Arthur C. Clarke on Distributed Work

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.

No Office Workstyle

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

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.

Woo & 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

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.”

You can read more about it on Dave’s blog. »

 

As the engineer and writer Alex Payne put it, these startups represent “the field offices of a large distributed workforce assembled by venture capitalists and their associate institutions,” doing low-overhead, low-risk R&D for five corporate giants. In such a system, the real disillusionment isn’t the discovery that you’re unlikely to become a billionaire; it’s the realization that your feeling of autonomy is a fantasy, and that the vast majority of you have been set up to fail by design.

From Wired’s One Startup’s Struggle to Survive the Silicon Valley Gold Rush.