Game Design From Outer Space

After Campfire we changed our habits and we tried Yammer. But in the end Skype won our hearts.


Project Management 101: Chatting Our Way through Skype

This post is the fourth of a series about project management tools or services we’re using.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about our beloved Basecamp: as I told you, we have subscribed to the 37Signals suite for many months, so we were using Campfire. We called our main chat room In da Office and it rapidly became our virtual office during telecommuting. It was useful: we exchanged our thoughts, shared links and had many brainstorming sessions. It was a safe place for formal work discussions and for chitchat also. I often searched within chat history for our latest ideas and decisions and these messages were easy to find out – also because you can star important messages and easily find them later. The Campfire iPhone app also worked fine. Even if we were satisfied, when we downgraded our subscription, we decided to cut Campfire off because it wasn’t vital.


The first alternative we tried was Yammer. Even if it’s a microblogging service (and not a chat), I thought Yammer could be ok to exchange links and short messages.

I knew Yammer since the company was funded: at the time it was known as “microblogging for enterprises” and it was well-designed. Twitter was popular among us early adopters but no celebrity had an account yet: nonetheless, its potential was pretty clear so many Twitter-inspired networks gained ground. Most of them have failed and were shut down, others – like Yammer – were acquired. Yammer is now under the spell of Microsoft and this is usually doesn’t mean good news.

When I resumed my Yammer account, it felt different. I looked at the groups and they seemed a lot like enterprise departments – oh my – a kind of company far from ours.


These are some suggested enterprise groups.

We used Yammer for a while but it’s extremely rigid and it didn’t fit for us. I realised this when my team told me that wanted to share a link but without spoil Yammer with meaningless contents. Wait a minute, we need to share meaningless contents! Yes, we need organisation and useful contents to be easily accessible, but we have Basecamp for that. But what about everything else? I cannot destroy it and I don’t want to destroy it either. That meaningless contents contribute every day to let us grow as people and as a team, it’s our culture, our common ground. If you are in the same room everything happens without even knowing it, but if you telecommute?


After the Yammer failure, we made the obvious choice: Skype (yes, I know, Skype belongs to the Microsoft reign too). I created a conversation called In da Office with the four of us, and we started using it during telecommuting. In a few weeks, we kept it always on during office hours even if we were in the same room, like a repository for interesting links and stupid stuff also. With Skype you don’t have the feeling to ruin a formal space with images of this lolcat or that Game of Thrones actor. It’s like live chitchat, it’s informal just like us. Using it even when we’re all together allow us to leave links and thoughts without stop others’ work: synchronous, but not so much to become an obstacle.

What We Have Learned

When you consider the communication flow within a team, you should always activate a synchronous communication channel. Do not undermine informal chatting within the team, and a safe place to share links and files on the run.