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Fortune Magazine Profiles MySQL AB 63

hdtv writes "Fortune magazine profiles MySQL AB, a midsize company with a fairly large footprint. Fortune magazine popped in on another corporate party, which just happened to take place online across countries and continents." From the article: "'When a company is as spread out as this one,' Basil explains, 'you have to think of virtual ways to imitate the dynamics of what goes on in a more familiar employment situation.' That neatly sums up the broader challenge that many companies are confronting: how to nurture a bond among workers who rarely, if ever, meet. Few businesses are as spread out as MySQL, which employs 320 workers in 25 countries, 70 percent of whom work from home."
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Fortune Magazine Profiles MySQL AB

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  • Ha (Score:4, Interesting)

    by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Friday June 02, 2006 @12:39PM (#15455119)
    "I have a very low opinion of human nature, which is that people are both greedy and lazy," declares Michael "Monty" Widenius, co-founder and chief technical officer of MySQL, which is based in Cupertino, Calif. "Of course you have noble people, but they are a small fraction."

    Now that's how to gain customers! Insult them in FORTUNE magazine!
    • Re:Ha (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dougsyo ( 84601 )
      Well, it's hard to disagree with the opinion that many (perhaps most) people are both lazy and greedy. But on the other hand lazy and/or greedy are not always negative characteristics (where would perl be if Larry Wall had not been "lazy" ?)

      • Re:Ha (Score:4, Funny)

        by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Friday June 02, 2006 @12:52PM (#15455252)
        where would perl be if Larry Wall had not been "lazy" ?

        If Larry Wall wasn't lazy, he probably woulda created Perl to be more like Python
      • Re:Ha (Score:2, Interesting)

        by heinousjay ( 683506 )

        Naw, that's too easy.


        That's just a dream. After all, what good is a language that doesn't provide 6 ways to do everything? Everyone should have their choice of syntax for common operations. That's what freedom is all about!

        Perl's popularity is entirely predicated upon the fact that it was the only thing available. The alternative languages are so much better now that only CPAN saves the entire thing from falling into obscurity (and even that won't last forever.)
      • Larry Wall Quote (Score:2, Insightful)

        by bobs666 ( 146801 )
        "We will encourage you to develop the three great virtues of a programmer: laziness, impatience, and hubris". -- Larry Wall, Programming PERL

        Its not clear that Michael and Larry are using the same definition of lazy. Larry is clearly talking about the fact that better automation results is less effort.

        As for other comments about languages where the coder does not even put in the "{}"s... well go figure.

      • by jsight ( 8987 )

        (where would perl be if Larry Wall had not been "lazy" ?)

        Perl 6?
    • Now that's how to gain customers! Insult them in FORTUNE magazine!

      He wasn't directing that (IMHO realistic) sentiment toward MySQL customers. He was making a generalization relating to how employees would like to behave if given a managerial reprieve as a result of their obvious distance from the main office.
    • by JakeX ( 978243 )

      I'd also agree, most people are lazy and greedy, especially the ones I've met climbing the ladders in the corporate world. I was just discussing with a friend of mine, if it wasn't for the people below, the people on top would be lost & confused on a daily basis even with things like checking their email :P
    • Except for the fact that most people who read Fortune are business men who feel the same way. I wonder if Mr. Widenius is a Demotivator [demotivation.com]?
    • by jo42 ( 227475 )
      ...he forgot "ingorant and stupid"...
    • Now that's how to gain customers!

      Well, being that people are greedy and lazy, that is why they use MySQL. This is not a troll, but MySQL is a fast, cheap, and a lazy man's DB.

      And, yes, I'm lazy and an MySQL user/admin. I'm not that greedy though. Sorry.

    • "I have a very low opinion of human nature ..." [snip]

      Now that's how to gain customers! Insult them in FORTUNE magazine!

      See, now, if this guy read Slashdot, he'd know that unpopular comments are a big no-no, doesn't matter how insightful they are :-)
  • MySQL's Mickos says, "Avoid young men without a wife or girlfriend or dog or parents."

    Wouldn't that exclude most of /. readers? too? hehe
    "We have people with lots of tattoos," notes Widenius. "Some of them I would not like to be with in the office every day."

    They really seem to like their workers spread out don't they?
  • Last weekend, I met the vice-president of the organisation I work for for the first time. I've been working there over a year. I think I've met my boss 5 times.

    We try to go to free software [compsoc.com] conferences more than normal so that we all bump into each other.

    Other than that, it's pretty much email all the way, with a little irc.

    The next big free software conference in Europe is the 3rd international GPLv3 conference [fsfeurope.org] in Barcelona, June 22/23.

    Before that, I saw my boss in Manchester, England, and before

  • You know what they say about companies with big footprints.

    They wear big shoes.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    MySQL says "Don't get too excited."
  • Here's a novel idea: when you hire someone give them a headset and a free copy of World of Warcraft and subscription. Hold weekly "meetings" where everyone logs on and you discuss talking points while you slay rats and such. I think that even if you are not a gamer, this could still be fun.

    Or you could more closely emmulate a real-world meeting with a sandbox game like Second Life and actually create a meeting area. With Second Life you could even show slideshows and stream a video presentation (given that
    • Or you could just hold a webconference and not have to worry about everyone being distracted by slaying rats.

      I work for a large, global company. Most of the people on my team are in foreign countries. Time zones can make it difficult to find good meeting times, but web conferencing and IP telephony make actual communication fairly painless.
      • That is certainly a tried and true method. Nonetheless, I would view the gaming meetings as the virtual world equivalent of the "company barbeque", or maybe "hawaiian shirt fridays".

        You know, a once a week or bi-weekly team-building thing.

        I think it could be fun.

        Of course, as you point out it would depend heavily on business type and employee demographic as well.

        Maybe it's a bad idea, I can accept that possibility - I'm pretty experienced with bad ideas. But I think it's important to try new things. After a
        • Well now, as a team building event I think you might be on to something. I would just object to it being used as a place to hold actual important business meetings. As a place to build camraderie between coworkers, though, I would be all for it. While companies with everyone in the same place can go out for a company paint ball trip, companies that are spread out can do the same sort of thing with a WoW outing, or a outing.

          If you expect actual business to be conducted at something like that, I think you
    • What a bloody GREAT idea. "Hey, why don't you start using your computer for something non-productive DESIGNED to be addictive."

      Been there. At my .com experience, the first thing they had me do was install Half-Life. And the rest, as they say, is history. This kind of attitude is silly - Skype is a better idea, IRC is a better idea, even Google Bloody Talk is a better idea.

      MMORPG's can build teams, yes, but they are designed to suck people in so fast and hard that they don't even realise it when they don't come out. I have no problem with this post if it was meant as a joke, but "insightful" is the worst moderation I've seen in years.
    • Actually this is similar to an idea that actually has merit: You could use Cube [cubeengine.com] (which, although I haven't used it yet, seems kind of like a small-scale graphical MUD that allows building) and you could use it to do presentations to people. It would work best for demoing buildings and such of course. However, you would absolutely have to combine it with voice conferencing (Roger Wilco?) :) in order for it to be a useful environment. Plus it would be hilarious watching HR try to navigate, and extra special t
  • by packetmon ( 977047 ) on Friday June 02, 2006 @12:52PM (#15455255) Homepage
    Telecommuting is huge and is obviously growing... I telecommute from home and enjoy it most of the time, but I also despise not going into a noisy office, seeing others, etc. It can be more profitable and beneficial for companies that allow employees to telecommute as well. Costs on infrastructure is saved, equipment costs, etc., Avaya is huge on telecommuting as well: According to the Avaya commissioned IDC Asia Pacific Business Mobility Survey, an overwhelming 70 per cent of Malaysian managers surveyed trust their staff to telecommute, as they feel that the ability to work in various environments encourages employee creativity and consequently productivity. The survey revealed that more than 50 per cent believe that allowing employees to telecommute improves their productivity. The other major benefits of telecommuting cited include enhanced customer service and seizing new business opportunities. source [avaya-apac.com]. I also recall reading about their domestic (United States) operations and how much money they've saved and become more productive.

    Anyhow back to the article... spot talent among the company's army of volunteers - a minor league for software programmers. I wouldn't agree with that statement in the article. Most software programmers who do open source programming often have professional programming jobs. Calling them "minor league" is off the mark... There are a few other issues with the article as well: Civilians are being enticed to work free. MySQL owes them nothing for their efforts. Contributors are doing work for enjoyment, for getting a good product they can use. MySQL should and probably does show them via acknowledgment appreciation via mentions. I mean think of placing "MySQL Developer" on a resume. It holds weight...

    How long can that last? Eventually, it would seem, these hard-working geeks are bound to feel exploited - or migrate to another product's fan club. Even Widenius acknowledges the possibility.
    For those that do go, others will pop up in their place. Many choose to support this environment because it is beneficial in the long run to them. If I started a SOHO company, why wouldn't I contribute if I'm getting the program for free as opposed to dishing out for Oracle.

    "These users have their own needs to satisfy," he says. "Their main motivation is that they are lazy, and once they fix a problem, they want the fix to be in the next version of the software so they don't have to make the same changes again." I wouldn't call the users lazy by reporting problems. I would call them content with getting a good stable product and contributing to the product.
    • Calling them "minor league" is off the mark... [etc]

      They don't understand the motive. It shows in their writing: it seems they perceive how the ordinary business part works quite well, and they're impressed, but the open-source part they just don't get at all. It baffles them, it angers them, that people will behave in ways the cash-profit motive doesn't predict.

      And if the notion that MySQL's customers actually acknowledge their own laziness — that they know quite well they're paying MySQL to do

  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Friday June 02, 2006 @12:53PM (#15455259)
    > He is also wary of hiring "young men without a wife or a girlfriend or a dog or parents. They are at risk because they can get so immersed in their job that it drives them crazy. We don't want the type who read e-mails on their way to brush their teeth. They need a life."

    I can understand existing without a wife or girlfriend. (This is Slashdot.)

    But without parents? The last young bachelor who claimed to be the product of parthenogenesis wound up nailed to a tree.

    These days, that's bad for business. Can you imagine trying to explain it to his HMO three days later?

  • Wowsers (Score:5, Funny)

    by goldaryn ( 834427 ) on Friday June 02, 2006 @12:54PM (#15455266) Homepage
    "Few businesses are as spread out as MySQL, which employs 320 workers in 25 countries, 70 percent of whom work from home."

    That's a lot of employees! They need an Oracle db! ;-)
  • the idea here is not profit for greed or pay a ceo millions but to have a job that pays the bills , offers productivity , reward for work and the real face of what socialism will look like as we evolve toward that model . The big corps will not be able to compete and will through evolutionary business practeces cease to exists . True socialism is without a central control head and this gives one an idea how even a country could govern in a true social environment
    • I assume you are talking about the open source community and business model. This is probably true for software, but try refining oil, mining iron or making chips with workers and volunteers spread out all over the world.
      That said, there is no reason why smaller plants couldn't be built providing they were close to the raw materials. Personally, it really bothers my that we have all our refineries clustered together. It really makes them vunerable to attack or natural disaters.
      I think as the world become
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Friday June 02, 2006 @12:58PM (#15455316)
    I bet you that they are also, down to an engineer, a company of very experienced engineers. This sort of organization would be nuts if they had a number of young engineers working for them, the types that would need more experienced people around to help them learn. Or would it make perfectly good sense to a business graduate? If they can't sink or swim, it's just that they really suck, not that they're young and inexperienced!

    What would make working in an office a much more enjoyable environment is if there were fewer protections for thin-skinned people and you didn't have to feel like you had to "watch yourself" or an employee could complain like a toddler about hurt feewings to management and get you fired to avert a lawsuit. If people could be themselves more easily while working, that would help a lot.
    • It would be even more enjoyable if you didn't need to be IN the office. The only people who ought to be in an office are the technical staff and really, the hardware ought to be colocated and they should just visit the colo occasionally. Obviously for some kinds of work you need people to be together, but I think most businesses who do their work through phone and email (and shares) would be a lot more efficient with a 100% telecommuting model.
  • Granström, a 50-year-old former veterinarian, has his own management problems. During our phone conversation his 13 sheeple escaped and were last seen charging toward his garden.

    Man, I hate when managers refer to their direct reports as sheeple!


  • by v3xt0r ( 799856 )
    We had about 60 staff spread out across US, Asia, and Europe by the time I left. When I started, it was just 5 people (including myself).

    We mostly all telecommuted, except for the partners who all worked in their main office 2 steps from the beach. They would even buy lunch EVERYDAY for in-house staff, or staff who happened to be in the office that day. It was a great group of people and a great company to work for, even though it was small and on a (somewhat) tight budget.

    I worked via telecommute (phone, I
  • He is also wary of hiring "young men without a wife or a girlfriend or a dog or parents. They are at risk because they can get so immersed in their job that it drives them crazy. We don't want the type who read e-mails on their way to brush their teeth. They need a life."?
    Is this guy spoiling to get some discrimination law suite? And why does he diss checking emails? What about checking /. postings? Is that good or bad?
    • He [slashdot.org] probably read your post. He pointed out this Slashdot discussion to everyone in the company. :)

      MySQL's Support group includes:

      • men and women
      • heterosexual and homosexual
      • single and married
      • with dogs and without dogs
      • one with a large tat collection, probably the one Monty was referring to
      • those who read Slashdot and have a 100% article submission acceptance rate and those who don't
      • those who seem to read emails even while brushing their teeth and those who don't.
      • those who are nocturnal and those who a
  • MySQL's Mickos says, "Avoid young men without a wife or girlfriend...

    I bet he looks for young women with a wife or girlfriend instead! At least I would. ;-)

  • by nuzak ( 959558 ) on Friday June 02, 2006 @02:57PM (#15456580) Journal
    They found that 80% of wall clock time was being spent in wait states in about six functions. Redundant lock checking code was also found to spike CPU utilization when loaded with over 100 users. Fixes are expected in CVS shortly.
  • by martenmickos ( 467191 ) on Friday June 02, 2006 @04:12PM (#15457393)
    /. readers,

    The whole idea behind the distributed organisation is an interesting one, and we are very proud to be featured in Fortune Magazine. And we wouldn't be there where it not for the support from our community - so thank you!

    As for the quote that was attributed to me, it is not correct word by word. My point was that if you work from your home, it is important that you have some other devotion too, in addition to the company you work for (MySQL in this case). Otherwise you may lose perspective. That other devotion can be nearly anything. For Erik Granström in Sweden it is his family, his sheep farm (yes, he is also a farmer), and writing books.

    I would be keen to hear how others deal with this. What tricks and techniques do you have for enjoying working from home, for being productive, for being social with colleagues who are thousands of kilometers/miles away? Let us know!

    Marten Mickos, CEO, MySQL AB
    • I work in a small company with employees in both Boston and New York City. We used IM to link the two offices together when we first started six years ago. Logging into AIM in the morning became the equivalent of showing up at work. A few years ago one of the devs here in Boston moved to New York and started working in the sales office there. For the fun of it, we picked up a couple web cams and fired up an RTP reflector at our datacenter to redistribute a video feed of each office. We now have two cameras
    • I am a software engineer for a defense contracting company and last Fall I began telecommuting. I worked in the local office for about a year before deciding that I don't like living in a city, but that I prefer a rural environment. I talked it over with my boss and he agreed to allow me to work from home. So, we picked up and moved to the country. It has been the best decision I have made (other than to marry my beautiful wife ;-).

      Now, I completely understand the importance of having a life outside

  • My employer is kind of a hybrid, at least for those of us in I.T. We do a lot of work from home because that's where we happen to be after-hours. Even when we're in the office, we're spead between east and west coast ops. We use a lot of the same IRC and email and teleconferencing as described in the article. Works well for us.

    Wasn't MySQL AB recently purchased by Oracle? Just curious...

  • how to nurture a bond among workers who rarely, if ever, meet.

    this gives a whole new twist to the "not in the same state" excuse ;)

    * lon3st4r *

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta