Different people have different reasons but I notice that many people that do a naked "hi" / "hey" are trying to see if the receiver is present for an immediate reply.
In other words, the sender deliberately wants a synchronous instead of asynchronous convo.
They don't want to type out a bunch of words for a question if the reply isn't going to happen for a few hours.
EDIT to reply: "Then send it in an email."
To clarify, some people don't want an async communication so switching to email doesn't solve their problem at all.
The issue is that some personality styles do not like sending questions into an indeterminant void. Thus, a naked "hi" for them is shorthand for "r u there to talk to me RIGHT NOW?"
I sympathize with their need for immediacy but I made a previous comment on why it drives me crazy: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17255452
Yep, some people are really confused as to why many async-preference people like me do not want to answer the phone.
That said, I find that even if a message is asynchronous, it is much easier to track conversation flow via slack than email. Reply chains and indentations get messy and become an eye sore to navigate. If I write, "Hey, did you do that thing?" and don't hear "Yep, it's done" for a day, I can more easily see the flow of thought in Slack.
Though, I would appreciate a more standardized practice around, "If Slack says you are available, we can expect you to respond relatively quickly" than seeing a green dot and not hearing back for hours or a day.
I still hate "Hello" and "Hi" messages though. It baits a response without putting in any groundwork for me to understand what a person wants. Just say what you need.
> Them: "Hello"
> Me: "What's up?"
> Them: "Are you available now?"
> Me: "Yes... What do you need?"
Flows like this make me come off as an asshole because I'm annoyed by the tedious nature of the conversation. Tell me what you need so I can know how to respond.
> Them: "Hey, when you have minute, can you take a look at the database?"
> Me: "Sure thing. Can do in about 15 minutes"
^ this is way easier to work with for me
No. Slack does not know if I’m at my desk, busy, or even taking a protected me-time lunch break. And no, you cannot expect me to manually update my status in Slack, Teams, Zoom, and every other communication tool I’m forced to use every time I walk upstairs to nuke my coffee or use the bathroom.
Just ask your question, and wait fir a response. If you need me RIGHT NOW, then pick up your dang phone and call me.
If you can't close Slack or update your status to let people know you are unavailable for long periods of time, what is the point of being on Slack? Or a team for that matter?
Barring an emergency, I'm not going to call someone directly because they're too busy working to (team)work.
If you can't play nicely on a team then maybe a different job is for you?
I am just focused on an important task, and won't throw my hard earned flow away just to answer your "hi" for you to trap me into waiting you slowly type stuff and maybe even disappearing without getting to the point. If you can't articulate what's your subject at the moment you contact me, you'll get a very low priority.
(Yeah, there are some people that do it out of a paranoid level of politeness and are easy to talk with even though they won't initiate a request. I will gladly make an exception for them.)
This is a bullshit copout. It's a cultural issue if people cannot be respectful of their co-workers time.
It is very common that if something is important to use important modes of communication such as phone calls.
My team for example is very asynchronous because that is our culture. Our team is located all over the country and some people in different parts of the world. If any of us needs each other during our typical work hours and its important, it's usually a call over our VOIP system. NONE of us take Slack as an immediate answer messaging platform.
I have nothing but respect for my coworkers personal time. I couldn't care less, personally, if you need to take hours, days, weeks, or even months off of work for whatever reason. Do what you need to do. However, if you are on Slack and suggesting to people you are available when you are not, that is bullshit to me. It's not difficult to close the app or update your status to put in an ounce of teamwork so people know how to work around your actual availability.
I think you're ascribing a bit too much intention to what most people just ignore as the default setting on an application. I've never once touched my slack status settings, and I leave a slack tab open in my browser while I work, so I assume it probably shows me as online all the time when I'm working; I can't imagine I'm the only person like this. It never even occurred to me until reading your comment that this could somehow be interpreted as a signal that I would always be able to respond immediately to a slack message. If people started assuming that I would be able to respond immediately whenever slack showed me as offline, I would probably just configure it to show me as offline 24/7 (even at times when I am online). Keeping a slack tab open is just a way for me to save time from having to reopen it every time I _do_ actually want to check it (the website often takes several seconds to load), not some way to send a signal to my coworkers.
me working != available to immediately respond to your question. I'm not going to drop all the context for a bug I'm close to fixing to reply to a slack message. if I've been working on a bug for hours and I'm nowhere near a solution, I might switch gears and help you with your issue. I can't know at the beginning of investigating a bug which state I'm going to be in when you ask your question.
Clocking in physically at your job tells your employer you're working, but it doesn't mean you're available immediately for their attention.
I worked on a startup called Sococo (still exists; pivoted to be a WebRTC clone) that used a map. You could see each little bobblehead on the map, either in their office, in a conference room, in a break room, with our without their headset on.
You clicked your guy into the room to conference with people in that room. If you didn't want to be bothered, you put your bobblehead into your office and closed the door, maybe took your headset off.
You could see who was in meetings and with whom. You could see them flashing as they talked in turn. You wanted to interrupt somebody, you could knock on their door. They could 'let your in' or chat 'give me a minute' or whatever.
It included chat tools in the rooms, so you could have text side-conversations while the talking was going on.
It was very, very useful. The company that made it, had employees on 3 continents and 7 states. I didn't actually know where my coworkers lived, unless they told me. Yet I could communicate without friction.
I miss the old Sococo.
I can imagine some people would totally not be into this, but I'm not one of them.
They went WebRTC which means Chrome. So its a browser page, takes up real estate, requires the right version of the browser, doesn't integrate with your desktop controls (audio, video) tightly, has ~1 second connect times, limits to half a dozen people tops, one video at a time. Which doesn't seem terrible until you click into a meeting and the voices come in one at a time over many seconds.
So large parts of the 'frictionless' are gone. You want to share something, get it to the right page, then draw attention to it - there's moderator gatekeeping, one-at-a-time rules.
Instead of everybody sharing whatever they liked, more than one share per person, all set up so anybody could look at anything they wanted without some moderator orchestrating it. You want to go back and look at Lucy's spreadsheet while Alice is talking thru her presentation? Just click on it, then click back into the presentation later.
We miss it.
Life happens, focus on work happens, bathroom breaks happen... Almost no one is available "immediately" all the time. But if you regularly show yourself as online and cannot respond within a reasonable amount of time (a couple of hours?) to questions/concerns that coworkers send to you, then why are you "Online"?
Is it difficult to close the app, change your status, or simply respond with "Hey, super busy today. I'll get back to you on this tomorrow", simply for the sake of building good team interactions?
> Clocking in physically at your job tells your employer you're working, but it doesn't mean you're available immediately for their attention.
Interesting. I figured that typically when you "clock on" for an employer, it signals that you are now engaged in a contract by which your time is now dedicated to what your employer needs you to do, including giving them your attention. Hence the term "clocking on"
I think you're actually somewhat agreeing with the above poster.
To me, being online means I will respond to your concern as soon as I can context switch to your problem cheaply - usually within 30 minutes, or maybe even instantly if you caught me coming off of a lunch/bathroom break.
> Is it difficult to close the app, change your status, or simply respond with "Hey, super busy today. I'll get back to you on this tomorrow", simply for the sake of building good team interactions?
I think it's a good habit to build. For example if it's nearing the end of the work day, and you have enough work to do, setting yourself to busy should indicate people not to expect your response until the next day.
Sounds like your idea of how to use Slack is about 180 degrees out from mine. For my team, people put things on Slack and reply when they have time/ energy or holes in their flow. Sometimes you get an immediate reply, often its not for 10 minutes or an hour.
I'm curious what kind of job allows you to fool people into thinking you are working be being available in Slack? Certainly software developers can't get away with that. Regardless of what your Slack hours are, you need to deliver bug fixes and new code.
Does it say I’m unavailable if I have slack open in a browser tab and I’m using other tabs
What about the desktop app?
What about the mobile app?
Surely they all influence the status of each other
My life doesnt revolve around slack and slack status, why does yours?
I think that's the point. Very rarely do you need someone to respond immediately.
I have mail notifications available, but nobody is expecting me to actually answer a mail the same minute it is sent. If I am working on something, I will wait until I have time for it.
Why should Slack be different? It's just another asynchronous communication tool. The conversations have the possibility to be synchronous, but that is up to the users's involved.
As others have pointed out, I reserve the right to be decide how I spend my time. A team player should not expect to be able to decide how my time is spent.
If I am busy and someone just sends a "Hi" message without any context, i will ignore it until I have finished my task unless I have a reason to suspect that it is urgent.
Slack so far is not.
I’ll open up my email, see if any subject lines are important, I’ll then go directly to service and get info there.
I basically never open actual work emails ever.
So tired of gotcha security
This means I am expected to manage my Slack status on a regular basis or deal with interruptions.
Do I turn off Slack when I'm coding? If you expect relatively quick responses, that's unlikely when I'm in the zone. Should I turn off Slack and turn it back on when g You'll have about 2 minutes to catch me about once every 20 minutes.
Usually I'm quite responsive, but sometimes I might be head down for an hour. Toggling my Slack status on and off 5-10 times per hour for that doesn't make sense.
Consider the following exchange:
Co-worker: Hi, AA.
Co-worker: I need some help, are you available?
Co-worker: Well, I'm actually past my shift, and you probably saw me available because I was reading an email. Can I hit you up in the morning?
Co-worker: Hi, AA. We have a client with a problem, and I could use your help. Please do X, Y, and Z. Okay thanks, bye.
Boss: Why hasn't anyone responded to the client yet!?!
Co-worker: Gee, I dunno. I told AA about it hours ago...
> As for the expressions (pronounced “rosh katan” – little head, vs. “rosh gadol” – big head). This expression comes from the IDF, and as most military language, doesn’t quite translate into normal language. A “rosh katan” (literally “little head”, and I actually think it is the original expression which derived most likely from “pinhead”, the contrast later came in as a complement) is someone that does exactly what he’s told.
>[An] example: you tell a soldier to “go notify so-and-so that we will be ready for inspection at 1600”. By 1700 you’re curious, so you ask him “did you notify?”. [A “rosh katan’s”] answer might be “well I called his office and left a message”. A “rosh gadol” would likely say: “I called his office but got his voice mail, so I left a message. I called back an hour later but still got voice mail, so I called his cell phone and left a message there too. I tried him again an hour after that and he assured me he will be here by 1600. I called him again 20 minutes ago and he said he was on his way but stuck in traffic” (a real “rosh gadol” would have notified his C.O. of all this without being asked of course).
If you're multitasking and have other responsibilities, it's not always prudent to give every task such detailed attention, especially if it requires you to context switch.
It may work in the army, where you don't really have much creative/deep work going on, but I've seen those expectations fail in the workplace.
If they don't hear back from you in scenario 2, they should find someone else. If they absolutely need you then there should be some way they can escalate to a higher-priority channel (phone probably). (And I certainly hope you have an "on-call" status of some kind.)
Co-worker: Hi, AA. We have a client with a problem, and I could use your help to do X, Y, and Z. Are you available?
If you don't reply after a few minutes, it's clear that you're not available and they can seek help elsewhere with an on-the-clock or on-call resource.
If it’s an emergency, page the oncall. If you are the oncall, page anyone you need, and then Slack/Zoom become realtime (at least for them).
There is no onus placed upon you here except perhaps in your hypothetical head.
Far more likely is:
> Co-worker: Hi, AA. We have a client with a problem, and I could use your help. Please do X, Y, and Z. Okay thanks, bye.
> AA: Crickets...
> Co-worker (5 minutes later): You there?
> Co-worker: Oops, just noticed it's 5:54, I should have known you'd have punched out already, I got it.
For example, "hi, i have a question about web config files" or "hi, i need help with a SQL query" or "hi, we may have a production issue" or "hi, i want to propose a change to how we do builds".
This allows the recipient to prioritize. Just because they are present doesn't mean that now is a good time for every conversation.
> "hi, we may have a production issue"
Do we or don't we? How urgent is it? Do you need help with the issue or do you need help determining whether there is an issue?
I have no idea, so I have to drop what I'm doing to find out because you said the magic word 'production'.
I usually periodically take breaks to batch process all instant messages and then mute notifications until the next break. If I've already responded to your first question chances are I won't return to your chat window until the next break.
I'm also not opposed to synchronous conversations, it just needs to be scheduled. So the first question should not be "Hey how was your weekend" but rather "Hey how was your weekend, and what time this afternoon could you spend 30 minutes with me chatting about (A) (B) (C)"
Is a customer pissed off, or something crashing? Of course I'm available. If it's "what do you think about this feature a minor customer asked for", I'm more than happy to answer it, but I'm not going to drop whatever I'm doing to answer it right now.
When you just say "hello" and wait for a response, it prevents me from taking the seriousness of the request into consideration.
A lot of things are better handled asynchronously and timing is often abused and exploited in synchronous communication by the person initiating it. They want to pressure you on the spot to make a decision or choice you otherwise would rather think about. They want to use well planned out strategies and game you with social or culture pressures to manipulate you into doing something you otherwise wouldn't.
I limit synchronous communication to those I either have to or those I enjoy to be around and aren't there to try and exploit me for some reason. If you're new, you get some leeway but quickly progress one direction or the other as I decide which list you get chucked into.
"Hello" is a pretty bad negotiation protocol for that. At best, the person is online and can initiate synchronous communication (but has to sit around and wait before they can start thinking about your desired context), at worst you get stuck in an endless loop of "Sure, you there?" Furthermore, what if the person wasn't available right now? Do they simply ignore your "Hello?" That would seem more rude. In addition, and ultimately, if the sync communication negotiation fails, you're probably going to have to fall back to async; so you may as well leave the door open to that.
"Hey, just want to chat quickly about that thing, if you're not around I'll ask Alice." That contains the full description of what you want, is concise, and will allow the recipient to not waste their time.
The way I see IM is that every conversation starts with what would be a subject line in an email if a longer conversation is required (whether sync or async). This gets everyone thinking about the context right away and improves your ability to search for that conversation in the log.
That's me too, but conversely WFH over the last 10 months with zoom has made me more amenable to having meetings. Because when there is a need to talk synced, we can do it and have just a 15 minute meeting and that's all.
IRL, it seems like people are reluctant to schedule any block shorter than half an hour and typically go 10-15 minutes longer than scheduled, combined with working in a large area where I might have to walk 10 minutes back and forth to the meeting location.
Rarely would any meeting eat less than 1.5 hours of my time. Now, it can sing be 15 minutes.
I'm trying really hard to understand this mindset. What sort of question either needs to be answered immediately or not at all?
If they respond immediately they can save me 30 minutes of work, but if not I'll be done doing it the slow way by the time they get back to me.
I'm making slow progress on a tricky problem. If I write a summary now, it would be theories I'm trying to disprove and evidence that currently seems relevant, but that summary will be less useful and accurate as the situation evolves and I better learn about the issue.
I can be unblocked on this task in three different ways, so I've reached out to three different people. I'll ask for help from whoever responds first.
I don't know if this is going to take me 30 minutes, or 3 days to figure out, but I'll keep working on it until I do. If it's still a problem when you get back to me, I'll ask for help then, but there's a good chance I might have solved it myself by the time you get back to me.
I'm dealing with an outage, and it's very time-sensitive. I don't have time to waste writing stuff up if you're not here to help out right now. If you show up while it's still broken, great! If you show up after the outage is fixed, I don't need your help anymore. I'm not calling you, because if you're not currently at your computer, you probably can't help me in the timeframe I need.
Several of the message recipients will eventually need to be told "never mind, I fixed it". By employing this strategy, you need to accept that you will be interrupting at least some people for no reason, every single time, and I don't think that's fair.
A problem that could potentially be solved by three people feels like it would be better suited for a public channel. Why is pinging three different people with a "hello" message better than posting "does anyone with experience in X or Y have time to help me with Z" in the developer channel?
So, I have a limited set of people that can fix my problem. I need to check who is available, and I'm doing this in order of my own preferences. (who I think can resolve the problem fastest)
However this is very much an edge case. I'm a proponent of just asking the question without saying hello at all.
One of the good things about remote working is that I can finally concentrate on stuff without constant interruptions.
I tend to do in-depth technical work and as such I need to concentrate often. Basically this thing: https://imgur.com/xvNRKIT
I can imagine that if you're in a more collaborative role, this can be completely different.
And yes I hate it more when I'm on Busy. In our company the status seems to matter none at all.. Even when I'm on Do Not Disturb (one grade more than Busy) people tend to keep pinging when I don't answer.
If my status is green it means people can send me a message, and expect a response within a reasonable amount of time. Any calls will be instantly declined with a message, "Why are you calling me??"
(The recipient needs more than "hi" to know that what follows is private)
I wish there was a way to permanently disable the “you have disabled notifications” prompts though.
I’m not sure if this is unique to me, but there’s a tight correlation between people who send naked initial “hi” messages and people who can be more tedious to work with.
I’d also wonder if it’s related to being bad at typing.
to be effective at async communication, you have to not only ask your question, but also anticipate all the context that person will need to give a good answer. then you do your best to condense that into a clear and concise initial message.
in synchronous communication, I find that much more often the asker just asks their question and expects the recipient to come up with all the pertinent followup questions themselves. the asker might even feel they are more productive in this mode, since they don't have to account for the time/effort needed to gather context.
I'd argue this skill is also what makes a person good at basically doing anything and the better you are at it, the 'sharper' you'll be. Thinking clearly and accurately modeling surrounding context is a prerequisite for doing it well. I'd guess it aligns with being generally smarter.
I agree with what you're saying, I just think it's even more evidence that it's tied to general sharpness.
This is also why phoning me is bad and please use texts like a civilised person.
"Production issue" comes to mind, but that would just as likely warrant a quick summary of the situation, since waiting for a response to "hi" wastes even more time.
I probably would be slightly more verbose saying “hey, got a sec?” but honestly it’s a style question and if I’m on the receiving end it’s not going to bother me.
I find much of the discourse around slack etiquette to be slightly self-absorbed. The fact is, things work best when everyone is a bit flexible and understanding. Bottom line is there are reasons why a synchronous ping is justified, but it’s impossible for both parties to agree on it without knowing their mutual disposition. Generally it’s nice to not ping people too often, but also it’s okay to set boundaries and not respond right away (or just turn off slack for heads down time). In extreme cases I suppose I can imagine a company with an unbearable slack culture that makes it impossible to be an effective developer by enforcing an “always available” policy, but I think that’s probably pretty rare compared to places where things will go fine just by having the assertiveness to use some simple tactics mentioned above.
IMO it's more polite to use an async channel first to ask if the other party is available for a phone call, and if not, schedule a phone call for a specific time. Like, I'd love to talk with you about that problem this afternoon, but right now I'm too busy debugging another problem.
> × "Hello, are you around?"
> × "hi sophie - quick question."
> × "You got a sec?"
I agree with you around scheduling synchronous communications, but the thread itself seems to have devolved into a puristic argument against all sync comms regardless of urgency, ephemerality, confidentiality, etc.
This is an assumption, and not always a valid one. There are plenty of circumstances where synchronous comms are warranted, such as when matters are urgent for all parties or when the respondent has a reputation for losing track of async comms.
Editing to add:
I agree that "hey" and "hi" etc. are terrible openings. However, openings (incidentally also discouraged by the linked article) such as:
are absolutely fine in that they imply a level of urgency and need for synchronized communication. If someone's ideologically against it and inflexible towards accommodating urgency where appropriate, it's a productivity red flag.
And I'm speaking as a modestly introverted manager who tries to avoid sync comms unless absolutely needed, but the thread seems to have gone off the deep end by arguing that sync comms are absolutely unnecessary.
"hey, need to talk urgently about x, are you available at 2?" or "...can you call me ASAP?"
There's very few situations that warrant getting someone else to unexpectedly drop whatever they're doing and pay attention to you, right now.
On the other hand, I'd actually go further and say there's lots of situations where sync communications is significantly more efficient. The most obvious example is when both sides are exchanging information in the "discovery" phase of a discussion where most of the back and forth is one-liner questions or statements - essentially where two parties are trying to sync up and get on a level playing field. Similarly, brainstorming over sync can save paragraphs of wasted keystrokes.
Often what can take days over async can take minutes if done synchronously. The key is synchronous communications should be scheduled or solicited - even if done only a few minutes in advance.
Maybe this is a failing on my part, but I'm having a hard time understanding how these:
(specifically the first and last of these) aren't a form of urgent scheduling. At the very least, the last one is unambiguously asking if there's immediate availability, which generally implies urgency of some form.
If my boss tells me something is urgent, by definition it is. If anyone tells me it's an emergency, I drop what I'm doing and help—but it better be a real emergency.
Now, if Mike from Accounting wants to talk urgently, I may not be available because I have my own list of urgent things to tackle. I will try to carve out time and prioritize his request, but I am in no way committed to his personal sense of urgency.
That's fine, and that's for you to decide. But Mike from Accounting may have a reason to withhold the details for a different channel or to mitigate against other potential risks. It's up to you to decide with the information you have whether it meets your standard of urgency.
Overcommunicating is better than undercommunicating.
I think this thread has reached its apex.
Not every message's contents ("what it's about") can be conveyed asynchronously, but I'm failing to communicate this, so I think I'll bow out.
Thanks for working with me on this.
That's the kind of argument law enforcement makes against the use of encryption. It's an interesting double standard on HN.
I work infosec. My frame of reference is different from many here. But there are many times where I:
• want to ensure a synchronous conversation about an urgent matter, and
• don't want someone forwarding a "quick blurb" ("Hey, eganist here. Got an urgent moment to talk about something unusual we're seeing with web service X?") and spreading workplace gossip about a security anomaly when the anomaly itself is still being investigated to determine whether it's an incident.
A signal call if the matter needs to be both ephemeral and confidential.
Insisting on asynchronous communication for All The Things™ concerns me in that it shows that a person isn't adaptable to varying criticalities and sensitivities. The same goes for insisting on synchronous communication.
TL;DR they both have their place, and they will always both have their place regardless of any one person's preference.
Most people don't need to deal with ephemeral requirements. I've been in software for over a decade at a variety of businesses, and without fail the only times someone's been worried about talking over discoverable mediums they've been considering something that's anticompetitive or potentially illegal. The vast majority of people I've interacted with don't do things like that, and the few I do I don't want to work with.
Can I ask the difference between these two in practical terms?
> the only times someone's been worried about talking over discoverable mediums they've been considering something that's anticompetitive or potentially illegal.
Interesting. In my case, it's without fail been circumstances where message control (specifically anti-forwarding) was paramount. I suppose it boils down to differences in our roles.
"Are you there" means you're an intern or, worse, a full timer who hasn't figured out how to properly communicate yet who has some random question for me that you probably think is urgent but probably isn't.
I guess this is where our experiences diverge. I've never encountered what you described with the latter; it's always been someone who followed up with a call.
10:15: Them: Hello
10:!5: Me: Hey! What's up.
10:34: Them: Can I ask you a question
10:34: Me: Sure, what's up?
12:15: Them: I'm having a problem with [insert software]
12:15: Me: What's the problem?
12:45: Them: It's not working.
5 hours later...
18:41: Them: Do you think it's because i didn't fill out this field marked required?
Then send it in an email.
...which would likely persist regardless of whether the request is emailed or messaged.
Bad: "Hey, are you around?"
Tolerable: "I have a question about foo"
Good: "How does foo audit log requests?"
Great: "How does foo audit log requests? If you don't know offhand, no problem - I'll keep looking at baz"
So I usually open with "Ping..." which everyone I deal with knows means, "Are you in the mood to be bothered with a quick question that needs an immediate answer?" And I only do this with people I know prefer chat over email all else being equal because they will initiate chats with me. Otherwise I go straight to email.
A class of problem as big as the "No Hello" problem is asking questions that are way too specific, like "How do I get a list of which windows are on which desktops" when the actual question is "How should I move a window to another desktop" and the person asking the question is too deep into what they assume is the right path.
The person answering your question is doing you a favor; please be respectful of them.
Human communications are laden with subtleties. Synchronous comms are fundamentally different from async, and it's important to know which one you're actually engaged in so you can adjust your behavior appropriately.
That's your prerogative, but it also exposes you to corporate risk if it in fact was a sensitive matter with urgency and it's deemed that the necessary communication attempts were made.
Deciding right off the top that communication isn't urgent takes precedent. If it's the first time they're messaging you, best not to chance the urgency until they have a track record with you.
You're joking, right? I'll print your chat history of a single "hi" and that'll be all the evidence I need to clear my name. That print-out is going on my wall afterwards. You're funny.
> Director, HR. First interaction with this user.
> 2:30: "Hey, this is a matter with urgency. Got a second?"
> missed call at 2:33pm
> 2:45: "Hey, I've reached out to your manager Taylor J. to resolve the matter."
No, not at all. You requested a description of the topic. Urgency, whether explicit or implicit, is always there when someone requests a synchronous conversation.
Edit: as a reminder,
> If it's urgent then you should probably take a few seconds to explain why.
Sorry you misinterpreted. Urgency is not "Why," and my example mentioned urgency explicitly without "taking the time to explain why."
Gaslighting someone in a discussion makes me less inclined to communicate. Wish you the best.
And I can also use the phone if it’s really urgent.
But if I'm not immediately available, they'll presumably need to ask someone else, or accept that they have to wait for a reply. Either way they will need to type the question at some point. So type it now, and if I don't immediately reply, paste the same question to the next person, etc or better yet put it in a channel, where my teammates can jump in.
And frankly, the norm that people should try to ask a clear question, or frame an actionable request up front often seems to improve the understanding of the requesting party. I've many times had the experience where pulling together the relevant info to frame a question answers it, or fully describing a task reveals a way to streamline it.
If you send that, now I know you’re asking for a synchronous conversation, and I can just say yes or no or “how about later?”
I consider it rude to demand someone's attention for an extended period of time without asking for it first. At the beginning of synchronous communication I always ask "Can I take N minutes of your time?" - this allows the interlocutor to evaluate the situation and make an informed decision.
At the same time I feel we should develop the culture "it is perfectly fine to be a nice and well-behaved person and not to answer phone calls at all, only returning them when possible".
“Hi, busy atm.”
You’ve built this whole strategy, and are judging your friend as rude, to avoid this phrase.
Be explicit or accept people as they are.
You know that that's why he's saying 'hi' right? It's his way of asking before taking your attention. And if you don't want to, you can just wait until you do, or say 'sorry, busy'.
From what you say, it sounds like you both think that the other person is rude, but that you are doing it on purpose.
Everybody used it when synchronous chat was necessary. I thought it was great standardization over just simply "Hi".
 Not really instant, because "So-and-so is typing," and your productivity is hostage to their typing skills.
I can ask something and if someone can answer immediately I am done.
If I send the question and wait for response I waste time.
If I send the question and work on it, I will be halfway done or in some other state then I got stuck so when person answers my request, it might not be a valid question anymore.
If I start working on something else I break my context and sharing screen what else gets harder.
When I ask "Hi are you there.", keep working on thing I am stuck I can ask more specific question when person replies, because then I might have checked two or more things.
Most important thing is, if person does not reply, I am not getting mad or annoyed, she has more important things to do so OK.
If you say "hello" instead you are immediately telling me that your issue isn't an emergency, but that you want me to treat it like one. I just ignore these and if the person goes on to ask their question I'll deal with it when I have time.
Just “hello” seems to be rather curt.
Alternatively, if you're not busy, respond but steer the conversation to topics like the weather.
This indicates a failure in design. If they want a sync chat, then there should be an easy UI element for it.
The metaphorical "You up?"
While I'm at it, it shouldn't send you multiple notifications for messages arriving in short sequence.
Oh god, I know people who average three words per line, and I just have them permanently muted so my screen doesn't fill up with a giant stack of shit. But then I never hear when they message me, which isn't ideal either, because sometimes it's important.
( https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/there-is-no-dana-only-zuul )
It tells me nothing about the urgency of the matter, let alone what it relates to. So I can put it to the side and keep working - but it's going to be nagging at me "hmm, what if it's about x?".
So now I've got to break focus and waste time just to find out how important it is, and what it even relates to.
I much prefer "Hi, I have a question regarding how to x, could you ping me when you get a chance pls?", or "Hi, we've got an urgent problem with x, the customer is losing their shit, pls help ASAP!"
The absolute worst is when the person giving you "hello" is someone you don't know (I work at a megacorp). From "hello" I will plainly have no clue what you want, so wtf?!
I wonder if it's a cultural thing. I don't think my colleague in the UK, Norway or Europe have ever done this, but it seems to be just about the only way my colleagues in India start a chat?
It's harder if it's something I can't ethically ignore like my boss or a coworker.
PS: One thing that really helps to get my attention is being someone that's actually nice to talk to. I have a LOT of time for people who are not all business and actually care about people.
And the best way to get on my shitlist is asking the same question 3 times in a matter of weeks.
Once is totally fine. Great when people want to learn.
Two is OK. I get it, you didn't have time to make a note.
Three is Shitlist. I'm not your database. Use OneNote.
In the same manner: I notice when people ask me a lot of questions but never the same one twice. I really respect that and I have a lot of time for those people. It shows initiative and a capability/interest to learn. Good for a major plus on performance review feedback too :)
Sometimes they reply with “how are you”!
On Telegram I archive them immediately. And I check the archives once a month, maybe.
This is my tactic too. About 50% of the time, they finally cave and just ask the question within a couple of days, and the other 50% of the time I never hear from them again!
Still annoys me though, as it's just one more thing in the back of my mind when I'm trying to focus on something.
But usually it's like what you say.. Often I don't hear back at all :D
It would need to be _polite_ though since most people who do this do seem to be generally well-meaning, if unwittingly annoying.
Please share if you do build it, I’ve been looking for a PM auto responder for vacations. They exist but many of them are bundled to other services with features I don’t care about and come at a cost that’s more than I want to pay for just the one feature of actual interest.
When someone does that to me, I ignore them.
Say you have a question for me, but I'm in a meeting (or it's past working hours in my timezone). By the time I respond to your "hi", you might now be in a meeting (or it might be before your working hours, the next day). Finally you ask the question, and I respond the next time I'm available. This could easily cause a question that takes 30 seconds to answer to have 24 hours of latency.
Or I might be busy doing something else or talking to someone else. Waiting for me to respond to "hi" is basically demanding real-time access to my focus. I don't have the capacity to always have live conversations with everyone who wants one. Just posting a (complete, thought-out) question allows me to devote just a short window of focus, and do so only when I have that focus to spare.
When someone states their request outright the recipient may be "conditionally there" based on the content of the request: They'll reply if they find the question interesting/relevant and worth interrupting what they're doing and put it off otherwise.
The asker, however, would prefer their question get answered. If they first determine if the recipient is present there will be social pressure to answer the following question, even if its a waste of the recipient's time at the moment.
The recipient may find it aggravating to have people soft-force them to pre-commit to responding when they don't even know what will be asked.
They'll often keep doing it, but at least you don't have to feel pressured to accept a synchronous conversation sight-unseen.
I’ll write back I’m busy or that I’m not going to do that
and accept the consequences
more people should accept the consequences
From: Adam Jackson
Subject: On “ping” etiquitte
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 2009 12:21:30 -0500
IRC has developed a “ping” convention for getting someone’s attention. It works because most clients will highlight channels in which your name has been mentioned, so something like
will make that channel show up pink instead of white for me .
I wish to correct, or at least amend, this behaviour. The naked ping should be Considered Harmful, for at least two reasons. The first is that it conveys no information. The recipient of your ping, like you, is a Busy Person. They may be in the middle of something requiring intricate thought, and should not be interrupted for anything less than fire, flood, or six figures of revenue. Worse, _you_ may forget why you pinged someone; when, four hours later, your victim gets back to IRC and responds to you, _you_ will be disrupted in turn trying to remember what was on your mind in the first place.
The second, more subtle reason proceeds from the first. A ping with no data is essentially a command. It’s passive-aggressive; it implies that the recipient’s time is less valuable than yours.  The pingee will respond in one (or both) of two ways. Either they will experience increased stress due to increased unpredictable demands on their time, or they will simply ignore naked pings.
The fundamental issue here is a misunderstanding of the medium. IRC is not a telephone. It’s volatile storage. The whole reason the ping works is because the client remembers seeing the ping, and can save it in your history buffer so you can see who was talking to you and why.
The naked ping removes this context.
Please. Save your time. Save my time. Make all of our lives more efficient and less stressful. Ping with data. At a minimum:
ajax: ping re bz 534027
See the difference? Now you’ve turned slow, lockstep, PIO-like interaction into smooth pipelineable DMA. It’s good for your hardware, and it’s good for you.
 – irssi 4 life.
 – Their time may well be less valuable than yours. That’s not the point.
Sometimes it's the opposite and used as a trap to force you into answering something awkward on the spot - when you reply "yes?" in chat, they know if they ask something quickly after you'll feel obligated into replying immediately. Obviously I hate games like this but I've worked with others that complain about e.g. managers doing this often so they learn to absolutely dread "hello?" messages even when it turns out to be nothing.
None of those compare to those folks who do not understand that to help them we need details. How do I infer what a problem is without any details? I used to ask all sorts of questions so as to be able to help them. Now I tend to post a 'More details please! Once I have those I can help you.' What amazes me is that sometimes we get no response at all! (By we I mean those of us in the channel/group).
Note that these are co-workers who have been told many many times that we need some basic details to be able to do anything at all, like a client's domain name, or a client id in our CMS.
“My build doesn’t work, please prioritize”
Does not help me help you. I wish I were making it up that this is the level of detail with which people ask my team to stop what they are doing and render aid (we don’t, when it’s that bare). These are developers who you’d think would know how to flesh out an error ticket and at least be somewhat specific in what they’re asking for.
What build? What repo is the build pipeline attached to? What’s the error message (many of the times these were errors that could have been self-solved if the developer bothered read the error message to notice they forgot to close a bracket. I’ve pointed to this to their leads. It doesn’t change) Do you know how many developers are using the pipelines we’ve build for them? Do you realize how many development initiatives are going on? I’d hope so, we Go over then as a tech division with a regular cadence. What product are you working on? Which feature branch? How about so much as a screenshot or a link to the repo where the build is failing?
So. What I’ve done is gone to all of their engineering leads, showed them examples of the ticket. Explained my problem. And told them “if your people can’t help us enough by being descriptive and at least putting a link to the build with the error they’re seeing, it’s not getting prioritized it won’t even be triaged”
That was...9 months ago.
I'm still waiting for it. Side effect of everyone being too busy I guess, which is a chronic problem at org.
I personally try to ask the question straight away, with some caveats and pleasantries added if needed to avoid friction and stressing people out, but I do think it’s fair enough to do it like above as well. You show that you’re respecting the other person’s time by not dragging them too far into a conversation before they’ve agreed to have it, and you don’t have to write out the full question right then and there if it turns out the person is not available for it at the moment.
Yes! And the same things happens in real life as well. As a teacher, I get quite often this same question: "Can I ask something?" To which I always reply: "Apparently!"
In the classroom I am trying to establish a local "classroom culture" wherein students feel safe to ask anything. I suppose we should also try to establish a local "chatroom culture" with norms, expectations, responsibilities, and so on.
I tried to be really nice about it and was floored by how surprised some people were that those base level details made any difference at all.
We've also experimented a little bit on my team with prepending asynchronous messages with emojis: a turtle means you can take your time, an alarm means it's urgent, a custom thumbs up/thumbs down emoji means you just need a yes or no answer.
We may have different work cultures, but I used to report to someone who would lead with a bare "Hey!" and I eventually found that if I waited long enough she would either elaborate or the issue would go away. Somehow I don't think that was her actual plan.
Anyone who gets to know their coworkers and change their own communication style to match their desires ends up having effective communications with them all.
On the other hand, dictating that everyone must cater to your own style can give you a reputation of being difficult to work with.
In some cases, the sender deleted the hello, and then attempted another hello later.
In some cases, the sender would wait a few hours and say hello again, or some just email me instead (they must have assumed I am not available).
In one exceptional case, I waited 2 days before saying "hello" back, and they then immediately continued the conversation as though no abnormal communication gap had occurred.
Incidentally, I think doing so has also helped a ton with people asking if they could call me. If they first have to state their question via text, it lets me triage whether this is an issue that needs a call or not. That was a much more significant benefit, because a voice chat is an even bigger breaker of flow than waiting for the question after a "hi".
People messaging like the above cause me to mute them and just look at their messages once in a blue moon.
I realize there are still distractions re: notifications, etc. but I recommend people turn off chat sound effects to make the notifications less distracting.
It bugs me when on a Zoom call, I slack something, and I hear the Slack notification sound.
That can be quite distracting, especially if the conversation isn’t urgent.
Pleasantries are not required, but brief (< 3 words) ones are appreciated.
Just saying “hi” wastes time and effort. Ask your question.
Put these two together and you get something like, “good morning! Do you know how many froops the borgle puts out?”
If a question you’ve asked is no longer relevant/you’ve found the answer elsewhere, a simple “disregard” closes the loop.
“Disregard - Jeff said it’s 12”
People won’t always reply. There are things going on behind the scenes that you don’t and can’t know about.
Keep it brief. Unless there’s an actual reason to write a paragraph, don’t.
If you’re given information without a question, a simple acknowledgment suffices. “Roger,” “copy,” or a thumbs up.
Chat is a walkie-talkie, not a coffee date!
That being said I have no problem if someone says, “can you ask this on the Foobar channel?”
Saying hello is fine, and polite, our social instincts are pretty good generally, dont worry about the 'lost productivity'. There are ephemeral benefits - the feeling of connection as you wait for them to type their question in real time.
You mention our social instincts. For a lot of people, nohello is exactly what our social instincts are pushing for. For us, a bare "hello" without any context or information is uncomfortable, and feels rather rude.
A big part of politeness, courtesy, and etiquette is helping people feel comfortable, meeting them where they are.
For me personally, and I think a lot of others who agree with nohello, a bare "Hello" with no content or context gives me nothing to work with, nothing to say, nothing to grab on to to understand what kind of conversation I'm having. You mention a "feeling of connection" while waiting for someone to type the rest of their question, but to me it only feels like disrespect.
When people talk about things you summarize as "lost productivity", it's not about a desire to advocate the interests of the company, but instead it's expressing that for people like us, these kinds of content-free social rituals feel disruptive to the flow of work, and that these disruptions feel irritating, uncomfortable, and disrespectful. It feels like a violation of our culture's etiquette.
Feel free to say hello, include as many social pleasantries as you like in your messages, but please also include at least some meaningful content about your goals or intentions.
So despite best intentions, you're actually just making the other person wait for you to phrase your question, which is lost productivity
"Do you have a sec?"
-- "What do you want???"
During any point in the day, I'm usually:
1.) Doing my actual job
2.) Chatting with a work friend
3.) Helping 1-3 other engineers with their jobs
If you just say 'Hi [name]', you're going right to the bottom of the priority list. I got things to do right now. Just tell me what you need from me so we can get down to business.
When things are less busy we can chop it up and chat. But if I don't know you, I'm not going out of my way to see what you want from me. Especially since I got 3-4 other balls I'm juggling at the same time.
Later when I see the coworker in person...
Me: I got your "Hi!". So Hi! back!
Them: I had a question. Why didn't you respond?
Me: I wanted to say "Hi!" in person! I guess your question got lost, I never saw it.
Me: [question about requirement]
Him: Hey buddy, how are you doing?
Me: Oh, great man, you? (Thinking: less great now that you are turning this into a big thing)
Him: Great, [talks about non work-related shit]
(10 minutes and several texts later)
Him: [one sentence response to my original question]
I really liked this guy, but god damn he loved to chat. He spent about half of my onsite time talking on the phone with his mother or wife. I always wondered how he got anything done, since he clearly did this when I wasn't there as well according to his coworkers.
I apply the golden rule: while doing this I also don’t expect immediate responses from other people to my questions. If it’s critical, I will call them.
I provide plenty of support - internal and world-facing, and I have no problem with people starting with 'hello', and I often do so myself. And then I say, "hello, how are you?"
...because our first priority as humans is to care about each other. If you are having a mental health breakdown, living in fear or heartache, if your basic, fundamental human needs aren't met, then I want to know that first. It doesn't matter who you are or why I'm in a position to be a support channel for you, my first priority is to hear from you if you need help. Fuck man, that's what support is. If you are only willing to support a product and not a person, you aren't ready for a support role.
99.9% of the time, people get straight to the point. But in the 1/1000 time that somebody says, "actually, I'm struggling a bit; my Mom got detained by ICE this morning" it is everyone's job to support that need first. Merging the PR can wait a few minutes so that this person can be safely heard. And that's what 'hello' and 'hello, how are you?' establish.
* To ensure the other person isn't in a meeting. The sender might not want the text to be broadcast unintentionally.
* To force a synchronous conversation. I think this is pretty rude though. What would be better would be some context and an aim to get a time that suits both people. Something like: "Hi Mark, do you have any time today to get together to discuss the ongoing database issues? I have two potential ideas for the cause."
Just "Hi" doesn't convey enough of the intent.
It's disrespectful of people's time, even though the sender thinks it's being polite.
The further I get in my career, the busier I get, and the more painful this becomes. Relentless prioritization is the only way to get the right shit done.
I need to choose and pick where my attention goes to, so please, just ask!