Communications and tools
Because most members will be remote it's important to establish a good regiment of communication. The following is what we find to be a satisfactory mix:
- IRC / Instant messaging; used for informal chats and discussing specific issues in real time. Details of the IRC server and channels used can be obtained from the development workgroup coordinator or lead developer(s).
- Forums; used for public interactions and the use of private forums supports the activities of workgroups. Please subscribe to the forum groups that you are responsible for, and try to keep up with all that is posted there. Use the private areas for team discussion.
- Mailing List; used for official discussion of team issues and can be found at the following URL, http://groups.google.be/group/joomla-devel. Remember, this is a public mailing list.
- Mail; nothing to explain here ;-)
- Personal talk; public tools like Skype can be used to do a personal talk to a person. Looking for a nice open-source replacement here.
Of these methods IRC, has proven itself to be one of our strongest and potentially most damaging methods. On the positive side it is great for team building and establishing relationships. One the negative it can be ruled by “he who types fastest” and is subject to hastily typed remarks made in the heat of the moment. In depth group discussions are also potentially dangerous because you will get the “day” shift deciding to do one thing and by the time the “night” shift comes on, they can either make different plans or complain that they weren't consulted.
Use the communication tools in a proper manner, and keep in mind that some of the tools are public… remember the Code of conduct!
Having team members in different time zones is one of the most frustrating and challenging aspects of being involved in a distributed team network. The worse combination is where certain members are separated by close to 12 hours. It is something you need to get used to and deal with. It typically requires you to plan to load the mailing list for questions that you know will be picked up in a few hours time by your team mates in another country.
On the other hand it can be your ally, allowing a project to potentially have support around the clock. Please take care of yourself; it is very easy to be around hour after hour just to get in contact to those that are on the other side of the globe.
Language and cultural barriers
Projects will come up against differences in language and culture in either the user community or in the make up of your teams. There is no escaping it.
When you are reading posts on a forum, submissions to a mailing list or even reading personal mail from another person who is not writing in their native tongue, you need to be sensitive to the fact that their translated dialog may not mean what they are trying to say. Sometimes you can unfairly brand a person as arrogant and rude because they have chosen forceful forms of words and phrases. Keep in mind it is generally not as bad as it sounds.