Video and Chat Etiquette

This article by Florian Haas had me nodding along through each paragraph. It’s ostensibly about distributed development teams but it’s really just about generosity. Many of us have been thrust into remote work with little training in etiquette. Some of us had to re-frame what we know about face to face work while others continued along with the same bad habits. Florian is pretty blunt about how disruptive these bad habits are.

Any person who is versed in the use of chat communications will, when subjected to this behavior, be inclined to flay you alive. Infinitely more so if it’s a DM. Do not do this. Instead, always provide context. Always always always. Don’t say “can I ask you a question, instead, ask the question. If something isn’t urgent, say something like “no urgency.”

I’ve seen that a hundred times. Sometimes it’s an honest lapse in judgement. Sometimes it’s a misalignment of importance. It’s almost never sinister, even if it is annoying.

I particularly liked how Florian wraps his presentation with “ChatOps”, which is a wonderful term.

Under what circumstances though? I maintain that this is best suited for when your work tends to be inherently linear with respect to some dimension. For example, if your primary job is to keep a system operational versus the linear passage of time, ChatOps is an excellent approach.

Instead, I am a huge proponent of documentation in all of its variations. Making meeting notes, one-pagers, and decision logs searchable can cut down on the the number of shoulder-taps needed to solve a problem. Even better, transcribe (copy and paste) emails into the the team notes. Make meeting notes as public as possible. There are so many things lost between troubleshooting and summary reports so I really like the idea of searchable chat logs.