We have a C++ project with three primary developers. The managing developer #1 is in L.A, developer #2 is in Berlin, and I am in Anchorage. The manager works with the boss and product designers and developer #2. I work with developer #1, and almost never interact with developer #2 in Berlin because of the language barrier and because our work rarely overlaps. I have next to zero interaction with anyone else like the boss or product designers.

The problem is that I am afraid to add new features because the trunk is so fragile. I am constantly stepping on the manager’s toes by committing test code right before a beta release, or writing code that doesn’t work with this or that platform nuance, and all of these problems happened because I was just plain out of the loop. We have no online forum or dog bowl to establish a sense of community, and what’s really bad is that I can’t write anything interesting that isn’t 100% in line with the manager’s current priority 1 bug for fear of getting a stressed out phone call from him. This includes cleaning up our mistakes from the start-up period, and writing example python scripts for our new scripting engine, of which no one understands how to use correctly. All three of our code styles are completely different, and there are strange looking blocks of code that have no comments explaining the obscure bugs they fix. I also haven’t been to LA to see them in 1.5 years.
So my question is, does working remotely imply that your role works like a black box, strongly encapsulating your function to avoid conflicts? Should I be given more interfaces to deal with, or should my manager work to provide this encapsulation? If you were to meet with your co-workers every, say 1 out of 6 months, how much would this affect your encapsulation? One month out of the year? As developers we can certainly work remotely, but at what point do you start to lose motivation as minion of many, and what can you do to promote interesting creative, and motivating work? I can’t add interesting features or do anything other than feel like a robot intern lapping at the task pellet feeder, and being a motivated programmer I find this mind-numbing, and I want to quit.
What are your experiences? Thoughts?