Tim Mackey, principal strategist at the Synopsys Cybersecurity Research Center (CyRC), knows about the remote operation of open source communities as well. While he works for a company, he has been a community leader, and still is a community member, for open source projects. He has worked remotely and managed remote teams for the bulk of his career.
So he knows from experience that “remote” doesn’t have to mean “disconnected.” It just takes some awareness, effort, and cooperation. He described some of the ways open source communities mitigate the absence of physical human contact:
Communication, communication, communication
It sounds like the tech version of the real estate mantra “Location, location, location,” which describes the most important factor in buying a house.
But that is because communication is the foundation for everything else. Of course, working remotely can’t be exactly like the physical office environment, where, as Mackey puts it, “If someone is working on something that relates to what you are working on, you will know because up will pop a head when you say, ‘I really don’t understand why this is doing this.’”
But it can come close, as long as teams aren’t too large—ideally fewer than 10 people.
“You could actually have everyone put their phone on a Skype call. The phone is just sitting in the corner, and it doesn’t have any other purpose than to serve as the proxy for the office,” he said. “There are many ways to solve the problem. You just need to find the pieces that are missing.”