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Working alone sucks (fleetadmiral.tumblr.com)
153 points by labaraka on Dec 14, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments

I met a girl at a party once, and she said something really interesting when I mentioned that I wrote software for a living.

"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?

That image of working alone at a computer all day is a long way from the truth at a lot of companies; typically the bigger the company the more time you spend in meetings, and at many that ends up being half your day or more. That isn't particularly more anti-social than marketing or accounting, where you'll find a lot more women. Not to mention places that do all pair programming, all the time.

I wouldn't call "meetings" particularly social. If anything, they're the opposite, a bunch of people bored out of their minds, listing to powerpoint presentations or BS upper management speak.

The more social part of a programmer's day is probably when he's having lunch with the team.

Wait what? Who in the world is using a computer today that isn't constantly interacting with people on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, uh.. Hacker News, even..

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.

I have to disagree.

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'm not a programmer but interacting on the Internet is not the same type of social interaction as in real life.

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.

No, it sounds like you are just an introvert. Since introverts are a smaller percentage of society, and they communicate less with others, it can easily seem like there is no one else like you out there.

" 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.

Sure, this person could have been an outlier. But I get the impression that that's what most people think we do all day.

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 screens might be social. But they're able to only fill a limited facet of human social need.

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.

That still doesnt change "I could never sit alone all day, staring at a computer and never getting the chance to talk to anybody."

Even by using social media, you are still alone in front of your computer.

That's meaningless. "never getting the chance to talk to anybody"? I'm talking to you, and everyone else who reads this web page, right now.

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.

No, I don't think that's the same thing. In my experience, real-life conversations have a much higher quantity of ... something. Affection? When I talk offline, most conversations have a subtext of 'You're a valuable human being; I like hanging out with you.' However, when I talk on Facebook or Hacker News or email, I'm much more likely to just deal with the direct topic of conversation. Talking online is about ideas; talking offline is about people. Of course this is a massive generalization, but it seems to fit my own experiences.

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.

It's interesting that you can't tell the difference. You are not talking to parent poster, you are typing text into a box while alone in room. You can't see his(?) facial expressions, change the subject, comment on things taking place around both of you. You just type into a box and sometime later you might see this reply.

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.

Experienced writers/readers easily communicate emotions through text.

I get your point, but i still think the girl the op talked about meant something different. My girlfriend thinks the same...sitting infront of a computer has nothing todo with social activity for her, even when she occasionally checks facebook, and she would go crazy if she had to be alone in front of a computer all day, while i enjoy it alot.

>That's meaningless. "never getting the chance to talk to anybody"? I'm talking to you, and everyone else who reads this web page, right now.

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.

Doing software development (my role involves quite some coordination though), I am discussing all the time with people. On instant messaging, to people coming to my office, in meetings, on the phone, or around a coffee. Time communicating is more important than time coding.

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 ;)

> Today's web is an insanely social place.

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.

>Wait what? Who in the world is using a computer today that isn't constantly interacting with people on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, uh.. Hacker News, even..

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.

I'm about to start a PhD in computer science. One might also think that CS research is something where you just live anywhere you want and solve interesting theoretical puzzles all day, but it's surprising to see how much communication is important (both written and oral). You need to tell people about your work and understand what other people do, but most importantly it's crucially important to think about hard problems together with other people.

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.

14x? Where are you living? I understand software developers generally make more than the average, but I've not heard of too many people making 14x (in the US).

^ number pulled from butt for the purposes of comedic exaggeration. But doing a quick order of magnitude check, it's not off by much:


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.

not completely outrageous, although most of the people I know that are billing >= $150/hr aren't billing 2000 hours/year. Actually, even most of the hourly consultants I know that work for themselves aren't billable that often - usually 1000-1200 billable hours between most of the independent IT/tech people I know. Still, even at $75/hour, you're still 2-3x what a lot of people are making, and it's generally only up from there for most people.

Exactly. But that's one of the best parts of software development in my opinion - you can make 3x the median income while living wherever you like and working 20 hours a week (i.e. having time for side projects, or kids)

I agree, it's just not 14x. People sometimes assume I make boatloads of money - I don't - but I do enjoy the flexibility.

Note to everyone thinking of consulting and doing this math:

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.

those 31k are something completely different though (normalised, purchasing power, disposable income, household)

the median income in sf/nyc is closer to 45k (http://project.wnyc.org/acs2011/income.html#12.00/40.7310/-7...)

Maybe the OP meant the median world income, which is around $10k/yr.

A long ago girlfriend said much the same thing about copy editing when I did that. She was anything but a fool.

Maybe part of the reason why there's a big gender gap?

I agree.

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.

The key difference is that the author is a CEO. His job is setting direction and talking to people.

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 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?

Where can you find this $700,000/year software job (assuming median family income of $50k/year as it approximately is in the USA)?

14x worldwide average income makes more sense, which might be an order of magnitude less

If the only problem is really "sitting alone", wouldn't working in a company that does pair programming solve it?

I can definitely empathize. A few years ago, I co-founded a startup with one of my close friends - except he had relocated to Shanghai and I in Virginia living with my parents to save on rent.

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.

Good times!

That's how I also started. After too many unshowered days eating cereal, I decided I needed to get an office :)

This is a pretty clear take on the cofounder debate. Key quote:

"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.

I am curious to know how you cultivated sense of urgency among employees after this conversation? Did you start sharing more about competition and/or other information? Did you share it directly or massaged the message so the employees don't get discouraged? Or was "we don't want to be discouraging" an assumption?

The single best thing we did in this regard was to have a weekly communication meeting, like Google's Friday all hands. Our CFO came from Google and clued us in.

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.

You've nailed it!

I should have been clearer in my post and maybe titled the post "Not having co-founders sucks".

I haven't got a cofounder (I do as much as I can myself and I outsource the rest), mainly because I haven't found the right person/people yet.

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.)

aha! Coworking mostly fails to ease my anxiety about working alone managing people remotely and i've never quite understood why. So it's not a lack of any human interaction, but rather lack of shared peer interaction, that is so frustrating. That rings true to me.

I have found responsibility to be one of the greatest motivators, both for me personally and for employees. Making a person feel directly responsible for the task they are given engages them more and pushes them to excel at what they are doing - I'm tempted to say, because it sparks a sense of ownership.

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.

Title should be "Working alone sucks for some people".

I've been working from home for years and love it, for instance.

I truly believe 'alone' is more a state of mind than anything else.

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.

“Our language (...) has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.”

-- Paul Tillich

This fits with a life lesson I've been internalizing for the last couple years:

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.

>If you in the middle between introverted and extroverted, working alone may work if other parts of your life have personal interaction.

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.

Specifically since this person mentions that he's "active, extraverted [sic] and social." Which is not to say that such people will always hate working alone, or that people who enjoy it can't be those things, but it seems from his description that working alone is something he probably should have avoided or, now that that's impossible, do something to change.

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.

Not to nitpick on a trivial point but extrAverted is an accepted spelling alternative to extrOverted. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraversion_and_introversion

+1 for co-working. I occasionally work from a co-location workspace or a coffeeshop with local friends and hackers and it satisfies my need for human interaction without being too distracting.

There is a difference between general human interaction and specifically having a peer working with with you on a common goal.

Which is actually a good argument for coworking spaces, regardless of which you're looking for, as they tend to attract both a variety of people/businesses and people like the author who are just looking to be around other humans. Of course, depending on your priority, it'd be ideal to check out whatever's in your area and see if there are such spaces that would cater well to your particular inclinations.

It's definitely nice being able to work with intelligent people to solve a problem, you learn a lot (and sometimes you feel like others are learning, which is rewarding in itself). Working with uninspiring people can be pretty distracting and counterproductive. I was fortunate to co-work with a few people having similar goals and work attitudes in the past; in short people i could become friends with. Does this happen in generic co-working spaces?

You are definitely not alone. Being as "loneliness" in my business was a personal pain point for me as well as for my co-founder, we decided to create VocalTap to help connect business owners/entrepreneurs together in a private, meaningful way.

It certainly helps to have others support your business or at least empathize with your struggles.

I pair program with a couple other devs on a Google Hangout all the time and it literally is no different than being in the same room together. In fact, it's often much better because we can easily switch between presenters.

does pair programming with google hangout really work? i cant find a way to make the video stream fullscreen which isnt ideal for viewing code imo.

Yeah, it works quiet well actually. You just make the window size bigger and the video scales to fit it. I never have any buffering issues and it's always clear enough to read the other dev's code without them having to increase their font size. The best part, as I said above, is being able to easily switch between presenters.

Sure, but all blog posts titles should have "…for some people" then. And all opinions should be concluded by "it depends".

Well... maybe not all of them... it depends.

I've been working from home for five years now. It has its perks but I do miss some things about working in an office.

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.

Same here! And I'm an outgoing person with more friends than most at my age and happily get along with most people socially.

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.

I think it's not about working alone. He obviously likes working alone, what he doesn't like is that lack of team work. As in his previous jobs, he had team interactions. His current job doesn't offer that same peer-level of interactions and that's what sucks. You may be working from home and loving because you may have interactions with peers at your same level but he doesn't have that. And the board, which should be close to that, doesn't offer the interaction and challenges he desires.

I had this same problem recently. I thought co-working would fix it, but it didn't. Like you, the problem was deeper; I missed shared goals, successes, and even failures.

How did I fix it? I quit. 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 :)

Nice. Good luck!

+1 Yes, this is exactly it. You've articulated this point better than I have. Thanks.

But, based on the upvotes of the post, the OP seems to ring true for a significant number of people here.

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

Pure genius

I would love to have his "problem". I'm envious of those who get to work from home full-time.

Same here. I love working alone because I can hack away for hours undisturbed.

I have experienced feelings similar to these in the past as a freelancer working from home. My advice is to join a local coworking group where freelancers come together to share office space. I have found the social atmosphere helps everyone get more enthusiastic about their work and allows for easy collaboration between designers, developers, marketers and businesspeople.

Good point. I have also successfully experimented with this in the past.

Agreed, not only that but you will learn techniques from other people to constantly improve as a professional and as a person.

You will also be helping new comers and that will make you feel deep satisfaction.

The update on the bottom of this post really hits home: "it is the lack of peer-level teamwork towards a common goal that I lack". That made me shudder.

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.

Definitely join a Co-working space. They are designed for this.

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.

I am not yet 100% comfortable giving up our office. But we have some extra desks and we are located in a very nice part of town. I think offering these to interesting local entrepreneurs might achieve a similar goal.

If you are en entrepreneur interesting in a space in Old Montreal, leave your contact info here and I'll contact you.

That could work great. I know a local co-working space here in Boston does an office-space trade as well. Maybe get in touch with one in Montreal and see if their members have any interest or if they offer a similar service.

Many many years ago, I tried to do solo musician as a career - I write, practice, and perform the music - and in addition to the crushing poverty, the solitude was really hard. When I ended up working for a software company, I remember telling people, "Gosh I wish there was a Lotus Development for guitarist-composers." (I'm dating myself...) In addition to the lack of social contact, there's the lack of externally provided structure - schedule, resources, breaks, milestones. I just think it's hard to be a one-person anything.

If you work at home alone and you need human interaction, get a dog. It will force you to get outside and interact with humans.

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.

I have been in a similar situation and also read a bit of psychology and the inescapable conclusion that I have come to is that this is exactly why you need a cofounder.

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 have never had a real life developer friend or someone to talk to.

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 :)

If you're close to the Portsmouth area check out: http://alphaloft.com. They have regular talks and meet ups.

You could always head over to Boston there's a ton of web development stuff happening there and regular meet ups.

Wow alpha loft is an amazing resource, thanks!

I am currently writing a paper relating to this topic. (Nothing special, just part of a university course)

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!

Except for the lack of distractions, I don't like it. Same with working with people, in reverse.

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.

This post hit close to home for me. I have had very similar work experiences as the OP (having done both a startup with two co-founders and management consulting), and found that the biggest factor is whether you are introverted or extroverted. He notes that he's extroverted, which is likely why he hates this method of work.

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.

>Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am (hyper?)active, extraverted and social. Sitting in front of the computer alone all day is as sub-optimal as it gets for my character

A more appropriate title would have been "Working alone sucks for me"

I love working alone. Politics are non-existent or scarce.

One word: coworking! As a freelance developer I struggled with this for a while (getting depressed working at home, and getting tired of reduced productivity at cafes) until I joined a good coworking space. I realized that while working alone wears me down, I wouldn't trade working for myself for anything, and being around a group of people who feel the same way is awesome.

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.

I've been working at home and travelling the world for over 5 years with our whole team completely distributed, managing over 30 people remotely for all of this time. I've seen it doesn't work for some people. If the person doesn't have a partner, is a bit too introverted, they can get into an anti-social pattern and not communicate enough, not get out of the house.

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.

Working alone sucks(if you are extroverted).

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'm definitely introverted, but sometimes I do find it helpful to be around other people while working. Which is why I'm starting a coworking space in my hometown.

Have you found any pitfalls trying to start a co-working space where there's a lack of an existing community? Did you do much research?

This remains to be seen. I just signed the lease on Monday for the space and we are doing cleaning and some minimal construction right now.

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 have been working from home for almost four years now. I don't consider my self an overly social person, but it's beginning to take a toll on me.

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.

Sounds like a strikingly similar situation to mine: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4905386

I'd like to consider this through the lens of motivation.

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.

These are exactly my feelings in last one year after i left my job and working solo from 2+ years now. While i love the work & freedom and comfort as i am a natural loner/introvert, sometimes it sucks real bad. And unfortunately, we don't have much of work at cafe & co-working culture here.

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.

How I wish, how I wish you were here...

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.

Interesting. My experience is almost the opposite of this. CEO of a small distributed team with 10 people, I spend half of my day on Skype talking with the team.

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.

I believe it depends on the personality of person. I like to work in an environment where I am able to do my work alone, in isolation, have full control over process and schedule, and interact with others only when necessary. It's not that I hate interacting with people. I like to socialize but not when I am working.

Isolation doesn't matter if you're absorbed in your work since your work is your world. If work stagnates (a project, a startup or a job) that's when it's felt.

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 love the fact that a developer can work anywhere, while working on client projects thats totally fine and cool. But when you're doing 'cool stuff' or your own ideas. I found that working with someone else is another world. The energy that flows back and forth is incomparable.

I don't have much experience at this level (CEO), but I've always had the impression that this is partly why CEOs join the boards of other companies/organizations (including non-profits), to find camaraderie with peers, give back some of their perspective/experience, etc.

> I should emphasize that it is not physically being alone (i.e., not enough contact with other people) that bothers me, it is the lack of peer-level teamwork towards a common goal that I lack.

I wonder if Roger Federer feels that way?

I don't work alone; I work in blissful solitude. Alone is a word for extroverts.

I guess many indie developers and freelancers with an office-work history have the same issue. If you have the time, an appropriate option might be to go back to school or do some postgrad studies.

I worked alone (from home) for 4 years. Left a very high paying job mostly for that reason. I thought if it continued I'd kill myself.

Now I am working on my startup with other smart people and man, I love it.

I think totally the opposite. Working in group most of the time degenerates into procrastination. Also I find a lot harder to concentrate into problem solving when someone is talking to me.

Tell that to Philip K. Dick, J. D. Salinger, Ken Kesey, Orhan Pamuk, Albert Camus, George Orwell, to name a few..)

Seems from the comments that coding is an activity particularly well suited to working alone.

Thanks for sharing this. You are definitely (ahem) not alone.

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.

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