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Discussion on: If you ever have to lead a remote dev team...

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

This is all particularly interesting to our team because we are fully distributed, and we're trying to do it the right way.

So I agree with a lot of it, and then also find spots where we're trying to go in a different direction.

Slack resembles an open space working environment. And yes, you require quality time alone. It's ok to turn off the app, but make sure that everybody knows how to reach you via phone or your personal messenger

This is probably the area we are most trying to experiment and get right. As a team distributed all over the world, we want to make sure asynchronous workflows are reasonable and be able to operate effectively without certainty about the status of others. It's all a work in progress for us.

All in all we definitely have less structure than is outlined here, but it will be interesting to see how we evolve. I've bookmarked this post and will keep referring back to it.

Longterm, we also need to try to find the right answers for the social implications of distributed work. Different people have different ideal situations in terms of ongoing interactions, face to face time, etc. And we're just trying to figure it all out too 😄

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Roman Sedykh Author

This is probably the area we are most trying to experiment and get right. As a team distributed all over the world, we want to make sure asynchronous workflows are reasonable and be able to operate effectively without certainty about the status of others. It's all a work in progress for us.

I probably should mention that this is more an exception than the rule... In our case, we didn't need that anymore, because we use threads 99% of the time. Even if there is a new message in the channel, if thread counter is zero, it doesn't require immediate attention.

Longterm, we also need to try to find the right answers for the social implications of distributed work. Different people have different ideal situations in terms of ongoing interactions, face to face time, etc. And we're just trying to figure it all out too 😄

My most strong team almost never saw each other. The key factor here is mutual respect and love for our craft. I think it can work this way for almost everybody. Though it's still a very warm feeling when you finally see your peers. :-)

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Jon Calhoun

I'm still not sold on Slack being the ideal tool for remote communication. I think it works well enough for "everyone is in the office at the same time" type teams, but when asynch and catching up quickly and efficiently become important it falls short.

My biggest complaint with Slack is that it is too easy to fall behind and feel like you most of your time just trying to get caught up. I found myself reading through old channels that really didn't pertain to me, or were just people chatting nonchalantly, all to find the one or two messages that did matter.

Threads help, but getting everyone to use them properly is hard.

It would also be nice if you could clearly denote who a thread needs attention from. Eg in a #design channel it would be nice to create a thread like "Increasing accessibility on the checkout page" and to then mark the people you think need to see the thread. Right now it just gets blasted out to everyone in #design, which isn't bad, but not having a way to say "bob and jane need to read this thread sometime" kinda sucks.

I suppose that isn't entirely honest, as we could just @ mention them, but @ mentions usually suggest urgency that often isn't there in threads like this.

I think there are some outage tools out there that handle this by created channels for each outage, linking to them in a common #outages type channel, and then I believe channels are just archived upon an outage being resolved and cleaned up. I wonder if that approach might work better for remote teams with the right sort of app integration... 🤔

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Roman Sedykh Author

It would also be nice if you could clearly denote who a thread needs attention from. Eg in a #design channel it would be nice to create a thread like "Increasing accessibility on the checkout page" and to then mark the people you think need to see the thread.

This is exactly how we use threads. With @ mentions. It is somehow ok for us without suggesting urgency. We're just trying to be really careful with each other's attention.

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Jon Calhoun

I suppose if everyone agreed that this was what we were doing, and everyone always used threads, it could work well. I'd be curious how this compares to one of the other tools out there (eg Twist)

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Roman Sedykh Author

My friend worked in Doist on Twist back in the day and he hooked me up on the early beta.

I think Twist is like Basecamp. It's good for planning and long conversations, but it sucks when you need to discuss something quickly because you end up in a direct messages conversation. I ended up using Trello + Slack, and Google Docs for planning.