All My Comm Channels

I realized yesterday, as I was driving to Denver, that my comm channels shifted again after I returned from sabbatical in December. This happens periodically, mostly as a result of me taking some time away and changing things up on re-entry.

The largest change is that I’m batching my email. Rather than reading and responding to email on my phone throughout the day, or using slack time in my calendar to check and catch up on email, I’m doing a pass in the morning, another pass late in the day, and then finishing up at night. While grinding through 200 emails at a time in 90 minutes isn’t awesome fun, it’s enhanced by having some Nine Inch Nails playing loudly while I’m doing it. So – instead of an always or or interrupt channel, my email has turned into a more periodic (several times a day) comm channel. This feels good so far.

That shifted my real time channels to a few different things since there isn’t a single unifying answer. The active set is Voxer (audio), Slack, and iMessage, probably in that order. Techstars runs on Voxer as do several companies I’m involved in and my partners use it for longer discussions. We use Slack internally for short stuff and I’m in eight other Slack instances for companies I’m on the board of. iMessage ends up being the least common denominator for everyone else for real-time messaging.

Of the three, I find Voxer by far the most satisfying and convenient. I went through an intrigued phase with Slack when I started engaging with the Slack instances for several of our companies, but I quickly found the noise overwhelmed the signal for me so I use it for specific things and periodic scans of a channel I’m particularly interested in (say – the FullContact Chrome 2.0 channel since I’m obsessed about the new version coming out), but mostly it’s now a direct message channel to the CEOs and a few other people on various leadership teams.

Interestingly, Skype is completely absent from my workflow. I’ve also largely eliminated Twitter and Facebook from my daily information flow given the high distraction characteristics. I do monitor Twitter for DMs and @bfeld’s via Twitter for Mac, but it mostly hangs out quietly on the far left side of my screen. Facebook gets my attention once a day when I scan it as part of my “daily routine“, but that’s about it.

I also find that I’m spending much less time looking at shit on my iPhone, which I think is likely a result of cutting Twitter, Facebook, and email out of the always on / interrupt flow. The result is that I feel much calmer and focused throughout the day, and able to concentrate on what is in front of me, rather than what is flying at me.

I’m curious if anyone out there has discovered, or is using, something that effectively unifies different channels. We are investors in Sameroom and I’ve used it effectively in some cases, but mostly to integrate across different Slack instances, since Slack doesn’t handle that very well.

And, if you have other favorite comm channels, weigh in on them and I’ll react to how I have, or haven’t used them in the past.

  • in ’92 when Springsteen sang about “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On) it was pretty prescient. No matter how many platforms there are, no matter how much content gets created, we’re still limited to the same 1440 minutes in a day. I interpret your comments as your beginning to cut out some of the less meaningful chatter to hone in on what’s more important and relevant, and I second the impuse. Here’s to a quieter, more meaningful ’16.

  • I made a list of things that almost never make me feel good and top on the list were looking at my iPhone, Twitter, and Facebook. The less I do it, the calmer I feel. I also made a list of all things that almost always make me feel good – running, Headspace, yoga, and reading. Good to know your instrument and have a menu to choose from.

  • I find turning off email and doing it during set times is amazing for productivity. It can be hard to maintain this habit, but worth it. I also turned off all phone notifications except for text message and calendar reminders. I still check Twitter during the day, but it doesn’t control me like it used to.

    To make sure I’m available, I tell my team to text me if it’s an emergency. It works well.

  • jkostecki

    Batching works great for me and not looking at the computer or phone until the kids are out of the house in the morning. Google Hangouts is a big part of my day as I operate in an international environment and it seems to be a lot more stable than Skype. What’sApp and FB Messenger also serve communicating with devs around the world. And it is all about responding, not reacting, just like you noticed. Otherwise it’s really easy to go crazy.

    • Yeah – I use Google Hangouts 10x more times than Skype.

      • Have you tried zoom.us yet? Unlike Hangout, the voice stays in sync with the image, the voice is just about always clear, and the same is true when you meet with more than one person.

        We used this in our experimental virtual accelerator, and I’ve used it in the online part of my MBA class with great success.

        • I’m also enjoying using Zoom since joining Apcera 3 months ago, but be darned if I can get uploading an Avatar to work 😉

        • I’ve used it in a few cases.

  • The single most efficient communication/collaboration channel management tool that I’ve ever used was BlackBerry Hub – part of the BB 10 environment. They are “supposed” to be bringing that to Android and IoS via the BlackBerry Experience Suite. To say it’s breathtakingly efficient would sound hyperbolic – but that’s how good my experience was. The lack of apps – and the rest of my family going IoS – is what sounded the death knell for me. I would definitely pay to get this experience on my iPhone. http://global.blackberry.com/en/enterprise/blackberry-experience-suite.html

    • I have never used a blackberry. But I know two people who were so fanatical about theirs they had a spare to lend to people.

      I actually resisted getting a smart phone for several years because I did not want people to think I was always available.

    • Fred Wilson has talked about that also – his family lived on it for a while.

  • Dariel Luciano

    Do you keep tabs open with your fb/twitter or do you consolidate with something like hootsuite? Or keep them closed altogether and check in periodically?

    • Twitter: I use Twitter for Mac. Facebook is in a tab in Chrome, but I only check it periodically (usually in the morning.)

  • thorsky

    And, if you have other favorite comm channels, weigh in on them and I’ll react to how I have, or haven’t used them in the past.

    Though I wouldn’t call these favorites, I’m curious about Yammer and Evernote.

    More broadly, my company (B2B) is thinking hard right now about what communications channels we be integrating with for notifications and even basic functionality. Obviously email and iOS/Android, but what’s most important after that? Right now it feels like Slack and maybe Telegram.

    • Wow – Yammer – that one has disappeared from the planet…

      While I use Evernote, I don’t use it for anything that is team based.

      • thorsky

        Thanks for confirming, that was our intuition also: Build for Slack, keep an eye on Evernote, ignore Yammer.

  • If I’m reading this right you’re spend 270 minutes — 4 1/2 hours — a day dealing with your email… plus blogging… plus reading… that is meaty.

    Nine Inch Nails, hmmm. I’ll have to give them a serious exploratory listen. I do my work while listening to Mastodon. Give that a try sometimes, ha ha ha! You’ll know why I’m laughing.

    • Yeah – that’s probably in the right zone.

  • I’ll have to give Voxer a try.

    Any recommendations for real time chat with people that favor WhatsApp? Any honey to lure them away? … huh, I hadn’t seen https://web.whatsapp.com/ supports iPhone now — at least with that it looks like a continue the conversations from my Mac.

    • Interestingly, there isn’t a single person in my world that uses WhatsApp!

      • Here in Brazil Whatsapp is the 800 pound gorilla of messaging. Sure you can reach almost everybody on Facebook Messenger, but people still rather use Whatsapp.

        Whatsapp groups are also huge.

      • Julia’s family is hooked. There is no getting them off of it. It’s the common denominator between the Androids and the iPhones in the family.

        We also regularly have young people staying with us from Western Europe for short periods of time where it doesn’t make sense for them to get SIM for their phones. They are often already big into WhatsApp.

    • No voxer love in my life. I tried to contact 10 fairly good friends that were supposedly on voxer early this week and not 1 messaged me back.

      • Sad panda face …

  • Is your move away slightly from Twitter today’s phase/mood, or more of a longer-term conscious thing? If the latter, just distraction management or something deeper?

    • I’m not sure yet. Ask again in a few months.

  • Have you tried Symphony?

    They are still early on, but they are similar to Slack except that you have the feeling of control.

    They are our clients, and I think it’ll be one place for all of our interrupt channels.

  • @bfeld:disqus – a few weeks into this, how do you feel we are are handling communication in this virtual world? Are we losing the human touch? Leaving the flood gates open? How can we balance it all with out over automation?

    • I dont have a global view. I think it varies dramatically from person to person.