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on 4 October 2013
This is a great book not just because it may define a bold new future, it may but I am neither Omniscient nor brave enough to predict it, but because it demonstrates in a real world example how hard it is to do the virtual/distributed company. There are some very interesting things to take away from it. Culture is the heart of it and Automattic is the creation very much of it's founder and a manifestation of his personality/philosophies. The author is pulled in because it's not working and they need to change, the hardest thing for any founder is to admit your beautifully crafted baby is turning into an ugly duckling, so it's an experiment. You are left wondering whether or not the experiment is successful which given the nature and scope probably rings truer. In business there is no scorecard but prolonged survival and Automattic has gone on to continue to dominate it's chosen space. The early part and middle part of the book are the best with the last 1/3 flagging because the resolution is uncertain. Scott Berkun writes easily and from a first person perspective and it reveals a lot about the extent of the experiment and the level of uncertainty around it. As a founder of a company though I can't recommend this highly enough because it's not the destination but the journey that's really interesting. I have taken away several ideas that I will be experimenting with. Don't buy this if you are expecting a recipe but if you want a roadmap it will help on the journey.
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VINE VOICEon 27 March 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Up front - I'm a huge fan of Scott's, both of his blogs and his other books. I've read them all, and really like his writing style - it's friendly and accessible and draws you along.

I was keen therefore to see what he made of his year working for Automattic, the guys who bring you WordPress, one of the most popular blogging platforms on the market. As with his other books, Scott slides right into the story and you get a real sense of following him on his adventure into the world of remote working. It's a great personal account of his time there, and a fascinating read.

Could your workplace handle working the same way as WordPress do? Have a read of The Year Without Pants and find out!
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on 25 February 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As a Wordpress user of quite a few years standing I found this book fascinating and informative. Berkun writes with a verve and his un-suppressible enthusiasm for pushing the IT envelope at every opportunity is infectious. It's main success for me though, was the putting of an individual human voice behind Wordpress.com, and a very enriching one it is too.
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VINE VOICEon 23 January 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The option to work at a desk anywhere in the world whenever you like seems a utopian ideal but for many folk in the technology industry its now a reality. Offering his viewpoint on the pros and cons of an office free working lifestyle, the author offers a window into the working reality for your next job. Sign me up!
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VINE VOICEon 7 January 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Scott Burkin has published some previous business bestsellers - with a difference - and has acquired a galactic series of successful authors to endorse his book. Of course, there is a merry-go-round amongst authors applauding each other's work so perhaps take that with a pinch of salt, but this is a book that is nevertheless unusual amongst business books and probably more interesting to the vast range of people beyond the normal corporate world (people who are interested in WordPress, the Internet and new ways of working).

The concept is that he joins WordPress as the first team leader in the long ago days of 2010. It's probably quite shocking to realise how young WordPress is given that it supports over 60 million websites. At this time of joining the company was just shy of 60 people - the magical number when pioneering organisations need to start finding some structure (although he doesn't tell us that) and he was there to pilot and thereby develop a culture of team leadership at WordPress - or Automattic (which embeds the founders name, Matt, within it). Mainly he just tells the story of what it was like joining the company, how he felt about it, what he did, what he found, and he writes in a very agreeable, open, honest way. If you wanted to summarise what he learnt you could probably do it in three pages but that summary would lose all the juice which emerges in the descriptions of what goes on - the stories.

He is also agreeably self-deprecating - he tells us about his past successes and is not shy about his achievements or what he knows but equally he is not shy to tell us about his anxieties and uncertainties. Since his background includes working as a leader in Microsoft he can compare life in the software corporate giant with this world changing tiny organisation, with a company where all the software is proprietary to one where all the software's copyleft (i.e. it is not copyright).

I'm convinced that the world needs to find new ways of working - organisations are generally structured on models that go back to ancient Egypt. We need to develop new cybernetic ways of working - that's a fancy technical word for a powerful science that gives back control, wholeness, integrity and humanity to organisation, as well as describing how nature works in the wild. Scott gives us a lot of insights, shows us lots of excellent things that will be part of the future of work (the title of a chapter that appears three times), including less distinction between work and play and the way the most important things are the hardest to capture in numbers. He rightly emphasises culture and the way it is formed and most readers will learn from this close observation and actually I wish he had a bit more science to translate the anecdotal good stuff. Otherwise the danger is that people just try to copy without understanding the underlying principles, and Scott himself rightly emphasises that the beginning of this just doesn't work. That is why I give this extremely readable and interesting book only a four score.
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on 20 November 2013
Berkun weaves an interesting story that sometimes reads as a lengthened Fast Company article, sometimes as a personal diary and sometimes as business strategy book making it very engaging.

When I first picked up the book I expected it to be more of an instruction manual around distributed working than it actually was. Berkun does discuss some of these at a practical level but Berkun is clever in leveraging the opportunity given to very few people. Berkun was given unprecedented access to the company and he didn't squander it.

Some of the greatest insights in the book come not from the innovative, groundbreaking management techniques deployed at Wordpress but rather Berkun's insightful observations of human psychology and the interaction of people in work.

Whether you are interested in 'The Future of Work' or distributed working, if you are interested in taking a personal look under the hood of an interesting company that is changing the status quo then this is a great book.

One other side effect of the book is that it will probably open non-technical (and by this I mean programmers) readers eyes to just how much work goes into making seemingly small changes to such a complicated platform.

If I have one criticism, it is that Berkun doesn't directly tie up the questions that are asked at the start of the book around the impact of leaders in a chaordic creative environment. I would also like to see what the opinion of the leadership team of the experiment and what the lasting changes at the company were, I guess that time will tell.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 4 February 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This an entertaining, informative reflection on working for a modern, innovative company. It's a book that I would highly recommend managers, employees, and anyone interested in management or the future of work.

Unlike many books of this category, this successfully combines management ideas with the author's actual experiences. Management writer and Microsoft veteran, Scott Berkun describes working for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com. He reflects on this as he considers ideas and opportunities that seem staple for today's management books.

It's a down-to-earth book. Berkin is too honest to promise quick fixes without considering the company culture: "Every year new trends in work become popular in spite of their futility for most organisations that try them. These trends are often touted as revolutions and frequently identified with a high-profile company of the day... Rarely do the consultants championing, and profiting from, these ideas disclose how superficial the results will be unless they are placed in a culture healthy enough to support them."

A very good book.
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on 10 January 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
When I was first looking at this book I was confused as to what precisely it was. Was it a practical how to manage book for a specialist audience? Or was it a general entertainment book about someone doing an interesting job in an interesting industry? From what I was reading about it online I couldn't get a clear answer.

It turned out to be a bit of both with neither side dominating.

I doubt you will learn anything all that useful but then it's still a good look into unusual working practices. For me I was way more interested in the second type of entertainment book. On that level it was okay. Though if you want to read about software working in Silicon Valley I would recommend I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 by Douglas Edwards over this.

The job he did wasn't particularly exciting and the working culture was of only so much interest, but it was a decent book in that it is entertaining and well worth reading.

Overall I think it was neither good or bad. It was okay. It was perhaps a little on the slight side.
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on 16 January 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'd heard a lot of buzz about this book from Scott Berkun before it was released, though I hadn't read anything by him before. As I have spent more and more time working remotely (either at home or from locations other than my formal place of work) I thought this might provide some insight into the changing trends that modern office workers are facing. This isn't a 'dummies guide' kind of book, though the author's style is light enough that anyone can pick this up and dip into it. Focussing on his experience with Wordpress is interesting, as a company extends its reach across thousands of website online, but it's surprising to think about its relatively humble beginnings and the sheer speed with which it has risen to its position today. The book is more about the importance of personality and the way relationships factor into workplace practices, rather than systems and processes that an individual can implement. An interesting read, though possible one that raises as many questions as answers.
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on 7 October 2013
I have enjoyed just about everything Scott Berkun has written. The Year Without Pants is one of his best. It is a great read on how to work within remote teams. It is also a very good book on how to manage teams (in person or remotely).

The best thing is that it is a book on management without being a book on management.
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