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The Open Source Locale

One of the most pervasive success stories of open source development is distributed, asynchronous teams working by email and IRC. This is an area in which open source is providing a working model for proprietary software development teams. Yet a huge percentage of the open source developers I work with live here in Portland, Oregon…


For all their faults, my employer does seem to "get it" at least in the Portland region... my boss understands for sure and they seem to let him do what he wants, so in turn I work a lot like you describe.

It's hit and miss for other groups I'm sure but in my group, yeah baby I telecommute nearly all the time. You didn't mention Jabber or (gasp) proprietary Instant Messaging services. I don't think IRC really is appropriate if the bulk of the comm will be 1-1, Jabber is much better for that.

Another one that makes a huge difference is the ability to easily start and join a conference call. I don't know of a cheap or free service that an open source project can use but surely somebody else does?

Yeah, obviously I was generalizing. Some employers do get it, and many open source groups don't, perhaps including some I run. Smile

IRC is the cultural norm in open source in my experience. This is natural; open source is about open process, so even conversations that are "1-1" are open to join in on. I'm not sure what Jabber does better than IRC, except reliability and some minor interface things?

I'm not a big fan of conference calls, although some folks I know use them quite successfully. I'd rather have an IRC log at the end, or the high bandwidth of face-to-face, given those choices.

Ah the classic "yeah, but" ha ha.

I think mostly IRC vs. Jabber comes down to the client software. To the degree one uses a weak IRC client (and worse, doesn't have the basic commands memorized) it's not a happy place to be. Jabber requires none of that, at the expense of... oh yeah, a whole bunch of open source programmers won't chat with me. And you mention reliability which wasn't on my mind because I haven't been interrupted by a netsplit in a long time.

Bart, you and I type fine so the biggest reason to go to conference line is mitigated (unless we're just tired). I will say, however, a lot of important stuff comes out when people are talking that just won't happen when they're typing. I think we're agreed on the bottom line: conference call is usually my last resort if face to face won't work.

I'll have to admit you hit on one of my pet peeves. Here's a tip, everyone: If you claim to be a computer person of some stripe and yet can't type decently then for the sake of all that's good in this world—learn to type! It's an easy skill to master, especially these days with software tutors everywhere. And it pays off hugely in increased effectiveness and productivity.

Since I was a teenager, typing has been as natural to me as reading, and more natural than writing. I've reaped amazing benefits from this skill; better jobs, better social life, more free time. Get some software, take a class, do what it takes to improve your typing. You won't be disappointed.