Working with teams across timezones
Communication is the most important part of teams working in different time zones. It not very uncommon to see the teams working two or more time zones. This makes it very difficult to get the common time where everybody can come meet online. This factor makes mails as the most important linking tool for the project members. Other than emails online application like issue trackers/ bug trackers like bugzilla gives you traceable information.
Nothing can replace the voice. I always felt just the regular calls (tele/voip) is the best way to communicate. Having a conference call with all the team members once in a while is great idea. It could be general status meeting too.
Video conference would be better than call but it forces everybody to be in front of computer. That is where good old mobile calls play a major part. One could be in his car and can yet speak well with his team.
The cultures differ. When people across the globe come together to work on a single project culture and language is the biggest challenge. The same language English could mean different in different time zones. Simple words like bill, ticket etc have a different meaning in India and US. ‘Ticket’ in India is a public bus ticket but in US it’s the receipt given by traffic police when you violate a rule. Neutralized English would be the biggest bet to work together.
Non formal exchanges about weather, sports or languages increase the bondage between the team members. That is the biggest team building initiative we can have spreading across the continents.
Knowing about each others culture, language and sport could help a lot. A guy from India would be lot more interested to talk about Cricket than football. The best bet would be to talk about Hollywood movies! Which I hope everybody is crazy about.
A picture a can speak thousand words. Sharing the pictures of the members with team is great idea. A small note about her/him will make it still better. That will bring the familiarity between the team members.
I feel the rest of the things will come together if the team jells well. What else do you think you need?