

“Empowering the group” sorta feels like marketing, but I take the point. Perhaps just the existence of this platform, if used, becomes a place of equal voices?

Ultimately I don’t think having some forums for your group, whatever form they take, is terribly at odds with email. I don’t think email’s strength is typically from within tightly formed groups.

2 Comments

  1. I wonder if “Decays over time” refers to the fact that email threads only exist for the people who are on those threads? A thread from several years ago might be quite buried—if perhaps some of those participants no longer work at the company—whereas a thread on a forum or P2 or other platform could be viewed by anyone with access, rather than only those who were present for the original discussion.

  2. Hi Chris
    I work on our P2 product at Automattic so it made my day to read your post. I wanted to see if I can provide clarity to some of your questions. Your questions center on the quote from Matt and I am not speaking for him but as someone who has been using P2 for a decade and is helping others to use P2.

    >I think they use Slack and other things to, so I’m not 100% sure how it all works.
    Yes we use Slack, Github, Zoom, and various project management tools. P2 is really the meta medium where key outputs from other tools are shared.

    >Maybe it’s more “official” than those other things? More like public forums than chat.
    There’s a common phrase at Automattic – “P2 it or didn’t happen.” With 1600 employees, plus hundreds of partners, in our Slack it’s very difficult to find, or create, a definitive summary to a question or topic. Search Slack for a common term like ‘CSS’ and the results would take days to scroll through.  In contrast P2 has better search, much lower noise and people will generally invest more time in composing and formatting in P2.

    >I’m curious what “decays over time” means there.
    – When employees leave a company their email inbox is lost. In contrast, we use P2 as a shared, all company in-box. At Automattic we have 4 million P2 posts and comments at hand over the past decade. If this was all in email most of this knowledge might be lost.

    – Every P2 post and comment can be searched for and read by anybody in the company. With email, unless you cc everyone in the company on every email there is a limited number of people who can trace discussions and decisions. At companies where internal communications are run on email, employees must assume that they are not in the loop on many issues and need to ask people if there is an update.

    – As an example, today I was @ mentioned on a P2 thread and I linked to a P2 summary of a partner engagement from two years ago and I was able to find another P2 summary post from a different division in the company about this partner. If these records were all in email it would be much harder to tie things together.

    >Or the overall global concept of email is degrading?
    We send a lot of emails at Automattic. We even bought an email company and WordPress.com offers a couple of email products. With P2, you can also choose to get email notifications when a P2 you follow is updated. So I wouldn’t say we see the global concept of email degrading. In our experience email is a bad fit for internal collaboration. But it remains well suited for external communications outside of a group or company.

    >“Empowering the sender” is even more interesting. Is that true?
    – Better formatting in P2. Email is limited in how you can format it. P2 is built on WordPress so one can embed most anything, you can use any manner of blocks to format text and can link to other posts and comments.
    – Positive feedback. Most P2 posts are greeted with likes, emoji, threaded comments, encouraging notifications and sometimes well picked gifs. That’s not native in email. 

    >Perhaps just the existence of this platform, if used, becomes a place of equal voices?
    Yes! It has the effect where one doesn’t feel they need to ask their boss ask to their peer-level a question. The newest employee can propose an idea that everyone in the company can read and comment on or pose a tough question to our leadership. With the history and rationale for every major decision the company has made at everybody’s finger-tips everyone can be an expert. 

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