A few tips to avoid the never ending comment thread

Asynchronous communications are a wonderful thing for productivity. But they do have a dark side: the all-too-common, never ending comment thread.

Emails and message boards are where they’re commonly seen. It usually goes something like this:

Dan: “I think we should try this.”
<5 seconds later>
Julie: “I’m not sure that’ll work.”
<5 seconds later>
Tom: “Maybe this is another option.”
<50 more comments pile on within 5 minutes>

I know this because I’m guilty of adding to the comment pile too. 😬

It’s not surprising that this occurs. This kind of rapid-fire back and forth feels good. It feels like we’re getting a lot done and having a rich discussion. The problem is that we aren’t, really.

In these kinds of exchanges, nobody is listening. Everyone is so eager to give their opinion that they’re too busy typing without reading. We’re talking past each other, not to each other.


So let me offer three tips to improve these kinds of discussions — things I try to remind myself to do everyday.

Read

And when I say read, I mean read. I don’t mean skim, I don’t mean “get the gist”.

Really read what someone wrote and try to understand it. And if you don’t understand it, ask questions instead of giving an opinion.

Wait

This will be difficult because it runs counter to what we’ve become used to — immediate everything.

But I implore you to try it. Read a comment and then leave for a while. Let your brain background process and actually think about it. Come back an hour later and respond.

This accomplishes a bunch of things:

  • It helps you formulate a complete thought instead of a one line, off-the-cuff response.
  • It sets a positive, slow-response precedent for others. The more people who learn to read and respond thoughtfully there are, the better off your team will be.
  • It has a cascading positive effect by cutting noise. Specifically it gives people who don’t read comments 24/7 a fighting chance to keep up without being flooded with half-baked thoughts.
  • It gives the discussion a chance to resolve itself. You’d be surprised how many times a discussion can go in a positive direction without your input.
  • It let’s you focus on other, more important work!

Switch Tools

If all else fails and the comment thread still spins out of control, you’re using the wrong tool. You’ve taken something inherently slow and are using it way too fast.

If that happens, switch tools. If you’re on a message thread, move up to a chat. If after 10 minutes the chat is falling apart, escalate to a Hangout.

Bottom line — it’s important to recognize the speed of your conversation and match up to the right tool for the job.


That’s it. Three simple things: read, wait, and (if necessary) switch tools. Keeping those tips in mind will make for a calmer, more pleasant workplace in 2017! 😀

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Life as an impatient programmer

Gavin Belson insults my spirit animal — “the insolent and cocksure hare.”

I have to admit — patience has never been one of my strengths. My parents tell me over and over, “Try to be more patient!”

It’s never quite stuck.

I get why they harp on me. Impatience is by definition pretty negative sounding:

1. having or showing a tendency to be quickly irritated or provoked.

But is being impatient always such a bad thing? Consider the alternate definition:

2. restlessly eager

“Restlessly eager”. I love that!

Said a different way, it means you’re enthusiastic, dedicated, and ambitious. You just have a little trouble directing all that energy.

But what if you could harness all that enthusiasm?


The positive results of impatience


It may sound strange, but being impatient has helped shape my programming career in a positive way.

If you’re like me, being impatient can help you become…

  • A better programmer. You won’t wait for someone else to fix a bug or an annoyance. You’ll create that app you need because it doesn’t exist yet. You’ll build systems and shortcuts for your daily work. This process of constantly building, learning, and tweaking keeps you sharp.
  • A well rounded professional. You won’t stay in dead end jobs that don’t challenge you. You’ll want to learn new things. You’ll want to improve stuff as fast as you can. This builds an arsenal of rich experiences that you can carry forward forever.
  • A better student. You’ll be an efficient learner. You’ll learn the stuff that matters and ignore the fluff. You’ll develop systems to learn faster and smarter. You’ll focus and work hard because there’s nothing worse than wasting time.
  • A better teacher. You’ll have spent so much time learning, you’ll already be a great teacher. You know what matters and what doesn’t. You’ve experienced success and failure in a wide variety of situations. You’ll want to pass on these experiences onto others.

Hey, being impatient doesn’t sound so bad after all!


Harness your impatience

I know, I’m making it sound like being impatient is all roses and it’s the key to success.

Of course it’s not that simple. Harnessing your impatience into positive energy is easier said than done. I’ve fucked up plenty because of my impatience.


Over the years I’ve found that, like many things, balance is the key. Not everything can be the ire of your impatience.

Try to pick your battles. Try not to get worked up about minor bullshit. Try to direct that energy at the important stuff.

Ask yourself lots of questions. When do you get impatient? When did you turn that energy into a success? When did you fail? What’s worth spending that valuable energy on? Who on your team can help keep you in check?

If you can answer those questions, you’ll be on your way toward harnessing your impatience.

You’re lucky. Not everyone is blessed with impatience. It’s a powerful motivator and a great source of energy. Use it to your advantage!


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