No, this post is not one about orgies and group sex =) I recently bumped into several interesting articles discussing website team sizes, constitution and organisation. Very relevant to us, the Allies, (with all of us being in different time zones) and probably relevant to other several thousands of little “organisations” like ours throughout the world. It makes no doubt that today, the Internet has made possible a new kind of workplace: the workplace without a (centralised) fixed (physical) place. Members of the team may be in different places/countries and still communicate and work together (and be efficient). The articles also had another reccurrent theme: the size. There is indeed a tendency (or a will/need) to keep it small. “Start small and stay small. You can have an impact with just a few people. You can build great products with a small team,” says Jason Fried from 37signals, who just released Basecamp and Backpack. 37signals (the google of the web app domain?) is made up of “2.5 full timers” (in the words of Fried), the .5 being 7 time zones away from the other 2. These “democratic” and “free” little organisations of people popping up makes evident the will to be flexible, to keep away from corporate rules and restrictions, from the constraints of traditional workplaces, and to be (or to look) “artisanal” and “home-made / -brewed”, genuine, unique, true, simple. It seems like these groups are in-between the open source community and the big corporates. Free, flexible and open (in the organisational sense), but not completely, and still with the idea of making money in mind.
The products released by 37signals also make it clear that if the Internet has made decentralisation of the team and distant cooperation possible, it has created the need for something else: the centralisation of information, access to the same information by the different members, wherever they are, tracking and monitoring of the project, coherent, efficient and easy exchange of information between the members, etc. etc. Indeed, if there is no need for a centralised fixed physical place anymore, there is now a crucial need for a centralised fixed virtual place for the management of information.
Check out the articles/posts/reviews (will probably write more about these themes and issues soon):
Web 2.0 Review: Don’t forget there’s another kind of scaling
The Ideal Web Team
The Ideal Web Team (parts 1 and 2)
The Building of Basecamp – Review
Ideal web team size?