Re: The Telecommuting Myth and ignorant remarks

Subject: Re: The Telecommuting Myth and ignorant remarks
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- SIMPLYWRITTEN -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 9 Jul 1999 08:22:09 -0500

Whoa now, friends and neighbors. We're obviously talking about two very
different things.

My original post on this expressed what is essentially Barry's point here,
but I didn't make it explicit what I was talking about: my favorite way of
working is for a company that emphasizes the process and the team, not the
product. Products come and go, but employee enthusiasm is the company's most
precious asset. In such a company, even a product that fails is no big deal,
because with a synergistic team another product is only a heartbeat away.
Most such companies generate far more ideas than they can ever develop. In
such a company, a tech writer isn't generating documentation, but
contributing his or her skills. There's a difference. Everyone contributes.
A tech writer may do QA, or help with the GUI, or do project management, or
do research, or go get coffee. And oh yes, be responsible for the doc, when
the time arises. But what's important isn't the tech writer or the code or
the market. What's vitally important is that coders and tech writers and
everybody else feel needed. You get a sense that you're part of something
grander than any manual, any application, any individual's deliverable.

In this sort of company, it's vital to foster team spirit. Everybody must
get to know each others' foibles, skills, and even personal lives. People
will forgive friends; they won't forgive coworkers as readily. It's very
important here to know each other as people, and you can't do that from
home. When the programmers work late, others sympathize, pitch in, get them
coffee, volunteer to pick up their laundry. When the tech writer needs time
with them, they make the time, no matter what it takes. Everybody trusts
everybody else's dedication. On a good team, that's rewarded. We're all in
this together, kids, and we're all going to help one another to the best of
our abilities. When it happens, synergy is a glow that can encompass a whole

The other side of this is the company that's product-centric, and therefore
needs defined skills and specs from its people. We come together to do a
project, we disperse. These kinds of teams are simple to put together,
because you can hire people with a checklist. They're often efficient and
quick. But they produce only product, and nothing more. It's like a
workplace sitcom. There's no management to speak of, aside from project
shepherding. These kinds of teams are becoming more common all the time as
small companies dream of popping a killer app, going public, and selling
out. Who cares that the lifespan of such a company, even if successful, may
be only a few years? We live in a throwaway society, and even our
livelihoods are disposable.

In such a company, why not telecommute, if you're able to? You're just a
writer or whatever. Not a contributor, but a job description. If that's
where you feel comfortable, fine. It's just not my favorite way to be.
Believe me, I've done more than my share of being a module, doing
one-project jobs. It's a good living and fun most of the time. But it
doesn't tap my essential being the way that a team does.

Further references: The Cathedral and the Bazaar (search for it, I've lost
the URL, but it's all over the Web); and *Built to Last* by Collins and

Tim Altom
Simply Written, Inc.
Featuring FrameMaker and the Clustar Method(TM)
"Better communication is a service to mankind."

>Barry wrote:
>> No my friends, if you want to be part of the team, you gotta be there
>> your teammates.
>Folks, this is a completely untrue and, if I may say so, arrogant
>statement. Barry does not know what he is talking about.
>--Suzanne Townsend (team teleworker for over 3 years)

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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