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>We need some kind of vaccine to combat it.

The vaccine is a startup that is 10x (or even just 2x) better than everyone else because they use private offices.

Since that hypothetical business hasn't yet proven that idea, all the articles from journalists writing about "open offices bad" are just preaching to the choir.

Even the common cited reason for open offices being "saves real estate costs" is questionable. As an example, look at Mark Zuckerberg's old Harvard photos when building Facebook.[1] Look specifically at the 8th and 16th photos.[2][3]

See how everybody is literally in an "open office" crowded around a kitchen table?

In Mark's mind, that collaboration "works" for him and helped make Facebook successful. Therefore, it should also work for future hires. This is why cash-rich Facebook that has money to build private offices equal to lawyers' suites eschews that and opts to build an open plan instead. The new 2015 headquarters is expansion of that "2005 Harvard open office" on a grander scale.[4]

Mark Z works still works in that open warehouse concept instead of a private suite.[5]

I see very little commentary from HN that directly deals with executives who really believe in their hearts it's a superior way to work.

[1] http://piximus.net/celebrities/mark-zuckerberg-harvard-photo...

[2] http://piximus.net/media/35747/mark-zuckerberg-harvard-photo...

[3] http://piximus.net/media/35747/mark-zuckerberg-harvard-photo...

[4] http://www.kwiknews.my/news/facebook-takes-the-open-office-c...

[5] deep link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l--zev_37QA&feature=youtu.be...




FogCreek / StackOverflow might be an example of this. https://stackoverflow.blog/2015/01/why-we-still-believe-in-p...


First, Stackoverflow was not successful because it was built by programmers in private offices. It was successful because Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood had popular blogs followed by a large population of programmers sick of ExpertExchange. Stackoverflow is a demonstration of guerilla-SEO via a ready-made audience to make a site instantly popular.

Fog Creek has(had) 3 major products:

- FogBugz: profitable but less of a success than Atlassian

- Trello: not profitable (sold to Atlassian)

- Stackoverflow/StackExchange : not profitable yet [1]

According to the open-office "distractions/interuptions" theory of killing productivity, the Atlassian programmers should have been severely handicapped and as a result JIRA should have evolved at a snails pace. Instead, the opposite happened and Atlassian JIRA released more features than FogBugz. Both FogBugz and Trello lost to Atlassian.

That Joel Spolsky post about private offices gets repeatedly cited in threads about its benefits but I recommend people not mention it. It undermines their point. It's ineffective at convincing executives. However, it's very effective at making other programmers reading it nod in agreement (aka "preaching to the choir").

Don't link ineffective articles devoid of business evidence that happens to confirm your desires. Instead, study the way some executives actually think. Too many programmers dismiss companies' rationale for open offices merely as "saves square footage costs" or "it's a way to spy on employees because of distrust". Yes, some of that may be true but others also have different reasons. (Take a look at the Mark Zuckerberg video I linked and listen to what he's saying about his desk in the open floor plan. Is he trying to recreate that elbow-to-elbow collaboration he had at the Harvard kitchen table or is he just trying to spy on people? Would that Joel Spolsky article convince Mark Z to build private offices? No? Why not?)

[1] https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2015/01/20/stack-exchange-rai...


>> We need some kind of vaccine to combat it. > The vaccine is a startup that is 10x (or even just 2x) better than everyone else because they use private offices.

At Trello everyone is either remote or has a private office. I'm not sure how to prove that they're 2x (I'd say it's too vague to be provable), but they've managed to do well without taking large amounts of investment, which speaks well of their productivity.


>they've managed to do well

I think you're inadvertently undermining your point. Trello wasn't profitable.[1] They were "cash-flow break even" which is also another way of saying they still had not earned enough "free cash flow" to pay back their past internal investments that got them where they currently are.

Trello has private offices.

Atlassian has open offices.[2] They are also profitable.[3]

Atlassian was the one who bought Trello. Trello didn't buy Atlassian. Trello did not perform 2x better than Atlassian JIRA. (E.g. the ideal narrative would have been, "because Trello programmers have less interruptions than Atlassian programmers, their productivity was proven to be 2x superior and they made Atlassian JIRA obsolete.")

If you want to change the hearts & minds of people like Mark Z, the Trello example is not a case study to use.

[1] http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexkonrad/2016/05/23/trello-get...

[2] http://blogs.gartner.com/tom_murphy/2012/02/25/atlassian-eve...

[3] http://www.zdnet.com/article/atlassian-records-20m-profit-in...


Wouldn't you also need to include things like, time from founding, revenue per employee, growth rate, return on investment, etc. to evaluate whether Atlassian or Trello has been the more productive business?


The GP's point still stands: closed offices _may_ make for more productive employees (for some classes of employees), but it is not obvious that they translate into a more productive _business_.

Instead of using Trello, you could compare Atlassian against Fog Creek. Fog Creek was founded two years before Atlassian, and both companies are more or less in the same space - they make productivity tools for developers. And yet it's hard not to look at Atlassian as the more successful business so far.


An "open office" for 5-7 persons is different from an open office for 30+ people. In fact, I think an "open office" for 5-7 persons (e.g. the typical software development team) is quite ideal.


I disagree. I've worked in 1,2,3,5-7 and 30+ ppl offices and my view is that 1 is superior in every way, 2 is possible (but it's quite easy to talk away hours if you have common interests), 3 starts to be quite disturbing (especially since it's now possible for three completely different discussions taking place at the same time) and the difference between 5-7 and 30+ is minimal since it's the 5-7 ppl closest to you in a 30+ office that are the most disturbing anyway, the rest are just white noise.


There is a weird call out to this work environment in The Social Network, where Zuckerberg is talking to a visitor, but has to keep shooing him away from the programmers on the couches, huddled around the kitchen table, saying "Don't interrupt him! He's in the zone!"

So, recognition of need for deep concentration and focus, but in an environment totally inimical to those.


They may work when people have enough work diciplin to not interrupt with irrelevant things. Which it looks like they can manage in the pictures. But when you have a constant stream of people interrupting with things that should just have been an email or slack message, it kills productivity.


Email and slack are interruptive.


> Email and slack are interruptive.

Only if you "decide" to be informed immediately when an email/message comes.


While it works to decide to check email only 2-3 times a day, it doesn't work so well with IM. IM discussions are typically much faster and there's a big risk you miss out on giving your POV before everyone has moved on, if you only check it every now and then.


If everyone moved on, was it really important to give your input anyway?

With IM you can turn it off if you need to focus, and turn it on when you are doing busy work anyway.


I have no popup or sounds when I get an email, and when slack is in dnd, it might as well not be open. My point though, is that I control if I want to be interrupted.




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