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Chris Burgess

Thinking about future societies, living in the present. Humane web techno-generator for social change orgs. Believes in stories. Dunedin, NZ

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Lately I’ve been studying my task focus, and noticing which activities are “interruptive” in the sense that they break the flow of productive work. Number one on my hitlist is Skype, which is the primary comms channel at Fuzion currently.

I don’t know why Skype is “more interruptive” for me than other apps. I know that I’ve talked before with Eileen about preferring IRC, where I feel quite comfortable ignoring a question until I finish the task at hand - and that’s fine IRC etiquette. Doesn’t feel so on Skype. For me, one of these is asynchronous I/O and one of them is not.

(Something here about the tyranny of the red badge notification icon. Another time.)

Anyway, we’re a distributed team, we need a way to communicate as one, and teamtalk is important I feel. When Skype is the primary comms, and it’s quite an interruptive one, it encourages siloed communication - I’m talking to Eileen, Pete’s talking to Gemma, but it’s direct and 1:1 unless we drag everybody in.

Team conversation isn’t like that; it’s something that everyone can opt into, and of which we can comfortably tune out as appropriate. The same rules that apply to overhearing workmates converse across the room; you can chime in and drop out and there’s virtually no mental cost to doing so, because it’s part of being a human.

(Very relevant: this ‘shard’ from #devmob by @br3nda today, localcopy - thanks Brenda for sharing as much of your process as you do.)

I’d like to see each of our team members to be part of a shared company space, make being present as a team a thing that is part of normal daily process, and have a place where we can discuss what’s happening. There are great integrations available for us to leverage a tool like Slack or HipChat with the other tools that are part of our daily flow.

So! I proposed today via email to the team that we try swapping out Skype for HipChat for a month or so, and see how it works out. I’ll update after a month and give our experience (well, my experience and what I hear back).

I’m also +1 on Eileen’s response to this suggestion, that we should try and reconvene around our daily standups. Again I think having a common meeting place is critical to understanding where your fellow humans are at. A chatroom and a standup gather us in different dimensions; with standups a daily roundup of “what’s happening for me” and especially sharing of what we’ve been learning is really valuable. Working alongside the principal at our school has shown me how important it is to value shared learning and open reflection.

I found the idea of standups challenging (don’t put me on the spot!) when I first experienced it at Webscope, but I now think it’s so important to support that space and make it a fixture of process, at least until it becomes something natural.

I’m enjoying engaging this happy team thing - it’s reinvigorated me with regard to my work, and I’m hoping that I can make a real positive change in our work environment.