Re: Virtual Teams

Subject: Re: Virtual Teams
From: Sandy Harris <sandy -at- storm -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2002 12:25:13 -0500

Edwin Wurster wrote:

> Key points (from experience) are:
> 1. Project Management
> 2. Communication
> 3. Personalities


> I believe that the minimum key technologies are persistent internet access,
> and some type of instant messaging. A bulletin board system or mailing list
> would work too. ...

Most of my work is done on a team with:

two managers based in California, but they travel a lot
two developers and the tech support person in Toronto
two developers and the documentation person in Ottawa
(250 miles or 400 km from Toronto)
web, FTP and mailing lists hosted in Europe

Of course, as in most Open Source projects, the core team are not the whole
story. There are contributors all over the world.

A more detailed description of the project and team is in my docs:

I not sure I'd call this a "virtual team". It's just a team.

The technology underlying this is:

CVS for version control
SSH for secure access to CVS
PGP for secure within-the-team communication
Mailman for mailing lists

Plus of course various things we take for granted, like the Internet (we
all have at least ADSL or cable, most have domains and a range of IP
addresses) and Unix (mostly Linux, but also some BSD and even SunOS;
most of us do not have any Windoze machines).

We run several public mailing lists -- users, design, bugs, announce,
and briefs (weekly summaries) -- and archives of all of them.

All of the tech support is done via the users list. The tech support
person also writes the weekly summaries, mostly stuff from the users
and design lists.

We also use PGP-encrypted email and encrypting telephones for some
communication within the team. We tend to be a little paranoid about
communication security. For reasons, see the project goals given at
the first link above and my section on the politics of cryptography:

We average about two full-team face-to-face meetings a year. Usually
we all go to an excellent annual technical Linux conference, OLS:

We sometimes have meetings between OLS times, and often two or more of
us go to IETF sessions or to "bakeoffs" for testing interoperation
with other products.

Lately we've been experiminting with conference calls, which seem
to work well, and thinking about VoIP (voice over IP) links.

Basically, though, the whole project is run over the Internet.

We are far from unique in the Open Source world. In fact, teams
spread all over the globe are normal.

Consider the netfilter firewall code for Linux. The original
author (Rusty Russel) is an Australian. The second person to
join the core team (Marc Boucher) is from Montreal. I don't
know where the other three are from. The point is that it
doesn't actually matter.

For that matter, look at Linux itself. When Linus originally
wrote it, he was a student in Finland. Now he's working in
Silicon Valley. That has had no effect on his ability to work
on Linux (except perhaps for US encryption export laws which
I won't rant about here). As long as he's on the net, he can
do the work.

Other major early contributors included Ted T'so at MIT, Alan
Cox in the UK, and Don Becker at NASA (or was it JPL?), ....
The current list would include people from every continent.

Then there's Alexi. He's a physicist in Russia so he has both
other work to do and some difficulty getting his gov't to let
him travel. For several years, he was a major contributor of
networking code for the Linux kernel and an active participant
on the kernel mailing list, but none of the other players had
met him.

Given the Internet, readily available tools, enough expertise
to make the tools work, and a general commitment to making
the project work, teams can fairly easily work together over
any distance.

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Re: Virtual Teams: From: Edwin Wurster

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