Two Years as a Happiness Engineer

Two years ago, four months, and fourteen days ago, I sent an email to apply for the Happiness Engineer position. Two years, three months, and seventeen days ago, I began my trial period with Automattic.

Two years ago, I joined Automattic and changed my life forever.

I’d like to share my last twelve months1 as a Happiness Engineer.

Side note: Our About Us page says I’m a Happiness Magician. It’s true! We can pick our own title.

Overview

The top of Automattic.com says:

We are passionate about making the web a better place.

You should also read the Automattic Creed, and with that background, the newest revision of our Happiness Engineer job page describes what we do extremely accurately.2

I’ll explain part of my most recent work in reflection to the points on our job page.

Terms of Service

Helping people use Automattic’s products, including WordPress.com, Jetpack, Gravatar, and more

There are tons of awesome people out there creating stuff, and it’s an honor that many choose WordPress.com. (Over 13 million new blogs in 2013 hosted with us!) Along with any free services comes spam and other shenanigans.

We’re the ToS squad. What does that mean?

  • If you were accidentally suspended, we’ll take it back.
  • If you should be suspended, we’ll tell you why, and help you move elsewhere (if possible).
  • We help fight censorship.
  • Remove spam or other content that violates our Terms of Service.
  • Discuss and implement policy improvements. So. Much. Discussion.
  • Select few of us process non–DMCA legal notices.

Troubleshooting, investigating, and creating detailed bug reports

If we spot an increasing trend of false positive suspensions, we’ll ping our developers.

Like suspensions, we’ve endured long discussions with our legal team, then changed some policies to become less restrictive, and more open for people using WordPress.com.

We find issues with our support tools or WordPress.com, document the steps to reproduce the problem, then submit a ticket for our developers3 to fix — or mock us for being puny mortals rather than filing a patch.😉

Crafting and editing helpful support documentation

Our goal is to help you publish and share your posts, articles, photos, and videos with ease. If you have a question, we’d love for you to find the answers without the need to email us — we’d like you to get back to work (or fun) quickly!

Constant awareness, feedback, and analysis of past questions help us craft support pages, improve confusing UI or UX, or add new functionality that’s been on many wish lists!

Building a community of support by sharing knowledge and insight amongst team members

Sharing our experiences with colleagues allows us to:

  • Learn new techniques to improve our productivity and efficiency (no need to reinvent the wheel),
  • Reference old and new policies, hopefully linked to relevant discussion4,
  • Share popular tips and tools, and
  • Increase our fun!

I’m currently the squad lead, with responsibilities like planning, organizing, and summarizing squad chats, having weekly 1:1 chats, keeping an eye on the bigger picture (30,000 feet), and setting priorities or calls for help.

What else?

We have a few meetups with our colleagues each year:

  • 2–3 meetups to work with our team or group of people
  • one annual company–wide meetup

Automattic essentially covers everything: transport to and from our destination, lodging, meals, and activities. When planning the meetup, we decide the scope of our projects(s), along with a few activities. It can be a little stressful, but super fun, especially since we only see each other in person a few times each year. Side note: we also learn the tone of our colleagues so reading their text–only messages in IRC or O2s sound human.

In the past twelve months, I’ve been to the following events and places:

  • WordCamp San Diego
  • Get Satisfaction Customer Conference (San Francisco)
  • Santa Fe, NM (Happiness meetup)
  • WordCamp Orange County
  • WordCamp San Francisco
  • WordCamp Los Angeles (I spoke!)
  • Automattic company meetup (San Francisco, Santa Cruz)
  • Happiness Gardening and ToS meetup (Puerto Aventuras, QR, Mexico)
  • Uncubed LA

The goal is to always “ship” something during the meetup. That means we complete a project internally or for the public.

Up next

More of the same, with not a dull moment, I assure you.

  • Constant learning and self–improvement.
  • Support email a.k.a. tickets. “Because the mail never stops!”😉
  • Sharing the things I’ve learned with others more efficiently so we all improve together.

I’m super stoked for many more years with Automattic!


  1. I technically was trained in the Terms of Service queues in June and August 2012. 
  2. I’ve told some people that we’re detectives, but usually that we’re customer support on steroids
  3. I love you, Happiness Gardeners and friends! <3 
  4. Linking to past discussion means newer folks can see how we arrived at a certain conclusion. 

Published by

Bryan Villarin

Bryan is a Community Guardian at Automattic. He's also a photographer, card magician, and cat whisperer. (Thanks to my friend and colleague Steve Blythe for the sweet photo!)

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