How we communicate

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We’re a distributed team with distributed clients and stakeholders. How we communicate with each other and our stakeholders is critical to our success as an organisation. Therefore it’s important to be on the same page on this topic, and why we do things the way we do.

Longform discussion and an open, structured workflow

The primary way we communicate with each other and our stakeholders is longform discussion in an open, structured workflow, powered by Discourse.

There is a really important project-management side to this. When you structure your communication through an open workflow, i.e. bug reports, feature requests, categories, tags, and descriptive content in topics, you achieve a number of things that are critical for a system based on remote relationships:

  1. It makes it easier for other people to work-in with you. If you’ve stuck all your planning and work in a Slack chat, or just covered it in a Skype call, all that knowledge is not recorded in a way that’s easy for other people to see and understand. If you want to bring anyone else in you need to go through the same explaination and learning process again.

  2. It makes it easier for stakeholders, in particular clients and users of our plugins, to follow what is happening with the things they care about. Our stakeholders don’t have the opportunity to meet us and build trust in us in individuals through the normal ways people connect with others. All they know about is is what they see in our communications and how we structure our work here on Pavilion.

Moreover, longform online discussion is what our organisation is built around and for. We have to practice what we preach. We have to dogfood.

Discourse will always be our primary way of communicating. Whenever you want to communicate something with other members or our stakeholders your first thought should always be how to do this in an open and structured fashion.

The ‘open’ part of this shouldn’t be skipped over. To achieve the benefits mentioned above, it doesn’t help to stick everything in a private messages. It’s initially easier to do this, i.e. I want to tell someone something, but over time it’s alot harder to manage. Don’t get into the habit of pm’ing.

There’s also a ‘fear’ aspect to being open that needs to be addressed head on. If you don’t know something, or are not sure if you’re right about something, it’s tempting to keep that private. You may feel you don’t want clients, other members, or other stakeholders to know.

In 99% of cases this feeling needs to be resisted. No-one will respect you less for not knowing everything. Clients and stakeholders know the reality of work is that you need to consult, raise quesitons, get some things wrong and overcome your mistakes.

Open source is an integral part of what we do. A key part of the philosophy behind open source is overcoming tyranny of private perfection. The more you share with others, the easier your problems become. See further: The Cathedral and the Bazaar.

The role of chat and video calls

However there are also times when you want more instant communication, partly because you need to think something through with someone else, or you just need touch a number of points that would be laborious to cover via longform text. Or you just want more “human” connection with the other members and to develop the relationships that form an important part of teamwork.

There are three contexts in which more instant communication, i.e. chat or video calls, is called for:

  1. Project collaboration. When you’re trying to figure out how best to work with others on a specific project you sometimes need to just cover a number of points on a call or via chat together

  2. Organisational development. When thinking about how we’re developing Pavilion we often need to:

    • cover a number of points at once; and
    • convey feelings and motivations that are harder or more laborious to convey in writing.
  3. Personal development. Having a regular one-on-one live chat with a mentor, or just another member, is an important part of personal development. Similar to organisational development, you need that more human connection to:

    • convey a number of points at once; and
    • convey thoughts and feelings that are harder or more laborious to convey in writing.
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@staff @fzngagan would be interested in your thoughts on the above!

@fzngagan Let’s have a video chat next week to focus in on this aspect of your work

You can PM me with your availability (setting up a time to do a one-on-one chat is a good use case for PMs :slight_smile: )

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See here: Professional and personal development

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@members. Hey guys, I would like to know your thoughts on this.

Here on Pavilion, we mostly have work related talk in a formal way with longform discussions which is great for collaborating in a remote environment.

Can we have an informal medium where we can actually catch up and simply chat?

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Great idea!

Wouldn’t mind having a discord or slack or keeping it on the forum or something else.

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@members I’m open to this, but I want to do something “conscious” here. What can we do in a way that aligns with our core goals and philosophy.

What I want to avoid is creating an “closed” environment where people start putting all the organisational knowledge. All the key stuff should be here on thepavilion.io, and the vast majority of it “open source”, i.e. publicly available.

If we can come up with an approach to chat that factors that in, then I’m all for it.

@tobiaseigen I wonder if you have any thoughts on this?

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Personally I prefer to just use discourse for everything, but that’s just me. :slight_smile:

I do not like spending time on slack and other cloud based services. I am suspicious of them and I prefer to spend time in discourse. So the more we can do here, the better. And the more likely I am to participate myself. I’ve been invited to other slack projects and use it for work but ultimately am not motivated to hang out there and contribute to it no matter how beautiful the experience. At work I spend at least as much time telling people to post to our discourse instead of slack as I do actually collaborating with colleagues.

My reasons are pretty much the same as what @angus wrote in the OP. I like dogfooding to test the limits of open source software and make it better, and the tool I care most about is discourse. I don’t care about other tools so much these days but if there is some discourse related dogfooding to be done I am open to it. For example I am very interested in testing integration with a self-hosted discord instance so if we could do that here I’d be super psyched.

I agree that I tend to be wordy - one of the things about using discourse that I Iike so much is that I am able to think out loud to formulate deeper thoughts for my own benefit while also involving others who share my interests. It also helps me keep in touch with Angus on many things despite the time zone difference between us and our heavy workload.

I do agree that when you are in the throes of a particular project or collaboration, some people might want to “get a room” to talk amongst themselves in a more informal, dynamic way. I think you should totally feel free to do that and using whatever tools you prefer if it helps move the collaboration forward more rapidly and it keeps you feeling happy and connected. If you do, you should still absolutely feel obligated to share anything worth keeping back on our discourse for the benefit of those that come after us (including our future selves).

Personally I think discourse is also fun for informal back and forth and posts do not have to be long/civilized™ - maybe we can just create a chat topic here and use that, akin to a members “channel” on slack? We’d mention people to pull them in for quick q&a.

Angus and I have had a monthly skype call tradition that was very worthwhile, though we’ve fallen off the wagon with that at the moment. One thing I found super helpful was to try to be very disciplined about keeping notes (in discourse!) about what transpired during the calls, work done and decisions made, when the next call will be and what we both commit to doing towards the next call.

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I think it would be worth having a space to chat about casual/daily life/non-pavilion things as a “team” that isn’t on the forum. Having it on the discourse would potentially lead to mixing work and non-worked related notifications and topics in latest and I think it’s already enough work as it is to sift through the plethora of notifications (and lack thereof!) we get here. Think we just have to stay vigilante on making sure we keep the team chat casual and if some pavilion-related brainstorming/discussion does happen, the key points end up on the forum.

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We can also contemplate an off topic category just for members. We can adjust our notification level accordingly.

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Having used Slack a LOT in other work, I think it starts well and eveyone’s excited, until it eventually clogs up productivity and creates a nervous, ‘always-on-call’ feeling in teams. It is a distraction machine, pinging it way into your consciousness when you need concentration and focus. I hate it.

We are all in different time zones, so chat in realtime is probably not likely to work that well anyway.

I guess if two people are working together on something and for that day want to ping back and forth in text (useful for code snippets etc) then that could be done in WhatsApp, Hangouts, or anything else. Or just open a video chat and leave it open!

But above all I second what @angus is saying about keeping the discussion ‘open’ so that all those useful code snippets and ideas and solutions are shared by default. ‘Dogfooding’ Discourse is I reckon the right way to go for most of it.

M

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Maybe a bit off topic here, but I looked into discord a bit and see discord supports open source projects but is not open source. It looks to me like just another slack like hosted chat service, just targeting gamers. Not really of interest to me.

Yep. Agree with everything @pacharanero writes and especially this part. To address the desire for informal sharing and community building, what do you say to creating a members only JFF category here? Folks who don’t want to be inundated can change their notification level for that category.

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I think the key here is that any off-site chat platform wouldn’t be for work but for casual not-work interactions. I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable chatting about random things in an unstructured ill-conceived way on the forum proper. It would be the internet equivalent of hanging out out of work, it just isn’t the same if you’re in the same office building.

I guess I’m somewhat philosophically against the “keep everything on Discourse” part since Discourse, while great, isn’t best-suited for everything. Being on Discourse inherently promotes everyone being able to review and responding to everything to produced while group chats are more in the moment - meant for those who just happen to be around.

Again though, I think the key is to make sure to frame it as a totally optional off-site way to chill and hang out with Pavilion members that’s for all intents and purposes unrelated to our work itself.

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I hear what you’re saying and I’m easy. If you want to connect elsewhere to have fun with your pavilion colleagues that’s fine by me. :slight_smile: I’m also ok with adding some fun to our discussions here and being transparent and open about it, and referring back to it later.

Maybe there’s a plugin idea in this - to add a category setting that automagically wipes posts older than x hours or days. The oldest surviving post becomes the OP. So what we say in that category really is just in the moment and we know it won’t be retained for posterity. That could be pretty fun!

Discourse meets Snapchat. Snapcourse.

I’m still unsure about this. I think @Eli and @fzngagan have made good points, but like @tobiaseigen and @pacharanero I have reservations.

Like @pacharanero I have a fair bit of prior experience with Slack in a work environment, and his description of the trajectory of adopting Slack resonates.

The main reason I’m still open to it here is that we’re entirely remote. There is really no opportunity to just hang out with other people.

I feel like there’s a proposal here for a non-annoying, context-specific chat that doesn’t suck up valuable organisational knowledge. But I’m just not sure what that looks like yet.

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@members @tobiaseigen I just showed this topic to my girlfriend and she said

It’s like when you move in with new flat mates, and you all get along, but it’s only when you go out and get drunk together that you all connect on a deep level. And you don’t want to get drunk in front of clients. So you need a chat app.

:sweat_smile:

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Cool way of thinking about it. I like it. If it’s for chitchat and friendly banter then it can be anything eg WhatsApp. And there is no expectation that we’re following every post in there.

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Please no Facebook apps :sweat_smile:

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Looks like a pretty advanced natural language to discourse quote system :wink:

I like the flat mate analogy!

The other helpful comparison to flat mates is that the people who first start renting together get to set the ground rules. So it cracks me up that @merefield responded so quickly to say please no facebook apps. :slight_smile: I agree with him there, but again am cool with individual members of this team hopping over to whatsapp or skype or whatever works for them. Just like the smokers who need to go outside to smoke. :no_smoking:

I thought the #members category was private? What’s the problem with letting our hair down here a bit anyway, start some traditions that other members as they join can enjoy and follow the lead on?

Update: ah. I see it’s not private - an assumption I made along the way that was quite wrong. Is there anywhere in private here where we can hang out besides PMs?

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A few moments ago, I was in a completely different mood and this analogy made me laugh literally.

This thread itself is a good start to what we wanna achieve lol.

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