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I'm ADD to the core, and I find it actually easier to zone out and code with a low-level background noise, "coffee-shop" style. Large spikes in noise are a problem, and also non-relevant conversations that pull everyone's attention off-task, but on the open teams I've been on, in general this has been the exception not the rule.

My experience at large tables has been that good coders and PMs will actually IM a developer when they need to ask a question -- I do this all the time even when I'm sitting 2 feet from the guy I need to talk to: "let me know when you have a sec to talk about X", etc.

Again, that's evidence of a team that's generally on-task and communicating well -- a cultural quality that is itself harder to find than not.

I prefer instant messaging to start a conversation... it's asynchronous. You can ignore it for a little while if you need just a couple minutes more of flow state

This has worked well for our teams. As a social norm of software development I always IM/email someone with their headphones on and don't interrupt them.

It's also a nice courtesy to IM someone before dropping by their desk so they aren't surprised and you can check if it's a bad time.

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