I’ve been reading Scott Berkun’s book The Year Without Pants which details his working life at Wordpress. The book reveals a thought-provoking collection of lore behind Wordpress and in particular, the day-to-day operations of a distributed volunteer team who built a technology that powers about 20% of the internet.
Scott embeds insightful gems about daily startup work life into his stories. My favorite so far is this one:
“Most people doubt online meetings can work, but they somehow overlook that most in-person meetings don’t work either.”
It’s a brilliant little dagger into the argument for in-person meetings. He continues,
“Being online does mean everyone might be distracted … [But] My theory on meetings was simple: if what is being discussed is important, people will pay attention.”
Wordpress’s management team understood the power of chat and video. They also knew that many talented people didn’t live within 50 miles of their office. But if they hired a team all over the world, they needed some fabric to bind them together because managing a distributed team is challenging. By combining many communication technologies including chat and videoconferencing and blogging, Wordpress’s employees successfully collaborated and literally changed the face of the web.
In the coming years, video conferencing and online meetings will become much more prevalent as stories like the ones Scott shares are told and retold. If you’re looking to understand how a fully distributed team used chat and video conferencing to build a world changing product, reading The Year Without Pants is a great way to answer those questions.