Our Tools & Practices for Remote Collaboration
Last week, we had Avdi, the newest addition to our team, join us in Boulder, CO. It was great to get some face-to-face time, since Avdi will primarily be working from his home in Pennsylvania while Dan and I continue to work in Boulder.
We are excited about the benefits of having a distributed team, but we’re also aware that there are a number of challenges. As a result, one of the things we worked on last week was figuring out the tools and practices we’ll be using to work effectively from across the country. Luckily, both Avdi and Dan have experience working remotely which we can draw upon.
We evaluated a number of options, but settled on the following tools and practices.
- Daily Standup. Every day at the same time, we all get on video chat. We cover what we did yesterday, what we’re working on today, and whether or not we’re blocked on anything. The goal is to keep this meeting at 15 min or less.
- Minimize interruptions. Whenever we need to communicate with each other, we try to do so on the channel that is the least disruptive (and disrupts the fewest team members). Of course, sometimes we need to be disruptive if an issue is pressing, if someone is blocked, or if we need to have high-bandwidth communication (information, especially cues like body language, don’t come across very effectively on channels like email)
- Keep it simple. We want to use the smallest number of tools and channels that will allow us to work effectively.
Channels and Tools
|Any email client (in practice, Gmail)||
* By “high bandwidth”, I don’t mean that the tool itself requires a lot of TCP/IP traffic (although this is true, it doesn’t really matter). What I mean is that we can communicate a lot of information between team members in a short amount of time.
- Lighthouse for issue tracking
- GitHub for source control and our project wiki
- RealVNC for screen sharing (essential for remote pair programming)
This is our first attempt at finding a good set of tools and practices for remote collaboration. As time goes on, we’ll undoubtedly iterate and improve upon these.
For another perspective (with a slightly different set of tools), here is a presentation from 2008 about virtual teams.
What tools and practices have worked (and which have not worked) for your team?