“Distributed” ER#15 now available!

I’m excited and a little stunned to say that this update includes the last incomplete chapter! I’ve now written the complete book??!?

To get a free copy of this latest version of the book, just signup on my zero-spam, low-volume mailing list here: oduinn.com/book.

This marks the start of the next phase for this book-writing project – working with editors to cleanup any typos and errors in the text, finding illustrators to replace the screenshots, and going through a long list of “remember to fix…” todo items. The three big items on the list are 1) to start blogging and outreach work to get the word out about this book. 2) update a few remaining chapters to the same consistent structure/format and 3) figure out how to generate PDF and epub versions. Yes this update is still only available in kindle/mobi format, so for now, to read this latest update on your laptop or iphone, you’ll need the Kindle app.

I’ve honestly no idea how much work or time this will take, although I am all-too-aware of the 20/80 rule about “the last 20% takes 80% of the time”. The optimist in me believes that all the great feedback I’ve received so far on all the previous updates will help. A lot. I guess we’ll find out soon enough!

As always, if you have any comments, ideas, concerns, etc., please don’t be shy to contact me. I love the contact and feedback so far, and would like to hear what you think. I again note how great the ongoing moral support and encouragement and excitement from each of you has been through all this. It literally keeps me going. Thank you. Each and every one of you.


“Distributed” ER#14 now available!

I’m excited to write that update#14 is now available – still in time for those of you looking for some quiet reading over the holidays!

This latest update includes yet another chapter – “Culture, Conflict and Trust” – one of the last two chapters that were left to write. Now, there is only one more chapter to go! I’ve also finished converting my manuscript to the new publishing format, so now all remaining weird SGML syntax errors should be fixed and all links to footnotes, links between chapters, etc, now working.

As I mentioned before, I’ve formally switched publishers and revised the release date to Jan2018. This change means that if you bought any of the previous versions of my book, you will not get automatically updated to this new update#14. To get a free copy of this latest version of the book, signup to my zero-spam, low-volume mailing list on oduinn.com/book.

As always, if you have any comments, ideas, concerns, etc., please don’t be shy to contact me. I love the contact and feedback so far, and would like to hear what you think. Meanwhile, its time for me to take a walk outside in the fresh air, brew more coffee and get back to writing!

I again note how great the ongoing moral support and encouragement and excitement from each of you has been through all this. It literally keeps me going. Thank you. Each and every one of you.


“Distributed” ER#13 now available!

There’s been a lot of significant changes since my last post – in life, in work and in book – without me having any time to blog/post about them. More on all those in other posts. For now, in this post, I want to focus on just one thing.

My book.

Since my last post, I’ve quietly kept working on my book-in-progress and now have another update ready. This latest update (update#13) is exciting to me, because it includes the freshly written SingleSourceOfTruth chapter. This topic is crucial to the practical logistics for distributed teams, so it feels like a real milestone to finally include this. It is also one of the last three chapters left to write, which is encouraging. This update also includes continued restructuring of other existing chapters so they all have a consistent structure. At this point, Chapters 1-8 feel “consistent”. Oh, and of course, there’s a bunch of typo-fixes, cleanups and general refining.

Between my last post (update#8) and now (update#13), I’ve formally switched publishers and revised the release date to Jan2018. This means that if you bought any of the previous versions of my book, you will not get automatically updated to this new update#13. So, if you *did* buy an earlier version of my book, please contact me, and let me know. I’ll immediately send you a free copy of this latest update#13 and all future updates including the finished book when its done. My way of saying “thank you” for your support from the outset!

Speaking of support – when I started writing, I heard from many people that “writing a book was hard”. The exact definition of exactly *how* hard was not clear, but I’m starting to get a better grasp now. Even as I suspect there are yet more surprises lurking ahead. I say all this to show how important it has been to me to have the ongoing moral support and encouragement and excitement from each of you through all this. It literally keeps me going.

Thank you. Each and every one of you.


“We are ALL Remoties” (Nov2017 edition)

Since my last post on “remoties”, I’ve done several more presentations and workshops – but havent had a minute to blog about any of them! I’ll fix that soon. But first, some readers discovered links to previous presentations were broken (thank you for catching that!). Without further ado, here is the latest version of this presentation – including yet another major restructuring.

Without further ado – you can get the latest version of these slides, in handout PDF format, by clicking on the thumbnail image.

As always, if you have any questions, suggestions or good/bad stories about working remotely or as part of a geo-distributed teams, please let me know (either by email or in the comments below) – I’d love to hear them.


Now Home

It’s been almost a year since I last had time to blog here.

The work I did at U.S. Digital Service was intense, high stress, all-consuming, incredibly meaningful work – and worth every minute of the bizarre bi-coastal commuter-life I lived. It also meant my ability to blog here was practically zero. More on all of this in upcoming posts.

I returned to SanFrancisco late night on 18jan2017 but it took a few days before I realized I could actually put away my well-worn carry-on bag. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time recharging (some say hibernating?!), decompressing, reconnecting with friends as well as generally figuring out next steps in work and in life. For now, I’ll just say – it is both surreal and great to be back home, with no immediate plans to get on another plane anytime soon. This long weekend included a hill walk in the fresh air, catching up with some friends and watching Karl-the-Fog.

How great is that?


“Distributed” ER#8 now available!

“Distributed” Early Release #8 is now publicly available, about Book Cover for Distributed6 weeks after the last EarlyRelease came out.

This ER#8 includes a significant reworking and trimming of both Chapter 1 (“The Real Cost of an Office”) and also Chapter 5 (“Organizational Pitfalls to Avoid”). I know that might not sound glamorous but it was a lot of slow, careful, detailed work which I believe makes these chapters better and also helps with the structure of the overall book.

You can buy ER#8 by clicking here, or clicking on the thumbnail of the book cover. Anyone who already bought any of the previous ERs should have already been prompted with a free update to ER#8 – if you didn’t get updated, please let me know so I can investigate! And yes, you’ll get updated when ER#9 comes out.

Thanks again to everyone for their ongoing encouragement and feedback so far. Each piece of great feedback makes me wonder how I missed such obvious errors before and also makes me happy, as each fix helps make this book better. Keep letting me know what you think! It’s important this book be interesting, readable and practical – so if you have any comments, concerns, etc., please email me. Yes, I will read and reply to each email personally! To make sure that any feedback doesn’t get lost or caught in spam filters, please email comments to feedback at oduinn dot com. I track all feedback and review/edit/merge as fast as I can.

Thank you to everyone who has already sent me feedback/opinions/corrections – all really helpful.

ps: For the curious, here is the current list of chapters and their status:

Chapter 1 The Real Cost of an Office – AVAILABLE
Chapter 2 Distributed Teams Are Not New – AVAILABLE
Chapter 3 Disaster Planning – AVAILABLE
Chapter 4 Diversity
Chapter 5 Organizational Pitfalls to Avoid – AVAILABLE
Chapter 6 Physical Setup – AVAILABLE
Chapter 7 Video Etiquette – AVAILABLE
Chapter 8 Own Your Calendar – AVAILABLE
Chapter 9 Meetings – AVAILABLE
Chapter 10 Meeting Moderator – AVAILABLE
Chapter 11 Single Source of Truth
Chapter 12 Email Etiquette – AVAILABLE
Chapter 13 Group Chat Etiquette – AVAILABLE
Chapter 14 Culture, Conflict and Trust
Chapter 15 One-on-Ones and Reviews – AVAILABLE
Chapter 16 Hiring, Onboarding, Firing, Reorgs,
Layoffs and other Departures – AVAILABLE
Chapter 17 Bring Humans Together – AVAILABLE
Chapter 18 Career Path – AVAILABLE
Chapter 19 Feed Your Soul – AVAILABLE
Chapter 20 Final Chapter
Appendix A The Bathroom Mirror Test – AVAILABLE
Appendix B How NOT to Work – AVAILABLE
Appendix C Further Reading – AVAILABLE

“Distributed” at trad.works

A couple of weeks ago, I had the great pleasure to speak at the TRaD.works conference, here in Washington, DC. This featured a great mix of industry leaders and change agents from startups to multinationals to government agencies to non-profits… across all sorts of industries. All swapping tips-and-tricks on what did/didnt work for their organizations as they transitioned into more distributed organizations… warts-and-all… and doing this in very down-to-earth, approachable way. The trust, respect and tone between everyone here was great, and helped make the entire conference special. It was exciting to see the enthusiasm for all things Telework-Remote-And-Distributed across this wide range of organizations and industries.

I was on a panel discussion about supporting managers of distributed teams – a topic that is obviously near and dear to my heart! I enjoyed the lively interactions between Amy Freshman (ADP), Jeanne Meister (Forbes and FutureWorkPlace), Nicole McCabe (SAP), myself and the entire audience. The lively discussions continued long afterwards, first in corridors and coffee breaks then after in emails and video calls. Excellent, excellent stuff.

Big thanks to Sara Sutton Fell at FlexJobs for making this happen, and to Mike Gutman for handling a million-and-one details with calm grace and humor. Well done. Very well done.

Highlights of some press coverage so far:


Joining the U.S. Digital Service

I’ve never worked in government before – or even considered it until I read Dan Portillo’s blog post when he joined the U.S. Digital Service. Mixing the technical skills and business tactics honed in Silicon Valley with the domain specific skills of career government employees is a brilliant way to solve long-standing complex problems in the internal mechanics of government infrastructure. Since their initial work on healthcare.gov, they’ve helped out at the Veterans Administration, Dept of Education and IRS to mention just a few public examples. Each of these solutions have material impact to real humans, every single day.

Building Release Engineering infrastructure at scale, in all sorts of different environments, has always been interesting to me. The more unique the situation, the more interesting. The possibility of doing this work, at scale, while also making a difference to the lives of many real people made me stop, ask a bunch of questions and then apply.

The interviews were the most thorough and detailed of my career so far, and the consequence of this is clear once I started working with other USDS folks – they are all super smart, great at their specific field, unflappable when suddenly faced with un-imaginable projects and downright nice, friendly people. These are not just “nice to have” attributes – they’re essential for the role and you can instantly see why once you start.

The range of skills needed is staggering. In the few weeks since I started, projects I’ve been involved with have involved some combinations of: Ansible, AWS, Cobol, GitHub, NewRelic, Oracle PL/SQL, nginx, node.js, PowerBuilder, Python, Ruby, REST and SAML. All while setting up fault tolerant and secure hybrid physical-colo-to-AWS production environments. All while meeting with various domain experts to understand the technical and legal constraints behind why things were done in a certain way and also to figure out some practical ideas of how to help in an immediate and sustainable way. All on short timelines – measured in days/weeks instead of years. In any one day, it is not unusual to jump from VPN configurations to legal policy to branch merging to debugging intermittent production alerts to personnel discussions.

Being able to communicate effectively up-and-down the technical stack and also the human stack is tricky, complicated and also very very important to succeed in this role. When you see just how much the new systems improve people’s lives, the rewards are self-evident, invigorating and humbling – kinda like the view walking home from the office – and I find myself jumping back in to fix something else. This is very real “make a difference” stuff and is well worth the intense long days.

Over the coming months, please be patient with me if I contact you looking for help/advice – I may very well be fixing something crucial for you, or someone you know!

If you are curious to find out more about USDS, feel free to ask me. There is a lot of work to do (before starting, I was advised to get sleep!) and yes, we are hiring (for details, see here!). I suspect you’ll find it is the hardest, most rewarding job you’ve ever had!


RelEng Conf 2016: Call for papers

(Suddenly, its June! How did that happen? Where did the year go already?!? Despite my recent public silence, there’s been a lot of work going on behind the scenes. Let me catchup on some overdue blogposts – starting with RelEngConf 2016!)

We’ve got a venue and a date for this conference sorted out, so now its time to start gathering presentations, speakers and figuring out all the other “little details” that go into making a great, memorable, conference. This means two things:

1) RelEngCon 2016 is now accepting proposals for talks/sessions. If you have a good industry-related or academic-focused topic in the area of Release Engineering, please have a look at the Release Engineering conference guidelines, and submit your proposal before the deadline of 01-jul-2016.

2) Like all previous RelEng Conferences, the mixture of attendees and speakers, from academia and battle-hardened industry, makes for some riveting topics and side discussions. Come talk with others of your tribe, swap tips-and-gotchas with others who do understand what you are talking about and enjoy brainstorming with people with very different perspectives.

For further details about the conference, or submitting proposals, see http://releng.polymtl.ca/RELENG2015/html/index.html. If you build software delivery pipelines for your company, or if you work in a software company that has software delivery needs, I recommend you follow @relengcon, block off November 18th, 2016 on your calendar and book your travel to Seattle now. It will be well worth your time.

I’ll be there – and look forward to seeing you there!

HOWTO fix “scanner warmup” error on HP 3330 printer

My trusty HP 3330 printer stopped working recently with a “scanner warmup” error displayed on the display. Prior to that, it literally worked flawlessly for years, so I was reluctant to simply go buy a replacement printer. Once I figured out these steps, repairing the printer took me under 10 minutes, end-to-end, using only very simple low tech tools: a needlenose pliers, a philips screwdriver and a cotton bud.

Here’s the steps I followed:

  • Unplug the printer. Yes, you do have to follow basic safety procedures, even if there will be no exposed electric wires to deal with. You don’t want to accidentally have the motor start moving parts around while you are trying to work on them. Plus you need to make sure the power is completely off at the bulb, so mirrors have cooled off completely before you get to them in later steps.
  • Open the lid. While the lid is as vertical as possible, grip and pull up the two black tabs (in red circles). They should each come up about ~1/2 inch. Once these are both up, you should be able to grab the lid, pull it up and remove. Set aside.
  • Use a Philips screwdriver to remove this one screw.
  • Once the screw is removed, gently lift up at the side where the screw was. As you do, you’ll notice that the opposite side hinges up on the side nearest the main glass plate. After you lift up about an inch or so, you’ll notice you can gently lift/disconnect this small glass panel. Set aside.
  • Notice that you can now reach a narrow rubber belt that is used to move the mirror assembly back and forth under the main glass platter. Use the needlenose pliers to grip the nearside (circled) part of the belt and pull it towards the pulley wheel. Be very gentle here, as this rubber belt is fragile. You’ll only be able to pull it about an inch or so before you run out of space, need to release the pliers grip, reposition the pliers, grip and pull the rubber belt another inch. Each time you do this, you pull the mirror assembly a little bit closer to the opening. Do another pull. And another. And another. Keep repeating until the mirror assembly is fully accessible through the opening.
  • Use the cotton bud to gently clean the full length of each mirror surface. It doesn’t take much effort, and the mirrors are fragile, so be gentle. Simply place the cotton bud at one end of the mirror, and slide along the mirror to the other end. Think of it more like dusting fragile crystal glasses. There are three mirrors in all, and you should do all three while you are at this.
  • Now that you are done, you need to reassemble everything. There is no need to use the pliers on the belt to move the mirrors back to the original starting position, the mirror will automatically go to the right “home” position once the printer is turned back on. Simple replace the glass plate, screw it back down and re-attach the lid.
  • Power the printer back on, and hopefully now it works!

ps: here’s a more detailed HP 3330 printer disassembly video for the brave: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqG_nmi3vC4

(Update: Fixed some typos. Also added another article describing the same process, in case that is helpful. joduinn 14oct2017)