I'm really grateful to Zack Urlocker for his post today on how MySQL competes against Google et al in the hiring department. More importantly (for me), he discusses how MySQL closes the distance its employees may feel while working in a highly distributed company:
So that means that they don't have to commute, they don't have to hang out in boring HR meetings, they can just focus on what they like, which is coding. We may not have all the perks offered by big companies, but at the end of the day, developers know they are working on something important and they can do it from their home rather than relocating to Silicon Valley....
I suspect that this geographic advantage is true not only for MySQL, but for many open source companies. It lets you hire the best and the brightest wherever they happen to be.
Yes, but it's making the company feel like a family, despite distance, that is critical, and MySQL seems to have done this very well. Zack explains that the company gathers its employees (en masse or in small groups) together on a fairly regular basis, to put faces with IM nicks. We've been trying to do the same thing at Alfresco, and it seems to work. But we need to do it more.
It's important that individuals feel part of a collective. Open-source companies can thrive by hiring the best wherever they happen to be, but it's still important for a little face time. It's just that open-source face time is much more pleasant than office face time.