Your example 'hey, are you available for a quick question?' could easily have the question directly after that in the same line. No less polite, no less collegial, but much more efficient.
Of course it bugs people, it causes us to sit and wait for something when it could have been given to us straight up. People don't have infinite amounts of time to devote to mere waiting. Perhaps it is because you work remotely that this isn't so much the case, but for busy IT help desks, dedicating screen space to a conversation with nothing useful in it for any period of time is both a waste of the user's time and the technician's.
Our working environments aren't asking too much of us. There's absolutely nothing strenuous about people learning to adapt their mode of conversation for the medium, especially to meet everybody's efficiency needs. As the website stated, it's altogether possible to keep the polite chit-chat in the same post as the question.
With a very basic policy change to how you receive messages, you can totally avoid all inefficiency.
You also avoid supporting the transparent money grab of a website dedicated to a needless complaint that is 90% ads.
Also, many people seem to want to get a reply to their "Hello" before they type more, so you have to switch over to the chat tab instead of just ignoring the notification.
A cordial greeting before an ask is mostly an empty gesture anyway. If you actually care how someone's day is going, ask in person or via a message with more substance.
About a year or so ago I came up with a solution to this problem: turn off all notifications. I don't revive notifications for emails, chats, texts – anything except phone calls. That's the only thing. I also have a notice in my chat status at work, and wherever else it makes sense: "For urgent matters, please call me at <phone number>."
It's worked wonders. I can choose to respond whenever I choose to check my messages, and for anything truly important people do call. It's happened maybe a half a dozen times over the past year that anyone's actually called, and typically whenever I'm non responsive in chat (because I didn't see it) I'll get an email instead, which generally has more detail in it anyway.
This, along with using mornings to square away most correspondence, has worked wonders for my concentration. My afternoons are now mostly focus time, despite people texting and emailing. I just get back to them later. Maybe tomorrow morning.
For people whose job it is to be notified of things, likely the author the website included, how is this relevant?
Not everybody has the liberty to choose when to check messages or respond to them, especially those who are using a chat system which usually demands an instantaneous response. People collaborating on projects, people working to a deadline, companies which favour Slack or similar systems over email, and in my own example, people on IT helpdesks.
While I'm glad that you've managed to regain control of your routine, I'm not sure I see how it's relevant to the scenarios applicable to those hinted at through the context of the website.
And I do get some blocks of time when I can ignore all interruptions, in which case I just don't even open chat, instead of having it open and disabling notifications.
(My job isn't weird; I'm an SRE on a support rotation. When I'm on support I need to see things urgently; when I'm not I can focus on project work and escalations can take the form of someone finding me and pulling the headphones off my ears if needed.)
More fundamentally, not being around on the medium that most people at your company use in order to focus on project work is a great way to get left behind in terms of being aware of what the business is doing and what it values. People will slowly see you as the person who's great at finishing their own projects but not usefully responsive, and start treating you that way. Including when trying to assign new projects or during performance review season.
I’ll see a “Hi!“ in a notification or followed by _x is typing_ then safely know that I can start slow context-switching out of whatever mode I’m in, start reviewing that block of work for check-in or noting the key takeaways to come back to, and start pre-loading whatever I was talking about with that person last, without the fear of “here’s a big block of text, please respond to it in kind (all right away)”. And more than that, I can also interrupt any incorrect lines of thought or rambling if it’s more rubber-ducking than a request, or turn it into more of a conversation than a message which can read “please do this” and a reply which says “um... let me get back to you”.
I don’t know about you, but a large technical question or “hey can you... X Y Z” generates much more uncertainty than a chat between colleagues, even if the format is only different. Hell, modes of communication are a thing, we’d be as well use each one for its strengths.
I could reply "Sort of, depends on your question", but realistically I'll just not reply if they don't ask a real question.
Maybe now I'm less available than I was, or want to stop working. This is why the "hi" alone is a waste of time. I do not want to be compelled to check [chat application] more often than I want to.
I don't begrudge the person running the site to want to cover their expenses.
Also, their complaint is not needless. It's a perfectly valid complaint. No need to be dismissive just because the site has ads, an issue unrelated from the core message imparted.
As others state, the very fact of switching to the chat application just to see whether or not the other user has sent a message is a block to one's train of thought. The colleague mightn't be finishing typing their message until you respond, they might even engage you in some banter first — so you can't just ignore their lonely 'hi', you have to actually engage with it, wasting both of your time.
The website manages to convey quite succinctly but not rudely a better way to communicate that one day could become a form of netiquette. There's nothing harmful with that.
> With a very basic policy change to how you receive messages, you can totally avoid all inefficiency.
That's nice, but not everybody's attention/focus works the same way.
I can't do this, for instance. If I get a "hello" message, I can try and return to the task at hand, but the anticipation that I'm going to get another notification any random time now completely ruins my concentration. Trying to regain my focus and continue work takes me at least a minute or two of active effort ignoring that nagging feeling until it's quieter. During that time, of course, comes the second notification with the actual question. Replying to that will of course require my full attention anyway. So I don't usually spend the futile effort to regain focus and rather just zone out for a bit until the other person gets to their point, I can answer, and everything is over.
And like everybody says, you can just put your "Hi!" in the same message as the question. I do that always. In fact I would feel I was being purposefully irritating if I sent a "Hello" first, wait for a reply, and only then get to my point.
It's a bit different if they expect it to be a longer chat or complex question. Then asking "Hey, do you have time" is fine, because it's a genuine question that I could answer with either "sure" or "be with you in 10 mins". Then I am in control again and can focus finishing up until I get to them. I think that's the key here, being without control in that limbo zone between "hello" before finding out what the other person actually wants from you.
 personally I will always write "Hey do you have time to chat about <3-5 word summary of the thing>" because again it's the polite thing to do, not wasting the other person's time. Also it's easy enough, and helps me formulate the point concisely for myself. It allows the other person to decide whether chatting about <the thing> is something they have time for instead of just having time in general.
If you can't politely ask people how to address you on chat, it's a problem with either you, or the team / workplace.
You should be able to talk about things effecting your productivity, or switch job.
Then there’s also the topic of the discussion here. Topic: “don’t say hello”. Replies can be whole anecdotes of superstar developers who lost 10 seconds of their precious time, or something more mild, but there’s no anecdote in “I am okay with people spending a line in Slack/Teams to say hello.”
Please, just put it all in with the message: "Hi. I have a quick question if you're available. Let me describe it as best I can here to start: ..."
This way even if I was not available to respond immediately, at least I have some actionable information when I do reply.
I worked for a company on the other side of the world and they'd often message me "hey, you around?" at like 5am in the morning my time. I'd get up later by that time many of them had gone home, meaning i'd have to wait for tomorrow to find out what they wanted. Which, as well as well as having to wait every interaction, also left the issue hanging over my head, fuelling anxieties.
I don't think that's the takeaway.
The message is more about treating chat as a lightweight email rather than treating it like face to face or phone calls.
You'd never send an email that said hi, wait for the person to respond, and then respond to that with a question you wanted to ask them from the start. Chat should be the same way.
That doesn't mean no pleasantries, it means bundle them up into your message.
"Short link to this page: http://nohello.com/. (If you see that as someone's status, please be prepared to be ignored if you only say "Hello!".)"
Is just a new way of being an asshole. Don't do that.
I agree fully with the message behind the page. Put your greetings in the same message as the question. A lot of people seem to think it's rude, but I'm convinced that it's the only polite option and not doing so is rude.
That said, I agree with you as well. Don't just set that as your status and ignore people. That's about the worst of all worlds.
And certainly not as bad as the folks who ask me to "please consider the environment before printing their email." Maybe even with some weird text-based tree art.
I dislike most email footer text.
I'd love to see some annual award for most ridiculous email boilerplate text actually in use.
It could prove to be a fairly useful “Brown M&Ms” test.
- You're in the flow of working on your thing.
- Now, you see a notification. But you decided to continue working but now you have a thing at the back of your head that you have to respond to the message.
- Finally you take a break and decide to look at the pending messages, and you see just a hello. So now you have to respond with hello and know that you are going to be interrupted once again, because very likely, the other person is not looking at their slack at this time so they will respond later when you are busy again.
It doesn't say, "Don't say hello". It says, "Don't say just hello". Say your greetings but also give a brief overview of the question. Saves everyone time and it isn't any less courteous.
If the question is just 5 words or 100 words you can type them in 10 sec then sure I’ll wait. But that’s not how it usually works. You see it’s the people who are least used to chat and so both type the slowest that also misunderstand the greeting protocol. Greeting is fine. Greeting and then typing for 5 minutes is not.
Also as a remote worker something that really annoys me is when someone goes “hi, got time for a question?” and then 20 minutes later “sorry someone just walked in”. Don’t do that. If you sent a hello, always pay attention at least 15 seconds and be ready to interact. Don’t ping and then go for coffee. And please ask people who walk in to wait while we finish chatting, or just tell me someone walked in you need to talk to so I can go on with work.
1) Notifications are enabled, and visible/audible to me. If I'm working, I will likely be set back by multiple minutes by the interruption. I respond back asking what they need and it takes them a few minutes to formulate their question, at which point I've possibly managed to refocus and begin working again. There is a desperate struggle to switch context without losing the mental model I have been building of the problem at hand, before I have the chance to record it by writing some code, a comment or personal notes.
2) Notifications are disabled. I see the "hello" an hour later. I respond "hi, what's up?" and my coworker is now in a meeting or something and takes an hour to get back to me. They respond with "I was wondering if you could help me with something" and the cycle begins anew.
And by the way, I actually really like helping people with technical problems. I would sit around all day doing just that if I didn't have other work to do.
So you take a moment to consider the other, and you put your preferred greeting first, and add the question in the very same message. Bam! Best of worlds! Polite, nice, collegial and not making people wait and lose focus and switch context (which clearly is less of a deal to some people, but when it is, it's a big deal for some others).
Reading the comments in this thread from the people defending to split the "Hi" and the question into two messages, I really wonder what is their reluctance to just type everything in one go? Because I'm not buying that saying "Hi" in a separate message and then waiting is somehow more polite than saying the very same things but in one single message.
See, it sounds to me that it is them who don't like waiting. Sending a "Hi" first makes it more likely you have the other's (waiting) attention by the time you finished typing the question, so that you get an answer right away, not wasting any of your precious time. If you were to type your "Hi" and the actual question in one message, you spend your time and effort typing that question but the other person only gets the notification as you press <send>, and now it's you who has to wait in idleness. Much easier too, to quickly fire off a "Hi" first and only then start thinking about actually formulating your question.
And we are all very polite about it, we do say things like: "Hi, if you have a minute, how do I get this code working?"
And, we also have a "water cooler" room/flow, where we talk anything that isn't work related, weather, music, etc, and there sure, you can just say hi and nothing else.
In my case, it is not that I'm on a tight deadline, we make sure to have almost no tight deadline, my case is, I'm probably playing with my kids, or about to have breakfast with my wife, so if you need me, and post your question along with "hi", I can answer before I step away from the computer.
Hope this gives you an alternative view.
In all seriousness, imagine if every response to your comment did that, and you had to reply and say Yes before they actually typed up their comment.
I get the "hello" message quite a bit on Slack, and I find it pretty reasonable, since the person hello-ing me is really asking "are you there? Because I expect you might not be, and I want your help with something."
I think "hello" is a polite way to check for presence. If I reply (and the asker is still online) then it's a green light for the conversation. If I'm not online then fine.
(I usually send messages like "Hi @coworker, can you please check the smoke alarm in the server room?" -- but the questions the coworkers have for me usually involve more Q&A than a one-liner would cover.)
It is. But typing a long question for say 5 minutes isn’t really “conversation” it’s just keeping someone waiting. That’s what the usual problem is. Not someone saying “hello” and then when greeted back they ask a 5 word question. In that situation it obviously makes no difference.
I haven't used Slack for some time now, but I presume it's like every other I'm service in that it displays your current status, such as" Available", "Away" etc?
Where I work we use Skype for Business, and it automatically changes to away if their is no interaction for some time or I lock my workstation. Skype also has Outlook integration, so automatically switches status to Busy if it knows I'm in a meeting. I presume other IM software does the same kind of thing.
That's not what's happening. If there is a selfish reason (generally there's not), it's their handshaking protocol to discover if you're available to answer immediately.
Usefully, in my experience, nobody opens an IM session where they need my help on a production outage with just 'Hi'. :)
(I suspect I'm in a minority, but it's also why I hate answering the phone. An incoming phonecall is just a way for another person to unilaterally decide that they need my attention right now, which is often both disruptive and not true).
How about, just ask the question? Like "Can I get your attention today to help me figure out xxx?"
Maybe the intention is that I don’t have to respond. But every now and then, it’s about something important.
So I have to stop what I’m doing every time, respond, wait for the actual message to be typed out, and realize it’s something unimportant that doesn’t need to be discussed on a Saturday afternoon. Maybe this is humane, but it’s also annoying.
Just reply "Hi" or "Here" or even "Not here" (if your manager understands jokes and you are ready to leave).
You do not need to wait for the answer after that. Especially if it is not your work day.
Please understand, that your manager is trying to solve a problem, and getting your help -- is not the only option for your manager. That is why he may not want to spend his time explaining the problem to you if you are not available anyway.
It's even worse on telephone, Skype and IM, where any semblance of "personalism" is lost - someone starts a new conversation with "Hi, how are you?", and I have to respond to that before you'll just tell me why you're actually starting a conversation! How am I meant to respond? I invariably just say "yeah, fine, you?" - but I don't care, the other person doesn't care. It's just... awkward and pointless. I don't get what either party is meant to get our of this.
Just interpret "how are you?" as "Hi" and reply "Hi" or "Hi. What's up?" back.
Somebody just saying "Hi", without followup, is saying "I expect you have nothing else to do, except wait for me". That's not "humanity", that's entitlement.
I do draw a distinction to "hey, available for a quick question", because that is stating a request - the person sending it asks for a chunk of our attention. It's a deliberate request to move to synchronous mode.
And to forestall the "but isn't chat just like talking to each other" - no, no it isn't. Talking is 150 words per minute, and it's delivered as a continuous stream. Chatting is (if we're lucky) 50 wpm, and it's delivered bursty.
I bet that it's likewise true that when you ask someone a question, it will usually be the case that that person answers more questions than you do (again, for most values of "you").
I think the distribution of how many questions a person is asked is very nonlinear. Someone who answers five questions a week is going to have a very different experience, and want very different social norms, than someone who answers fifty, or a hundred and fifty.
You don't put phone call on hold and reply next day. You don't use text chat to expect realtime communication.
Interestingly, people don't have this trouble with e-mail. No one sends an email with single line "hello" and expect a reply, because instinctively people expect email work like real paper mail.
With chat they expect it to work like phone, although it's pretty much works on the same principles as email.
People often, and I would say usually, want to have a synchronous -ish connection when they engage in chat. They want a person-to-person session. It's like synchronous with a generous timeout, or to stretch it, maybe it's like asynchronous -ish but with a very limited thread pool.
But the point is it is mostly used to discuss as you would on the phone, except slightly slower so you can take advantage of other abilities, like the pasting of a code snippet or a log output or a screenshot, and so you can maintain the connection while you are doing some light multi-tasking or virtual pairing at the same time, or even just so you can avoid whatever minor social anxiety you might have.
But if you're in a work conversation with someone on chat, and then they disappear for twenty minutes with no explanation or transition, that's usually not the etiquette and it's usually annoying. More common is they'll say "brb" or "ok, gotta do this other thing" or whatever.
And even if you do have a question, it usually doesn't work to just drop the question in their chat, and then blithely expect an answer "whenever". They might have a followup question or a clarification when you aren't available, and then this simple exchange can stretch on for hours or days.
So it's not like this totally asynchronous thing where people drop singular notes into each other's mailboxes and then go on about their days. It's more often a very efficient and low-friction alternative to scheduling fifteen-minute one-on-one meetings with someone or going and interrupting them at their desk.
The annoying part is that they will wait until you reply to the "hi" before asking the question, which is a waste of time.
It's not impolite to say "Hi. If you have a moment, can you tell me why I am getting this error in my JS on line 20?". Saves hassle.
I work for myself and am not at all overworked. Still annoyed by it.
You wouldn't send an email saying "hi" (usually).
I now passively aggressively handle this by posting lyrics of songs that feature their greeting in, like "Hey Jude". It usually gets a laugh but also makes a subtle point that their "Hey" follow up comment was a little pointless.
I don't mind if people post something like this though:
<13:00:00> Hi, hows things?
<13:00:30> Did you manage to get that report sent?
If you say "<small chat> <actual question>", I'm perfectly capable of responding "<small chat> <actual question || delaying response>". There's no need to decouple the questions and making one contingent on receiving a response from the preceding question.
The downside to slamming a person with multiple questions is obviously aligning their responses to the questions asked. So there's obviously some thought that must go into formulating your questions. But I don't see any issue with opening your line of communication with small chat and your actual question as the responses would be easily distinguished.
I just wait for 10 minutes before I engage in that chat (wishing I could turn off notifications for individual people in Slack), let the person say "Hi spurgu", followed by "Hope you are doing well" (and whatever else they come up with), after which they finally type out what they actually wanted to say. When they're done going through this horribly inefficient, annoying and time-wasting procedure I just directly respond to their question, without any added social bs.
Then again I come from Finland.
Let’s converse during non work hours.
Keep the humanity alive!
We are not robots – yet.
Perhaps some kinds of work are more sensitive to interruptions than others.
I can see being more impatient with this if I were in Ops and everything was an urgent fire all the time. Sometimes you just need the information as quickly as possible and that's what you need to optimize for.
But for me, if someone asks, "Hey, you there?" I'm sort of thankful for the opportunity to say, "Hey! How's it going, what's up?" rather than think, "Just ask me the question already!" As a remote worker it's often more important to optimize for the relationship because that's how you stay connected to what's going on.
You sure you're not overreacting a little?
When I answer tech support questions, the first thing out of my mouth is "Hi I'm SlowRobotAhead, what is the problem you're having?"
Not what can I do for you today, not tell me the setup, not what it is I do here. Tell me the problem have - and we'll see from there. That's not rude or removing humanity. It's polite by acknowledging we're not going to waste each other's time because of a mutual respect we start off with.
Hehe... no. I wrote the comment, took it out, then decided it didn't really express what I was trying to put across, so put it back in. So I was clearly on the fence anyway! A fine line between pithiness and rudeness sometimes, I regret when I fall over into the latter.
u1: Hi, can I ask a question?
u1: <asks question>
u2: <provides answer>
u1: <asks question>
u2: <provides answer>
For some reason that reminded me of this gem: http://www.bash.org/?23396
Not sure if I should be pleased or horrified with myself that it took me less than 15 seconds to find that link. :/
"Hi, what is the problem you're having?", the only answer to that is exactly what I want to hear. Not "Hey what can I do for you today" or anything like that to which the answer could start with a review, or an anecdote, or whatever.
So the other side of this is greet people with direction.
u1: Hi, can I ask a question about the flubulator process?
u2: Hmm... u3 owns the flubulator, unless it's frobnicator-related.
I feel like I'm making it sound complicated, when for most people it's the most natural thing in the world.
u1: Hi, can you switch to the alternate server, the main one is crashing
[... 12 hours later, when the problem has already been resolved]
u2: Sure thing, let me do it.
"Looks like you've already asked a question there ;)"
"Feel free to ask your question when you ping me so we don't have to do the hello/hi exchange"
I understand that asking to ask is a courteous thing to do in general and follows the general rules of social graces, but when you do that, you're actually wasting my time and are being less courteous.
If you really must do this, just put the ask-to-ask in the same (initial) message as the actual question. Given that the ask-to-ask query is functionally useless anyway (what asshole would say "no" to that?), you get to appear courteous while also not wasting your colleague's time.
More seriously, I never know how to respond to that question because it depends on what the question is. It feels like a trap so that I can't get out of providing an answer to a question I won't want to answer.
Just dropping it all at once gives them a chance to absorb the question and give a more thoughtful reply.
Obviously if the question is of a sensitive nature or needs special care then none of this applies.
I find it a polite way of determining if the other party is able to give me their attention.
This isn't appropriate at all for packet-based asynchronous communication. It's packet-based, meaning that receiving a short question is no faster than receiving a long question (you don't have to actually read the long question in order to receive it). It's asynchronous, meaning, if you can't answer right this moment but can in a minute, then the asker can still go ahead and ask their question.
What's more, it's outright rude in an asynchronous communication, because what you're actually doing is saying "hey can you please suspend what you're doing and have a synchronous communication with me?" when you almost certainly don't need a synchronous communication. About the only justification for this is "I don't want to type my question if nobody's around to answer it immediately, because I won't be staying long", but all I can say to that is: tough cookies.
It's even worse if you do this in group chat (like IRC), because you're now asking anyone who's around to stop what they're doing and wait for your question. So it takes the above rudeness and magnifies it by the number of people currently reading the channel.
There's a cultural component to this as well. I've worked with people from a few cultures where their norms dictate that smalltalk and pleasantries be exchanged before getting down to business, so sometimes it's even worse than simply "Hello" or "Can I ask a question?" Sometimes they want to go through the whole rigmarole of "How are you?" as well. Sorry, but in my culture, we get to the damn point, because the most polite thing to do is to interrupt me only if necessary and consume as little of my time as is required.
We're not friends, we're coworkers. You're sending me a message because we're interacting to some business end. The most polite thing to do is to optimize the transaction and move on. If you want to chit-chat, I'd be happy to join you for lunch.
In most cultures, women get trained to be all touchy-feely and they get a lot of social expectation to be all touchy-feely. It often winds up being abused by people just seeking to get their own emotional needs met completely for free and seems to either never be of professional benefit to the woman or to actually undermine her professionally.
I am still trying to figure out how to effectively navigate this issue. Women who try to be professional are often given a lot of flak for being "cold and bitchy" or similar. But doing the warm, friendly social stuff so often expected for women literally does not pay off.
There are also class issues. Behavior that I spent most of my life seeing as simply polite gets interpreted differently depending upon both the social class of the person to whom I am speaking and also how they perceive me, especially with regards to if they think they are "better" than me/ "one of my betters."
Two people who are both upper class will both be polite to each other and also genuinely respect the other person. Unfortunately, in many cases, if they bother to be polite to someone they see as beneath them, it is often quite superficial and does not involve any degree of genuine respect nor caring. So, for example, it will not lead to deal making, opening doors professionally for the lower class individual, etc. -- even in cases where they know the lower class person has a skill of value to them and pertinent to their project.
- Hi, how are you? How can I help?
- <here they can quickly reply how they are and ask the question>
Secondly, and assuming this is a random co-worker rather than a friend, why is "how are you?" in the response when you don't actually care, and possibly don't even know the person?
This book taught me to value my cultural norms less and be more accepting of others: “The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business”
This is why I suggested to adapt response depending on the signal, if you see someone pinging you with "Hi" the most productive thing is to be accepting. After helping them, you can always educate the other person to ask the question directly.
P.S. I'm not american, don't leave in US, don't work in US. This is a universal problem of any multi-cultural or even single-culture multi-background environment.
For some reason, I've never actually considered that. I guess it might be tricky to word without seeming rude, but is totally doable. Only issue (for me personally) is that I work for a faceless megacorp that employs > 250k people, so I'd need to do rather a lot of educating :)
In the example given, there is 1 minute between the "Hi" and the question. If 1 minute makes or breaks getting things done in time, you do not have a white collar job, you have a fast paced labor job similar to that of a worker on a factory room floor.
Food for thought.
That means with text there's an idle period between the "hello" packet and the followup. Just seeing the greeting and having to decide whether to wait, respond or ignore it is an annoyance that does not exist in spoken conversation.
It's not about the time itself, it's about the uncertain, possibly unbounded latency and the context-switching.
In fact text is not just higher-latency, it also has a lower bandwidth. It's really important to use it efficiently.
For a bit reduced latency and higher throughput they could implement liveposting as some imageboards do.
You are doing productive thing x. Person A sends you a hello message and your chat app pings you. You go to look at chat and now you are staring at an empty chat window for the minute or more it takes for person A to actually ask what they could have sent already.
I honestly think you can treat "conversations" in a chat program as more like email. Sure, some of the time you can get a conversation going, but if you don't already have a continuous conversation going then create a fully self contained message
Worse, you're trying to figure out if it's worth refilling your short term memory with the things you just dropped when you checked on the chat.
It's not a minute of boredom, it's a minute of having too much in your brain but you're uncertain if it's worth it to stop the effort or not.
It's similar one of your sibling comments which compares a chat message to a person walking up and saying "hello"... They are absolutely not equivalent; it's perfectly alright to not immediately respond to every message you get (or even only giving it a bit of your attention), even if they are not emails.
I wonder if this is a generational thing...
I was essentially conceding that clearly others are not as able to switch contexts easily.
No matter how the person asks their question your flow is going to be interrupted the moment you open your chat apps. If the person says hello then asks a question a minute later your flow is broken. If the person asks the question right away now you're answering the question and your flow is, just as likely, broken.
As far as flow interruptions are concerned, it's not the fault of the person asking a question but rather the invasive design or reliance on chat, or your own patterns of chat consumption.
The real solution to this problem isn't to impose some kind of rule that people should stop spending an extra minute to be polite, but rather that we should all adopt conscious consumption patterns around chat, i.e. setting aside time each day when you focus strictly on work and ignore chats for x hours (your role permitting). Rather than letting the chat notifications dictate when you attend to them, you should dictate when you attend to chat notifications, and if it means breaking some important flow you have going the chat can probably wait.
Edit: I suppose the only exception to this is when the question is something that requires a one word answer and can be answered instantaneously, but if that's the case that's probably a sign you have larger communication problems in that things that are easily answerable are in the heads of workers and not stored in some uniformly accessible place.
Because one interruption takes x amount of time to deal with and the other interruption takes x + 60 seconds of staring at a chat window that FEELS like 3 times as long
Of course there are some roles that require immediate attention to chat messages when they come in, for example if you’re on call or something, but for the majority of jobs you don’t have to answer right away. Instead of focusing on our own consumption patterns and lack of discipline/restraint we like to blame others because it’s easier—if you’re in the middle of something wait to get to the chat until you’ve reached a good break point.
This is why it’s also good to adopt rules of use for different communications tech, e.g. x chat channel is to be avoided except for emergencies, or DMs are assumed to be casual and important stuff must be relegated to certain channels etc etc.
It is rightfully expected that one gets on with it and says what one has further to say, and in less than sixty seconds from the initial "hello".
Much better for the question to be directly asked, so that the person can respond asynchronously when at a convenient stopping point.
Also note that asking directly doesn’t preclude being polite with “hello - mind if I ask you a question? <insert question>. Thanks in advance!”
Um, if you think there's a connection between a job being "white collar" and not caring whether or how long one's focus is broken, you may want to look into getting a better job.
I'm fortunate enough to have made and saved a lot more money than I need, so a big part of what motivates my career drive and keeps ending my sabbaticals is that getting sufficiently difficult intellectual challenges in front of me is a lot easier in a corporate environment. It turns out that most of these require sustained concentration: interrupt-based communication destroys the ability to do this work, and drawing out the length of the interrupt exacerbates it.
In fact, you have your example precisely backwards: if I worked on a factory floor and someone interrupted me, the cost of the interruption is going to be a lot closer equal to the length of the interrupt (with no second-order effects), since one's time is a lot more fungible.
If I get a 'hello', now I don't know what the situation is, and it might go a few different ways. More distracting.
When someone grabs my attention to ask a question but leaves me idle for a moment, I'm left to wait. I don't get back to what I'm doing because I'll be pulled away from it shortly. The back and forth is very mentally taxing.
I'd love for it to be different but in my experience it's a physical limitation, just the way I am.
How could I go into a think tank for example? Or whatever that needs problem solving, but does not equate with sitting on my ass in front of a screen for hours.
For now I'm saving money to try building multitenent CLT housing.
Grass is greener...?
Hasn't burned me yet but YMMV
It shows them that I've seen their message, but I won't be responding with my own message in order to pull a request out of them.
What I wanted it for was a timezone converter, so everyone saw the time in their own timezone. Our group is from across NA, so somebody saying "I'll be on at 6!" can be hard to figure out when dealing with a dozen people from 4 timezones
You type back "Yeh, sure". And then wait... and wait....
Whenever they do actually ask the question almost an hour later, I'm always tempted to reply "Sorry, the minute is long gone".
I’d rather not share this.
Too bad because I agree with it.
Edit: it’s also stolen from a Google wiki https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14870907
Just think, by this time next year I could be losing thousands each month. Finally I'll put those Reid Hoffman books to practice.
This is really more of a data problem.
I think the strategy is to take the most popular things around this time of day, day of week, and month of year from say a pool of 5-10 year old data.
Then you filter it looking for evergreen content. This would be an incremental heuristic model.
You take the candidate content, use some trivial grammar model to rewrite it so it's not completely identical and then automatically put it on different styled templated sites.
Register a few domains that suggest they are tech information sites
Make sure your Twitter cards and url naming system is reasonable, then have a bot to post it from a handful of puppet accounts
Have a much larger pool of about 250 or so puppet accounts and use a different 5% subset to seed them with upvotes over Tor in order to confuse any clustering algorithm and then keep the profits.
Affiliated ad revenue is total complete shit though. Even if this all worked beautifully you're looking at what? $20/day? I mean who cares...
The truly dishonest and devious thing you could do is freemium it and have a generous paywall like NYT.
That's an incredibly dishonest way to make money though. It'd probably work great.
2) Just having visitors is not enough, they have to be "niche" to an ad category and ideally looking for something to buy (not just information). The only thing that pays out is high-quality PPC traffiic or even better lead-gen for high-value products (health, debt, education, etc) with conversion-based pricing.
3) Google ads on content sites with CPM (impressions) pays pennies out.
4) Targeted blogspam sounds like it involves lots of humans beyond just mechanical turk, with some text parsing and rewriting which is a big overhead
5) This is basically the business model of Buzzfeed and other cancerous sites plus countless "niche" sites you've never heard of with high quality domains + foreign content mills + partner networks+cross domain advertising systems to convert in bulk.
If you want my personal opinion there's almost no low hanging fruit left in the content + high volume + conversion game unless you get lucky with a few niches (but the advertisers find those niches for you).
There are communities like http://www.leadscon.com and similar who do this stuff. It's really unstable business with constantly changing market + technology trends, unless you have a unique product and are developing marketing channels. Otherwise you're constantly fishing for got lead buyers and new traffic sources. Which is a constant grind and probably not a great business to get into, unless you have the heart for that stuff - then you could easily become middle class off of it. At least temporarily.
This is decidedly different. Here's some examples:
These are all at least 6 years old ... the key here is to make it look like it's legit and above board all the while you're just content farming from archives.
I've had people repackage articles I've written on their own site and presented them as conference papers as just one-offs (I don't really care, whatever). This is a proposal for an automated plagerization engine, shamelessly lifting old content and repackaging it in a way suggesting it's exclusive.
I've had top articles and projects on reddit, slashdot, and hn ... I tried amassing a portfolio recently and it's really hard to find the old references, blogs, and articles talking about it. The web is more of a moving river than a library. That's why I think this would work.
It's incredibly dishonest but I don't think I've seen it done.
There are such things as rudeness, crudity, boorishness--and in my opinion, those don't go out the window in the workplace. Keeping your interactions civil and pleasant is important, just like getting to the point can be important too. Saying "hello" before asking someone a question is polite because you're treating them like a human being, not some question-answer bot. Being too aggressive in eliminating these "pointless" social signals can have a cumulative effect of making you look like a real jerk that only values people for their utility in a given situation, in other terms, treats others like objects.
I shall remain a staunch defender of manners and etiquette and pepper all of my conversations with so-called needless pleasantries.
All that said, I of course don't promote saying only hello and then waiting for a reply before proceeding. That's just silly.
That's perfectly polite and friendly, and also respects your colleague's time.
Well, that's what the article is arguing against. No one is saying you shouldn't start your question with hello. You should just say, "Hello X, I was wondering..."
I often won't switch back to what I was doing after replying to the "hello", because my brain is doing a little wager, hoping that the question is short and quick to type out, because doing two mini context switches back and forth is tiring. And if my brain loses that wager, I end up sitting there idle for longer than I'd like.
It's funny how there's so much attention being paid to social niceties in this thread when a simple social nicety is learning how to best communicate with people on an individual basis. And I think that's even more important when the purpose of sending a message to someone is to ask for their help with something. If you're asking someone to take time out of their day to help you, doesn't it make sense to do your best to respect their time, on their terms?
I prefer to keep chat questions to occasions when there is actual time sensitivity, or I already know that the recipient is not heads down or is currently chatty.
Often I get as far as typing out my actual question and I work out what the answer is before hitting send. Sometimes forcing yourself to layout the problem in a structured way helps you understand it and solve it - rubber ducking. If you've not hit send, you can save yourself the embarrassment of
"... Oh - never mind, sorry to bother you!"
The wrong way is "Hey, can you do me a favour?" or "Hey, what are you doing this weekend? Oh you're free?" And then going with things.
It's the same way with everything else. If you have a question, give them a chance to not answer it. "Can I ask you a question?" is a trap on question complexity because the answer is always "depends".
It's okay if they can't answer the question you have. You can just copy-paste it. Also, always ask in public channels unless it's sensitive. That way everyone learns.
If you priorize your conversation partners this behaviour is easy and natural. If you're prioritizing yourself (don't want to repeat the question, don't want to be seen as not knowing the answer, etc.) this behaviour doesn't seem obvious.
But even there, the mechanics of whether the request comes in one long message or broken up is just not that important in the grand scheme of things...
Yes, it is. If you put "hello" in one message, and then follow up with a question some time later, you've possibly interrupted someone twice. If you put both in the same message, you've interrupted them once.
This may not bother you if you're on the receiving end of it, and that's fine. But it does bother me, and I wish people -- especially people who are asking for a bit of my time -- would get this and do me the courtesy of being respectful of my time.
Because that's what we're talking about, right? Being respectful and socially-aware when initiating communication with someone? There is no one-size-fits-all approach to communicating with different people.
What I've adopted is a structured "offline" timeframe, where I answer _no_ communication over the period of about 1-2 hours. When I come "online", I take the time to really answer questions very completely.
I've noticed a few things:
1. This has reduced stress a _lot_
2. Nobody cares I don't answer immediately
3. People do appreciate that when I do answer them, I've taken the time to really research the response
(Now, "offline" isn't really offline, it's more "no distractions or notifications".)
The funny thing I've noticed, is that the people that just want you to be online when they say "Hi" are often very distracted people themselves.
Maybe that 1 minute efficiency is something you're irrationally emotional about. But you have the privilege of working with hundreds of other people who have their own, sometimes contradictory, emotional irrationalities.
I think our industry's greatest weakness is the too-accurate perception of petty emotional battles and tribalism (e.g. Tabs vs Spaces, vim/emacs, mac/windows, front-end/backend, iphone/droid, sql/nosql, php/python). Why don't we do ourselves the favor of not leaning in to finding more silly hills to die on?
(Once upon a time back in the pre-cambrian era of the internet I once got myself into a situation where I had to register a new domain with Network Solutions in order to re-activate an account (or something like that, I don't really recall the details). So I registered networksolutionssucksbigfathonkingweenies.com. Got myself into a wee bit of trouble with that one.)
"Oh crap!" <long pause as everyone around is panicking, waiting on what actually went wrong>
Sometimes something really wrong happened and the person is trying to process it. That's cool. But more often than not, it's like "Oh shit!" <2 minute pause as people ask what happened> "I forgot about my cat's birthday!". Thanks for the dose of anxiety.
Sport. It was always sport.
I had to stop letting Slack interrupt me. Too many of my colleagues had started using it as an email replacement. So I keep it on a secondary monitor or desktop and only glance at it when I'm done with a task. I don't let its icon bounce/beep/bloop/be badged.
I still try to be respectful on my end and go as far as composing everything I want to say in an editor before pasting it into Slack, gathering links to screen shots and logs in advance, etc. We can still model good behavior, right?
JoAnne Yates and James Beniger have both explored this in what I've found to be a surprisingly fascinating literature.
For the brief intro:
JoAnne Yates, "The Emergence of the Memo as a Managerial Genre", May 1, 1989.
James R Beniger, The control revolution : technological and economic origins of the information society
JoAnne Yates, Control through communication : the rise of system in American management
JoAnne Yates, Information technology and organizational transformation : history, rhetoric, and preface
Just go ahead and ask your question. We'll have the appropriate person for you. We'll take a look at the issue before responding you. Or we'll get back yo you if nobody is available right now. It bugs me a lot.
I find NVM semi-offensive. It so often seems to come across as "I'm done with you."
Also, there's the chance the colleague replies for naught, as I've already sorted myself out.
Basically you're just telling us that you are optimizing for your own time and don't respect your colleague's time, which I think is a nice thing to do, especially when you're asking someone to take time out of their day to help you.
> I find NVM semi-offensive. It so often seems to come across as "I'm done with you."
Then don't say that. A more-friendly, "hey, i managed to answer my own question, no need to reply" works equally well.
Huh? How did you draw that conclusion?
As for NVM, your suggestion feels longer than necessary / optimal. That makes it a waste of my time to type and someone else to read. For someone who is time sensitive, can you give me something else I can use?
I will continue googling and I may update if/when I find more info on this.
However, I always had the habit, when in the office, to eschew Skype and go see a person directly. It had the advantage of higher fidelity communication, and about half the time I'd figure out the answer to my own question before I got there.
After a while, I started turning Skype off when I was in the office (remember there were no other remotes at this time). This actually became an annoyance to one of my colleagues as they would have to, get this, walk across the hall if they wanted to talk to me. My ill concealed amusement at their ire did not go over well.
In person, face to face: the original instant messaging.
We've already gotten to the place where "What's up." means "I acknowledge you exist." and nothing more when in person when it used to be an actual question of genuine interest. How often have you passed persons in the hallway or on the street and they act as if you don't exist or don't respond to you if you give a nod or say "good morning". It's more common these days to be impersonal which I don't like but it may be due to the greater number of humans existing, the less interesting and annoying they become.
I deal with reasonably sensitive material all of the time. Spewing information without context to my laptop when I’m presenting something, for instance is a bad idea.
If you're getting so many questions that the removed "hellos" add up to an appreciable amount of time, the real problem is that you're getting too many questions.
If this sort of thing doesn't bother you on the receiving end of it, that's great for you. But please recognize that other people have different communication styles and respond to things differently. If you're going to ask someone for help with something, it's a nice thing to do to try to be aware of their communication style and work with it if possible.
Starting the conversation that way requires me to greet them and request that they continue.
Why ask if it's OK to IM, if you're using an IM to do it? Ostensibly it's to prevent, like, notification sounds going off from my laptop if I'm in a meeting, or to avoid disrupting me while I work... but sending the "Permission to communicate?" message is already a disruption.
Also, S4B has available/away/busy/meeting/call status indicators. Why not use those if you can't decide if it's OK to IM?
If someone says hello to me and doesn’t continue immediately, or even if they do… I’ve already switched to another window. The initial “hello” is perfectly fine for getting attention and informing someone that you wish to speak with them in the near future. There’s no reason to assume they are staring at the chat window, immobilized, twiddling their thumbs and waiting for you to continue.
But I think the point still holds, even if the math is wrong. If I get a context-free "hello", and it wastes my time, I'm going to be less inclined to immediately switch back to the chat when the next message comes in.
This always just seemed like common sense to me, and I say that as someone whose in-person manner of speech is substantially more polite and flowery than most people. There doesn't seem to me to be a big difference in politeness or friendliness between "hello <new IM> [content]" and "hello, [content]".
co-worker is typing...
co-worker: Could you help me with $x?
Nothing more annoying than grabbing everyone's attention with the first message and _then_ spending time to compose the question.
Them: Hey Jeff
Them: Can I ask you a quick question
Them: I am sure that you are really really busy with re:Invent
Them: And I could look this up, but you have been here forever and I figured you would know
Them: Where can I find X?
I am happy to help, but would prefer:
Them: Hey Jeff, hope all is well. Where can I find X?
Slack doesn't you make you more productive, it makes you spend more time on smalltalks and constant distractions.
I almost never had a constructive discussion on Slack. In contrast, I used to have them way more over email.
It should be "No Hello Without The Actual Message in an IM Conversation". (That would also obviate the need to read the article for like 90% of people who actually use IMs.)
(and if someone was to send me a link to a website telling me not to say hello, then I would think that person might have some issues)
If you want a synchronous conversation, call me or catch me in person. Messages are asynchronous.
You say "hi" or "hello" to check if the person is there.
And if they are, it's worth spending 2 minutes typing out the question. If they're not, you're not going to waste those 2 minutes.
It's just simple efficiency.
If they're not there, you might walk over to someone else's desk and ask them... why would you bother wasting the time to type something out if they're not there? And waste their time because by the time they see it and answer it, you already got an answer from someone else?
5 seconds later
colleague: I have a question
colleague: I work on problem X
colleague: .. and can't do Y
colleague: are you there?
Subject: Email address for lucb1e
Content: To contact me, just reply to this email!