"I could never do that", she said. "I could never sit alone all day, staring at a computer and never getting the chance to talk to anybody. It'd be my worst nightmare."
I hadn't ever thought about it like that. Naturally, as a developer, I think I have the greatest job there is. Where else could you get somebody to pay you like fourteen times the median family income to hang out anywhere in the world you please and solve interesting puzzles all day?
But not everybody is wired the same. Lots of people (most people???) get their energy from face to face human interaction.
Poor fools, eh?
The more social part of a programmer's day is probably when he's having lunch with the team.
I mean, you're doing it right now.
Today's web is an insanely social place. Compare with computers in 1985, yeah, you might have a point about social isolation. But today? Absolutely not, no way.
Although those are labeled as social community and many of us take part in them, they're nowhere close to the same as being social. They take place on our time schedule (we visit when we want to), they take place with people whom we more or less choose, and most importantly a lot of it isn't personal. Friends on Facebook may have some personal interaction, but for the large part HN, reddit, etc, are just impersonal blobs of text. I feel no personal connection to what I read here, and I don't consider it to be social interaction. The part of my social networking that will actually be social will take place later when I check updates on friends on Facebook later and say something that references some real-life connection I have with that friend.
Community-provided content isn't the same thing as social. Interacting with people itself isn't necessarily social. I consider reading HN to be about as social as calling customer support.
I've been pretty quite all my life and when I first got on the Internet in the early to mid 90s it was amazing for a shy person to interact in real-time with other real people. I'm not talking about a person thousands of kilometers away I mean 'a person'.
But still my job as a vending machine repair man was a solitary job I had done it since my teens. The Internet was amazing but it was no substitute for real face-to-face socializing that still terrified me, still does.
When I got a job at a casino I was forced to interact since I was in a contained busy noisy very social environment no longer driving the highways. I changed a lot but I'm still not much for social activities, I call work "acting" because if I am off work and go back I feel very exposed socially.
I think I'm like children who are locked up and lose the chance to develop verbal skills, I missed my social training and that part of my brain is dead.
Anyway, it's different.
" Introverts are easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement, introversion having even been defined by some in terms of a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating environment. "
That's why going out in to society seems like a job to you.
Incidentally, I didn't expect anybody would question that particular point. If anything, I'd have thought people would think it much less plausible that a computer programmer had been invited to a party. And that once there he had actually spoken to a girl.
The value that I derive from an email with an old friend is different than a phone call which is different still from a lunch.
Our social needs are deeply intertwined with our DNA. And the emotional value we can derive from interacting digitally does not meet the full extent that we derive from physical interaction.
Hence, I would argue that someone that lives on the web all day with thousands of people in mostly physical isolation will find less social fulfillment than someone that lives amongst a handful of humans with little connection to the outside world.
Even by using social media, you are still alone in front of your computer.
Just look around you. Look at all the people who are in real world physical social situations and still spend most of their time staring at their smartphone and the stream of social updates from Twitter, from Facebook, from Email...
Staring at those screens is compelling because they are so damn social now. It's not some mythical solitary activity like playing solitaire or reading a book.
An interesting question, then, is why, when talking online, do I focus on ideas rather than people? I think a major factor is simply that plaintext is a far less expressive medium, so it takes extra effort to convey complicated subtexts. When we talk offline we can show interest in people without having to consciously think about it; our expressions of caring are primarily subconscious and therefore don't transfer well to plaintext.
Don't get me wrong, communicating on the Internet is great. But for some types of personality (and pretty much all of us to some extent) face-to-face interaction is vital.
No, you're not. Your writing a message to an online "message forum", to people who could care less about who you are, don't know how you look, don't know or care what you do or how you feel, and only want to hear very specific things from you (e.g. not straying off topic of this thread).
>Look at all the people who are in real world physical social situations and still spend most of their time staring at their smartphone and the stream of social updates from Twitter, from Facebook, from Email...
You miss that they do it _in addition_ to actually being social. Doing just the "social updates in Twitter, FB etc" thing, would be no substitute.
Any other profession now have time in front of computers. But often for dull, administrative work. Teachers correct homeworks, police officers write reports, politicians review law proposals, etc. My time in front of the computer is fun, but ssshh don't tell that too much ;)
The resolution and latency differences between online social and IRL are really huge, making them really incomparable.
Humans generally require some degree of in-person social activity, some more than others.
For a lot of people this kind of "interacting with people" is not really the same as face to face interaction.
You type something into an text input box in Facebook and you get a reply back. Some interaction.
Regular people do that when they are BORED and constrained at home and want to be social, not when they JUST want to be social.
The success of such services is that due to overworking, living far away from friends etc, people a) have to use them, and b) are bored most of the time. They mostly replace TV, not social interaction.
It's true that you can work on your own, but (at least from my perspective) it's incredibly more productive to think about hard problems with someone. It forces you to spell your ideas fully in order to communicate them to the other person, which often deepens your understanding of the ideas (or makes errors obvious -- think of rubber duck debugging): it's true that you can do it through pretty much any medium, but face-to-face is still the best choice by a large margin. Besides, face-to-face has the added benefit that when you have someone else in front of you, there is a sense of urgency that prevents you from turning your brain off, whereas if you're thinking by yourself it's much easier to lose focus.
For this reason, even though it seems that you could do CS research your own, a vast, vast majority of papers (at least in my field) are collaborations, and 1-author papers are incredibly rare. Besides, though researchers are fond users of email and Skype and other such tools, they also go through the time and expense of moving to remote countries just to be able to collaborate face-to-face with the right people.
In the US, that says median income is ~$31k. You'd be 10x'ing that with a $150/hr consulting rate, which is by no means outrageous.
The challenge is that when you bill $150/hr you are not billing 40 hour weeks.
By the way, this is exactly why you need to bill $150/hr (or better, a weekly or monthly rate). If you do 40 hour week math, you think you can bill < $100/hr. And then you are very hungry.
the median income in sf/nyc is closer to 45k (http://project.wnyc.org/acs2011/income.html#12.00/40.7310/-7...)
Occasionally people will say something about "having to sit at a desk" in relation to their job or mine.
"Have?" I get to sit at a desk with a portal to logic, problem solving, and all the information I could want right in front of me. If I were sitting at home, family-less and jobless, I would probably be doing a very similar thing about the same portion of the day.
In any organization that I've worked in the CEO/Managing Director/Commissioner is a person who spends 6-10 hours a day in meetings. Talking to customers, internal stakeholders, random external people, the board, etc. I couldn't imagine doing that work over email.
Where can you find this $700,000/year software job (assuming median family income of $50k/year as it approximately is in the USA)?
We talked or IMed every day, but it definitely wasn't the same as working with a co-located team. There's no grabbing lunch together or the occasional drinks after work. It definitely got lonely, and led to some unusual behavior.
By the end of the second week, I'd stopped getting out of my pajamas - it wasn't like I was leaving the house, so why bother?
We have a dog, who isn't allowed in the house, so I set up a desk in the garage and worked from there. I'd keep the garage door open all day, for natural light but also to let the dog run around.
I distinctly remember one afternoon, where I'm cranking away in my garage/office. Some neighborhood kids were cutting through our yard to get to the local basketball court, and they definitely paused for a moment to stare at the unkempt weird hermit guy, still in his pajamas, a bathrobe, and slippers, hacking away in the garage of all places.
"I don’t have a CFO, COO or other peers with the same overall picture of the company and incentive structure that I have"
In the early days of Quantcast, Konrad (the other cofounder) and I wondered why the employees didn't generally have the same sense of urgency that we did. My friend Bryan asked "so, what do you do when you read an article about a competitive threat?" and we both answered "we share it with each other". "and not the employees?", and we looked at each other and said "we don't want to be discouraging". Bryan said "no wonder they don't feel urgency".
And that's at the core of having a cofounder. Or more importantly, perhaps that's one of the real reasons you want the initial team of a company to all be cofounders (YC style). You want everyone in the same boat, with a big bet on the line, sharing information openly.
I'd love to hear any other thoughts about the real underlying reasons that the success rates are higher with companies that have cofounders. Most of the discussion on HN is about the observation, and examples either way. But I'd love to hear insight into the reasons.
It's an open meeting where successes and challenges are openly described and anyone can ask any question. Someone from Google could probably give a much better description.
I should have been clearer in my post and maybe titled the post "Not having co-founders sucks".
I know that by being a single founder I can't share the workload, and I don't really have people to turn to when everything breaks at once. I also know that my startup deals with extremely abstract concepts and that its been easier to 'hold it all in my head' than to have to work with the potential cofounders I had available when I started my project.
The big kicker for me is that I knew that without a cofounder I had no one to blame but myself if things went wrong. I find this hugely motivating, but I could also see it a major reason for people to fold too.
For me it was a networking issue more than anything. This is my first project and I didn't know anyone that I thought would be appropriate fit for my project. I would rather build stuff than do meetups, though I'll probably start attending more after I launch.
If I did find the right people then I wouldn't hesitate to bring them on board. I just couldn't find them and rather than wait I've done the best I can to make a successful startup. This was the right choice and things are going fairly smoothly.
I personally think that the number of cofounders for a startup to be successful is entirely dependant on the circumstances - its product, its market and its goals.
(I realize that this is an absolute copout of an answer. Sorry.)
I don't think it's necessary to share every detail either. I just believe that by strategically sharing key details with the right people, they will feel more involved and personally responsible. A part of that might actually even have to do with them feeling trusted and appreciated... which I think goes a long way.
Engaging single employees on a personal level obviously becomes more difficult the larger the team grows. You can't share every detail with everyone, and it can, at times, be very time consuming to manage this kind of relationship with everyone. But there are ways to handle this for large teams as well - perhaps by involving the team as a whole, and/or by designating a team manager, among other things.
I've been working from home for years and love it, for instance.
Having recently left a veritable 'Office-Space' like enterprise, with 500 people on my floor you'd think I wouldn't have been so lonely. But being lost in a sea of cubes and water cooler/misery loves company talk replete with excuses of why someone can't do something and something didn't get done at every corner can wear one down.
As a newly minted Rails consultant going on 6+ mos now, I have yet to meet any of my clients/designers face to face (there's 10 people involved in 2 separate long term projects). They live on the East Coast and I'm in southern California. But we're in regular communication... skype/google hangouts, phone, basecamp, email, pivotal tracker, github.
When it comes to my career I'm feeling amazingly whole when I'm 'virtually' surrounded with highly competent people who see eye-to-eye than when I had to grudgingly come into a mediocracy every day. I've never experienced this level of cohesive team work before... to me it just seems like the physical presence thing is icing on the cake.
If I get 'physically lonely' heck while working I'll go out to one of various local cafes I frequent and take my headphones out every once in awhile and chat up a stranger. Usually we have far more in common than I did with any of my former co-workers. To top it off I find myself more regularly hanging out with friends while not working... having a fluid schedule + getting rid of that time sink that is commuting really opens up one's options to be social.
-- Paul Tillich
For many problems there are many right answers.
More specifically for opinion/work situation articles like this, the argument applies to a particular personality type and/or particular personal situation.
If you're extroverted, then working alone may leave you bored and unfulfilled.
If you in the middle between introverted and extroverted, working alone may work if other parts of your life have personal interaction.
If you are introverted, working alone may be the best possible situation.
I find working from home works well for me, though at times I feel disconnected, out of the loop, and generally not charged up. But most of the time I find it ideal. I'm middle of the road on the introvert/extrovert scale, am easily distractible when bored (ADHD), and get a charge from working with people - but only when I have part of the day to unwind alone.
I also know working entirely alone on a solo project get me nowhere.
But most of this is about my personality, not about software development, working in a large company, or founding a startup.
There are many right answers. My right answer and yours may be the same if we are similar and in the same situation. Otherwise, my advice probably won't help you - and visa versa.
I think this is a good point, and for me one of the scarier aspects of this type of work. Working alone is fine until it isn't. I think your work quality / satisfaction are always going to be relient on your out of work happiness to a large extent, but when you're working alone there's that much less of a buffer. Work is such a large part of our lives, doing it alone is a pretty large commitment to aloneness.
I think the coworking environment in another comment is a great suggestion in that vein. Having worked in one of them for the better part of a year, for people who really just want to be around others while working, that's pretty ideal (aside from the relatively minor expense, but if that's something that's going to make you significantly happier, it seems likely to me that you could find one with a cost that makes it viable and worthwhile).
Edit: I've also been working from home, alone (cue Macauly Culkin), for years and love it.
It certainly helps to have others support your business or at least empathize with your struggles.
Mainly the clear demarcation between "work" and "home." Working from home I just make myself some coffee, walk upstairs, and I'm working. Or not, I may go down and work on my car or clean the kitchen. Working from an office I had the drive to clear my head and go into work mode. And then the drive home to get back into "home" mode. I couldn't let "home" bleed into "work" and vice-versa.
I also miss being able to go knock on someone's door and bounce an idea off of them. Now I have to type it out or fire up a skype session to discuss things. Typing in the chat room isn't easy and nuance is lost. And the effort of bringing up a skype session and the human niceties that tend to go with it (the "hey how are you?") and technical problems ("you need to upgrade!", "internet is slow!") make it hard and I tend to just not do it.
That said, working from home on my own projects is nice and I don't know if I could ever work in an office for someone else ever again.
However, if I've got my head deep in the code and some berk interrupts me with inane crap it feels like a physical slap in the face. I actually, physically "jolt". And this happens all the time in an office. So working from home by myself all day lets me focus on my work with no distractions, and I just make sure I get outside and meet people when I'm not working.
How did I fix it?
I loved my job and my boss and my work hours, compensation, benefits & vacation... but I quit anyway.
In January I start work at a small highly collaborative company, and I feel SO good about it :)
Also, this is not a person who occasionally works from home, but works from home all the time.
PS. mandatory oatmeal: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/working_home
You will also be helping new comers and that will make you feel deep satisfaction.
For me, the worst thing in the world is to try and do something in a "team" which exists in name only. If the other folks aren't willing to run at the same speed, then it just starts draining the life out of me and the project. It sounds like the author of this post is in the same situation.
The flip side of this is that when a couple of people agree to really band together, we can go out and do amazing things. It doesn't even have to be programming. The nights when I got together with a couple of friends and decided to "beat the (ticket) queue down" were great. We were all "over it" and did not like our jobs any more, but the teamwork of getting in there and showing what we could still do was worth it.
Two or three of the right people could destroy a backlog of tickets which had accumulated over the span of hours or even days. It would make a dent which would last for several shifts, and probably rescued more than one ticket which would have been criminally mishandled otherwise.
The teamwork basically established that more than one of us felt this way. That's important, since if you're the only one of a kind in any situation, don't you start wondering if you've done something wrong?
I guess life is easier for those who aren't troubled by that sort of "do I even belong here" thought.
You may not be working directly with the people you interact with, but you are all working toward something, and that fact alone helps me be productive.
The diverse community and productive environment of any good coworking space have untold benefits beyond the obvious. Try it out for an extended time before you make any assumptions.
If you are en entrepreneur interesting in a space in Old Montreal, leave your contact info here and I'll contact you.
I met a young person once who was successful (multi-millionaire) and had sold several companies. In the post-sell lull, he said that until he got a dog - he didn't have a daily routine - since he didn't have to really work. Showering is a habit that quickly can fall by the wayside if you work from home alone too much.
Humans crave regular 'peer' level feedback and gratification - this is an evolutionary trait and is extremely critical for your happiness which is in turn critical for optimal work performance. Almost anyone who feels otherwise is wrong.
The key point is that even if your startup is doing well and making tons of money you will still not be happy because of the lack of 'peer' level feedback. So in that sense getting a co-founder is a bigger objective than making your startup profitable.
The only other two options are:
1. Your company grows real fast and you are able to hire a couple of CXO's. This might take a long time and its not really in your control.
2. Raise funds and hire a couple of peer level CXO's - this is easier said than done as premature scaling is the number one cause of startup mortality even assuming that you can raise funding in the first place.
The good part is that if you understand this simple fact, you can start figuring out a solution which I guess you have already begin.
I got my BFA in illustration in 2010 and decided to get back into web development (I got an associates in digital media 3 years prior and was into web development in high school). So the landscape of development had changed a ton, I stumbled on to middleman and SASS.. so I was getting acquainted with modern tools and techniques. Then I was lucky enough that a marketing company in my town hired me to help out with html emails and photoshop collateral.
They had a VB .NET Webforms guy that they would outsource application-ish websites too. At this time I was watching the google python videos and reading books about django / rails. I learned about heroku and in my spare time I would build and deploy simple apps like questionnaires with an active admin backend. Basically, my company let me take a stab at one of these application-ish projects and it went really well so I got to do more and more. That was a year ago, and now I work solely on large Rails / backbone projects hosted on Heroku. In all of this personal growth I still have not met another developer who I can talk to or learn from, it's crazy. It makes me sad because I don't have someone to share the excitement with, or someone who I can learn with. We have had this AD out for another developer for months and get very few responses. If you're in NH and like this stuff send me a message :)
You could always head over to Boston there's a ton of web development stuff happening there and regular meet ups.
We are studying Seats2meet.com, a company providing co-working spaces in The Netherlands, or rather one of their co-working spaces, BounceSpace, where its free to work but you have to "pay" with your social capital.
What we have found so far is that it is mostly (early start-up phase) entrepreneurs and freelancers who attend the location we have studied. They say that they cannot focus well at home and having the possibility to interact with is great beneficial to them. The fact that the location is free is of course important, especially for start-ups on a tight budget.
The idea behind the concept is knowledge sharing but while there is certain amounts of knowledge sharing going on it appears that most are looking for human contact, and sometimes the human contact can help them out - good.
The academic literature suggest that teleworkers, and it appears entrepreneurs though the literature is quite weak on that subject, are often feeling isolated due to lack of face-to-face interactions such as informal meetings, lunches and "water-cooler conversations" with colleagues.
Our focus is mostly on knowledge sharing and social capital but I think many entrepreneurs could benefit from more interactions with others, rather than just hacking away at home.
P.S. Check out Seats2Meet/BounceSpace if you are in Amsterdam and looking for a co-working space, they got some collaboration with Appsterdam and such. Not to mention good coffee!
I work as both a programmer and a glass artist, and similar conclusions apply. Working in group environments is inspiring, informative, invigorating and synergistic, but brings up all sorts of problems one doesn't encounter in solitude. I'm trying to find the right balance.
As an introvert, I don't mind long periods of alone time as long as it's occasionally punctuated by social events. However, I tend to avoid the local networking events like the OP described because I find them to be full of blowhards and vendors pushing a service (YMMV). Instead, I prefer smaller group gatherings with people I trust.
I'm trying to decide if my next startup is going to be solo or with co-founders, so this is weighing on my mind at the moment. I find that the biggest drawback of solo is the sense of loneliness, and I'm trying to balance that with the considerations of equity, creative control, etc.
A more appropriate title would have been "Working alone sucks for me"
I love working alone. Politics are non-existent or scarce.
For me at least, coworking is better than working at home in every way I've considered. I'm much more productive, it's not as isolating socially, and professionally I've even found new contracts through people I've met coworking.
My experience is that this is the minority, maybe 5% maximum 10% of people. The majority love working from home and the benefits of greater flexibility and not having to travel to and from work each day more than compensate for any downside.
I had the opposite problem, I started working in sales with tons of people. I had no time for myself, meditation, solitude or thinking, just meeting people or being interrupted on the phone constantly.
People could not understand that I wanted time for myself(most of the human population is extroverted).
It was great for some people, but not for me. Now I work(at home) in engineering mostly alone with my dogs at my side and I am so happy. I am thinking about problems most of the time without interruptions. I see people when I want. For me this is great.
I live in Helena, Montana. We have a very small startup/tech community here, but we do have a lot of people who telecommute or freelance for out-of-state clients. Ideally, we'll get a mixture of these people. I think the diversity is what's really important.
Outside of Helena, in Bozeman and Missoula, there is a much larger startup community that's really starting to take off. I try to drive down for meetups a few times a month and participate in as many things as possible.
So far, the initial response has been overwhelmingly positive. Rent is really cheap (my father-in-law owns the building, that helps) and I'm not trying to make a living off of the coworking space itself. It won't take many members to get the space self-sustaining and I'm confident that we can get there quickly even with the small population.
Our website just went live yesterday. http://theshophelena.com
I live in a small city (~80k population) with absolutely no tech industry and don't have any close friends that are working programmers with similar interests. I tend to have a lot of ambitions, which make it even worse when you have no feedback system to discuss those ambitions.
Lately I've been considering applying for jobs in the Bay area, but I'm not sure I'm qualified enough to get a job worth moving my family for.
It's a social motivational problem. I experience the same thing is some classes in the case where grades are too easy to get / there's no challenge, and when there's no push for creativity.
When the prof presents a leaderboard or favorite features in projects afterwards, or offers bonus for implementing more challenging additions, it multiplies my own motivation significantly. Even in grad school (CS), most of my course projects have been too easy IMO.
And with the time i have lost interest in "social media". It feels like i am talking to projections of characters and not real people.
I mean, You, you, the clever, normal people. But for now I'm sharing my cubicle with two really clever (they can get the job done quickly, elegantly, etc) guys, who are both loud racists, one of them scientologist (although the later that did not caused any problem yet). And there's no chance the change offices.
So. I would give both of their arms if only I could work alone a day a week.
I actually socialize more than my previous office job (penetration testing) in an office with 20~ people.
Best part of it when I want to be alone to focus on something all it takes is setting my status to DND which you can't effectively do in many offices.
The trick is to always love what you do and to feel part of something whether it's guaranteed to succeed or not.
I'm finding this out slowly.
I wonder if Roger Federer feels that way?
Now I am working on my startup with other smart people and man, I love it.
One thing I heard from a friend (in a church talk) was that if you want a beautiful life, you need to find beautiful things and bring them into your life. This struck me as obvious but somehow I never clued in before. I need to actively create the life and living environment I want.
I hope this doesn't sound like browbeating because it isn't. I don't know you but I absolutely relate to what you're saying.
Good luck in creating a better life for yourself and enjoy the journey along the way. I will try and do the same.