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Hello Fellow Programmers:

I run a small business and we typically communicate over IM during the say. We sign on to IM when we arrive and stay on all day. It seems to be quite distracting, in my opinion, and could detract from work. I'm interested in how other small businesses use IM.

Do you use IM? If so, do you stay on all day or only come up when there is a question initiated by e-mail?

I'm trying to create the most productive and effective work environment for geographically separated programmers. Interested in your opinions.

Thank you.

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closed as not constructive by Walter, Jim G., ChrisF Dec 31 '12 at 16:13

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5 Answers 5

IM is vital for geographically separate developers. Email is too slow and formal. You want developers communicating. Asking questions as they go and getting insight from their peers. Communication failures are far more detracting from productivity than IM interruptions. It's not that hard to set yourself to away/DND...

In my experience, some IM/Chat mishmash like lync is even better, since the communication can happen for the entire team rather than 1:1 or via ad-hoc chats. Having stable rooms where people can enter and leave at will and see the flow/record of communication is very useful.

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Agreed on all counts. My team (3 on-site, 4 remote) has a HipChat account with rooms we're all in, and the ability to pop out into 1:1 as necessary. –  jcmeloni Dec 31 '12 at 15:22
Yeah having good communication is critical, email is way too slow, also you run the risk of developers forgetting to check their email. –  BeardedO Dec 31 '12 at 15:26
I don't like being interrupted while I'm coding or thinking about a problem. I use IM when there is actually something to discuss that would take too much through email. And I check my inbox in between tasks getting done. If I don't check it it'ss because I wasn't available anyway. And IM only works if you are online at the same time (at least for freelance developers, may not apply to corporate people) –  Jbm Mar 7 '13 at 23:23

I've worked in places that do and don't use it. You adapt either way. As a rule though I prefer to have it. If you are worried about your developers being distracted then you are kind of missing the point.

Development in teams only happens efficiently and competently with good communication. I worry when I hear people suggest a tool is distracting because it suggests they are micro-managing without really understanding what it is the developers do, or how. It also sounds like you're not providing a pleasant working environment. Unhappy staff will always be less productive than happy staff.

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I have worked with people I have only ever spoken with over IM or email. In that situation it is obviously better than email for a discussion, and better than a phone call if your people don't have offices, or there are issues with accents, or hearing loss.

Even in the same office it is good for sending links quickly or screens sharing if you are using one of the better ones.

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yes, and I find it much easier than video-conferencing (which we have at our desks using the same IM app) or phone - not only do I get a record of what was typed, it doesn't distract my my work or, erm.. surfing the web while we chatter.

video conf is really distracting, you have to stop everything to converse with the other person, and you can scratch your nose or fidget too much while doing it, at least on the phone you can yawn and wave your arms in the air to silently say "you're a moron" to the person on the other end :)

If you're worried about people abusing it and chatting all day long (you have facebook etc disabled on your net gateways too, right) then get one that will store a record of all conversations - we use Microsoft's communicator, it sends you an email transcript when you close the IM conversation (which is quite nice).

It can also be a really good tool if focussed on some part of work - ubersvn has IM chat enabled within the tool, so devs can chat about their work and comment on it, the idea being that collaboration is a good thing even for teams that don't really co-operate on the same code.

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I found IM to be one of the least distracting means of communication. When you don't want to be disturbed, just set the status accordingly. Ditto if you are available.

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