And we’ve since rolled group chat and instant messaging (we call them “pings”) into the all new Basecamp 3.
As a company, we’ve been around group/business chat longer than just about any other company in business today.
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Is it worth potentially pulling them away from their work a dozen times a day (you know how people love checking unreads) just to tell them something that could have waited until later? Group chat feels like you’re chasing something all day long. It’s like your working two jobs — the work you’re supposed to do, and the work of catching up on what you missed that probably didn’t matter (but you won’t know until you read back). If you have one unread email, you see a “1” in your inbox. Compare that with the number of lines it takes to communicate the same thing in chat. The number doesn’t communicate what something is about, only that there’s new to see.
What’s worse, group chat often causes “return anxiety” — a feeling of dread when you’re away for a while and you come back to dozens (hundreds? That one unread may be a complete thought, a dozen lines, or maybe even longer. Since chat is mostly one-line-at-a-time — even long lines — it’s an unread multiplier. This makes it hard to judge what’s behind the number, so you have to enter the conversation already in progress just to find out what’s being discussed.
2006 we launched Campfire, the first modern SAAS group chat and messaging tool for business.
Since then, quite a few business chat and messaging tools like Hipchat, Flowdock, Slack and others have sprung up.
What we’ve learned is that group chat used sparingly in a few very specific situations makes a lot of sense. All sorts of eventual bad happens when a company begins thinking one-line-at-a-time most of the time. These aren’t just states of mind, they are conditions caused by the kinds of tools we use, and the kinds of behaviors those tools encourage.
What makes a lot less sense is chat as the primary, default method of communication inside an organization. We’ve also seen strong evidence that the method and manner in which you choose to communicate has a major influence on how people at work. Based on these discoveries, I’ve put together a list of the positive and negative impacts of group chat on an organization.
Before you know it, the only way to get anything done is by throwing it in front of people and asking for their immediate feedback.
It’s like you’re constantly tapping everyone’s shoulder — or pulling on everyone’s shirt — to get them to stop what they’re doing and turn around to address what’s on Fear of missing out or not having a say.
If you’ve gone chat-first, or you’re considering heading down that path, I encourage you to review and consider these impacts on your own organization. When you need to toss an idea back and forth between a few people, there’s nothing better than chat.