The Year Without Pants: WordPress.Com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun

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The Year Without Pants: WordPress.Com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun

Category: Business and Finance
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A very readable look at remote working and at WordPress. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: November 2013
Publisher: Jossey Bass
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1118660638

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Sometimes you find a book which you simply can't not read. The Year Without Pants was one of them. It's not what you're thinking (money's not that tight) - but the story of what happens when an old-school management guru goes back to the coal face to lead a team which had not had a leader before - to be accurate they'd not had teams - in a revolutionary company which takes remote working to the extreme. Members of Scott Berkun's team lived all over the world and worked for a company which had largely gone beyond email, had headquarters which were rarely used and had no rules. So, why did I have to read the book? Well, the company in question is Automattic which brings us WordPress, the open source software which powers fifty million websites. I run a website which uses open-source software - and I've been in business for the last seven and a half years with someone to whom I've never even spoken.

Automattic is run by Matt Mullenweg - charismatic, clever, relaxed and very young looking to those of us who suspect that people running major companies should at least look old enough to be allowed out on their own. His focus is on creativity rather than conformity and his 'no rules' rule does seem to be the only one. There are no set hours or vacation times and a very relaxed attitude about what people actually do. The secret to this is in the people the company hires - usually by trial - and they generally turn out to be the ones who would be doing the work for fun anyway. I've long argued that you should forget about qualifications unless they're absolutely necessary and look for people with passion and commitment when you're hiring. It needs to be done right from the beginning too - as the people who are there will determine the people who will come there.

There were regular meetings in alternating exoctic/practical locations, primarily, it seemed, for the purpose of team bonding as photographs suggest that much of the time was spent in front of their individual laptops. The company was also generous in terms of support for workers in remote locations. Throughout the book there's not a single story of a major disagreement. (Blimey!) I loved the attitude to work - from employer and employees - but I'll admit that I was gritting my teeth on many an occasion as Berkun told the story of his time at the company - from 2010 to 2012.

The reason for this is simple. When we started Bookbag we did it to see if we could do it and it was a simple html site with static pages. Its success took us by surprise and when we reached the stage of needing a database we looked around to see what the alternatives were and settled on Media Wiki (I know - we've a stable history of using the wrong tools to do the job) and it's worked for us for many years. Earlier this year the time came for us to move from a shared server - like teenagers we needed our own space - and our tech guy suggested that a redesign might be in order, along with a move to WordPress. I'll confess that I reacted strongly - not to a redesign, but to WordPress. For years I'd listened to people who were in our line of business and I heard tales of woe about how difficult WordPress was, how limiting the software proved to be - and they said how lucky Bookbag was.

Reading what Berkun has to say the reason is obvious. In layman's terms the software is a conglomeration of individual engineers' work with little consideration given to how it works or looks when it's all put together - or what the user experience is like. Allowing creativity to flourish, making work enjoyable are brilliant but the company lacked the focus on the user's needs which should have been at its heart and this would have required a holistic approach to the software, which was sadly lacking.

It's a fascinating approach to work and the book is an extremely easy read - I finished it in two sittings - and it has all the page-turning power of a good story. I'm still far from convinced about WordPress though.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For more thinking about hiring staff - or looking for a job - we can recommend Put Your Mindset to Work: The One Asset You Really Need to Win and Keep the Job You Love by James Reed and Paul G Stoltz.

Buy The Year Without Pants: WordPress.Com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun at Amazon You could get a free audio download of The Year Without Pants: WordPress.Com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Year Without Pants: WordPress.Com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Year Without Pants: WordPress.Com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Year Without Pants: WordPress.Com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Year Without Pants: WordPress.Com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun at Amazon.com.


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