Chase Lang

Hi Automattic

One of my longtime idols, Howard Zinn, wrote in The Politics of History,

“I am not sure what a revolution among scholars will look like, any more than I know what a revolution in society will look like.  I doubt that it will take the form of some great cataclysmic event.  More likely, it will be a process, with periods of tumult and quiet, in which we will, here and there, by ones and twos and tens, create pockets of concern inside old institutions, transforming them from within.”

This is more or less the approach I take while creating the world I wish to live in.  My motivation comes from a desire to stay true to my core values and continually build connection with my parents, friends, and community.  I see in Automattic, a vision of creating a better world, much like the one I strive towards.

I used to refer to myself as a designer, but the term ‘designer’ seemed only to limit me rather than inspire me to take on bigger challenges.  I now think of myself as someone who solves problems creatively. For more than a decade, I spent my spare time building tools that will gradually help fix the problems I see in the world.  This is the work I am most passionate about and motivated by and it’s what drives me to continue problem solving, because if I don’t, I’m not sure if someone else will.

One of the projects I am most passionate about is Radio Free is a project I started nearly ten years ago with the goal of creating better standards for journalism with the central focus on people, not profits.  It has taken a few different forms over the years, and I am constantly completely rebuilding it to accommodate what I have identified as critical problem areas for independent journalists.

Radio Free got its start in a tour bus while I was working for different musicians as a tour manager and sound engineer.  I was traveling worldwide and working with artists who could draw thousands of people to their shows.  I tried to focus on working with independent artists because I saw how powerful humans can be when they are not motivated solely by profits.  This experience inspired me to create a website that would compile the daily news from sources that didn’t take money from corporate interests- putting them all in one easily accessible place.

I was tired of hearing stories from people all across the world regarding similar issues; issues that can easily be fixed with money, direct action and new technology- only to see the local media organizations ignore what I though were the most important stories of the day in favor of headlines that serve the interests of corporations.  I was compelled to break through the static.

Radio Free in its first form was super rudimentary but it worked as a case study.  After asking a few friends to get their news solely from Radio Free for just two weeks, I realized that not only had my curation of the news helped inform my friends about what was happening in the world, but it actively engaged them in issues and inspired them to think differently and more critically about how they consume media.

I persisted with this approach and made improvements in design and functionality along the way.  But I realized something was still missing, so I enrolled in school again to strive towards new ways of knowing. I was motivated to pick professors’ brains and better understand how to fix the problems I saw with my ever-expanding skill set. I began working towards a Masters in Art and Visual Culture Education with Lisa Hochtritt and took classes with her, Noam Chomsky and others. Classroom and community experiences made me see the issues I cared about in a new, invigorated light and I sought to rethink my centralized approach toward news curation.

The upcoming form of Radio Free is slated to be released on February 20, 2020 and will coincide with the release of People, Not Profits, a map based social media network (which will eventually use BuddyPress after it gets out of the beta phase). I designed this network to not accept money from corporations, allowing people to manage their own data and barring advertisers or influences of any kind. It’s a space to showcase the best aspects of humanity and promote ideas that support its mantra, People, Not Profits.

I started planning the upcoming version by identifying an existing great design in Anders Noren’s Chaplin theme, and then I designed a child theme that works in conjunction with a plugin to add some advanced features to the theme, keeping with most of Anders’ original design features. For the design, I wanted people to be able to load single posts inline on the grid homepage without refreshing the page.  I worked closely with a few developers to lead them in an Ajax approach which accomplished this goal. To lessen the burden on people, I designed the theme to automatically detect all images, videos, and audio elements, and then automatically create swipeable image galleries on the homepage. Soon, people will be able to integrate and search for audio using the APIs of Spotify, Bandcamp, The Live Music Archive, and podcasts to allow people to create custom stations that allow for democratic control of the upcoming audio on the station through live voting.

Here is a .zip containing the current version of the child theme and plugin.

All of this uses WordPress as the back-end.  I’ve used WordPress for years and it has never failed me. Nearly every time I’ve needed a solution for something, I have used WordPress in some way- whether it be for Salvavision Rescue, Radio Free, my own visual journal, Escena (a company that I started with my Brazilian friend Rafael Erdei after we met on the Vans Warped Tour), or in my role as Creative Manager for the University of Arizona Bookstores.

I’m applying to this position because I sense that Automattic, as a community, supports the ideas that I believe in. The Automattic Creed is basically something I already live by and Automattic seems committed to creating better places for people to interact on the web and beyond.  Having lived, worked and explored in many cities and countries, I’ve cultivated an insatiable curiosity and passion for learning, as well as a desire to nurture meaningful connections. I also fully believe in working distributed and open source.

I started using WordPress sometime around 2009 as the CMS for a few websites I was building for musicians I was working with at the time.  I was, and still am constantly learning how to code using HTML+CSS, PHP, and JavaScript. Since then, I have used WordPress for nearly every project I’ve taken on.  When Radio Free needed an iOS app, I connected the app to WordPress using custom API endpoints to deliver the same content on the app as the website. I’ve run online stores with WooCommerce, backed up my sites using Jetpack and VaultPress, and I host a few dozen WordPress installs for people I have met over the years who I thought could benefit from learning how to use WordPress and manage their own website.

I recently just became a father with my amazing partner Taylor, and I feel a pressure now more than ever to leave the world a better place for future generations.  Working at Automattic would completely change my life, giving me a bit more freedom to work on my own projects outside of work, while also teaching me new skills and allowing me to collaborate on important projects on a much more global scale. This is the kind of work I wish to focus on for the rest of my life.

I’ve spent the last six years working for The University of Arizona, the first two for UA Presents, and the latter four of those for the BookStores- a University owned, self-financed independent network of college stores that sells a huge range of textbooks, literature, technology and apparel ($30M+ each year) including an Apple Store, Clinique section, Starbucks and Nike Shop.  We have stores in multiple Pac-12 stadiums and oversee stores at some of Tucson’s most interesting attractions, including Biosphere2. I worked with a wonderful team of people, who inspire me daily to be better at what I do and push me creatively in directions I never thought I would explore.  From this experience, I have realized that the fourth industrial revolution is already changing the way creative jobs work, and I see Automattic setting the best example for how every organization should work in the 21st century. I want to have a role in shaping this future and I assuredly will bring a lot to the Automattic team, most importantly an open mind.

Please feel free to reach out to me at any time if you feel like I would be a good fit for the role of Senior Product Designer, or any other role where my skills could best be utilized.

Chase Lang

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