Chances are that when you first started with coding, you were working on projects by yourself. While there’s nothing wrong with that, individual developers often find that they can’t scale up their programming efforts very easily, so they naturally gravitate toward larger and larger groups. That’s why so many major tech companies put together giant teams designed to tackle the toughest problems.
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Unfortunately, even the most prepared teams run into other problems that aren’t directly related to coding. Any group that’s significantly large is going to have at least some difficulty collaborating on projects together. Communications start to become an issue, which in turn makes it hard for people to physically write code that makes any sense together.
Though there are plenty of collaboration tools designed to help assuage these concerns, it can be really difficult to pick just one. The continued focus on software integration has helped to ensure that even more tools are in the works. To make things simple, you should just start with the one that everyone in your group feels comfortable working with.
Picking a Single Collaboration Tool
It’s easy to get carried away and start signing up for countless platforms, but you don’t have to feel compelled to. Look for something that either doesn’t offer too many features or allows you to disable any of those that you don’t use. This might sound counterproductive, but you don’t want to be beaten over the head with a bunch of unnecessary features when you’re trying to write some serious code.
Pick out something that you’ll be able to use comfortably, no matter what kind of project you’re taking on. You’ll probably want some kind of basic chatroom functionality along with individual private messages. This, along with the ability to post code snippets and edit documents, is probably all you really need. That being said, you might want to pick out a platform that also features voice chat functionality.
Eventually, you might start to grow your operations later on, which could necessitate a changeover. Instead of dreading this, just embrace it as an inevitability because many collaboration services shut down or change hands over time. This might happen even before you outgrow the one that you’re working with. GitHub itself even switched its codebase over to something other than what it was originally using, so you shouldn’t have any fear in doing so.
Once you’ve picked out a service, make sure that everyone signs up for an account with it and can connect with one another. You’ll only have a few other steps before you start to code.
Working in a Collaborative Environment
As soon as you’ve gotten everyone on the same page, you’ll want to start migrating all of your conversations over to the new platform. Some services, especially those that are focused on elegant simplicity, might include some sort of unified communications module that would enable your crews to do more than just chat and code. The most sophisticated yet simple solutions put collaboration tools and file sharing features together into a package that also includes video conferencing.
While this might sound like it violates the concept of picking the easiest to work with solution, it doesn’t because a single unified platform can do the job of five or six other apps. Regardless of what kind of technology you work with, though, you should constantly post updates about what projects each member is working on. Though it’s a good idea to have a clear division of labor, you don’t want to do anything that makes it a challenge for your team to tackle whatever issues they want.
As the other team members get used to coding in a collaborative environment, you might even want to run things somewhat like skunkworks. This oddly-named concept refers to the idea that engineers work best when they’re given free rein. If someone wants to code some module that doesn’t currently seem like it’s going to be useful, then you might want to simply allow them to do so. It might provide a big breakthrough later on that can help shorten the amount of work everyone else has to do.
Different types of management paradigms might work best for different projects, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Tailoring Your Communications Techniques to Your Project
Writing some open-source hardware driver for a fun project based on a Raspberry Pi sounds like a lot of fun, but this isn’t where the real money is made in the software development industry. You’ll probably need to incorporate some kind of professional management techniques into the way you run your team as a result. There’s a high probability that you’ll instead be working on something commercial.
The eCommerce business market is expected to be worth around $4.8 trillion by the end of this year, which means that you’ll probably have clients that sell products or services online. Before you approach these projects, make sure that you fully understand their needs. See if you can’t distill these down into 10-15 easy-to-digest points that you could post directly in one of your collaboration windows.
This should help to get the ball rolling. Despite what you might think, however, you probably don’t need to take some sort of authoritarian angle where you micromanage every single aspect of the development process. Keep people on task, so you’re not missing any deadlines, but don’t be afraid to let your team be themselves and communicate however they’d like.
Off-topic conversation can start to be a big issue, though, so you’ll need to figure out a way to cut down on this.
Stopping Off Topic Conversations in their Tracks
Lay down some ground rules when you first start running your online development room. More than likely, you’ll want to ban people from using foul language or saying anything political, but don’t get too carried away with the rules. Other people will follow them provided that they don’t feel that there are too many.
Devote as much time as possible to coding and testing, which should help provide a healthy distraction from all the problems of the world that people are likely to focus on instead of the project. Keep a friendly atmosphere and let everyone know that you’re willing to help.
While it can take quite a while to build up a community with those you’re working with, it’s worth it because you’ll build a friendship as well as a strong codebase along the way.
Last Updated on August 14, 2021.