The Year Without Pants

Scott Berkun’s enjoyable memoir of a year without pants.

The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work (Jossey-Bass, ISBN 978-1118660638) is the latest book by Scott Berkun, a former project manager at Microsoft and author of another great book, Confessions of a Public Speaker. After several years working as an author and speaker, Mr. Berkun decided to return to the front lines by working at WordPress, the organization that creates software that powers “nearly 20 percent of the websites in the world, including half of the top one hundred blogs on the planet.”

The Year Without Pants book cover

I had two ambitions in reading The Year Without Pants. First, my own blog is powered by WordPress and I knew I would enjoy an inside look at how the popular blogging platform was created. Second, in a model similar to WordPress, I work for a company where employees spend most of their time working from home and away from a centralized office environment. The author had similar ambitions:

This book has two ambitions: first, to share what I learned as an old dog in a futuristic workplace and, second, to capture the behind-the-scenes story of a good team at a fascinating company.

Scott Berkun
page 2
The Year Without Pants

I learned that the book’s mildly provocative title and cover photo will certainly encourage conversation if you read it in public. Like his other work, Mr. Berkun skillfully combines practical advice— in this case about the future of work— with engaging storytelling about his personal experiences at WordPress. What you won’t find is a prescriptive (or boring) how-to for creating a futuristic workplace, complete with project plans and charts. It’s easy to dismiss the WordPress work environment with “that would never work here.” And indeed, perhaps much of the advice wouldn’t work in your current office setting. The model at WordPress works because its founder, the youthful Matt Mullenweg, has created a culture that supports the work environment.

[ youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jjv2fm7CMgE ]

If you’re interested in working remotely, you’ll want to read The Year Without Pants along with Remote: Office Not Required (see related book review). I found the two differing perspectives helpful. But The Year Without Pants is also important reading if you’re a software developer or a WordPress user that wants to see how the sausage gets made.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Remote: Office Not Required

Going remote allows the most talented people to produce the best work regardless of their location.

Remote_Office_Not_Required_Cover_400

 

Remote: Office Not Required (Crown Business, ISBN 978-0804137508) is a collection of short essays on the benefits of remote working, or working from home. I first discovered Jason Fried when my friend (and at the time, client) Jody Bankston asked me to read Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’s previous book. Both books use a similar format- short 2-3 page articles, many taken from blog posts, organized into chapters. The benefits of remote work are summarized nicely from the book’s back cover.

Going remote allows the most talented people to produce the best work regardless of their location.

Working remotely might sound like a great idea for a small company like 37signals. But what about larger organizations? The authors cite a 2009 IBM White Paper, Working Outside the Box, listing a range of companies from small organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees to large organizations with greater than 100,000 employees.

Quality of life is extremely important to the founders of 37signals and remote working is merely one aspect of their corporate culture. Since the publication of Remote, the company has made news for their decision to prune their software offerings down to one offering- Basecamp- and rebrand the company around it (See related Inc. Magazine Article, Your Business Is Booming. Time to Change Course). Keeping one’s sanity and managing a small yet extremely successful organization is a higher corporate value to them than creating a monster.

Remote work, while having many advantages, doesn’t solve all the organization’s problems.

Remote work is not without cost or compromise. In this world very few leaps of progress arrive exclusively as benefits.

Remote, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, page 43

There’s an entire chapter dedicated to this topic entitled “Beware the Dragons”. As somebody who currently works remotely, I can attest to many of these dragons. I appreciated the frank advice on how to deal with them.

Remote working doesn’t work in all cases and may not work all the time. But smart employers will permit it in some cases (perhaps one day per week?) and put the technical infrastructure in place to support it.

Does your employer support part-time or full-time work from home? I’m curious to hear how it works in a business intelligence context. Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book with my own funds. It was not a free review copy. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Unexpected Hazards of Working from Home

Hurricane Ike visits Ohio

For the past few months, I’ve been working from my home in southwest Ohio for a client in east Texas over a VPN line. Who knew that Hurricane Ike‘s reach would extend from its initial landfall in Galveston, Texas all the way to southwest Ohio? But on Sunday, the storm moved northward into Canada. Although the precipitation moved through Indiana to the west, strong wind gusts knocked out electrical power in large portions of northern Kentucky and southwest Ohio. Although our power was restored on Monday morning, as of Tuesday afternoon I’m still without Internet service in my home.

There are downed trees and power outages everywhere. Traffic is difficult with so many non-functioning traffic lights. And the few gas stations and grocery stores that are open are beginning to run out of supplies. Here’s the view from my neighborhood. And you can read more about the wider devastation from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Region struggling with life in the dark | Cincinnati Enquirer | Cincinnati.Com
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Most of my hometown of Oxford, Ohio, including the local Starbucks, is without power and therefore Wi-Fi access. With nothing to do and no easy access to alcohol, students at the Miami University campus decided to protest the fact that classes were not cancelled on Tuesday even though the power remained out. (see related Miami Student article, Students Finally Show They Care by Demonstrating)

I’m typing this on Tuesday from the Lane public library in nearby Hamilton, Ohio, which isn’t the most ideal location. Twenty-first century libraries are no longer the bastions of peace and quiet that I remember from my childhood. There are lots of out-of-school teens hanging out on the internet.

With any luck, I’ll be able to get back to work tomorrow. I’m half-way through getting some Data Integrator jobs running on my client’s servers.