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Do any of you work at, or are familiar with companies that work like Basecamp? By that I mean:

  • Primarily remote
  • Strongly prefers asynchronous long form written communication over synchronous communication like chat or videoconference
  • Pays reasonable market rates

My current employer has been good to me as a remote employee over the years, but with the crunch caused by the corona virus, I’m feeling the pain of a lot of unnecessary chat and video meetings. It seems that now with everyone working from home they are replicating the in-office experience, instead of trying to find better ways of working in this new reality.

As a result, I’m looking around to see what else is out there.

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    In my experience this kind of approach is much more common in worker-owned tech cooperatives. In most IT companies the workflow is not designed to be the most productive, but to be observable and controllable by the managers, both to justify their role and to control the tradeoffs between quality and time-to-market/customer satisfaction. Technical people for obvious reasons value quality more than profitability. When the workers are in control of the amount of pressure applied to the production process, more relaxed working environments emerge and that happens also because of the amount of time liberated by the necessity of being observed and judged by the management through meetings and direct interaction.

    That said, there are companies that practice these values both inside and outside the coop world but I wouldn’t name any specific one because they all sit on a spectrum and none of them really is extreme in these practices. Therefore none of them would stand out. Basecamp is different because they made a point of pride in their company culture and a way to promote their business by attracting talents. Their narrative, their identity is part of the way they make money and therefore they really stand out. Then probably they are not more extreme than many other companies smart enough (or short enough on contractual leverage) to structure the process around the needs of developers.

    The best thing you can do is to learn how to place them on this spectrum during interviews and pick your next job accordingly.

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      Most organisations avoid exposing developers to how the profit is actually made; management has the information about how important “getting it shipped” really is, while devs have the information about how important “getting it right” is. Decision making is impaired by the absence of one person with enough context to balance those factors.

      When the balance between “getting it right” and “getting it shipped so we can get paid” is judged in a single mind with all the available context, much better decision making is possible.

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        I’m not familiar with tech cooperatives. Any examples you can point to?

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          Doist http://doist.com/

          I’m working there for almost 3 years now and I love the “remote/async”-first way of working. The company, products, and mindsets are awesome.

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            I think people that work in such companies won’t scream about it. They just sit and pray for this to keep going.

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              • Strongly prefers asynchronous long form written communication over synchronous communication like chat or videoconference

              I work for a remote first company spanning from EU to west coast US, and I find that the preference for sync vs async comes down to personality. Some people just prefer quick back-forth over chat, while others want to structure longer posts, forum style. So we provide both options.

              However there’s a caveat.

              Timezones and the nature of chat, means that some communications simply have to be done in the forum and/or our agile tool (also async).

              We don’t require people to read scroll back of all chat, which means important decisions should be communicated in some async form. The discussion leading up to a decision can take place in chat though, if relevant stakeholders are involved.

              I have a theory that people who prefer sync communication, like chat, are the kind that engage in discussions using emotion first and thought second.

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                My theory is that it isn’t about emotion, but extroversion vs introversion and discursive vs non-discursive modes of reasoning. :-)

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                If you introduce your boss to me, I can talk him/her into having a better distributed team culture. I’ve been running a distributed team, similar size to Basecamp and similar principles, for 10+ years:

                https://amontalenti.com/2020/03/20/30min-chats

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                  Thanks for the offer. Unfortunately this isn’t restricted to my boss, but seems to go all the way up to the CTO.

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                    Glad to talk to you, your boss, or your CTO! Really, glad to help in any way!

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                  Doist (the makers of Twist and Todoist) do full-remote asynchronous. They might be good for what you’re thinking about.

                  Generally any company that doesn’t offer core hours would probably have a similar setup, since stuff like US/Asia in particular means that it will often be very hard to sync up in a synchronous way

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                    Thank you! This is exactly the sort of company I was looking for!

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                    Gitlab is well known for that and even documents it in blog posts.

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                      Thank you for reminding me about them!

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                      I’m a developer at Aha!. We’re a fully remote company, self-funded and profitable, have the autonomy to do great work without constantly having to sync, and get to use the software we build to do our jobs every day.

                      When I left my last job, I had very similar criteria to what you listed here when I was looking for my next job. I was very lucky to find Aha!. If it sounds interesting to you, this is the best place to learn more and find current openings: https://www.aha.io/company/careers/current-openings

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                        There are openings but why are they location restricted?

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                          Spanning too many timezones is still a challenge for real-time collaboration when it is necessary. Although much of the work is asynchronous, we still find a lot of value in easily working together during the day.

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                        If only there were a site dedicated to startup news rather than discussion of deep-end technical matters.