February 23, 2019

On the Problem of Chat Overuse

Real-time chat rules crypto. I have 11 chat apps installed on my phone.

Chat can be effective. It can also ruin the way we work, unless it’s used consciously 🙂

Remote teams build most crypto projects. Communication tools made and make this possible. Yet their unchecked proliferation can turn into the problem, rather than solution.

Easy, Convenient and Inefficient

Chat’s easy and convenient. It provides a cheap dopamine hit. It’s also profoundly distracting. Chat overuse also creates huge inefficiencies in the way we communicate.

(This is one of my favorite articles on that topic.)

Chat’s a short-form communication tool. It’s most effective when used to communicate transactional short-form messages. It’s least effective when used to communicate historical long-form conversations.

The latter are messages longer than a few phrases, that happen among a group of people and should be documented for historical reference. Using chat for these conversations leads to knowledge gaps and unnecessary repetition.

Knowledge Gaps and Unnecessary Repetition

Knowledge gaps happen because people miss messages. This is especially true in crypto teams, who are often spread across the globe. It’s unrealistic to expect each team member to track back through each chat channel a team uses to “catch up”.

It’s a pretty big waste of time and attention. The team member has to cognitively process and filter 100’s of messages, just in case there may be a few that are relevant to their work. It doesn’t work.

Then what happens? Someone asks the same question again. Nobody can remember the answer. The entire debate happens all over again. It’s not documented because it’s “in the chat”.

Hence the cycle continues. On and on it spins. My head’s starting to hurt thinking about it.

Have Long Form Discussions Too

So, what’s the solution? Once a chat starts becoming a conversation, move it to a long form discussion forum like Discourse. Direct people to it when they insist on continuing the conversation in chat.

It’s not an easy thing to do. It takes a willingness to break an old habit, do something better and stick to it. The reward is a saner workplace and more useful knowledge repository.

P.S. - This post was first published in my free Blockchain PM newsletter.