Reddit is What You Make of It

Anyone who has been on the Internet in the past 10 years has heard of Reddit. Even people who can hardly use the Internet have heard of it at least, since Reddit’s certainly no stranger to controversy.

What gets lost in the criticism though is one basic truth: Reddit is just a tool. Specifically, it’s a tool for improving the way communities of people share things. And just like any other tool, it can be used by anyone, with no regard for their particular motivations or morals.

If I could indulge myself with a Star Wars reference for a second, Reddit isn’t the Mos Eisley of the Internet. Reddit is more like a planet on which all sorts of cities, good and bad, can form.

Is there morally disgusting material on Reddit? Yep. Is there downright illegal material? Probably, yeah. But is there also inspirational stuff, and communities of users dedicated to doing good in the world? You bet.

What I’m trying to say is that Reddit is what you make of it. No more, no less. If you go expecting to find porn and racist bigotry, you’ll find those things. If you go looking for heartwarming kindness and knee-slapping hilarity, you’ll find those things as well.

Figuring out Reddit is a lot like figuring out who your real friends are in life. You start out with a set that you were kind of given by default, just because they were there when you first started.

Over time, you start to realize that, in order to be happier, you need to keep cutting the bad ones loose and while also watching out for the good ones that come along every so often.

[Credit goes to Sean Welton for the featured image for this post.]

The Tools I Use

Today I made one of those giant lists that nerds sometimes make where they show all the software and stuff that they use. It’s the Tools page.

One big highlight is that I’m in the process of switching my main email account from Gmail to FastMail (referral link) instead. I’ll probably write a blog post on all the reasons why at some point in the near future.

Engineering Happiness

The reaction people have when I tell them about my job and my title is almost always something like this: “Wow, a Happiness Engineer?! What exactly does a Happiness Engineer, you know, do?” I usually find a good way to explain it, but I’ve never really thought about simply walking them through an average day.

Over the past couples week though, some of my colleagues have been doing exactly that, so I’ve decided to join them. :)


Since everyone at Automattic works from home, and since there’s no set times when we must work, our schedules are very flexible. Most people still tend to stick to the traditional Monday through Friday work week, but it’s not so unusual to work the weekend and take some weekdays off instead.

Personally, I stick to the “normal” week, simply because Tara’s off on the weekends and so are all of our friends, so it makes the most sense that way for me.

Morning Routine

I usually wake up around 6:30am, and immediately let the dog out and feed him. He wouldn’t let me sleep in any longer even if I tried. :) After the dog’s eaten (and probably gone right back to sleep), I can make my own breakfast. I eat at my desk while skimming through the email I’ve received overnight.

The first pass through my email is where I separate the wheat from the chaff. Everything that’s relevant to me or interesting in some way gets starred for coming back to later, everything else is read quickly and then archived. After that’s done, it’s time for me to shower and get ready for the rest of the day.

Once I’m cleaned up and mostly awake, I take the dog for a short walk, say goodbye to my fiancée (she’s headed out the door for grad school), and sit back down at my desk around 8am or shortly thereafter.

Desk 2

First I read through the emails that I marked with a star earlier and respond as needed. I also fire up Slack (our chat / IM app) about this time and check in with my colleagues.

Once all that’s done, it’s usually around 9am or so, and it’s time to get to the meat of the day.

The Twitter-verse

One of the little experiments we’ve been running lately is with our main Twitter account: @WordPressDotCom. Before a few months ago, we only used it for marketing-ish type tweets. We didn’t respond to help requests on Twitter. At all.

Recently though, two other HE’s and I have been using a tool called Sprout Social to monitor this account and respond to people asking for help. The feedback’s been great, and I very much enjoy it, so it’s usually the first thing I take care of.

That Sprout Social tab stays open all day long in my browser so I can see new tweets roll in and respond quickly.

Jetpack Joyride

This past Monday I moved over to a new team at Automattic. Among a few other things, we support the Jetpack plugin for self-hosted sites. This is the lion’s share of my work on a day-to-day basis.

First I tackle my FR’s (Automattic jargon for tickets where the user has replied to us) and then I answer some new tickets as well. I’m still getting a feel for Jetpack, so I’m going slower than normal and asking my colleagues for help a lot, but I love the challenging, investigative nature of the problems. :)

Jetpack Logo

It’s difficult to say what an “average” day is like since I’m so new to the team, but it could involve anything from the most basic of Jetpack tickets (“Please disconnect and reconnect Jetpack.”) to a complicated, hour-long bug hunt in the Jetpack code itself.

Background Noise

I’m not going to lie: working from home is nice. But sometimes it can get a little too quiet here, with only the dog for company. Most days I have some music or other form of entertainment going in the background. It depends on my mood really.

Sometimes I stream electronic music from all day, other times I fire up Rdio and listen to jazz or classical. If I’m feeling a bit of nostalgia for my gaming days, I open a Twitch stream in the background. Anything that makes noise really, even live air traffic control radio chatter.

I Love Sandwiches

Around 11:30am I break for lunch. Usually the dog wants to go outside again as well, if only to sunbathe:

Sun bear

A photo posted by Adam Heckler (@adamheckler) on

I probably shouldn’t, but I admit: I eat lunch at my desk. I don’t work though, usually I try to relax a bit and watch some funny cat videos or something. What else is the Internet for?

Power Through

After lunch comes more tickets, but I try to break it up with some other activities as well. These could be anything from testing new versions of our mobile app to writing the first drafts of documentation for new features.

During this time I’m still monitoring our Twitter account as well; the stream of tweets doesn’t really ever stop, but the upside is that our followers are pretty quick to alert us when something’s not working on our site. :)

At some point I will take a 20 to 30 minute break to do some household chores, like cleaning up the kitchen or starting some laundry. This is, oddly, one of the benefits of working from home that I enjoy the most: the ability to get a small head-start on chores that would otherwise need to wait.

Desk 3

Ending the Day

By now it’s probably nearing 5pm, so I’m winding down for the day. I take the dog out with me to go get the mail, after which he knows it’s his dinner time. I usually use the 5-6pm hour to sort of “wind down” from work and just relax by myself.

Later in the evening, maybe after dinner, I’ll check in on Slack and see if anything’s come up, but I won’t really “work” in the evening unless I’ve been pinged with a specific question.

We’re Hiring!

If all this sounds like your dream job (it’s definitely mine), then hop on over to our Work With Us page and consider applying!