A Day in the Life of a Happiness Engineer: October 7, 2014

06:55 — One of the cats are scratching at the foot of the bed (box spring, perhaps). I heat up leftovers from last night, make two “shots” of coffee with my AeroPress, and eat breakfast while listening to an episode of Overtired. (Keep up the great work, Christina and Brett! Haiku Decisis is really epic, and I share it with my fellow Community Guardians at WordPress.com.)

09:45 — In Slack, a colleague sees that PopClip is on sale for $1.99 for a short period of time, and I mention Brett’s PopClip Extensions. A couple of us geek about Alfred.

10:09 — I swoon seeing a few more Likes from yesterday’s post, and spot Jeremey DuVall mentioning my Things workflow, which is currently posted internally. I aim to post something slightly more generic this week.

10:18 — Time to clear 32 email notifications from P2s. Gmail keyboard shortcuts are your friend! Some require some reading, so I add that to my “A8Cx – To Read” note in Simplenote1.

10:46 — Eight browser tabs open, some which will turn into tasks in Things.

10:49 — Meh, I don’t want to listen to “Found out about you” by Gin Blossoms. With Alfred, I advance to the next Rdio track by pressing “ne” — which displays the Next Track action from the Rdio Workflow for Alfred 2 by David Ferguson — then Enter.

11:00 — Time to crank through some unresolved posts! Count is at 48.

11:25 — Yikes, one of these threads requires us to create a few Trac tickets for fixes regarding an internal tool we use to process DMCA notices. That’s a project, not task. Into Things it goes.

12:15 — New unresolved posts count: 39. Some threads were “easy” to mark as resolved because they haven’t gotten any other comments, and it didn’t seem like we had to do anything else. Fortunately, people who follow or commented on the thread should see a WordPress.com notification in their admin bar. I’ll have a lot of fans this week. 😉

12:43 — Unresolved posts count: 36. I should get lunch before I lose track of time. I also realized I haven’t taken a break for water. This happens often, but the water bottle we received during the last Grand Meetup helps. I’ll clear the baker’s dozen of P2 notifications once more.

12:47 — I left this fitting animated GIF as a reply for a comment thread.

12:53 — Time for lunch. Feels like Subway.

14:00 — Amy isn’t feeling well, so I took off to take care of an errand for her, then we hung out for a bit.

15:05 — Processing my email and going through Slack back scroll, I smile to see that Steve is in love with Alfred for OS X.

15:30 — Unresolved posts count: 37. Created another internal support page on how to handle a specific type of email notification (edge case).

16:23 — Unresolved posts count: 30. Taking a break to see how Amy is doing.

16:52 — Back in the saddle.

17:35 — Unresolved posts count: 25. Updated another internal support to document new metrics for our automated scanning of spam (or ham) blogs.

18:35 — Unresolved posts count: 12.

18:42 — Calling it a night by publishing this post. See you tomorrow! 🙂

This week, I’m documenting each day along with many other Automatticians. If you’d like to follow along, we’re using the #a8cday tag. If you’re intrigued, we’re hiring!


  1. The naming scheme was an idea from Michael Schechter, who borrowed it from Merlin Mann

A Day in Life of a Happiness Engineer: October 6, 2014

You’re joining me for two journeys: posting each day this week for a series called “Day in the Life”, and a week without dealing with our ticket queues1.

I woke up around 06:30 earlier than usual for a synchronous Slack chat with a couple of coworkers — Albuquerque, NM, and Budapest, Hungary — regarding a side project dedicated for the happiness of Happiness Engineers. Because time zones!

I fire up an Ambient playlist shared on Rdio, which doesn’t have any songs with lyrics. It currently has 239 songs at 1,739 minutes.

I process about two dozen email notifications from select P2s, which includes replying to a fellow HE about something related to our team, Justitia (Terms of Service).

08:19 — I sign off to shut my eyes a bit more, before having breakfast burrito from Tops, and watch an episode of Burn Notice on Netflix (S07E11).

Logging back in, I take a couple of minutes to process a dozen more P2 notifications, then start towards my project list.

First up: Write an internal page explaining how I use Things as my task manager. I’ll likely publish it here, too. I wrote much of it elsewhere, so I’m wrapping up with finishing touches, which includes adding relevant screenshots.

I ping an HE who attended the meetup (where I got this ball rolling), confirming where to publish the page.

At around 12:20, I ask another HE a favor—because he showed interest in Things a few weeks ago—to read through it once more before I publish.

While I wait for him to wrap up what he’s currently working on, I take three minutes to process (clear) the feedback queues (from contact forms) for three main sites that gets spammed, but sometimes has false positives. I use an Alfred workflow, triggered with a hotkey, that opens the three sites I need to check.

Ooh, a compliment! I’m an “efficiency machine”. That makes me blush.

I remove an extraneous sentence, publish to our internal Field Guide, let the rest of Happiness know on our Happiness–wide P2, and check off the project. w00t!

Our team P2 says we have 69 unresolved posts, which means we’re waiting to hear back about something, or…forgot to mark a thread as resolved. I take a short stretch and water break, aiming to try to reduce that count by a few before lunch. Starting from the oldest which are almost one year old, I add a comment to a thread when I mark it as resolved. Funnily, my team lead pings me that at this rate, I should be done by the end of the day. Lolz. 🙂

Down to 59 unresolved posts at 14:45, I quickly clear P2 email notifications, then take off for lunch. I totally lost track of time.

A blur of time passed, and I got down to 51 unresolved posts. I left some threads with a comment that I’d mark the thread as resolved in a couple of days, and saved scheduled tasks for myself in Things to circle back on Wednesday.

18:00 — An unresolved thread led me to a rabbit hole of suspending spam blogs (or splogs). Twenty minutes later, I’m realizing I have to publish this post and wrap up my day. (Yes, the thread is now resolved.)

The new Unresolved Posts count: 48 (21 less than when I started). Boom. The battle continues tomorrow. 🙂

This week, I’m documenting each day along with many other Automatticians. If you’d like to follow along, we’re using the #a8cday tag. If you’re intrigued, we’re hiring!


  1. I’m a guinea pig for the rest of my team. 

Taxicab in Budapest

When we arrive in Budapest, Jeremy directed us to the small taxicab building HQ outside the airport doors. We wouldn’t need to get cash at the airport since most places around the city take credit card.

I showed them my destination address, and they printed out a slip for my driver.

Removing a credit card from my wallet, I asked, “Do you accept credit cards?”

“Yes. No problem.”

After a quiet thirty–minute drive, we arrived about fifty meters from my apartments. My driver pulled over onto the left side of the narrow street, right before it veered in another direction.

Budapest Taxicab 2014-03-30

I handed him my credit card, and he said he couldn’t take it. Only cash.

Rage and disbelief. Panic, really.

I would sprint into the apartments to get my friends. Reluctantly, he nodded, and off I went.

At the reception office, and asked if Jeremy checked in. I couldn’t use my cell phone (no SIM card yet). I ran around and failed to find the room, blaming the lack of signs. Then, Elizabeth and Karen magically appeared! After waiting a couple of minutes, Elizabeth found Jeremy, who paid the driver and saved my evening.

Thanks friends! Yay Automattic meetups!

P.S. The driver explained his credit card machine wouldn’t work because the batteries died. Ridiculous. 🙂

We’ll do our best, but you can’t please everyone

I meant to post this insight from Marco Arment last year:

Some people will find things to complain about. […] You will never please everyone. You will never win that battle.

We’ll do our best in customer support, yet it’s inevitable that we’ll interact someone who is extremely upset with us.

Our patience and grace can win their hearts over; I’ve seen it many times, and we usually post it internally to remind ourselves why we carry on. (We call them “hugs”.) After a follow–up response, the customer apologizes for their crankiness, grateful for our help.

That’s why we’re some of the best in the industry. 🙂

In unfortunate and rare circumstances, when they’re angry and continue to berate us, it’s super helpful to know that we can regroup with our coworkers internally, analyze the situation, and decide that we can’t win ’em all.

“Can’t win ’em all? What does that mean?”

Our replies to that particular person will no longer help, and we close the email. If they show a change of heart and send a follow–up reply, we’re happy to revisit.

For what it’s worth, I assure you we do as much as we can before we get to that point.

If this interests you, we’d love for you to work with us, especially since we always need Happiness Engineers. 🙂

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.

Continue the journey through Bryan’s mind