Telecommuting From Maui

productivityMay 06, 2013Dotby Justin Gordon

I've been working remotely from Maui full time since 2007. My home office is optimized for productivity.


Some Famous Authors on Telecommuting

Jeff Attwood (who started Stack Overflow) has a great article on this topic, On Working Remotely:

The reason remote development worked for us, in retrospect, wasn't just shared love of code. I picked developers who I knew – I had incontrovertible proof – were amazing programmers. I'm not saying they're perfect, far from it, merely that they were top programmers by any metric you'd care to measure. That's why they were able to work remotely. Newbie programmers, or competent programmers who are phoning it in, are absolutely not going to have the moxie necessary to get things done remotely – at least, not without a pointy haired manager, or grumpy old team lead, breathing down their neck. Don't even think about working remotely with anyone who doesn't freakin' bleed ones and zeros, and has a proven track record of getting things done.

Jason Freid and David Heinemeier Hansson (aka DHH) have an upcoming book on the topic: Remote: Office Not Required. These are the guys that wrote Rework. Here's a quote from that book:

It's crazy not to hire the best people just because they live far away. Especially now that there's so much technology out there making it easier to bring everyone together online.

Also, meet in person once in a while. You should see each other at least every few months. We make sure our whole team gets together a few times a year. These are great times to review progress, discuss what's going right or wrong, plan for the future, and get reacquainted with one another on a personal level.

The Ruby Rogues recently commented on telecommuting on episode: 108 RR Ruby Trends, at 33:26, or scroll down for the transcript. Here's a snippet, although I prefer listening to the podcast (at 1.5x speed on my iPhone).

KATRINA: Thoughtbot also had a no-remote-work policy. And then, they lost too many people. And then, when one of their other best guys was going to move to Sweden, I think, he was like, “Okay. I’m quitting because I’m moving to Sweden.” And they were like, “Maybe we should rethink this.” [Chuckles]

Productivity Features of My Home Office

  • FAST Internet. I've got 35/7 cable plus 7/1 DSL on a ZyXEL load balancing router on a UPS. Even if the power goes out, it's likely I can still work at nearly 100% with the network still running. And one person's upload of a movie to youtube has no perceptible affect on the network. Previously, with only DSL, one person's upload of a movie would bring the network to a crawl.
  • FAST computers with many large monitors
  • A/C, not only to control the temperature (which can be important in Hawaii), but also to block out any noise, such as when the gardeners come to mow.
  • A nice sound system. Depending on my mood, I may prefer listening to Mozart, Moby, or the Rolling Stones on Pandora when coding.
  • Ergonomics: keyboard tray, Kinesis keyboard, really good chair, wireless mouse
  • Microphone, pro-quality: Blue Yeti.
  • Multiple phone lines
  • Caffeine: Nespresso coffee maker and Breville Tea Maker. I use both of these every single day. The tea maker can turn you into a tea lover of green tea, even if you didn't care much for bagged green tea.


  • When teleconferencing using the Yeti Mic, it's best to use the only a speaker from the computer or monitor that is behind the mic. If you have speakers around your office, and you use those, then you'll get an echo effect on the microphone, which can be configured to only take sound from the front.

If you've got any tips I missed, let me know!

Closing Remark

Could your team use some help with topics like this and others covered by ShakaCode's blog and open source? We specialize in optimizing Rails applications, especially those with advanced JavaScript frontends, like React. We can also help you optimize your CI processes with lower costs and faster, more reliable tests. Scraping web data and lowering infrastructure costs are two other areas of specialization. Feel free to reach out to ShakaCode's CEO, Justin Gordon, at [email protected] or schedule an appointment to discuss how ShakaCode can help your project!
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