I've got a bit of a challenge. While I'm not "in charge" I'm certainly lead developer on a project and my team will be scattered to high heaven.

I've got someone who works on Fridays only, and probably 2 people who will be 3-4 hours away in another state. (One of the lovely side effects of partnering with multiple universities).

Anyway, how can I get them all on the same "team"?? I've read a bunch of Joel Spolsky's stuff, but I can't create the same kind of environment that he uses. This is also the first project I'll be lead on, so it's kindof make-or-break.

Specifically I'm looking for managing styles (personality), process models, project management (scrum?), video conferencing tools, and the like. I just don't have any resources for this kind of thing, and I'm afraid I'm going to be stuck doing too much work.


2 Answers 2


This one is a tough one! Have a google on "distributed agile teams" when you get the chance, but in short:

  • Communication is vital. Find out how each team member prefers to communicate and come up with a medium that everyone is happy with.

  • Make sure all decisions/conversations are open (not private), e.g. Archivable mailing list, commit log, IRC chat is OK if you save off the logs

  • You probably want to adopt some sort of agile methodology, at least in terms of getting small units of work delivered often, that way you can all help each other out, see what others are up to and not 'disappear for weeks on end'

  • See http://www.producingoss.org for some good tips (open source, but many of these can be applied).

  • Use canned hosting (issue tracking, mailing lists, source control, build tool, CI etc), make it as painless as possible for everyone to get each others work and get it ti interoperate.

  • Try to all meet at least once in person or over a video conference, we interact vastly differently with people we've met in the flesh.

Good luck!

  • Yeah, I'm thinking minimally daily scrum meetings will help tremendously, and everybody being skype-able at a given notice. No phones (I don't do well w/o faces). Nov 12, 2010 at 16:56
  • +1 for communication! Also, I suspect a fully distributed team will work much better than a partially distributed team. Off-site people get (unintentionally) excluded from the on-site people in many ways. Nov 13, 2010 at 18:17

There are many things that you need to consider.

To add to @karianna's first point: make yourself available. Make sure that people see your presence and vice versa - through some sort of IM system for example. The hardest thing is not knowing if/when you can get in touch with someone.

Also, have a weekly meeting that is mandatory for everyone - and hold the meeting regardless if it only takes 2 minutes to say "nothing new, we're all good".

There are lots of tools for time-tracking, project management, etc... look at things like the suite of tools provided by 37signals, and things that integrate with these tools.

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