Another Press Build is Live

tl;dr: Press Build is now a .blog.

Immediately after quitting Automattic several years ago I went into a full-on panic about The Next Thing because I didn’t have a Next Thing. All I knew is that my Now Thing wasn’t what I needed it to be. You’d have thought better planning would have gone into my decision to leave the company but it was a sudden one, the kind where I woke up in the morning and went, “Nope.” I rarely enter a relationship outright planning on leaving it. It just happens.

It’s comical how much I pimp out Automattic—Yes! You should apply. It wasn’t a good fit for me. It will be for you.—given how quickly I left. It’s like that sometimes. One day you wake up and realize that you left the candle on while sleeping and when there’s no longer any wick to trim or burn it’s time to go find a new one.

The problem was me, not Automattic. At heart I’m a grinder, an entrepreneur, a hardheaded and principled leader when it matters but an ultra-soft emotional papa bear when that also matters.

I treat companies like they are my own—R.I.P. Hastings, my first job at 16—and work long hours because the only reason I ever join one is because I believe in its mission. That works for small teams but when they scale it doesn’t unless I’m a boss. I should have been more self-aware to know that there’d come a time when I was either an executive or a former employee. Both are okay; neither would have been better than the other. I still love Matt and all to death; I’ll have his back no matter where WordPress goes.

Physically I was in Texas when I left the company and had around 1-2 additional weeks left in the States before heading back to Vietnam. That meant registering a new business called Press Build to do any contract-based work while I figured things out, getting business cards, updating my CV, and everything else that’s associated with a job loss, including dealing with the steady streams of “I’ve just made a horrible mistake.” always on tap.

The name Press Build never ended up getting used that much. I was quickly snatched up and back into the WordPress theme world via Professional Themes at an executive level, which works daily with Automattic (this, of course, makes me a very happy camper). Boy, did I love that name, though.

I held on to it, hoping to repurpose it, and when .blog came around, I jumped at the opportunity to DBA Professional Themes into Press Build and turn it into its own animal. Basecamp, a product I love and will use forever, has a similar model with Signal v. Noise that’s impressed me quite a bit.

I’ll soon transfer ownership of,, and over to Professional Themes. We already own the .blog extension and I love the fact that it’s its own entity. It allows us to blog without getting caught up in the fact that right now we’re heavy into WordPress themes and client-side work but moving forward we might be more into plugins or other product-based initiatives. It’s a flexibility move as much as it is one of nostalgia.

Why Medium as the platform? Because I said so.

2017: Personal

This is the side I usually share but once a year. 2016 was transitional. That’s another way of saying awfully hard and sometimes outright cruel. Here’s a look back, so that I may enter Twenty Seventeen having closed this year snugly and with no more desire to reflect.

The Professional will come soon. 40 minutes of 1-take me me me is enough for a Monday in the mountains.

(Previously: 20162015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011) + A Wedding

It’s now mine. All mine. Forever and ever.

I also re-married my wife a few days ago. We officially tied the knot last year in Texas but we never had the right opportunity to give her a proper ceremony back home. The memories and photos are both unforgettable. Here are but 10 of thousands taken.

Wedding Photoshoot Fun/Torture
VIP Pre-Wedding Dinner Setup
Gold as wedding gifts passed down from family members
Father. Wife. Mother. Son (Me)
More cheesy Vietnamese photo poses.
Trying to put a smile on the bear’s face.
Cheesy Vietnamese Photoshoot. We loved it.
Walking my wife down the red carpet to marry her again.
Paternal Grandmother Deserves A Kiss
VIP Dinner. Candid shot.

Mid-Year Update, and WordPress Thoughts

As I age my tolerance for sitting for hours and typing is diminishing. So I’ll try something new. All of these were done in 1 take, with the exception of one due to my wife’s giggle-fits, and I haven’t reviewed them.

Unfiltered and honest. That’s all I can promise.


Life post-Automattic

My diminished role with _s now

What’s my role at Professional Themes?

Thoughts on “commercial” shops and how we communicate licensing to our customers

Advice for anyone applying to or working at a remote company


Every major change in my life has been filled with grey areas that usually fall between opposing feelings of resentment and appreciation, anger and acceptance, bitterness and nostalgia.

I hated Rice University for its lack of diversity, rich kids get drunk to have fun culture, and for how isolated I felt. But without it I would have never met two of my best friends or studied abroad in Vietnam twice, eventually making it home. I needed the bad to get me to the better.

Sometimes I struggle with anger and bitterness over investing so much of my energy into Automattic when I had that kind of energy to give, but without those several years I would have never reached this position in the WordPress community or gained the confidence to build from scratch again. I also know that I would have never met another best friend for life and seen other interesting parts of the world. I needed the company to teach me how to sharpen my craft but also teach me how much I needed to slow down and gain balance. Given the chance, I would never work there again, not even for a second, but I would in a heartbeat tell others to join the company because inside of it are incredible individuals. It’s a remarkable experience.

Examples are endless. I regret my relationship with my father but after his death I have been filled with nostalgia for days in Kilgore, Texas, with him, eating white bread and ham and macaroni and cheese and candied yams and buttermilk pie and collard greens.

And I feel guilt for investing the last twelve years of my life so much into Vietnam when America has moved on without me. Nephews are becoming taller, my grandmother and mother are getting older, and society “back home” is becoming hardly recognizable. But everyone in my family from top to bottom supports me and I need to be here, most of the time anyway, for inner okayness.

Most things are grey and there are mostly no absolutes. I am learning that black and white, 0 and 1, yes and no, hate and love are awfully simple ways of understanding the world around us. Mostly everything is nuanced. Twenty fifteen taught me that.

Almost Goodbye WordPress

WordPress is no longer at the center of my life. Those days are over. I work with it every day and actively contribute to Core, I still run a growing business that heavily uses WordPress in our tech stack, I still ship themes to and love working with Automattic, I still do my best to keep _s stable and maintained, I still organize meetups in Hanoi and am mulling over what a WordCamp Hanoi 2016 might look like, and I still write plugins and educate. I haven’t stopped working with WordPress, but it’s no longer the first thing or the last thing I think about every day before I go to sleep.

I’ve given a lot of myself to the software, still do. Since 2003 I’ve given thousands upon thousands upon thousands of hours to WordPress, so it feels weird that I don’t care about it the way I used to. I used to argue for weeks about why I thought Infinite Scroll was bad. I used to write long essays about why the direction that every theme marketplace, including, is taking is upsetting. I used to fight with colleagues about what saying openness means and what really being open means. I used to care so much that people knew I was one of the best theme makers and theme reviewers in the world. WordPress was so deeply ingrained into my identity. I felt that without Automattic and WordPress I wasn’t really anyone.

And then I quit Automattic, did a very hard reset on my life, stopped traveling so much, met a girl, fell in love with her, got married, and took the blinders off. It’s the best thing that could have ever happened to my life in 2014 and not caring about WordPress or its community, or its drama, the way I used to has made me better at coding it.

I give 8 or so hours a day, probably much less, to thinking about WordPress now. It’s been replaced by arguments with my wife about naming our new cat or mulling over what to cook for dinner, or building out strategy for our new clothing store, or trying to find land to buy. WordPress is just something I do now; last year it stopped being who I am and I’m much better off because of it.

I’m an American expat who speaks Vietnamese. I love music. I have an amazing wife and we own a clothing brand. I’m a full stack developer. I’m not bad at design. I can’t dance but I do anyway. I have bad problems with anxiety and panic but everyone in my life seems to love me even more for it. My stomach is weak so I cancel plans often but friends still love me and understand me. I’m an interesting person who doesn’t really need WordPress to be interesting anymore, and it feels so incredibly liberating. It’s just a thing I do well, it’s not really who I care about being anymore.

Twenty Fifteen was when WordPress stopped being my future and started becoming my past. My life with it won’t stop. I’ll continue working with it. But it’s just not the solution to every single problem I’ll run up against in the next future.



(Previously: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011)