The (s/Python/Remote/) Paradox

In a recent talk, I said something that upset a lot of people: that you could get smarter programmers to work on a remote project than you could to work on a project which requires physical location.

I didn’t mean by this that office-based programmers are dumb. I meant that remote programmers are smart. It’s a lot of work to learn a new working style. And people don’t learn remote work because it will get them a job; they learn it because they genuinely like to program and participate in open source development.

Which makes them exactly the kind of programmers companies should want to hire. Hence what, for lack of a better name, I’ll call the remote paradox: if a company chooses to write its software using remote development, they’ll be able to hire better programmers, because they’ll attract only those who manage themselves effectively and are familiar with modern development methods. And for programmers the paradox is even more pronounced: the working style to learn, if you want to get a good job, is the working style that people use to build open source software for free.

Only a few companies have been smart enough to realize this so far. But there is a kind of selection going on here too: they’re exactly the companies programmers would most like to work for. Stripe, for example. Although they advertise programming jobs which require you to live in a particular area, they also want remote employees.

(Thanks to Paul Graham for the original version of this blog post.)