Leadership Remote Team

Silent Reading and Writing Instead of Meeting

A few on-premise companies have a practice where everyone spends time working in a document in which they can collaboratively edit and comment. And THEN they have a discussion. This is an effective task to engage many people all together — versus letting the loudest voices in the room take over the meeting.

In a world where meetings are happening more often with video, this is an important and inclusive consideration today. —JM


For Developers Learning Design

There are a few resources that I’ve found useful to teach developers about design.

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From my blog post, “Charles Gross on Product Marketing and Dev-as-Marketing (2013)”

I watched this YT video via the YT rec engine this morning. It is way back in 2013 from a Google Ventures startup gathering in SV the same year that I landed there — so I wish I saw this live!

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Design and Developer Partnerships

I did an interview with Rachel Been that posted over here. —JM

Rachel Been: Designers are often labeled as dreamers, and developers as pragmatists. What’s at the root of this shorthand?

John Maeda: I think the education system has created this dichotomy. While studying at MIT, I had the engineer’s problem of being able to build anything, but not knowing what to build. It was only after attending art school—and discovering what to build—that I could combine the two. It takes a developer who’s gone to the design side to appreciate what engineering can be, and it takes a designer who understands that the “religion” they were taught is slightly incorrect, because it was conceived when there weren’t high-end computational systems. If you think of designing a chair out of wood, that religion still works fine, because that’s something that creates a great chair. However, if you’re making something on the computer, that religion has to adapt and change.

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We Always Go Back

I recall noticing when I was younger that folks who go across many fields tend to go back to their home field when they get older. Hmmmm. I wonder if that’s what’s happening to me? —JM


Hello World

Hi there, This is YAB (Yet Another Blog) I’m starting. It’s using a vintage, six-year old WordPress theme by a friend of mine. —JM

I like this speed score …

Designing Inertia in Distributed Work and “Phavatars”

Kim Scott once told me a story of how they’d drink a beer together during a Google hangout across timezones. When I was at Automattic, I recall having people check-in with their meal of choice. It all makes me wonder if there’s a world of phavatars — physical avatars to create persistence and accountability.

What’s the BFD if you’re not a remote team? I strongly suggest that IRL teams use virtual sticky-noting technologies when they’re together just because it’s faster and because it scales so fluidly. Also you have the shared artifact always available to you for later use. And throw in some virtual food if you need to, like me. —JM


We’re moving from Capitalism to Talentism

I’ve been reading an old McKinsey report from HBR (2001) about the “War For Talent” by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod and loved this table:

The Old Reality
The New Reality
People need companies Companies need people
Machines, capital, and
geography are the
competitive advantage
Talented people
are the competitive
Better talent makes
some difference
Better talent makes a
huge difference
Jobs are scarce Talented people are scarce
Employees are loyal and jobs are secure People are mobile and their
commitment is short term
People accept the standard
package they are offered
People demand much more
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Why videoconferencing is useful in an all-distributed team

Update for 2020

Since sharing this post, I’ve joined Publicis Sapient as Chief Experience Officer in 2019 to bring a computational mindset to established companies so they can become more “AI Ready.” You can learn more about our approach to remote work and also about our rapid response teams at our evolving microsite.

I am a fan of all modes of tele-anything because I find it to be one of the two great things that electricity enables for us (the second one being refrigeration).

When talking one-to-one on the phone, all is well because there is an understood “dance” we have all learned around taking turns. But when talking one-to-many on the phone, it works well if it is a 1-way broadcast — but a teleconference is a “conference” versus a tele-pontification. Instead, the painfully chaotic dance that comes to happen on a teleconference call with many-to-many is the subject of a lot of great Internet humor, like my all-time favorite:

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Remote Team

How to make a fully kitschy distributed company’s holiday video

Originally published December 20, 2017 on

Having been a longtime fan of the over-the-top First Round Capital holiday videos, I took it upon myself to imagine what a fully remote company could make. So I set off with Automattic’s Chief Semicolon Advocate Michelle Weber on a journey fueled by her reshaping of the lyrics of Jingle Bells to more accurately describe what it’s like in a remote company like Automattic. What’s it like? It’s a lot of joyous “pings and bells”(referring to the WordPress and Slack notifications that come in throughout the day). Without further ado, here it is:

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