Staying Close To Teleworkers Around the World

October 14, 2010

Chapter 5 – CodeSourcery: An Open Team In Action

The CodeSourcery team uses three main tools to stay close with each other: IRC, telephone, and email.


They depend heavily on IRC. Developers at CodeSourcery will typically remain logged into IRC for the entire workday. Most of the time developers minimize the IRC window and wait for the program to alert them when someone types a special keyword like their name or the name of the module they are working on. They will also check in with what the rest of the team has been saying periodically.

Catherine Moore:

“Lots of times I don’t pay attention to [IRC] because it can be very distracting. Usually I just join in when I need help or something catches my eye that I could help with.”

The CodeSourcery team often communicates sensitive information over IRC. They protect their privacy and the security of their customers by using an internal IRC server.


IRC is an important part of the CodeSourcery communication, but it doesn’t work well for high-bandwidth communication between two or three people. The team switches from IRC to telephone when they need a more in-depth discussion. Every employee gets easy access to an international conference calling service and picking up the phone is encouraged.

In addition to ad hoc calls the team uses a weekly conference call to share status. This is the chance to hear updates about the overall team and each project. It also gives Mark the chance to make company announcements.


CodeSourcery uses mailing lists to discuss issues, perform code reviews, and share information. They have mailing lists for specific projects as well as mailing lists for the entire company. Email is a part of their communication, but they use it for specific issues and status rather than open-ended conversations.

CodeSourcery also maintains an internal wiki server, but they use email for the bulk of their written communication. Email also provides a good way for a team member to raise issues after hours.

Personal Availability

CodeSourcery is based around a culture of personal availability. Every team member is responsible for being easy to contact. Mark makes it very clear: any person who “went dark” for a long period of time would have their career prospects “severely limited.” All employees are strongly encouraged to send emails about their availability and log vacation time in a shared calendar.

Another aspect of personal availability is adjusting working hours to fit into different time zones. Many of the California-based employees work earlier in the day while employees in England work later into the evening. The one Moscow based employee changed his hours to work with the team in England. This work schedule is informal, but the goal is to get a few hours of overlap every day.

Previous post:

Next post: