📢 Announcement

"Ping" / "You there?" / "Yo" / "Hey"

Jason Fried
Jason Fried
Direct one-to-one (or small group) messaging is an important part of working together. It's very useful in a variety of situations.

But there's a dark side. I've been seeing it crop up more and more, including in my own behavior, so I wanted to call it out and make sure we're all aware of it (and stop doing it).

Do you ever start a ping with someone by first trying to get their attention? You say "ping" or "there?" Or "hey!" Or "Yo" (or whatever). You begin with a whistle, and then you only send the rest of your thoughts once someone has whistled back. I do this all the time. It's time to stop.

Sending a ping with no information would be like sending an email with a subject "Hey" but with no body. Then only when someone emailed you back saying "What's up?" would you follow up with a separate email containing your complete thought. That would be silly, but it's exactly what we're doing with pings.

What's worse, compared to emails, pings are very interruptive. Being pulled away from your work to check out something with no information in it is bad for everyone involved.

So, let's think of pings more like emails. You wouldn't send an email asking if someone's around to respond. You'd send the email - a complete thought - and someone would eventually get it, read it, and respond in kind. So when we send pings, don't lead off with an empty "you there?" question. Instead, share the complete thought so when someone sees it they can respond with an answer, vs a "Yeah, why?"

So instead of...
Me: Ping. You: What's up? Me: Got time to catch up today at 3:30pm? You: Sure. Me: How's team room 2? You: Perfect, see you then.

You'd send...
Me: Got time to catch up today at 3:30pm to review the latest breadcrumb design? You: Yup, how's team room 2? Me: Perfect, see you then.

In the first example, I started with a whistle - just an empty "Ping". You had no idea why I was writing, so you had to respond with another empty whistle back.

In the second example, I my initiation included my complete ask. When you see it, you respond with a complete thought back.

The differences are subtle, but meaningful - especially when multiplied by the hundreds of initial pings we likely receive every year. If you're going to reach out and talk to someone directly, give them information to act on, don't just whistle at them and wait for them to ask what you're whistling about.

This should help introduce a bit more calm into direct messaging. It should cut back on the number of individual notifications, and also help everyone get to the point quicker so they don't get pulled away from their work without a clear reason.

If I ping you with a "ping" or "hey" or "there" - please call me out on it!