Andrew Nacin hasn't worked at Audrey Capital since January. At Audrey, he has worked for more than four years for WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg, exclusively on the WordPress project. He has joined the White House’s new U.S. Digital Service.
The U.S. Digital Service is a new organization that operates from the White House, with an aim to modernize and transform the way the federal government operates digitally.
When I was approached, I have to admit that I was nervous to step back from the day-to-day buzz of WordPress because I’ve invested so much. But the community stepped up, in most cases not even knowing about my life change. That’s the beauty of open source, and the fantastic WordPress community in particular. WordPress continues to play an important role in my life. With Matt Mullenweg’s support and encouragement, I’m taking time away from Audrey, where I’ve worked since 2010. I’m still actively involved in the project, just not full time.
Those that are aware of WordPress core development and Nacin’s role in it, know that he’s enormously influential on the project. He’s lead developer for WordPress and has worked full-time or more than full-time exclusively on WordPress for years. He lead WordPress 3.5, 3.7, and 3.9 in a span of two years. In 2014, Nacin spent a lot of time on security related projects, and he's always been heavily involved in a variety of WordPress.org website projects.
The year of delegation
Nacin spent much of 2014 attempting to make himself replaceable. No software project is healthy if there is one person that is so indispensable that if they were no longer involved the project would be severely burdened.
From security, to internationalization efforts, to leading releases, to managing the WordPress.org website, Nacin has altered his role throughout the year to empower other contributors to do the type of work he was doing.
His transfer to the U.S. Digital Service just happened to be good timing with this effort. The perfect testament is that he’s been working full time with the U.S. Digital Service since January and the large majority of the WordPress core development community has had no idea.
Some may be concerned about what happens without Nacin full time on core. The answer is that “business as usual” will happen, and is already happening.
About the U.S. Digital Service
Members of the U.S. Digital Service come from all over the country and some of the top tech companies in the world. Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are among them. They work on small teams and embed into troubled federal projects to help test, triage, and transform them to success. Wired has a great in-depth article on how the organization works. The team was established in the wake of the Healthcare.gov disaster, and they’re taking the success they had fixing Healthcare.gov across the government.
Nacin is on one of these teams, and it’s hard to imagine a more perfect fit. Those that follow him on Twitter or know him in person can see his passion for government. He also lives in DC and has friends in various parts of government.
It’s my nature to look for the hardest problems to solve. I like to take on big challenges and spend every ounce of energy working to solve them. I believe in what we’re doing here. The stakes are high. No matter the challenge, I know what we’re doing will change millions of lives.
A changing role
He’ll be away from Audrey for his stint in government. At some point, he may come back to Audrey and resume his work. It’s actually a preferred method of employment for many members of the U.S. Digital Service. Many of the team members are leaving lucrative jobs to work for the government, which has many restrictions that had to be overcome.
They even make exceptions on how they dress. The program is designed for members of the U.S. Digital Service to have flexible employment, where they work for six months, or maybe a year, and then they return to the private sector. They may even rotate into the U.S. Digital Service multiple times.
In his announcement post, Nacin advocates for others to consider joining the U.S. Digital Service. I think it would be incredible if more WordPress developers were involved at that level of government, and it would be a further testament to open source's standing in the government community — a sector that was slow to adopt open technology but now is doing so regularly.
WordPress lead developers are not always full time on WordPress. Mark Jaquith has never been full time on the project. It is more important that they can guide the project, but being a lead developer doesn’t mean writing code for WordPress every day. It means steering the ship, and that’s what Nacin and the other lead developers do day to day.
I’m really excited for Nacin, and I think it’s great for the project. The amount he will learn and engage with the U.S. Digital Service will make him an even better WordPress lead developer. The U.S. Digital Service is also one of the most exciting government initiatives I've ever seen.
Photo credit: Vladimir Petkov