Tag Archives: work-environment

The Virtues of Virtual…

Given that we have just completed the first official physical gathering of
the SpiderOak Team (see picture below), I thought this might be a good
opportunity to discuss our experiences with creating, building, maintaining,
and continually developing our virtual work environment.

When SpiderOak began, our hiring philosophy focused on finding the best
possible engineers. As you can imagine, that search took us much greater
distances than the cities in which we live. In the end, after our team had
formed, the developers that build the SpiderOak application represent 3
different countries (Bulgaria, Germany, and the US) and 5 different states
(Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Washington). All my ideas of
creating the fun loft work environment with beer breaks and ping-pong where
quickly dashed. However, what arrived in its stead has been a pleasant and
efficient means of conducting a development and business process on a daily
basis.

Daily Communication – We all talk everyday. And due to the nature of our
placement, there is usually someone online at all times which makes for some
interesting early morning/late evening conversations. Our medium for
communication is IRC (Internet Relay Chat) which, despite having to overcome
my own technical ineptitude, has proven to be a great tool. Further, through a
monitoring bot (aptly named SpiderBot) we are able to capture every
conversation and place it on our Wiki – allowing everyone to review what was
said throughout the day.

General Communication – As mentioned before, most if not all of the
information pertaining to what we are doing (both descriptive and actual code)
is stored on our Wiki. I have found this to a be wonderful tool for
organizing, distributing, and developing a communal work environment where
comments, thoughts, ideas, and directions can be laid out and communicated in
an organized and structured format.

Voice Communication – Although this does not occur with great frequency, it
is nice to hear everyone’s voice from time to time – if nothing else to
re-establish that everyone is actually human – on both ends. We are currently
trying to set-up a weekly conference call to both keep aware of each other and
further discourage the developers from turning into or creating artificially
intelligent droids to handle the load.

I will look forward to posting more about our experiences as we continue
and will always be curious to hear additional thoughts, experiences, ideas on
other virtual networks – what worked, what didn’t, and what still might…