Episode 032: Blueprint Series #2 Slack

TEN7 is embarking on a series of episodes where we hope to explore the components of this thing we’ve called Blueprint. Second component up is an examination and discussion about TEN7's use of Slack, a cloud-based set of team collaboration tools and services, a place where our team comes together to collaborate and share mission critical information that can be found by the right people, and where our other tools pipe in information when and where we need it. BTW, Slack stands for Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge.

Here's what we're discussing in this podcast:

  • TEN7's new podcast series Blueprint -  #2 Slack
  • What is Slack
  • What we used before Slack
  • Slack channels and their value
  • Bot automation
  • Living the TEN7 value of sharing
  • In case Slack goes down
  • Slack and the corporate culture
  • The hive mind of the Borg
  • Friendly reminders
  • Zoom as Slack Plus
  • Repairing tractors
  • Let's all get together

TRANSCRIPT

IVAN STEGIC: Hey Everyone! You’re listening to the TEN7 Podcast, where we get together every fortnight to talk about technology, business and the humans in it. I’m your host Ivan Stegic. Today we’re exploring our use of Slack in the second episode of the TEN7 Blueprint for Operations series. Our Blueprint takes a number of things into account – How we store passwords. How we manage software releases and do versioning. What tool we use to track issues. A component that’s a cornerstone for us, more so because we’re distributed is Slack. It’s what we use to talk to each other, to solve problems, to literally meet around the water cooler. Joining me today again is Charlene Jaszewski and Tess Flynn. So Slack? We started using Slack in 2014 so we’ve been using this thing for 4 years and I’m not sure what you guys have used in other jobs, in other projects, but we used Google Chat before that and it really transformed the way we talk to each other.

CHARLENE JASZEWSKI: I’ve used Flow Dock in other companies before we switched to Slack. It’s like as soon as Slack came on the scene everybody abandoned Flow Dock.

IVAN: How about you Tess? What did you use before TEN7?

TESS FLYNN: When I was working on a big corporation somewhere before 2014 we didn’t even have a chat system. It was just email or phone calls and then the company after that it was Slack and then this one was Slack too.

IVAN: Yea, it’s really facilitated the real time communication aspect of our business, especially the fact that we’re distributed, and I think the organization of Slack is really what makes the difference, being able to create channels and so on. It’s very similar to IRC but better.

CHARLENE: I’m trying to remember what IRC was like. Boy, that’s old school.

TESS: I wouldn’t necessarily say better, but it certainly is easier and that’s probably one of the key advantages of it.

IVAN: So, do you think that’s what makes it awesome? It’s easy?

TESS: Well, it’s a congruence with different technologies compared to IRC which is basically a rather old school chat system. In fact, a lot of people call it the original chat system. You didn’t have history unless you were logged in and that depended on your client and your client’s configuration. You didn’t have search built in unless you were doing it locally. You didn’t have a lot of those built-in features that you were expecting and as something that’s 30-40 years old, it has a number of layers of cruft on top of it and obscure commands and other weirdness that takes quite some time to figure out. And the key functionality of it is the same as the key functionality of Slack, except that Slack also wraps it in a much easier to handle UI, it kicks a lot of those older, weird, obscure commands and mode statuses and all this other stuff that people don’t tend to care about. It builds history into it. It builds file previews into it and it builds search into it.

IVAN: Yea, search is a big thing and I think the user friendly of the system is another big thing. It really made discussions accessible. What do you think the biggest difference between Slack and Google Chat is? We thought we were doing just great with Goggle Chat when we were using it. It was real time, right? Just like Slack is. We didn’t know it could be better, so we kind of accepted it.

TESS: So, Hangouts still has a lot a legacy of modality around it, it was patterned after the last great wave of instant messaging clients sort of like ICQ, MSN and Yahoo Messenger. It was patterned after that but just built into a browser.

CHARLENE: Oh man, you just reminded me we used to use Yahoo Messenger for chatting. Oh man. I even worked in some gigs where we were doing AOL Messenger, that's way old. Apple. If we were all in a design shop everyone was on Apple. We would just use our personal messenger.

IVAN: iChat. Wasn’t it called iChat before Messages?

CHARLENE: Yes. I think you’re right. You couldn’t save anything, you’d just chat, but nothing was saved. That’s what’s so great about Slack is like…didn’t we just talk about this last week…and then you could search for it?

IVAN: Yea. The history really makes a difference. The other thing that makes a difference and I think this is one of the things that we should mention as a component of Blueprint is the organization of the channels. Like, how we’ve decided to organize channels, I think really makes a difference in how we operate.

CHARLENE: Let’s back up a second though and just talk about channels in specific. I worked at companies that are only using Slack in the most basic capacity. Like direct messages with people. And then it’s like as you get more sophisticated then you have the channels which is basically sort of like chatrooms for topics. And you guys really use them in-depth too. I mean, yea, let’s talk about all the levels that you guys use them in.

IVAN: So maybe a definition of a channel. A channel is like a group of chats that you can invite any number of people into. The group of chat messages is centered around whatever topic you like and so the way we have TEN7 Slack organized is channels that are dedicated to projects and clients. If there’s more than one project that we’re working on for a client, we’ll prefix the name of the channel with the abbreviation of the client name and all of those channels always start with an underscore. So, you can count on a channel being an underscore, meaning that it’s centered around a project for a client. Then we have another group of channels which are kind of the internal channels. Those don’t start with an underscore. Those are just very simple names. And then the third group is our channels that are dedicated to external people that we work with, so those external people would be typically clients. So, we might have a project going on with a client and we’ll have an internal channel dedicated to that client where it’s all internal stuff. Then we might have an external client channel that starts with T7Care so that’s the name of our support product, our support and maintenance product.

CHARLENE: And that’s the channel that everyone has to behave in.

IVAN: And that’s the channel everyone has to behave in. And typically, it’s not exactly a huge change in our behavior, but it’s more along the lines of being sensitive about the kind of information you’re putting in the external channel. Maybe being careful about internal chatter that doesn’t matter it might be the details of the project but might not matter to the perception of the people that are in that channel from a client’s point of view.

CHARLENE: And we have to make sure to mention that it is very important to have a channel where people don’t have to behave, which at TEN7 we call the “random channel” which gets very weird on Fridays.

IVAN: Oh, I didn’t realize that was a non-behavior channel. I should use it like that. (laughter) Yea so those are kind of the three different ways we separate groups of channels and they’re very standard channels in terms of the internal stuff. So we have a "general" channel, that’s mostly about very general things. A "random" channel that can be about anything. We have a "downtime" channel that integrates with the monitoring that we have on client sites. We have a "finance" channel that talks about people that are responsible for payroll and billing. They’re typically in that channel.

CHARLENE: You guys have this awesome payroll bot that pings everybody in the week that we all get paid. “Don’t forget to put in your timesheets”. I mean how’s that integrated? Or is that something in Google or where’s that come from?

IVAN: That was two hours of fun that I had putting together some sort of automation so that I wouldn’t have to do the collection of timesheets myself. Actually, I think of that as the ‘lazy bot’. The payroll bot typically is a calendar entry on Google Calendar, and the bot itself is an integration with Slack by a company called Zapier.

CHARLENE: There are hundreds of integrations on there for everything. It’s a really cool site to check out.

IVAN: Zapier does a wonderful job of allowing you to automate almost everything. So, we have an account with Zapier and we’ve connected our Slack to it and our Google calendar, and then I created a Google form that has the fields in it that are necessary to submit your time to be paid. And also for PTO. So what the Zapier bot does is it checks the Google calendar everyday and if it sees an entry that has payroll as a word in it, or payroll reminder, it will look at the day that it’s on, and it knows the URL to the form, and it knows what fields need to be filled out, and it will then figure out what day it is, when payroll is, when the times are, what the time is that you have to be reporting and it will post to Slack a unique link that pre-fills those fields for you in Google form. It does that twice. And it also sends an email, because why not? And that’s our payroll bot. If you could use something to automate manual processes in your organization, why not? Why should I be doing that and wasting time when I can automate it? And since everybody’s in Slack it makes perfect sense to put it there.

CHARLENE: Searchability of Slack is severely hampered if you use the free plan. If you don’t upgrade to a certain plan then you get a message saying “hey, by the way we’re only storing the last 10,000 messages and upgrade to a plan”, because then you can’t search back. It only has the most current ones.

IVAN: That’s right. So to get all the features, the kind of full Monty, you should pay for it and I think it’s worth it. So we talked about some channel naming strategies. We talked about the fact that it’s got good searchability and that it has history. Why else is it important to us from a Blueprint point of view? It’s one of the components that help us get our work done.

CHARLENE: One of your values, and I know this because I’m writing about your values is "sharing information". I’m a freelancer so I’ve worked at a lot of different companies with Slack and you guys have the most discussion in Slack of any company that I’ve seen. You guys literally say “don’t talk about something in private.” Don’t do it in a direct message conversation, do it within Slack so we can all learn from each other. And I think that’s really fantastic.

IVAN: Yea, that’s the philosophy. Why put it in a DM or in a private group when everybody could be using it, and the idea is open by default and then add privacy as you need to, and I personally think that’s just a good way to do it. We changed our employee contracts a few years ago because it made more sense to not worry about TEN7 proprietary intellectual property and when we could be opening it and when we could be talking about it, why don’t we just assume it’s open and if we need to close it or protect it in some way, then we can think about it. It’s actually easier.

CHARLENE: Does that mean you don’t have NDA’s?

IVAN: I think it does. No. There’s a difference between an NDA and intellectual property that TEN7 owns. So, when you sign a contract with us you’re signing something that says anything that’s confidential within TEN7 you promise to keep confidential. If I sign a contract with a client on behalf of TEN7 that says we won’t disclose any of clients' said proprietary information, then because you signed a contract with TEN7 you're obliged and bound by that as well. That’s different than if we create something internally like a module for Drupal, and we decide that by default that that module is open, and anyone could use it, that means that if Tess goes to DrupalCon or a camp, she doesn’t have to ask me for permission to say “can I show this module we talked about or we built internally? I’d like to talk about it because it’s interesting.” She can just assume that by default it’s open. She can talk about it, no problem at all. Unless there’s some requirement from a client that requires us to have that closed, it’s not. And I think that’s different than NDA’s.

CHARLENE: That is nice, because no matter what product you guys come up with we can just talk about it, there’s no asking “hey, is it ok to talk about this or write about this?” That’s a whole other Podcast.

IVAN: That is a whole other Podcast.

CHARLENE: You know what we should talk about though? You know how dependent we are on Slack and Slack went down the other day, and the great mashing of teeth and the rending of flesh of what are we going to do?

IVAN: It kind of brought to the surface how dependent we are on Slack to do our work. We use other tools, we have issue trackers and email and a host of other tools, but we couldn’t replace Slack very quickly. But Tess helped us, right Tess? What’d you do?

TESS: Well it occurred to me that we all had a Gmail account, so we all have a Hangouts account, so I made a backup group in Google Hangouts and added everyone to it and that got us through the outage.

CHARLENE: We had to send emails to each other, that was painful. It’s like it took me minutes to get a reply from you Ivan on something I had to ask you. It was excruciating.

IVAN: I found that Hangouts, the Google chat that Tess set up was a great idea as a backup, but I realized that it would be temporary, so I was ok with talking about everything in one location. I really realize that I missed channels, that I missed being able to put a specific thought in a specific project or with a specific group of people. I also didn’t feel like people were very responsive in Google Chat.

TESS: UI is not particularly conducive to that, it’s part of it’s older instant messaging heritage really.

CHARLENE: It’s really not cool anymore.

TESS: They keep trying to come up with new copies of it, when people don’t want any of these things. Just make Hangouts better. It’s not that hard guys.

IVAN: Yea, it’s not. They could buy Slack I suppose.

TESS: Hmm, I’m not sure if they would actually get around to doing that.

CHARLENE: Isn’t that like Microsoft buying GitHub, I mean they’re never going to be cool and they keep trying and it’s just not working.

IVAN: I think Microsoft’s cooler than it used to be.

TESS: As you mentioned earlier, the channels are actually one of the key advantages of Slack because having worked in the company which doesn’t have an instant messaging system at all, everything just goes to email. So, you turn into this email hoarder, where you’re surrounded by just bags and bags of email that you have to go and search through, and if your laptop doesn’t work then you’re in trouble. If you’re lucky enough to be in an organization that uses a cloud-based email system like Office 365 or Google for Business or something like that, you do have better search functionality there to search through there, and theoretically infinite storage capacity. However, it doesn’t really work as well as Slack, mostly because it’s back and forth so you have a whole bunch of additional stuff and cruft that gets affixed to it. And, it doesn’t have the information simplicity that you get from Slack. In an organization which is heavily Outlook-dependent for example, trying to find information in that is just a pain, because if you don’t remember the thread and if you didn’t delete it, you have to search for it. And, then, each one of those has these mandated headers and footers which make it so that you have to scroll 50,000 feet in order to just read what’s going on in the conversation. And, email by its nature is a delayed messaging system, whereas something like Slack is very conversational. It is not passing a message from a human perspective, it’s participating in a conversation. So, there’s a lot less of that cruft that goes back and forth. But, because Slack also stores everything and allows you to search everything, it also creates an auto-documenting knowledge repository. I remember when I first started at TEN7 I would actually search for messages older than my starting date to figure out what happened in order to mine past history because it’s an effective tactic and it does it automatically.

IVAN: And it also allowed you to get to know the organization as well, I guess.

TESS: That is another thing. I have had the experience that you can tell a lot about an organization’s social and emotional health by how they treat Slack and companies that delete the random channel, that’s not a good sign. Companies that tend to do everything in direct messages instead of shared project central or client central channels have a need and bound to mistrust.

CHARLENE: I was working at a company, it was a bunch of freelancers and it was a company where it was growing and changing, and they had Slack. At first it was “if you have a question ask it in Slack so we can all learn together,” which is great. But then they got taken over by some different managers and it went in a different direction and suddenly nothing was happening in Slack anymore. And guess what I had to do? I had to send emails to various people going “how do I do this? What’s going on here?” And I know these questions had already been asked and answered by someone and they weren’t being communicated and it was a whole bunch of wasted time for everyone to reinvent the wheel every time they had a question.

IVAN: That sounds like the hive mind that we talked about on a previous podcast, Tess.

TESS: I can’t remember. I only had 4 hours of sleep last night.

IVAN: Oh, but you can remember, is it the Borg?

TESS: Yea, the Borg have that kind of modality in Star Trek.

CHARLENE: But the Borg have no sense of humor. We’re different than the Borg.

IVAN: So basically, you’re saying that Slack is a version of a shared experience and a shared history and that we’re simply evolving from that, and that you can always go back to the history and do a search and see what the culture is. I mean Tess was talking about this right? You can tell about the culture of the company. What were you saying? You were saying those who delete random, those who have their project discussions in direct messages and I felt like there was another one you were going to mention?

TESS: I can’t remember.

IVAN: Maybe the third one was like having it all in the open, I felt maybe that’s where you were going.

TESS: Yea. I mean in organizations that tend to have their employees get into the mindset that they self-silo is usually indicative of this is not a very good organization socially. It’s got a lot of problems and not a lot of trust. The problem is that some people will see activity in Slack as “you’re not working”. This is one of the big problems with Slack. There’s kind of a generational divide almost. Larger organizations that are much more traditionally managed, they don’t know how to handle Slack. They don’t know how to handle that amount of transparency in their organization. They don’t realize that these conversations that would’ve been, you walk over to somebody’s cube and start talking, are now going into this online repository that you can all read at the same time. And some people are like “why aren’t you working? Get back to work!” Because apparently to some people working is bashing on a keyboard and looking like you’re busy, instead of actually being productive.

CHARLENE: Well, you hit the nail on the head about it being a cultural issue. I would refer that to as a “butts in seats company” where they don’t think that you’re working unless you’re sitting at your desk not talking to anybody. So TEN7 is a distributed company in that no one is in an office together, and it’s just assumed that you’re an adult and you’re going to get your work done and that is the company that Slack will work for. You’re absolutely right Tess, the company that doesn’t give you that sort of autonomy then Slack’s not going to help you.

IVAN: I think you’re right about the ‘butts in seats’ thing as well. Jeff Robbins has talked about this a whole lot, and he mentioned in a fair amount at the conference last year, at YonderCon. It feels like the days where the prototypical boss, just like in Office Space, walks out into the cubicle land and looks over his very many employees and all of their heads are pointed down, they’re all sitting down, they’re all in cubes, that that equals work and that that equals getting paid and that that equals job satisfaction and you leave your job at the office and you go home.

TESS: Sounds a bit like Camazotz from a Wrinkle in Time.

IVAN:  It’s not like that, though right? I mean maybe it’s like that in some companies still but I feel like Slack probably is not going to work there. Sitting down in a chair in cube land doesn’t equal happiness and doesn’t equal productivity and like you said I think that Slack is a tool that adults can use that works like a water cooler, works like a conversation about a project. It can be interactive and conversational just like Tess described where you’re having a conversation and problem solving something in real time. But I’d like to add to that. I think it can also be asynchronous just like email. You can drop things in channels and switch Slack off and come back to see what the answer was right away.

CHARLENE: It’s like as you’ve called me an Infobomber before, Ivan, just because I’ll have a thought and I have to blurt it out or else I’m going to lose it, and if I send you stuff in email it might get buried in a bunch of other emails that I’ve sent to you, but it’s like, if I have a BizDev idea I could just go into BizDev channel and put “wouldn’t it be cool if I did this?” And you guys could real it at your leisure and consume it and then I could come back later and be like “did anybody like it?” It’s great!

IVAN: Yea, one of the features of Slack that I’ve been using a lot lately, actually two of them, has been Snooze, so I Snooze all my Slack notifications for a couple hours a day. But the other one is the Remind Me function. I don’t know if you Tess and Charlene have been using it but ever since they…not just remind me to do something in the future like a reminder, but ever since they added the ability to remind yourself about a particular message that you’ve maybe read but you want to come back to because you don’t have the time to do it right now, ever since they added that, I’ve been using it religiously. So, I might get a personal direct message from someone, from you Charlene, but I need to check it because it could be urgent. I might need to react to it right away. So, I look at it and I read it and then I realize, “oh, yea this is cool. I don’t have the time to respond to it right now.” I either long tap on it or right click on it on the desktop and I say, “remind me about this message tomorrow or in an hour or next week.” Then I’m free to forget about it, and I trust that Slack will bring that back to my attention when I asked it to. That’s been an invaluable feature that I’ve been using.

CHARLENE: Thank you for telling me about that. I didn’t know that existed. And can’t you also remind other people? Like if I wanted you to review a blog post that I’d written I could remind you to do it later?

IVAN: Yes, you can. I have not used that very much if any at all, because I feel like it’s too personal to use in my opinion. I don’t want to remind someone to do something. I feel like that’s micromanaging in a way. So, if I do need to remind someone about it, my hack is to remind myself about it and then I’ll bring it up with that person. But you can do that as a group. It’s innocuous in some cases like in our attendance channel I have a daily reminder about how to use the Slack status that we started embracing a lot more in the last few weeks. And I’m probably going to switch that off because it’s a little annoying right now. I think people got it.

CHARLENE: Oh, we came up with some new Slack attendance status. Is that what you’re talking about?

IVAN: Yea, maybe that’s actually something to talk about, is the attendance channel.

CHARLENE: Let’s maybe talk about it in the context of a distributed office. Why that’s really important for us to have the statuses.

IVAN: We actually started the attendance channel when we were first experimenting with being distributed, when we were still in the office and it was kind of more of a heads up like, “I’m in the office now,” or “I went to get lunch,” or “I’m working from home today but I’m here. So, you can’t see me but I’m here.” And then when we became fully distributed it was a way of saying “Hey, I started my workday.” “Hey, I’m taking lunch.” “Hey, I’m in a meeting.” “Oh, I’m checked out now.” And then Slack added these status attributes to your profile, and it kind of gives you 5 things that Slack thinks you will be doing like vacationing or commuting or in a meeting and then very recently they allowed you the ability the change those 5 things. And as soon as they allowed that change I kind of jumped on that and thought “oh, maybe we should do 5 things that are appropriate to us.” And we had a discussion in the random channel about it and decided as a team we would standardize on 5 things that seemed to be the most…the things that we were typing in the attendance channel the most, which was “I’m here”, “I’m away”, “I’m out”, “I’m in a meeting”, “I’m on a break.” And basically, that covered all of the bases of work. “I’m here” means I’m here, I’m working, I might not be available right now because I maybe have notifications snoozed, but I’m at my job.” “Away” means I’m at lunch or I went for a walk or I’m on vacation. Sorry, “out” means I’m on vacation.

CHARLENE: “Away” is just temporarily unavailable.

IVAN: Temporarily out, yes that’s right. Then “out” means I’m on vacation or I’m out for the day. My status right now is “in a meeting”, and then the last one is “on a break” and it’s obviously the coffee cup.

CHARLENE: Every time you say on a break I think of Ross on the show Friends. (laughter)

IVAN: Not that kind of break. So, I think we’ve kind of distilled it down. I’m still a little confused with how those 5 work with our attendance channel, so I personally still tell people in attendance what I’m doing when I change my status, but I kind of feel like I’ve been doing that less. Tess, how do you reconcile the attendance with that status?

TESS: I’ve tended to use the attendance channel to point out if I’m going to be away for an extended period of time, like if I need to take somebody to an appointment or if I have an appointment myself, or if I have to run an errand for some odd reason.

CHARLENE: You know what? You’re right. People are using the attendance channel for details on why they’re away.

TESS: And I think that’s actually valuable because having the simple standardized statuses makes it a lot easier to identify what people are actually doing and then you can just look at their name in the sidebar to see what their immediate status is. And then if you need more details on that you can go to the attendance channel.

CHARLENE: Here’s a question. Do you think that the distributive office would work without Slack or something like it?

TESS: (laughter) Not really.

CHARLENE: Yea, it would be hard. It would be hard to feel connected to people. I mean we could do our work. I’ve been a remote person for probably about 10 years, but it does make you feel a lot closer to people to be able to chat like this and to just sort of know what’s happening with them.

TESS: Yea, I find it kind of an essential cornerstone of having a distributive office, is to have one of these real time, room oriented auto recording and sociable chat mechanisms. I find that it really adds to the sense of company cohesiveness and it’s an invaluable resource in and of itself.

IVAN: I don’t think I’d be able to do this without having Slack. I don’t think we’d function as a team. I think it’s easier for us to function as a team because we were in an office together. I think we’re all old enough and mature enough in this industry that, yea, this would not be possible without Slack. I also think there’s one thing we’re not talking about here in this Podcast about real time communication, and that’s the medium we’re using right now to record this Podcast. I mean I think Zoom and video conferencing amps up the intimacy of this Slack thing that we have. It’s great trying to hash out a problem in a channel for a project for a particularly complex issue, but at some point, typing these things out is detrimental, and it is not going to resolve the issue. So, I find being able to say “hold on a second shouldn’t we just Zoom and let’s have a video chat about this?” That actually helps things immensely. So, it feels like Zoom is Slack Plus, right?

CHARLENE: That’s a good way of putting it, but I do have to say that Zoom has removed one of the benefits of working from home, and that’s working in your pajamas with bed hair. (laughter)

IVAN: I recently tried to attend a meeting at TEN7 from my bed and switched on my camera by mistake, but it wasn’t really by mistake, I did switch it on, on purpose because that’s what you do and I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not to attend work while in my bed. And apparently this was a policy that came up in a standup that I don’t attend that I was not aware of, and so, apparently there are rules and regulations around when you can switch video on and maybe yea, maybe that’s ok. So, Slack is to TEN7 quite an important thing.

CHARLENE: Slack is great, but just like in a real office, it is important to put in water cooler time, and if I’m working with different companies I feel better if I have time to sit and look through the random channels and get into the off conversations and the lingo and stuff. Yea, it’s part of the feeling connected to the people you’re working with. It’s absolutely true.

IVAN: I think before we sign off, because I do feel like we’re kind of wrapping up the Podcast here, I think we should talk about what we don’t use Slack for. Like, we’ve kind of talked about what we do use it for, but let’s maybe talk about what we don’t use it for.

CHARLENE: I wanted to get some clarification on that too, because you’ve mentioned using it for conversations about issues, but then we’ve also talked about wanting to keep those issue discussions in Jira too, in our issue tracking place. So, which one’s would you talk about in Slack and which ones would you leave in Jira?

IVAN: I have an answer, but I want to give Tess an opportunity to chime in before I give my opinion.

TESS: So, you are in the field and you are repairing a tractor. The conversation between you and the mechanic as you’re trying to get the tractor to work is Slack. The report you file after you’ve done the work is in Jira.

IVAN: Brilliant. Brilliant. That’s exactly right.

CHARLENE: Tess, in all of your analogies have to do with mechanical vehicles, do you realize that? Cars. Tractors.

TESS: I do realize this is an endemic problem with Americans, like American tech education always seems to come back to vehicle analogies, all the time. I’ve gotten so much guff from Europeans about this, it’s wonderful.

CHARLENE: What are their analogies about?

IVAN: Drinking wine. Growing grapes.

CHARLENE: Eating out in cafes.

TESS: Sometimes confrontation, sometimes cooking.

CHARLENE: Ooh cooking, I would love that.

TESS: Building construction. It depends on personal experience and cultural prerogatives, but the thing with Americans with car analogies is that it’s a very car centric culture. It’s very difficult to get all over the place. I know Charlene you’re looking at me because you live in Portland, (laughter), but because it’s so infused into Americanness, it just comes up as a very common easy way to describe what’s going on with things. And although this wasn’t exactly a car analogy, it was still kind of a construction vehicle analogy, nonetheless.

IVAN: And I think it’s a really good one too. Like you want to be able to document the things in the issue queue so that you could have it for posterity as an archive, as the report as you said, but certainly the problem solving part is, you do that either in your own head, by yourself figuring it out, or when you have a problem you do that in the project Slack. And I guess if you run into an issue of not being able to resolve it in Slack you elevate it to Slack Plus or video.

CHARLENE: I like that, Slack Plus.

TESS: We came up with a rule about if a conversation goes back and forth 3 or 4 times, you might as well consider should we try doing this in a synchronous video messaging client.

CHARLENE: Back and forth a few times in Jira. Is that what you mean?

TESS: No, in Slack in general. Slack is usually the most synchronous communication system that we use most often, and Zoom does have, the other thing is that screen sharing, and that’s often a critical means to debug problems that other people are experiencing. It’s to see what they’re seeing.

CHARLENE: A picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a million. That’s what we say. You know, I think we got through everything today. That’s amazing.

IVAN: I think we did. I think we really did. That’s been great. I think that brings us to the close of this episode of the TEN7 Podcast. Especially in the series of special episodes for the TEN7 Blueprint for Operations. So, thank you Charlene and thank you Tess for joining me. You’ve been listening to the TEN7 Podcast. Find us online at ten7.com/podcast. And if you have a second, do send us a message, we love hearing from you. Our email address is podcast@ten7.com. And keep an eye out for the next episode of the Blueprint series. Until next time, this is Ivan Stegic. Thank you for listening.

Ivan Stegic

Founder and President
 
Image
Ivan Stegic

Words that describe Ivan: Relentlessly optimistic. Kind. Equally concerned with client and employee happiness. Bowtie lover. Physicist. Ethical. Lighthearted and cheerful. Finds joy in the technical stuff. Inspiring. Loyal. Hires smart, curious and kind employees who want to create more good in the world. His favorite things right now: the TEN7 podcast and becoming the next Björn Borg.

Tess Flynn

DevOps Engineer
 
Image
Tess Flynn

Tess is TEN7’s Swiss Army knife. She’s an ever-present force in Drupal and a frequent speaker at events, where she's known for comic book-style illustrations in her presentations. Her superpower is problem-solving—she’s always finding ways to improve a site’s infrastructure and efficiency, and she has the rare ability to look holistically at a situation through human requirements, not just those of technology and business. She also loves sleuthing out the source of hacks, especially the ugly and ingenious ones. Tess has encyclopedic knowledge of horror/sci-fi ranging from schlocky and campy to highbrow. She loves Star Trek, where the engineers use their skills to help people.