Jon Udell raises some interesting things around a travel voucher that got flagged as suspicious by a travel agent: when things look odd, who do you trust?
This was an international conference, and the members of the advisory board live all around the world. The one I chose to contact, though, is the one who lives closest to me. Of course I'd be unlikely to call overseas first, because of long-distance tolls and time zones. But there were various folks in the U.S. I could have called, yet I picked the person who lives in New Jersey. Why? In retrospect I believe that's because New Jersey is closer to my home than Illinois or California. Of course it's completely irrational to trust a New Jerseyite more than a Californian for that reason. And yet, at a moment when nothing seemed certain, I acted out that irrational behavior. Trust shouldn't diminish as the square of distance but, in our unconscious minds, I think it probably does.
I think that has consequences for organizations that are outsourcing and building distributed (in the geographic sense) development teams. If the people remote, you need to do something to bridge the distance. I don't think phone conferences are enough - maybe some of the high end video-conferencing systems (the ones where you get a life sized, high-def image) can stand in for physical presence, but there are issues with those, too:
What do I mean by convenience? Well, it's one thing if you have a remote team, all of whom are located in one place. It's another thing entirely if you've taken to hiring developers wherever they are. In the latter case, you don't have a high enough "critical mass" of them in any one spot - and until the price comes down, you aren't going to build video-conferencing into everyone's home office.
It's an interesting problem - and I wonder if relatively frequent travel for a significant part of the team is the best solution at present...
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