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Businesses Open Source Linux

How the Linux Foundation Runs Its Virtual Office 52

CowboyRobot writes "The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit that manages much of the day-to-day business behind the open source operating system, maintains a small office in San Francisco. Stop by, however, and you probably won't find anyone there. That's because the organization's 30-something employees work virtually. It's like the anti-Yahoo: Just about everyone, including Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds, works from home. 'We really wanted to have that effectiveness and nimbleness of a virtual organization,' said Amanda McPherson, Linux Foundation's VP of marketing and developer programs. 'You have that commitment and ownership of your job more than when you're just sitting there in that cube farm,' McPherson said. 'For us, if you hire the right people who are motivated by that, you just get more commitment. [You get] people who really love their jobs and like to work, but also like that they can go to the gym at 2 in the afternoon when it's not crowded. In an office, [people would say]: "Why isn't he at his desk? It's 2. There must be something wrong."'"
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How the Linux Foundation Runs Its Virtual Office

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  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <> on Saturday June 15, 2013 @01:13AM (#44013391)

    There's so much good that comes about through telecommuting that I'm surprised it isn't the norm yet.

    It depends on a large number of factors. Telecommuting works for a narrow subset of jobs where interactions can be done exclusively by computer with highly independent tasks and the employees are highly motivated.

    But some jobs just don't work that way - some creative ones require a high degree of interaction that just cannot be achieved virtually - people bouncing ideas off each other, reviews of materials that are unfeasible to be done electronically (stuff like prototype cases, blueprints that demand large paper, etc). And of course, stuff that requires exotic or expensive hardware - hardware design for example - where prototypes must be debugged and requiring access to expensive test and lab equipment. Then of coures, comes the customers - if your business has customers dropping over for meetings and collaboration, then you better have a way for them to meet the team.

    For stuff like pure software development, customer support (phone/email/chat), yes, telecommuting is a transparent option that should be explored. For a lot of other jobs, it's doable, but not ideal. And for other jobs, it's just impossible.

    Finally, the employee has to have strong motivation and will - some just aren't suited for it. And there's others who thrive with social interactions that are more in-depth than just IM and phone calls - put them in a room by themselves 8 hours a day and they'll go stir-crazy.

  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Saturday June 15, 2013 @01:36AM (#44013455)

    if Jim disappears at 2PM and is holding the important file with him its a real fucking pain in the ass

    Maybe that's why Linus wrote his own revision control system that has as little to do as possible with people 'holding files".

    Anyway, with probably close to one billion "customers", whether a particular release happens by midnight tonight isn't really relevant to this organization. What matters is productivity averaged over time.

  • by Drunkenfist ( 879004 ) on Saturday June 15, 2013 @07:21AM (#44014153)
    Virtual offices are awesome but better suited to mid-senior or older employees who have learned the discipline be productive unsupervised and are jaded enough to hate the bullshit office politics. Younger people still fundamentally want to feel like they are "part of something" or a real company so imo you still need that office structure if anything train them up. This is probably the next thing colleges should focus on, getting people "virtual-ready" from the get-go. This should be avoided at all costs for freshers straight out of college or only with college experience since the mentality is entirely different, to them this is a signal that they can slack or blow-off. There needs to be a minimum of one thing finished or shipped on their resume before they are given trial privileges. The downside is that if you have an entirely virtual office you also limit yourself to the mix of people who are either more senior or otherwise "fit" the personality for it and younger guys without having developed the structure from office experience may never get it. Self motivation not just for sprints, but for the long haul is key. The office structure is a by-product of military command and control evolution predicating on the assumption that people start out worthless to begin with and need to be whipped into shape. On the other hand the virtual office structure assumes people are competent and anything inbetween ends up with some level of added cost one way or another

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