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COMPANY CULTURE

How a Virtual Company Communicates

The technology and techniques that make telecommuting work

Graham Smith

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Matt Mullenweg founded Automattic in 2005 to administer his wildly popular WordPress blogging platform. Today, Automattic is a 55-person virtual company that attracts 230 million monthly users and manages the blogs for many large media concerns, including CNN and Time magazine. Here is his take on how to manage communication at a virtual company.

→ For most things we use P2, which is sort of like a private version of Twitter that we developed. The rest is over instant messaging and e-mail. The danger in communicating this way is that it's really easy to misinterpret someone's tone -- for instance, thinking that they're angry when they're really just busy. We almost never talk on the phone or do video chats, but those are things I think we need to do more. Once a year, the entire company gets together in person. During the day, we split into teams of three, and each team works on something they wouldn't normally work on with people they don't normally work with. The idea is to get some cross-pollination and to get people to make personal connections. In some ways, seeing your co-workers once a year is better than seeing them every day, because if you're only going to see someone for a week, you try to be nice, even if you don't like him or her. We don't get the passive-aggressive stuff that builds in an office.

Last updated: Apr 1, 2010




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