Morfternight #72: Distributed vs. Remote

👇 tl;dr

Today we look at an image that could have been a “mise en abîme” between two mirrors but is instead an image of reality. Next, we talk about the infinite game and how it led me to do something I thought I’d never do. Finally, we look at the differences between Distributed and Remote organizations.


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📷 Photo of the week

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👋 Good Morfternight!

Finite and Infinite Games

The idea of the distinction was introduced in 1986 by James P. Carse in the eponymous book.

In 2019, in his book The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek developed it in the context of Business and Leadership.

A finite game has a defined set of rules, a clear beginning and end, and a specific number of players. The objective is to win the game, usually by beating the other players, and once a winner is declared, the game is over. An example of a finite game could be a competitive sport like soccer or a board game like Monopoly.

An infinite game, on the other hand, has no defined end, no clear rules, and the number of players can change. The objective of an infinite game is not to win, but to keep the game going, and the goal is to constantly improve and evolve. In business, the infinite game is about creating a company that will outlast its competitors and continue to thrive, no matter what changes come its way.

Sinek explains that Business is an infinite game. There’s no “winning business.” Players keep joining the game, and when a player is out of resources or determination to continue, they drop out of the game.

The unthinkable event that took place today

In 2003 Microsoft Internet Explorer had 95% of the browser market share.

In 2004 Firefox was launched, then in 2008, Chrome. The latter took off rapidly, leading to the disappearance of Internet Explorer, now abandoned and under 1% of usage.

Today, in February 2023, I installed Microsoft Edge on my laptop and iPhone!

I did it to get access to the new Bing as early as possible, as it will be reserved for now to Edge users, but I like what I have seen so far.

It’s important to underline that Edge, like Chrome, Brave, Arc, and many other modern browsers, is based on the Chromium engine.

To explain in more detail what Chromium is, I could have searched Google for a few references, read, then summarized a few web pages.

Or, I could have asked ChatGPT, “What is the Chromium browser engine?”

To which it replied:

Chromium is an open-source web browser project that serves as the foundation for the Google Chrome web browser. It is a browser engine that provides the core components for rendering web pages and executing web-based applications. The Chromium engine provides the basic infrastructure for a web browser, such as handling network communications, rendering HTML and CSS, and executing JavaScript.

The Chromium project is maintained by the Chromium development community, which is made up of developers from Google and other organizations. The source code of the Chromium project is freely available, and developers can use it to build their own web browsers. Some popular web browsers that use the Chromium engine include Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Brave, and Vivaldi.

The Chromium engine is known for its fast performance, security features, and support for modern web technologies. It has become a widely used platform for developing web browsers and has helped drive the evolution of the web.

See why I say that search as we know it is in danger?

Microsoft plays an infinite game.

I installed Edge because of the integration of OpenAI ChatGPT into Bing, the Microsoft search engine, and the first time that Google seems it could be threatened in their core search business.

After all those years, it is pretty impressive to see Microsoft still dominating the office apps market with Office 365, doing well in cloud services with Azure, having outgrown Slack with Teams by at least one order of magnitude, and now threatening Google with Bing.

🗺️ Three places to visit today

These are a few interesting reads from the last few days to understand better what is happening at the crossroads of search and large language models.

  1. Let’s start with Microsoft’s announcement about Reinventing search with a new AI-powered Microsoft Bing and Edge, your copilot for the web. The copilot reference is, of course, crucial as Microsoft also owns Github, where Copilot has been helping developers code for months.
  2. Then we have Joanna Stern’s article on the WSJ: I Tried Microsoft’s New AI-Powered Bing. Search Will Never Be the Same. Unfortunately, the piece is behind a paywall, but the video is accessible here.
  3. Google is also working on similar tools, but their recent rushed demo shows that they are scrambling to catch up.

Search is probably one of the best applications of these machine-learning tools. In Google v Microsoft: who will win the AI chatbot race?The Guardian’s Dan Milmo quotes one AI expert they interviewed

Everything ChatGPT says is essentially a rehash of something that has been said before, by a human.

That works for me, as it’s exactly what I ask from a search engine. I don’t think Google will disappear anytime soon; after all, they play the infinite game also, but I strongly welcome renewed competition in their space, as the lack of it has allowed them to deprioritize quality in recent years.

🌐 Distributed Work vs. Remote Work

Gone are the days when remote work was a new concept, but it has evolved into something even more profound: distributed work. While remote and distributed work have similarities, they also have significant differences that can make one a better alternative.

Remote work, in its simplest definition, means that employees work from a location far from the main office, occasionally or regularly.

A company’s proportion of remote workers can vary, and they may alternate between working from home and the office. In remote companies, proximity to the leadership team often determines an employee’s influence and participation in decision-making, which can result in a lack of synchronicity, where remote employees miss out on the micro-interactions between their colocated colleagues during meetings. Additionally, the lack of documentation in remote work can lead to a perception gap and a fragile transmission of institutional knowledge.

Distributed work, on the other hand, is a relatively new concept, only made possible by technology in the last 30 years. There is no central office in a distributed company, and employees are everywhere. This structure operates on asynchronous, transparent, and primarily written communication.

Asynchronous communication is the cornerstone of distributed work.

It allows for longer communication cycles and eliminates the need for real-time conversations. As a result, team members across different time zones can participate during their working hours. While synchronous communication, such as instant messaging and video conferencing, is still necessary, it should not result in undocumented decisions.

Transparency is another important aspect of distributed work.

By sharing all internal information, team members can understand how decisions were made and by whom, even after many years. This level of transparency leads to better decision-making and a more inclusive form of communication, especially in companies where employees speak multiple languages.

Written communication is critical in maintaining transparency and ensuring that decisions are well-documented. In addition, text is easily searchable and accessible and helps clarify thinking, leading to better decisions.

In conclusion, distributed work is a more effective alternative to remote work.

It eliminates the problems of synchronicity and lack of documentation stemming from remote work. Instead, it operates on asynchronous, transparent, and written communication. A distributed organization allows for equal empowerment of all employees, regardless of location, and can lead to better decision-making, communication, and a more inclusive work environment.

👨🏻‍💻 From the blog, last week

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