No Hello

Tue, Feb 9, 2021 3-minute read

Please don't just say ‘Hello’ in chat

Let's take a look at an example log from a chat between two colleagues:

12:32:12 you: Hi
12:32:15 co-worker: Hello.
## CO-WORKER WAITS WHILE YOU PHRASE YOUR QUESTION
12:44:01 you: I'm working on [something] and I'm trying to do [etc...]
12:45:21 co-worker: Oh, that's [answer...]

Doing the above is as if you called someone on the phone and said ‘Hi!’ and then put them on hold for ten minutes. Note that it takes about 13 minutes between the initial ‘Hi’ and the time we get a reply. This means that 26 minutes of productive developer time (both sender and receiver) have been wasted waiting for the ‘Hi/Hello/I've got a question/Reply’ interaction to complete.

Note that the following phrases also fall under this category:

  • Hello - Are you there?
  • Do you have a sec?
  • Ping
  • You there?
  • Can I ask you a question?

Please ask your question directly

Now let's take a look at the following chat log:

2010-07-19 12:32:12 you: Hi -- I'm working on [something] and I'm trying to do [etc...]
2010-07-19 12:33:32 co-worker: [answers question]

Wow! Look at that! It only took about a minute to complete the entire conversation and get a reply back! We also only wasted 2 minutes of productive developer time instead of 26 minutes!

While it may seem impolite to jump directly to the question, that's not the case in chat! You're trying to be polite by not jumping right into the request, like you would do in person or on the phone. But chat is neither of those things. Typing is much slower than talking. Instead of being polite, you are just making the other person wait for you to phrase your question, which is lost productivity.

There's some additional benefits to this approach as well: you can ask your question, go offline/on lunchbreak/for a walk and by the time you get back you might have an answer waiting for you instead of the other party staring at a ‘Hello” and wondering what was so urgent.

If you're thinking: this is very impolite and I really need some sort of greeting first. Don't worry: you can still do that! As long as your request is directly after the greeting in the same message, you can basically do anything. Here's some examples:

  • Hi! Hope you had a great weekend? Do you know if X can be done with Y?
  • Hello, good evening, how is your dog? Can you share me the details of Z?
  • Hi, if you've got a few free minutes, can you point me to the documentation on how to do ABC?

Just as polite, straight to the point!

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