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If you’ve gone chat-first, or you’re considering heading down that path, I encourage you to review and consider these impacts on your own organization. When you need to toss an idea back and forth between a few people, there’s nothing better than chat.
Playing whack-a-mole with unread indicators across dozens of rooms/channels causes manic context-shifting.A server’s down, a deploy failed, there’s a crisis that truly demands a group’s immediate attention. Having a chat room where you can just say good morning, let people know you’re out for lunch, and generally just feel part of something is a powerful counter to cabin fever. Following group chat all day feels like being in an all-day meeting with random participants and no agenda. You hear it from people all the time — it’s exhausting.There are a variety of ways to get this instant information to people, and piping it into a high priority chat room or channel is definitely one of those ways. Constant conversation, constant chatter, no start, no end. At its very core, group chat and real-time communication is all about now.In addition to hearing from our customers for years, our own daily experiences over ten years of extensive group chatting have taught us a lot about what works and what doesn’t.All together, we’ve messaged nearly 10,000,000 lines to one another at 37signals/Basecamp since 2006.2006 we launched Campfire, the first modern SAAS group chat and messaging tool for business.
Since then, quite a few business chat and messaging tools like Hipchat, Flowdock, Slack and others have sprung up.
Continuous conversations among a group of people are very difficult to end — especially when new people can pop in to drop in their quick 2 cents at any time. I said, so that’s dozen incremented unread counters in this one room throughout the day? He hadn’t even considered the impact, but now he’s seen the light. All the while you’re trying to piece together interleaving conversations that may refer to other things you haven’t seen yet.
Just when you feel like the conversation is almost over, they can start right up again — often rehashing what’s already been discussed before. ” is a common refrain heard in chat rooms around the world. I was talking to a guy a few days ago who was fired up about piping in sales data into a popular chat room whenever they made a sale. Be careful — it’s fun to hook things up and pipe stuff in, but what are the costs to people’s attention? And just when you’re caught up, you’re behind again. When conversations are represented by numbers in badges next to broad category/room/channel names, you have to enter to see what’s new and worth your attention.
There’s a small window of time to be heard before the point you want to respond to scrolls away. Then someone else comes in and tosses their 2 cents in.
So people often just yell something out just to be heard. An accelerating conversation leads to shallow sound bytes and talking points — no different than talking heads on TV that only have 3 minutes to make their point before the segment ends. The original folks begin to lose control of the conversation.
Is it worth potentially pulling them away from their work a dozen times a day (you know how people love checking unreads) just to tell them something that could have waited until later? Group chat feels like you’re chasing something all day long. It’s like your working two jobs — the work you’re supposed to do, and the work of catching up on what you missed that probably didn’t matter (but you won’t know until you read back). If you have one unread email, you see a “1” in your inbox. Compare that with the number of lines it takes to communicate the same thing in chat. The number doesn’t communicate what something is about, only that there’s new to see.