The Year Without Pants

Scott Berkun’s enjoyable memoir of a year without pants.

The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work (Jossey-Bass, ISBN 978-1118660638) is the latest book by Scott Berkun, a former project manager at Microsoft and author of another great book, Confessions of a Public Speaker. After several years working as an author and speaker, Mr. Berkun decided to return to the front lines by working at WordPress, the organization that creates software that powers “nearly 20 percent of the websites in the world, including half of the top one hundred blogs on the planet.”

The Year Without Pants book cover

I had two ambitions in reading The Year Without Pants. First, my own blog is powered by WordPress and I knew I would enjoy an inside look at how the popular blogging platform was created. Second, in a model similar to WordPress, I work for a company where employees spend most of their time working from home and away from a centralized office environment. The author had similar ambitions:

This book has two ambitions: first, to share what I learned as an old dog in a futuristic workplace and, second, to capture the behind-the-scenes story of a good team at a fascinating company.

Scott Berkun
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The Year Without Pants

I learned that the book’s mildly provocative title and cover photo will certainly encourage conversation if you read it in public. Like his other work, Mr. Berkun skillfully combines practical advice— in this case about the future of work— with engaging storytelling about his personal experiences at WordPress. What you won’t find is a prescriptive (or boring) how-to for creating a futuristic workplace, complete with project plans and charts. It’s easy to dismiss the WordPress work environment with “that would never work here.” And indeed, perhaps much of the advice wouldn’t work in your current office setting. The model at WordPress works because its founder, the youthful Matt Mullenweg, has created a culture that supports the work environment.

[ youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jjv2fm7CMgE ]

If you’re interested in working remotely, you’ll want to read The Year Without Pants along with Remote: Office Not Required (see related book review). I found the two differing perspectives helpful. But The Year Without Pants is also important reading if you’re a software developer or a WordPress user that wants to see how the sausage gets made.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Christmas Vacation

The week between Christmas and New Years is the worst time to use vacation, but that’s not stopping me.

Santa on beach vacationThis year, I’ll be taking some much-needed vacation between Christmas and New Years. The timing wasn’t my first choice, but due to circumstances beyond my control there was no summer vacation this year. Author Scott Burkun says that I’m taking vacation at the worst possible time. And I couldn’t agree more.

The week between Christmas and New Years is the worst time to use vacation. It’s when everyone else is on holiday, turning even the most stressful workplaces into calm zones of highly independent and low interruption work time. Spending your vacation dollars to avoid a paid vacation in the office, is the worst bet in the vacation world: sometimes it’s a forced bet, as family plans force your hand, but it’s still a lousy value.

Scott Berkun
When Should You Take Vacation? A Strategy

Early on in my career— while lamenting my junior status and lack of vacation days— I quickly noticed many of the same observations as Mr. Berkun. In most US organizations, senior management- the people in the organization with the most vacation time- disappear at random intervals between the Thanksgiving holiday (the fourth Thursday in November), Christmas (December 25) and New Year’s Day. The lack of corporate activity can be further aided by the “year-end IT freeze” that attempts to guarantee system availability for busy holiday shopping or year-end financial closing.

If you’re “stuck” at work having a “staycation”, make the most of it. Pick a small number of new technical skills to master. Install the latest version of your BI software on a sandbox. Most BI organizations have a number of outstanding tasks that never get done. Now is the perfect time to cross a few off your to-do list (be sure to add these to your list of accomplishments on your upcoming annual performance review). And don’t ignore the softer skills. Plan some lunch dates with your immediate co-workers as well as your support teams like system administrators and database administrators. Listen to their war stories as well as the corporate rumors for the upcoming year.

As for me, I’ll be enjoying some down-time with my family this week. And planning next summer’s vacation!

Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun

Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun

Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun is a great resource for public speakers.  I just finished the Kindle edition and am sorry that I put off reading the book for so long.


The book combines practical public speaking tips with some great storytelling of the author’s personal experiences. It’s the combination that keeps the book entertaining.  It also drives home the author’s point that great storytelling is a key ingredient of a great presentation, regardless of its topic.

This book is highly opinionated, personal, and full of behind-the-scenes stories. You may not like this. Some people like seeing how sausage is made, but many do not.

Berkun, Scott (2009-10-20). Confessions of a Public Speaker (Kindle Locations 166-167). OReilly Media – A. Kindle Edition.

A key component of Scott Berkun’s advice is practice, something that I’ll be doing quite a bit of this week to prepare for next week’s 2012 ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference in Orlando, Florida. I highly recommend that other speakers grab the Kindle edition and read it on their flight to Orlando.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”