Hi! We're DuckDuckGo, the anonymous search engine and we're a distributed team. AUA

Hey everyone,

Thanks for having us! We’re DuckDuckGo, the anonymous search engine that doesn’t track you.

The company was started in 2008 by Gabriel Weinberg and has steadily grown to a team of more than 20 people serving over 9 million searches a day.

We have a small headquarters in Paoli, PA, but the majority of our team is distributed around the world. I’m personally based out of NYC and work on the Front-end of the site.

I should be joined by a few others on the team, including: Zaahir, Doug, Chris, Adam and Jag.

Ask us anything!

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Hey Brian, thanks for answering questions! I have a question about remote working for you and your team - are your schedules regular or flexible? Some of us took months to figure out and adjust to a daily routine that works. Any tips on productivity?

Second question about DuckDuckGo - have you guys met in person and will you be planning any team retreats in future? Do you think retreats are nice but perhaps not neccessary given that we already have various remote tools like videoconferencing? (I personally think they’re great but I wonder if the cost might end up negating the cost savings/benefits of forming a remote team.)

Hey Xiufen!

  1. Our schedules are pretty flexible. Whenever we’re working we tend to be in HipChat, so over time you get a feel for everyone’s schedules and routines via their HipChat status. A majority of our discussions happen asynchronously though in Asana and Github. Then the more involved threads bubble up into video calls. But overall each person has a lot of flexibility to create a routine that works best for them. I personally find I’m more productive when I don’t have a routine. Sometimes I’m up at 6AM working and other days I’m sleeping in until 10AM and working until midnight. It probably drives other people on the team crazy :).

  2. We actually have a company retreat next week! Most of the team is heading to HQ in Paoli, PA! We try to do them once a year. I personally really like them. We do a lot of video conferencing too, but I think it really helps to get to know the people you’re working with outside of that 3-inch square on your laptop.

Hey folks Adam here!

As one of the newest members of the team I’ve very recently went through the process of adjusting to the schedule… Or rather lack there of!

Working in business development there are times when I have to be on a specific call but ultimately you work in time frames that make the most sense for you.

Flexibility is interesting. You have the freedom to go for a mid-morning jog and its up to you to schedule a strategy that allows you to succeed - I think at the end of the day it boils down to the fact that when working remotely you have to really have a passion for what you do. I have a hunch that many of us work a little more than we would at a 9-5 office just because we love what we do.

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Hey Brian and the rest of DDG! Thanks for doing this :smile:

As you’re competing with some of the biggest tech companies in the world, do you consider being a remote startup as an advantage? As theoretically you’d be able to attract more and better talent?

What made you decide to grow the company remotely? Was it an obvious choice?

And what’s your favorite tools to collaborate together and manage the team? Don’t say Slack :stuck_out_tongue:

Hey Lev,

I’m not sure about Gabriel’s view on if remote is an advantage so I can’t really speak for Duckduckgo as a whole, but, on a personal level I do think it makes a big difference. We attract some great talent that wouldn’t be interested in a regular office job, but we also get a lot of unique viewpoints from around the world.

I think when you hire regionally there is a limit to the number of perspectives that can really be brought to the table, not only due to limitations of culture but also to the limited pool of workplaces. For example if your office is in a town that is mostly in the oil industry and most of your hires come from that culture then you’ll have a skewed area of expertise. At Duckduckgo we don’t have that issue as much and for a small team that’s really rare!

As for favorite tools, I really like Asana (or rather I’ve grown to love it after a period of despising it) and I’m quite a fan of Zoom which is a video call collaboration tool. It’s quite effective for multi-person video calls and I don’t face the same lag issues I normally do with Skype!

Awesome, nice to see you guys on here! I’m a huge fan of DDG, occasional pull requester and solid user of the search engine.

I was just wondering about where to aim to go next (in regards to getting the word out about DDG). Whenever I mention DDG to people they stare at me with blank faces. Have you guys ever thought about sponsoring hackathons? I saw you ran a DuckDuckHack but I’d love to see your name all over hackathon projects!

Hey Daniel, thanks for the message! Great to hear you’ve gotten involved with DuckDuckHack. That’s a major focus for the company right now. Aside from privacy, Instant Answers are one of our biggest competitive advantages. We’re working on revamping a lot of the process, trying to make it easier for people to integrate third party API’s and data sources with DuckDuckGo. There should be a lot more to come there this year.

Hackathons are something we have been experimenting with. I think we’re trying to see if we can scale our involvement in hackathons without sending employees around the world to be physically present at every event. One attempt at this has been working with members of the community and supporting them as they self organize DuckDuckHack events. The first one was one in NYC a few weeks ago, so we’re still early in the experiment, but it seems promising.

I think being a remote startup can be an advantage, especially when you’re making an international product. We hire from all over the world because we are very picky and want to find people that love our mission, product, and culture. We also hire in a pretty unique fashion. Prospectives write in, contribute to the community, and then are considered for contract work. The best way to think about our team is concentric circles. Even the newest (positive) contributor is a member of the team, all the way to the CEO.

I still don’t think remote is an obvious choice. Remote teams, where critical assets aren’t centralized, are still pretty new. A lot of issues stem from connection fidelity and synchronization. Consider having a team of 5 where 4 people are in a single room, and one dials in on Skype. The telecommuter is intrinsically less connected to the rest of the group. At that point, even though 4 people are in one building, you might want to send everyone back to their desk and telecommute in too. That way everyone is connected at the same fidelity level. To be clear, that’s not to say being in a room together is better; but that communication needs to be balanced.

It’s a lot of fun being a part of the paradigm shift though! I hope that helps.

Asana, HipChat, Zoom, GitHub, EC2.

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Hi guys,
Thanks for doing this, very cool :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Technical question:
Where are your servers located? How many do you have?
Does the person(s) who mans your physical servers have to stay in one place?

Second non-technical question:
Is it hard to hire a remote engineer who knows how to build a web crawler and search engine?

Thanks again!

Hi DDG Team,

I love DDG’s commitment to privacy. I’m US citizen and often communication with friends abroad or with friends and family in the US when I’m traveling. This cross-border communication makes me a target for surveillance. What tools, aside from DDG, do you recommend for travelers who want to protect their privacy?

Good day,
How did you came up with such a name?:slight_smile:
I’m very secret about my.personal information, but I still meet people who think that 'if you have something to hide, then you are probably a criminal ’ . What is your opinion about such paranoid people as me?:slight_smile: what is your overall opinion on such a pre-judgement?:slight_smile:

Hey Sean,

Our infrastructure is mostly all on AWS. I think we have some physical servers still at our HQ office, but as far as I know they’re not used for anything on the production site.

As far as hiring. I think it’s actually easier because the pool of potential candidates is so much bigger when you’re not constrained to a single location.

Thanks for the questions!

Hi Fred,

Thanks for the question. The best thing you can do is try to stay encrypted wherever possible. Some great browser extensions that help are HTTPS Everywhere and PrivacyBadger by the EFF. Another option is using Tor. Also, for messaging you could use a client that supports OTR encryption.

As far as I know the name DuckDuckGo was just something random/memorable/quirky sounding that Gabriel landed upon when he started. Over the years A LOT of people have said that we should change the name, but I think it actually works to our advantage. We’ve seen people trying it or sharing it just because of the name.

As far as privacy, I can’t speak for everyone else at the company. Personally, I think it’s important that services like DuckDuckGo exist so people have the option of being a little more anonymous online if they choose to do so. There’s a lot of perfectly legal reasons why people may choose not to share information about themselves online.

Thanks, Brian. I’ll look into those extensions now.

Thanks everyone for your questions and the DuckDuckGo team for answering them! We’re closing the AMA now :slight_smile: