I’ve joined Automattic

Some “personal” news…

Last week, I started work at Automattic, the private company that grew out of the open-source, content management system WordPress. Specifically, I’m joining WordPress VIP, their Enterprise WordPress division, where I will be their first Relationship Manager located in the UK & continental Europe.
No alt text provided for this image
WordPress VIP provide consulting, support, hosting, training, and other services to some of the biggest and best WordPress sites for clients like Time Inc., Facebook, TechCrunch and The New York Times.

I’m looking forward to working with many clients in or near my timezone, which currently includes names like Capgemini, News UK and more. Other global brands whose content marketing is powered by WordPress VIP include Microsoft, Airbnb and Capital One.

More widely, Automattic’s products include WordPress.com, Jetpack, WooCommerce and more. Most recently, they acquired the popular social media platform Tumblr.

Automattic is famous for being a completely distributed organisation – there are no offices – and everyone works from home, or another productive location. That also means my application and interview process was conducted completely by video call and Slack chat; I met my first Automatticians last week when they happened to be meeting clients in London.
Dropping in at Capgemini with WordPress VIP colleagues.
I now work alone at my desk at home in Manchester, accompanied occasionally by my cat. I do somewhat miss the coffee chats I used to have at my old workplaces, but I’ve found a rhythm that works for me. Via tools like Zoom, Slack and Automattic’s internal blogging platform “P2”, I’ve already had productive conversations with colleagues. And with the choice of almost 6,000 chat emojis, there is literally one for almost every occasion and reaction. I’ve already begun to understand the various memes that define a distributed working culture :lovemustard:

Right now, I’m undertaking a rite-of-passage that is common to every single employee of Automattic: the support rotation. This first three weeks of employment are a structured programme of learning, including how to effectively communicate with over 900 staff around the world and, most crucially, how WordPress VIP handles customer support. Now in my second week of three, I’m actively reading, answering and completing tickets raised by customers of VIP. This will give me both an empathy for, and an insight into how clients use our services and how we support them — which is a critical underpinning for an effective relationship.

Link to map of Automatticians
Unsurprisingly for a company rooted in blogging, there’s a great deal that’s been written about what it’s like to work at Automattic, how it recruits and the benefits so I won’t repeat those here.

Suffice to say, this is a huge step forward for me and I’m very, very excited about it. I want to thank everyone in my personal and professional life who has helped me get to this point. WordPress VIP is growing and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in with clients. There’s a great deal of experience that I can bring to the role as the Relationship Management team continues to develop.

I’m also really proud to be working at a company that’s so intrinsically linked with the fabric of the web: over 34% of all sites on the web use WordPress. Of sites that use a content management system at all, the market share is over 60%.

Finally, I’d love to talk to you if you have a WordPress project that you’re working on, or if you think you might need the support of VIP. I expect to be travelling frequently between Manchester, London and the continent too, so please do get in touch for a coffee and chat wherever you are.

I hope to connect with you all again very soon.

Reduce the risk of email rejection by making WordPress send emails via SMTP if DKIM is configured

Originally published on the Bytemark forum

I recently migrated yet another WordPress site from a Turnkey Linux install to join my others on Bytemark Symbiosis. As I’ve briefly mentioned elsewhere, this went without major problems.

I also decided to configure SPF and DKIM as part of my plan to finish migrating mail services over. However, I didn’t consider the fact that this has an impact on the deliverability of emails sent from WordPress and presumably other similar PHP-based web applications.

I’ve been using a catch-all forwarding rule and spotted a rejected email from Yahoo! Mail. The rejected email was a blog post that was shared by email using WordPress JetPack sharing. The rejection notice quoted 554 5.7.9: Message not accepted for policy reasons. The explanatory URL clarifies:

Your email failed one or more of the following industry-wide authentication checks that Yahoo uses to verify emails are truly sent from the domains they claim to originate from.

It goes on to briefly explain DKIM, SPF and DMARC (not currently implemented in Symbiosis).

Thankfully, this is a solvable problem – in fact, it’s not even really a problem, as Yahoo! Mail is just doing its job by checking for correct DKIM headers.

However, WordPress doesn’t make solving it obvious. Chad Butler has done a ton of investigation into WordPress’s email woes, pointing the finger at the wp_mail function – a “wrapper” for phpmailer. The solution is to force WordPress to use SMTP via phpmailer. Here are two suggested approaches:

  1. Edit your theme’s functions.php to include an extra code snippet that configures WordPress to use SMTP to send email.
  2. Use an extra plugin to bring this functionality to all themes and WordPress email functions. Chad recommends WP Mail SMTP which I’ve just deployed and tested briefly with WordPress 4.0.1 (this may useful for multi-site setups too).

With both approaches, there are some Symbiosis-specific things you should be aware of (I’ll use the standard Symbiosis examples here):

  • You need to create a mailbox first, if that isn’t obvious, e.g. blog.
  • The SMTP host is mail.my-brilliant-site.com (on default port 25).
  • The username must follow the example blog@my-brilliant-site.com. Obvious, perhaps, but I always forget this.
  • SMTP requires authentication.
  • I used TLS encryption successfully.

If you’ve tweaked your Symbiosis install to be non-standard, then you’ll have to reflect that here but otherwise it’s pretty much the same as setting up a mail client to send mail.

If you’re using the WP Mail SMTP plugin, then you can send a test email. I recommend trying to send it to a Gmail or Yahoo! Mail address. The result you’re looking for is bool(true) – in addition to the test email of course, which you can examine to ensure it includes the right DKIM-Signature header.

I hope this helps with any head-scratching you might have also been doing!