This week I spoke with TechCrunch about one facet of distributed work that differs from physical offices — the idea of “office politics.” I can’t claim that distributed work will solve everyone’s personal differences, but I do think it relieves some of the pressures that might come from forced cohabitation and environments that are prone to interruption. They also have some great points from Jason Fried and and Wade Foster.
I saw the new Steve Jobs movie a few days ago, which I enjoyed as a movie even though the main elements were fiction and it should have been titled something else.
But they had an awesome video interview with the amazing Arthur C. Clarke in 1974, which I’ve embedded above, where he said the following right around 0:56.
Interviewer: I wonder though, what sort of a life will it be in social terms if our whole life is built around the computer, if we become a computer-dependent society, computer-dependent individuals.
ACC: In some ways, but they’ll also enrich our society because it’ll make it possible for us to live anywhere we like. Any businessman, any executive could live almost anywhere on earth and still do his business through a device like this, and this is a wonderful thing, it means we won’t have to be stuck in cities, we can live out in the country or wherever we please, and still carry on complete interaction with human beings, as well as with other computers.
Wow, extremely prescient. Remember, this was 1974! The dominant technology companies of today still follow the same office-centric model as when computers took up entire rooms, but the dominant companies of tomorrow will be built and grow in a completely distributed fashion. (And of course, we’re hiring.)
See also, from 2012: Automattic, Forbes, and the Future of Work.
I think it’s good to show both sides of what a distributed organization is like, here are two essays by different Automatticians. Steph Yiu writes Still figuring it out: communicating remotely with lots of people and Chris Hardie writes on Distributed vs. In-person Teams.
Avleen Vig wrote a great case for distributed teams that covers many of the high-level highlights I’d agree with.
Luca Sartoni writes How I fell into the rabbit hole: life and work at the distributed wonderland.
Toni Schneider, the CEO of Automattic, writes 5 reasons why your company should be distributed.
Proudly announcing the launch of XFN, the XHTML Friends Network, a standardized method for leveraging the HTML rel attribute to describe relationships between people.
“We want to make the best tools in the world, and we want to do it for decades to come. I’ve been doing WordPress for 15 years, I want to do it the rest of my life.”
The last time I chatted with Kara was in 2013 in the back of a pedicab in Austin. This time I got to sit in the red chair at Vox headquarters in San Francisco, and per usual Kara was thoughtful, thorough and to the point: we talked about WordPress and the future of the open web, the moral imperative of user privacy, and how it all relates to what’s going on at Facebook.
(As it turns out, Facebook also is turning off the ability for WordPress sites — and all websites — to post directly to users’ profile pages. The decision to shut down the API is ostensibly to fight propaganda and misinformation on the platform, but I think it’s a big step back for their embrace of the open web. I hope they change their minds.)
Kara and I also talked about distributed work, Automattic’s acquisition of Atavist and Longreads, and why every tech company should have an editorial team. Thanks again to Kara and the Recode team for having me.
As Automattic keeps growing we’ve been bringing in a lot of talented people behind the scenes to help expand on our vision as we go from hundreds to thousands of colleagues, and hundreds of millions to billions in revenue. Recently, former New York Times digital executive Kinsey Wilson joined our team as president of WordPress.com, … Continue reading Automattic’s First New Board Member: General Ann Dunwoody
Reed Albergotti has a great article titled Latest Amenity for Startups: No Office. You can put in your email to read I believe but it's behind a paywall otherwise. The Information is a pretty excellent site that alongside (former Automattician) Ben Thompson's Stratechery I recommend subscribing to. Here are some quotes from the parts of the … Continue reading No Office Workstyle
I am a road warrior who has racked up several million miles over the past decade, and since I’m also working more-than-full-time running Automattic (a totally distributed company) and leading WordPress I need the ability to be productive wherever I can find a comfortable place to sit. I carry a backpack with me almost all … Continue reading What’s in My Bag, 2017 edition
Like Yahoo a few years ago, IBM, an early pioneer of distributed work, is calling workers back to the office. The shift is particularly surprising since the Armonk, N.Y., company has been among the business world’s staunchest boosters of remote work, both for itself and its customers. IBM markets software and services for what it … Continue reading IBM Goes Non-Remote
My colleague Sara has reached one million words posted to our internal sites, and has some tips for distributed work and communication. I just checked my stats, I’m only at 867k.
Anyone who knows me knows that I like to try new things — phones, gadgets, apps. Last week I downloaded the new Wix (closed, proprietary, non-open-sourced, non-GPL) mobile app. I’m always interested to see how others tackle the challenge of building and editing websites from a mobile device. I started playing around with the editor, … Continue reading The Wix Mobile App, a WordPress Joint
Finally, think about being somewhere other than the Bay Area or NYC. Yes, they are great places to start companies, find talent, and get investment. But they are also places where others start companies, get investment, and find your talent. It’s a ratrace, a treadmill, and it’s grueling. If you can avoid it, you owe it to yourself to try.
Fred Wilson on Loyalists vs Mercenaries in companies. I’m so happy to see the non-SF/NYC company idea continue to pick up steam, and I think its natural conclusion is distributed work as Automattic does. Like any relationship, I think the most rewarding employee/employer relationships are the ones that grow over decades, not just years.
Ten years ago the first official Automattician was Donncha O Caoimh, and he had no idea what he was in for. Neither did I, honestly. And it’s been amazing. I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. — The Automattic Creed When you think about it, Donncha was incredibly brave. WordPress had far less than … Continue reading Ten Years of Automattic
For years, we’ve been working on democratizing publishing, and today more people have independent sites built on open source software than ever before in the history of the web. Now, we want to make it easy for anyone to sell online independently, without being locked into closed, centralized services — to enable freedom of livelihood … Continue reading Woo & Automattic
Cool distributed work article: Why I decided to go on a cowork vacation in Bali for a month .
You might remember a few years back I talked about why Automattic has a creed, and shared ours. Here it is again:
I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.
One of the parts of Automattic that has grown the most over the past few years is our design corps, now over two dozen people. This group, led by creative director Dave Martin, has come up with a supplemental Designer’s Creed for followers of their craft at A8C:
I take pride in my craft. I ensure that everyone — regardless of ability or device — can use my designs. I routinely ask for feedback, even when it’s uncomfortable. I regularly watch people use my designs, because testing leads to clarity. I will never stop at “good enough.”
I love Paul Graham’s essays and his latest is no exception: Let the Other 95% of Great Programmers In. I agree that the US deserves dramatically better immigration policies, but in the meantime I’m confused with the head-in-the-sand approach most tech companies are taking simultaneously complaining that there are lots of great people they can’t … Continue reading How Paul Graham Is Wrong