Jim Shook, Scout Ventures, Dozen Digital

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I'm a big proponent of this also. The other benefit is the increased transparency around decisions. Having the thread of conversation in the open is instructive for everyone on what issues were considered to arrive at the conclusion.

Interesting. I'd be curious how other people run their companies. This is how we do our communications at LaunchBit:

1) Face-to-face:
-for urgent matters -- an interruption
-for strategic/brainstorming/water cooler matters -- typically set up on Google calendar first instead of creating interruptions
-for complex situations that need clarification where it's easier to talk than to write -- typically set up beforehand as a mtg (unless it happens to be urgent)

While I like face-to-face: it's faster, easier to explain, easier to read emotions and handle situations, etc etc, it can also be distracting...

2) IM:
-used for questions that are not really urgent but needs a response somewhat soonish. typically quick clarification or yes/no questions

3) Email:
-used for questions or to-do items that typically can wait several hours/1 day for a response. sometimes our emails will literally be subj: pls approve abc - thx! [eom]
-for detailed things that need to be put in writing so that people don't forget what was supposed to happen
-typically used for 1:1 conversations; we limit the mass emails we send to all of us on the team
-for communications with customers/potential customers
-email is very much like a to-do box for us. i also personally use Sanebox to filter out all my other mailing list communications, digests into a separate folder

4) Yammer:
-not urgent items: if ppl didn't go on yammer for a wk, it would be ok.
-post company stats/revenue
-post company announcements that are not important/urgent
-post fun stuff. photos of funny/weird things. jokes.

What channels do you use for what at your company?

Startup Edition, Product Hunt

Email and IM's are killing me. There, I said it.

As we've grown from 10 to 70 (and heading into triple-digits by the end of the year), more of my time is being sucked into email and sporadic IM convo's. To say it's a necessary evil would be a cop out as I'm sure we could enact better processes to reduce the number of questions and efficiency of communication.

Face-to-face communication is the most effective and efficient (see http://www.agilemodeling.com/essays/communication.htm), although the synchronous nature of this can be a challenge.

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CEO & Co-founder at Cubie

Agree with Ryan, we are also trying to do most of the communication face-to-face. We have been pair programming for a long time, so we are used to synchronized communication and enjoy the benefits.

Since we have team in Taiwan and California now, we use Google Hangout (with screen share), Trello, and Cubie (Should be HipChat but because we build Cubie, we use it for everything) to communicate. Cubie is used for random ideas or talks about the projects. If there is something worth discussing like new ideas or bug fixs, we put it on Trello. We have Handout meetings like daily scrum meeting everyday (around 30mins). We talked about what people are going to do today and the issues listed on Trello.

The daily meeting is very time consuming, but we can't figure out how to do it better.

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Startup Edition, Product Hunt

For us the daily scrum doesn't take longer than ~5 minutes with about 8 people. I've found in the past that if you let people stray too far from the focus of the meeting (what was done yesterday, what to do today, any blockers), it can linger on unnecessarily.

Personally I like face-to-face daily standups but some people replace this with iDoneThis (cc Walter Chen).

Head of Product/Engineering at AllTrails

We have a distributed team and the combination of hipchat (for pulse), pivotal tracker (for tracking all the things), and google hangouts (for daily standups) has been great. The ability in hipchat to preview screenshots auto-captured by CloudApp alone is worth the price of admission. That and maybe the emoticons (beer).

Front-End Developer at Kloudless, Inc.

Kloudless has a similar setup except we really just focus on HipChat, Face-to-face, and Email.

HipChat: Most conversations, about 3 main rooms (Design, Tech, General), and then we do individual chats for one-on-one stuff, Helps with general feedback and discussions

Face-to-face: This helps get things done faster, better feedback

Email: Notifications, Announcements

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CEO and Co-Founder at Great Simians

Still too many silos and too many tools, in my opinion. The evolution within internal and external collaboration has been standing quite still for too many years now. The products out there need to adopt to how we actually want and need to communicate today (both internally and externally). We are switching between "states" all the time (chat moves to yammer goes to task list etc) and no tool seem to be able to handle that we actually have moved beyond e-mail, chat, and microblog as silos.

A modern product within this area should be able to adopt to different companies needs (just read the comments hear and see that every company have different needs) and also be able to switch state depending on which communication that is most appropriate at the moment (if online in-front of computer, if on mobile, if task, if one-to-one, one-to-many etc, if closed, if open etc).

Still too many products are just supporting one state or one silo, some are supporting two, but most are just e-mail (it is just ridiculous how much attention Mailbox have got for building a beautiful interface on Gmail, it is still mail and still Gmail, nothing new there, it is a feature, not a product or company in my opinion, but they will be great for Dropbox) , chat, microblog, wiki etc. Those products that include all are just too cumbersome to use e.g IBM Connections, and still does not include everything, it is just too much and too heavy.

So still plenty of room for innovation, in my opinion.

Well, after this rant I might add that Angellist seem to have an efficient way of using the tools at hand, like that and I think many would be more productive if ditching e-mail, at least a little.

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Seed-DB, Techstars

I'm glad this works for AngelList, and in general I'm a big fan of eliminating e-mail. But it's really a decision that differs for each company.

Stripe posted a couple weeks ago about a fairly complex list of e-mail groups that they use internally, apparently successfully. At Google we use e-mail extensively, particularly since my team works across all time zones. Additionally, different people just work differently. I, for one, hate IMs except for very targeted yes/no quick questions.

I think the tools a company uses depends on the number of people in your company, nature/pace of development, personal preferences, and more. And it's something that will change during a company's development.

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At our company, we use HipChat for synchronous, immediate non-voice, communications. We use Email for asynchronous, non-immediate, non-voice, and we use Google Hangouts for Synchronous, immediate, voice communications. Email server as our "Communication of Record" Media where we want an easy trail for logging or tracking that we don't get with most synchronous tools. For example, we use Github and Hipchat @mentions to "Summon-By-Zeus" anyone who is asynchronous with the team and needs to get synchronous, quickly. In this way, email is powerful as a presentation tool to our synchronous tools

My hypothesis: Email sits on 2 extremes of the productivity use-case: When-you-get-a-chance-to-take-a-look or "Come Here!" Communications. This means that our team puts much less pressure on email to perform too many jobs and we can give it more focused work as a critical communications tool. We have both distributed and local teams and our preference is for immediate, synchronous communications for critical problem solving or sharing, which means that Email is the least used, but a very potent tool.

However, the bottomline is that email is still infinitely scaleable. Sorry Yammer, we cannot bear thy groups and trails of titles and conversations from thy digests every morn. I love email. You can still send one to many with as little or as much content as you need. Yammer is a chatapp with email alerts and a daily digest of conversations. However, since these conversations are directed at many to many, with weak ties, we just view the digest and that can be overwhelming when I only need to see what's important.

I can't wait to see more Email-Alert apps that do a great job of syncing synchronous conversations with asynchronous updates and alerts.

Rock on!

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Startup Edition, Product Hunt

Anyone have an opinion on Sqwiggle (https://angel.co/sqwiggle)? Tom, formerly of Buffer, is working on a new way to communicate and collaborate with remote teams via a persistent video feed. Rabbit is similar although not specifically designed for this use case/market.

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CEO & Co-founder at Cubie

I don't remember where I see this. A company setups projectors and webcams at the corner of two remote offices. When you walk by that corner in one office, you can see the corner of the other office. If there is other person in the other office walk by at the same time, you can chat with him/her. This is really cool I think.

Quibb, Uber

Evernote has this!

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Growth Lead at Pinterest

I've started to use Asana with my team to be more efficient with delegating tasks and receiving updates on them. A lot of email has been traditionally sucked up with those kind of updates.

As for Angellist's approach, I think it's useful for development groups, but doesn't scale across departments, which is usually where the biggest communication gaps are.

Product Marketing Manager at Emailvision

I wish my company would stop using email internally. We are trying to transition to working from a Sharepoint intranet, but there's an issue over notifications and message boards which mean we'll still be emailing.

However, I don't think email is that bad if people did things properly. For example, we use Outlook and Microsoft Exchange - if someone sends me an email asking me to do something, why don't they send me a proper task request item? If we're arranging meetings, let's use calendar items and use the "propose new time" feature. Rather than sending whole meeting notes as an email, why not send it as a Post item (shift+ctrl+s)?

I don't think the issue is too much email, but it's becoming unmanageable in it's current form. We should use other features, already built into Outlook, that make incoming tasks, calendar items and general notes more manageable - leaving email for important stuff.

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I think the key here (which isn't represented in the title) is finding alternatives rather than simply turning away from email. Email is overloaded with many, many use cases. Simply ignoring it (while surprisingly cathartic at times) isn't a great long-term solution. Using something instead of it risks transferring all the problems elsewhere. But taking each use case in turn and finding a tool that suits that particular purpose (as AngelList has done) seems worthwhile.

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Co-Founder at Go Dish

Not necessarily all by choice but I’m currently active on Trello, Pivotal Tracker, HipChat, E-mail, Google Chat & Facebook Groups for work, in addition to face-to-face, phone and video chat. No doubt there are more optimal platforms or channels (existing or potential) for different use cases of communication but at a certain point there are diminishing returns given the maintenance cost of each incremental platform you’re on. I don’t see why a bunch of these won’t converge (resulting in increased efficiency in communication across a variety of use cases without a subsequent increase in platform maintenance cost). But I think it’s inevitable that we’ll hit a point where we maximize productivity before we have a perfect solution in place for each use case. I feel like I’ve hit that point and for the time being e-mail seems to be one of the most universally effective channels despite obvious shortcomings.

In full disclosure my personal task management all takes place in a draft e-mail so I may not represent the market for all these tools!

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Amazingly popular to take notes in draft mails I find. Apple even embraced it by saving notes in iOS to imap. Love it!

Founder & CEO at AwayFind

Since several asked me to comment on this, and because I did training in this area for 8 years before starting AwayFind...

I agree that email is not the best place for most intra-office communication. There is a small portion of conversation for which it's easiest and most appropriate, but even if things DON'T seem out of hand, I think it's a great idea for everyone to move most communication to other places.

There are several reasons for this:
1. If you're trying to build knowledge at an organization, email is terrible--everything in email is trapped between its recipients. New hires or those new to a project will never benefit from it. If it's outside a handy Search box, it may as well not exist.
2. Email builds on top of previous messages without ever creating a cohesive whole. Some portion of a company's communications tool should be more wiki-like so that a cohesive spec or knowledgebase can exist without having to read through a thread. This article didn't stress this point, but it's important to consider whether you're using a thread-based or wiki-based tool every time a discussion or specification begins to grow in length/hierarchy. (I lament the loss of Google Wave here...)
3. When writing email we tend to write in the most casual way possible, often in a way that is not appropriate for leaving the company walls, or even spreading to other departments. By writing in other forums (even within a company) we're more likely to write in such a way that it can be copied and pasted or otherwise shared without requiring rework--this is a huge timesavings. I find this especially to be the case when there's a bug that relates to a customer. Why should the support person have to reword the engineer's comment when the engineer could've just written it for outside consumption?
4. Email can never be organized as an FAQ, task list, or similar. Rather the only method of retrieval is human or computer search. This is similar to #1 but focused on the personal use case--i.e., even though email may be convenient for those who have access to a particular message, the likeliness of revisiting that message or improving it for them is fairly slim. Yes, connecting an email to a task list is easy, but the value here comes when the email leaves the inbox and becomes a task.

What all these points mean is that anything that should live on for others (or you!) to benefit from, or to be organized/prioritized, should not be in email form.

Emails are only best for short-term transactional activities or the occasional conversation that is private enough to keep it out of public sight. For example, asking a question that's not work related or where to find something at the office would be fine in email. And if you don't have a fancy HR system, email might be a good place for discussions of employee performance.

As for my own company, we're somewhat similar to AngelList but with different tools. We use Skype to serve the role of both HipChat and Yammer--we've tried both but for whatever reason, Skype just stuck. It does a good enough job being available on all platforms, and we frequently switch to video so it's especially helpful there. Our team is distributed, so our communication tools really matter a lot.

For project management we use a combination between Trac (for its SVN integration and overall assignment of tasks) and Trello (for offering a high level and dynamic view of overall company priorities). Trac also offers a wiki, which we use for aggregating knowledge / details.

We also use a ton of Google Docs, especially on the non-dev side of the company. Google Docs don't have the best revision tracking, but their synchronous editing is very helpful for collaboration.

I've shared all this not to dismiss any of AngelList's processes, but to offer some notes around WHY and WHEN email is most appropriate. The core of it is that email data within a company is not building knowledge and is often silo'ing very valuable information. Email is better for simple coordination or information that is meant to stay private.


So say we all!

James Ryan, Financial Controller at Scout Ventures James Ryan
Financial Controller at Scout Ventures
Kevin Weeks, Venture capital at Bain Capital Ventures Kevin Weeks
Venture capital at Bain Capital Ventures
Bradley C. Harrison, Managing Partner at Scout Ventures Bradley C. Harrison
Managing Partner at Scout Ventures
Mitchell  Kleinhandler, Venture Partner at Scout Ventures Mitchell Kleinhandler
Venture Partner at Scout Ventures
John Ryu, Seed Investor at Scout Ventures John Ryu
Seed Investor at Scout Ventures
Ramzi Abdoch, Hacker in Residence at Scout Ventures Ramzi Abdoch
Hacker in Residence at Scout Ventures
Brendan Syron, Venture Fellow at Scout Ventures Brendan Syron
Venture Fellow at Scout Ventures