Communicating Across Small Teams

AOL chat rooms circa 1990

AOL chat rooms circa 1990

Remember when the world was a simpler place and online communication was in the form of 'rooms', rather than proprietary, clunky individual chat threads? I remember AOL chat rooms (A/S/L) were the only way to communicate. It wasn't until later in the AOL desktop experience that individual, or private chats were introduced.  Today, I might have 3-4 different persistent/concurrent text chats taking place across all of my devices. For work, I use Microsoft Lync, which is integrated into the Exchange system, which is great for working across those clients. However, their iOS, Mac and handheld products are lacking in serious ways. The system does not archive or categorize chats, and the connection is not persistent when moving across devices. Meaning, threads and conversations are lost when you close the window or app. 

File Index

Our team heavily relies on acute communication to accomplish projects in a short amount of time. Most of our projects are not asset or personnel heavy. Most of the items are narrative based and can be accomplished through a variety of files, images and link sharing. We explored the typical top 10 list of online project management tools. Basecamp was too robust, Asana was too bullet and task based and provided little narrative exchange. We needed a narrative, text based client that was persistent that handled and managed links, files and mobile access with ease. 

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HipChat, an Atlasssian product, quickly floated to the top, as many other similar persistent chat clients provided this service, their product fit our needs perfectly. Now, our projects, initiatives and conversations are grouped into rooms, with private chats between team members listed alongside the group chats. The software is slick and has a simple UI.  It even renders hex codes when referencing a certain web safe colors. The Mac client is zippy and reliable, as is the iOS, Android and Windows based client. A great feature is tagging or adding an individual to the chat using the '@' and the users name. This allows for cross conversational dialogue. The slash commands help save time when sharing code and is a great trick to save a few mouse clicks. We also love that it renders animated .gifs and you can upload your own emoticons. The platform has virtually eliminated email for our 5 person team, allow for us to message each other when away from the desktop client, which pushes a notification alert email. Additionally, each thread pulls in and indexes the files and links shared making it easy to search and query past conversations. We'll continue to explore new ways to collaborate from afar, but with HipChat consistently updating their client, most recently with audio and video chat - which works great, this service is perfect for small or large teams that need to communicate on the fly.