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What’s a P2 and why does it make so much sense

I remember when Automattic first introduced the P2 WordPress theme. The theme itself introduced a lot of interesting new things and a new approach to WordPress sites: collaboration websites and short Twitter-like posts. I even tried to use the theme for a side project somewhere around 2010 while I was still in high school, but that project went to the side-project graveyard.

Well, in 2020 Automattic launched a spin-off project based on that theme’s idea: a project for team collaboration. And, surprise, it’s called P2.

So, what’s P2? P2 is a flexible platform for teams to share, discuss, and collaborate openly and without interruption. It helps closed communication become more transparent and rich vs. restricted documents or email. P2 is built with WordPress & Gutenberg.

P2 is right now a service on WordPress.com but on their website they state that open-sourcing is on the roadmap.

If you work for a company that organizes itself online, you probably use Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Discord, right? So you are used to that kind of service, real-time chat (next iteration of IRC really) with advanced integrations, good searching, emojis, and gifs. P2 is like that, but better in a lot of senses and IT IS NOT A REAL-TIME CHAT.

Real-time is great… until you have people working in many time zones all over the world. It might be work time for you but someone else is sleeping. Also, even though Slack for example has great search capabilities, it is still amazingly hard to follow a past conversation unless you use threads, and… let’s face it, who likes a lot of threads?

Imagine searching for a problem you had one year ago and you just encountered it again. You find the first message regarding that topic but soon after it is really hard to follow the conversation and you just scroll forever.

Well, P2 is like a blog but designed for teams. Automattic has a saying: “P2 it or it didn’t happen”.

Every team has a P2. There are literally hundreds of P2s used by the Automattic team, each person that tries to get hired at Automattic gets their own P2 where progress on the trial project has to be written along with other tasks. On a P2 you also have threaded comments on each post, so If you are talking about a problem described in the main P2 post, the comments down below are related to that problem, you no longer have to scroll over GIFs and unrelated messages on Slack.

You can also mention other persons on a P2 and you get a notification on email or other channels, including the WordPress top bar notifications. You are also notified of every comment unless you do opt out.

You write P2 posts using the familiar Gutenberg editor from WordPress, except that it lives on the front-end, you are no longer distracted by the whole user admin interface of WordPress. You just write, click publish and you’re done, you know how the post is going to look like even before you publish it.

There’s a great P2 demo that you can try out right now.

Imagine you already wrote a P2 post about a nasty local development issue you have and then a new colleague comes in and encounters the same error. Instead of trying to remember what is the solution by searching Slack, you simply go to P2, hit search, and boom, you get your article from 1 year ago and you can simply copy the permalink and give it to the colleague: all the comments are there, the solution is there and everyone is happy.

Also, let’s say that your team decides to move from Slack to Microsoft Teams. All the archive is lost, but if you have a P2… voilà, everything is up and running at the same location.

Why does it make so much sense, at least for me?

Well… I loved blogs since… forever! I kept installing WordPress since 2006 on free hostings and wrote “articles”. Even this blog of mine is 13 years old, first post here (on the Romanian side) is in March 2008.

I like “owning” my content a lot. I don’t want to have my blog posts on Facebook or any other platform that takes ownership of my own content. On P2, you own the content even if it’s on WordPress.com, you always have the possibility to export the posts and delete the P2 website.

I love 🧡 written content. Heck, I spent hours reading internal websites with company field guides. I love indexed posts that you can search across multiple P2s.

Also, P2 takes away a lot of the anxiety that the “instant chat” gives you. If you see a message on Slack and don’t respond right away you might feel bad, even though the other person does not expect an instant message from you. The whole philosophy around P2 is meant to make this service loved by async teams. You log on to work Monday morning and you can see notifications from Friday from P2 where your attention might be required. You respond “on your own schedule” and the other person expecting an answer from you is instantly notified.

If you use P2 correctly enough, you can get rid of conversations scattered all over the place: Jira, Slack, GitHub, GitLab, Trac, Figma… you name it. Make your operation P2-centric and the noise will disappear. I always miss Jira notifications, there’s something off around those. Also same with the GitLab ones. But imagine knowing that the main place where your attention is needed is on P2, you instantly feel relieved that you cannot miss notifications there since it is the only important place.

I would love to see more companies start to use the P2 approach in their workflow and make this a centric place.

What do you think about the P2 concept? Does it seem interesting to you enough to try it? It’s free to start with right now.

PS: I mention Slack a lot in this article, that’s just because I always used Slack in my software developer jobs. I never had the chance to use MS Teams and I use Discord for hobbies only. I still love Slack and there can be a great synergy between P2 and Slack.

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