Working in a distributed team

Reading this post from James Governor No Need to Commute, Ever, that he started from a job offer from Genuitec on twitter, I felt like writing a bit about my experience working on distributed teams.

@genuitec No need to commute, ever. See more of your family, work with talented people: Genuitec is growing, developers apply today

That is exactly the Open Source community model. Back 7 years ago or so, it worked pretty well for me on the OSS projects I participated in. When later I joined Mergere, where we provided services on top of Apache Maven, it was pretty clear that if we wanted the best people we’d need to hire them wherever they where, and the advantage with OSS contributors is that there’s no need for a resume, you can see exactly how their work is. So there was people in the team working in Los Angeles, Sydney, Paris, Florida, Philippines,… a bit painful to get everybody at the same time if we wanted to, as we were all across the world, but that also ensured that the number of meetings and their length are reduced as everybody makes an effort to have offline communication in their best interest.

There’s a big difference between working remotely and a distributed team though. When some of the team members work remotely but a number of them don’t, you have an issue, there are gonna be interactions that happen in person that are not gonna be in the mailing lists, issue tracker, irc,… but when the whole team is distributed (or most of it anyway) all the communication will flow through the same channels, with the added plus that everything is documented and you can go back to previous conversations.

Working at the GooglePlex is nice, sure, but imagine what you can do with all those hours commuting to work, the ability to work from anywhere, eat at home, see your family more often,… does free food make up for that?

And what’s the advantage for the companies? You can reduce expenses, but more importantly the ability to offer employees something they won’t get in most of other companies, who wouldn’t prefer working remotely than having to go to an office? And access to great people over the world instead of a specific area.

Just make sure you take some of the cost savings and use them to get the whole team together as soon as possible, and for a few days from time to time. Getting beers together does help human interactions 🙂

Hudson and Jenkins, can brands and trademarks affect an open source project?

Maybe you haven’t heard yet (where have you been!), but Hudson, the Continuous Integration server, is being renamed to Jenkins.

Sacha Labourey sheds a bit of light on the background that motivates the changes, but let’s just say that the community wants to move in a direction that Oracle is against, and Oracle claims the ownership of the Hudson trademark, so the community decides to move the source code to another hosting and use a different name for this fork.

So you have on one side Oracle, which AFAIK is doing few contributions to the project, and most of the people doing actual contributions on the other side.

Now, playing devil’s advocate, what if Oracle decides to continue Hudson, by, for instance, just merging all changes to Jenkins back into Hudson. No non-Oracle committers, a bit of development on their side if needed, just a close copy of Jenkins, but with the Hudson brand.

Would that succeed?

Of course you know that the community-endorsed project is now Jenkins. How many people out there would know that too?

Would current users in big corporations be aware of the status of the project?

Would it be possible for a giant like Oracle to use its marketing machinery to promote Hudson as an Oracle product and build some Hudson-branded products on top by just owning the trademark?

Could somebody pull a trick on the open source world as Eddie Murphy does in The Distinguished Gentleman? Vote for Jeff Johnson, the name you know!

I would hope that’s not the case, specially because Hudson doesn’t seem to play a big role in Oracle product map, but if it were otherways… I wouldn’t be so sure.