How Success is WrittenChapter 1Replacing the water-cooler
How Success is Written eBook

Replacing the water-cooler

Beyang Liu

Co-Founder & CTO

Many office-centered workplaces rely on the idea of serendipitous in-person run-ins as a pillar of office culture—which means if you lose the office, you lose a crucial part of your culture. Increasingly more organizations, like code search company Sourcegraph, feel differently.

Sourcegraph CTO Beyang Liu says their company never exactly benefited from an in-office environment. “I think there’s often a ‘water-cooler mythos’ to office culture,” says Beyang. “But that wasn’t the vibe in our office. People preferred to be heads down and working on their own thing.”

It turned out that being in an office together was never an essential part of what made things work, so the company gave up its office lease in January 2020. What has been important to Sourcegraph’s office culture is creating an online environment where all relevant information is well-documented and accessible to everyone—including customers.

“Writing something down helps you clearly articulate what you mean in the same way to everyone.”

Sourcegraph decided to standardize its documentation practices by building a publicly available company handbook. “The open source world values transparency a lot,” says Beyang.

The handbook contains a great deal of documentation that clearly outlines the company’s operating system. It’s used heavily for onboarding, but also serves as a single source of truth that anyone can reference. Writing is the engine that makes this all possible. “Writing something down helps you clearly articulate what you mean in the same way to everyone,” says Beyang. “Being able to build that level of clarity into every level of the organization helps us as we continue to scale.”