Hello! long time, no...boring you with my long blog pieces.
We're about to post up a news article about us looking to hire two new web programmers. Unlike our previous hire-calls, however, this one is different because it comes with the caveat that the job is based in Exeter, in the south west of England. Why? Because we're setting up an office. Our first office.
Revealing such news comes as bitter-sweet to me. For the past 15 years Nexus Mods (and the names it previously operated under) has been run from bedrooms, dorm rooms, campus computer rooms and home offices. It's been a success story up to now, an example that you can build and run a complex, high profile website, community and heck, business, from home. It's had practical uses too, allowing us to operate with smaller running costs and freeing up money to be spent elsewhere (like on more staff or hardware). Finally, it has allowed me to maintain the image in my head that we're still a small, niche "garage run" site despite the sheer size of the site (silly, I know).
This is an image that I am loathe to lose as it can affect thinking, specifically, my thinking. In moving certain aspects of the business into a formal office setup I fear that illusion I have in my head is going to dissipate and with it, the strong memory I have of running these sites as a middling teenager foremost as a hobby, as something I did to give back to a community I was so excited about and appreciative of before and after Morrowind's release. Such strong memories have been a driving force for trying to maintain that starting spirit of Nexus Mods, of a community that was created to service a bigger and most excellent community at the time.
My passion for the video game modding community coupled with the success of Bethesda's games and the modding support they've graciously provided with each release since 2001 has fueled a steady (and sometimes explosive) growth in Nexus Mods that has been hard to keep up with. Similarly, my vision for a community that transcends Bethesda modding in to modding for all games has seen us go from supporting a mere handful of games to over 400 games, and counting. While Bethesda games still make up the bulk of the reason why people visit Nexus Mods, last year we saw an 80% increase alone on file downloads for mods unrelated to Bethesda games (and a 50% increase on file downloads for Bethesda games). As such, there is a growing demand for modding for any and all games on Nexus Mods rather than just for Bethesda Games.
Ultimately, success brings its own stresses often with little or no respite. The cliched "victims of our own success", if you will. To say that one man (or woman) cannot do it alone would be an understatement.
I hired the first Nexus Mods employee back in 2011 before the release of Skyrim. Axel is still with us today, working from his home in Scotland almost 500 miles away from where I am in Exeter. Since then, we've added a further 8 members to the Nexus Mods team to fill a diverse range of roles with people in south west and south east England, Italy, Germany and both the north and south of the United States. It's safe to say that we're pretty spread out with a...diverse...range of geographically related opinions to match! Over the years it's been hard to avoid riling each other up with our national stereotypes which has provided a good amount of comic relief, if not dubious legal positions related to employee relations and "discrimination" in the workplace. I won't lie, it's normally the Italians' fault.
While the Nexus Mods team remained relatively small, 2-5 of us, things were fine. Managing 2-5 people, even remotely across great distances, is a sinch. Provided the individuals involved have good personal discipline it's perhaps even better than having a small office setup as it's more comfortable. More free flowing. More flexible. People can be left to get on with things in the comfort of their own homes without the stresses placed on them from an office environment.
In a 2-5 man setup each person is typically handling a different area of the sites, whether it's the site programming, NMM, the hardware, support, the community and so on and so forth. The team jigsaws together fine because, ultimately, they're not actually working on projects together, they're instead working on their own projects and conversing with the other departments to make sure everyone is aligned and on the same page. However, once you begin to add one or two more members of staff who are going to be working in the same area and working on the same projects as each other things become a lot more difficult.
The internet is awash with SaaS applications designed to help in this regard. Slack for communication, Pivotal for task tracking, Vagrant, Git, Google Docs, Appogee, and so on and so forth. They're all designed to help teams work together towards common projects and goals. However, from our years working in these environments it's begun to show that while this software can help immensely in that task, it's not a bonafide 100% substitute for real face-to-face interaction. The type of interaction you get in an office setup.
Over the past year we've been trying to stop-gap this shortfall with regular Google Hangout meetings (webcams and everything), team programming and screensharing sessions and so on and so forth but after a while you begin to realise that all these applications designed to replace or replicate "the real thing" just aren't as good as "the real thing". Inefficiencies creep in. 30 minutes here. An hour there. Someone's come to the door unexpectedly. Someone's taken a late lunch without letting the others know. One person is waiting for a response from another person in a different time zone. A message has been missed. Someone didn't get a notification about a meeting. The list goes on.
None of us at Nexus Mods are unaware of the fact that we started our redesign process for the sites all the way back in September 2015 when we sent out a news article looking for a UI/UX designer. Mockups were created and we began coding work in earnest back in February 2016, over 13 months ago. It's been a rocky ride and a trying time as we've come to terms with the serious technical debt we'd accumulated over the years while trying to transition from a team of just 1 web programmer to a team of 3, and reworking a lot of our framework to accommodate the changing dynamic of the way we were working. It's my personal belief that, were we in an office setup, at least some of the issues we've experienced over the past 13 months would have been mitigated somewhat and we'd have made faster progress to the ultimate end goal of releasing this new design.
To me, setting up an office is a logical progression towards not only increasing the efficiency of people working at Nexus Mods but also improving my ability to understand, appreciate, relate to and manage the team moving forward, and this is why we are setting up an office. Logically, the office is in Exeter because that's where I live, and I'd like to be there managing it.
In the past when we've sent out hiring calls we've posted them in the community here first. It's my thinking that the best people for the job are going to be the ones who know this site, who like this site and who use this site regularly. They're going to be the people who have the most relevant and the best ideas. They'll also be easier to bring up to speed. Everyone currently working for Nexus Mods was hired from within the community itself, with the exception of Paul and Tom, who I knew personally already.
Naturally, enforcing that new staff work from Exeter in England limits the pool of available applicants in this community somewhat drastically and I understand that. However, I still feel it prudent to announce and highlight this hire call on the site on the off chance that there's someone out there that is either local to Exeter (while it's only a small city of 127,000, I've met plenty of people who've used the site in and around the city) or who is open to a new adventure in their life. If you're willing to relocate to the city, we're willing to help out however we can to make it a possibility. Heck, I'll even put you up in my home and cook you some dinners while you get on your feet if needs be (subject to satisfactory hygiene levels!).
So there you have it. We're getting an office, and we're looking for staff. The hire call article will be posted up following this blog piece soon.