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We’re always looking to improve the way we communicate what we’re working on. Sometimes with the whole world, sometimes with our customers or the rest of our company, but lately we’ve been taking a more concentrated look at improving the communication within The Lab. Our environment and management have always promoted great communication lines but as we grow and spread out a bit more, we want to make a deliberate effort to keep the conversation open.

We’re happy with the way email, phone, and IM are currently being leveraged for person-to-person and when there’s reason to organize a meeting, we’ve been doing fine with Adobe Connect and the conference call. What we’re looking to encourage is more (informal) chatter inside The Lab.

There’s been no shortage of hype surrounding “Twitter for private networks”, so Yammer seemed like a logical place to start. We loved that the IM integration allowed us to quit checking the site constantly and being able to catchup on “what you missed” was excellent for making sure you saw that status message from after someone finished some overnight work. The ability to split up into separate (private) subgroups would allow us to keep certain messages a bit more secure or, if nothing else, avoid bothering other groups with things they didn’t need to hear about.

It fell short in a few key arenas. One was that we all had trouble with the reliability of the IM integration. You can ask for confirmations on messages you send but there’s really no way to know that you’re missing out on someone else’s updates — something that was happening to us several times a day. Dividing up into separate groups proved just a bit too cumbersome, especially through IM — remembering to preface messages with “To:labqa” without misspellings and all that good stuff was just a little too cumbersome. The real killer though was that we were using it too much – It’s not really intended to be a conversational tool – what we really needed was a chat room.

After a bit more searching, we landed on AIM Blast. Effectively, a simple chat room. This gives us the ability to throw out an “anyone know how to X” message without worrying about addressing the right group or having it become part of a permanent record (stored outside our walls). What it’s missing is that ability to get a status that someone sent in the middle of the night: If you’re not online when it’s said, you’re going to miss it.

For us, it’s not a huge loss to force those status messages into emails but we’re also playing with using Campfire for that type of message.

We’ll see how this mix works out for us!

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