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Let’s cut to the chase because it seems that WordPress news is back this week! At least, the Link Squad inside the WP Minute Slack have been busy curating the news as we kick off the month of March. 

404 Media reported on two of Automattic’s products, WordPress.com and Tumblr.com, apparently signing a deal with “AI tools to help train their models” based on public facing content that users publish. 

I ran a poll on Twitter (it has 1 hour left at the time of this writing) asking “Does WordPress.com sharing/selling user generated content to AI platforms bother you? 

Currently respondents are steady at: 59.3% Yes, it does bother them. 40.7% No, it doesn’t. That’s based off of 135 participants. 

It’s important to know that if you are a WordPress.com user, as I am with my $300/year Podcast Setup Newsletter, you can opt out with their “Prevent third-party sharing” setting inside Settings > General. 

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From what I can see this creates a robots.txt file that sets a disallow for well known AI platforms like Claude and ChatGPT — there’s some others in there as well. 

What is not clear to me, is whether or not this also disables some other API or data firehose that is part of the shared data agreement with Automattic. Is there some other connection behind the scenes where Automattic allows partners to forklift this data over to their platform? 

I uploaded a 12 minute video to Twitter going deeper on this topic and showing you in more detail what the robots.txt file does. 

My two takeaways to ponder on:

  1. We’ve been giving up our data for decades to Google in exchange for the potential of ranking higher in their results AND filling in very lucrative data points for business information, map data, and other structured meta data to classify content our content for their mission to index the world’s information. We got nothing in return other than a moving target of an SEO algorithm, while Google built the world’s greatest cash cow in Google Ads.
  1. The thing that really bugs me about the WordPress.com deal is that it cements yet another example of creators getting squeezed. This is our content, and while these AI platforms have most likely crawled all of it, now Automattic gets to profit off it — but not us. Could I export my content from my WordPress.com site and dump the ZIP into ChatGPT and out spits a $20 bill?

It’s what I expect of any corporation, really. The only thing Automattic has to release now is a PR note stating that they were breached and 20 million user records were stolen — but not their billing information, of course. 

If you want to go deeper into critical thinking about this topic, read the Ten Questions for Matt Mullenweg re: Data Ownership and AI — by some other guy who thinks out loud on the internet too OR hit reply, let me know how you feel about this whole thing. 

Together with The Repository

Why is Automattic selling user data to train AI tools? We unpack the negative press. Plus, we speak to WordCamp Asia organizer Jon Ang about what to expect at next week’s flagship event in Taipei and dig into what happened to DonateWC — and what happened to the money that was donated.

Not a subscriber? Sign up today and join the conversation at therepository.email

Important Links of the week

Now it’s time for those important links of the week. And there’s a lot! 

  • My dear friend Cory Miller has stepped back from his day-to-day role at PostStatus to pilot the ship as an owner and advisor. Community star Michelle Frechette has stepped in as the Executive Director, and will lead Post Status from here, forward.
  • Hostinger (A sponsor of WP Minute) found themselves in a bit of hot water as users discovered affiliate plugins active in MU status. MU stands for Must Use and cannot be disabled via the dashboard. The Hostinger team responded and has removed the plugin from hosting accounts.
  • Matt Mullenweg can’t seem to rest on his sabbatical. As Steph Lundberg writes, Matt Mullenweg Teaches a Masterclass on Why We Have Trust & Safety Teams.
  • FSE Outreach program is now simply called Outreach and see’s WP Minute member Birgit Pauli-Haack taking the reins. Congrats, Birgit!
  • In more “unsurprising news from big corps” Chris Coyer pens a new reflection on the Digital Ocean acquisition of his blog, CSS-Tricks.
  • Lawrence Ladomery (WP Minute member) wrote about Omnisend’s (WP Minute Sponsor) omnipresence across the WP media landscape. Required reading for any WP company thinking about marketing & promotion.
  • It seems Daniel Bachhuber (WP Minute Member) is running WordPress.com while Matt Mullenweg is away.
  • Katie Keith from barn2 sold 7 plugins to former Skyverge founders at Kestrel.
  • Video: Here’s what WooCommerce looks like on the Twenty Twenty-Four theme. The results may shock you.

That’s it for today’s episode, don’t forget to share share share this episode with others and jump on the mailing list 👇

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