David Precious davidp at
Tue Dec 13 12:45:37 GMT 2011

On Mon, 12 Dec 2011 10:13:02 +0000
David Cantrell <david at> wrote:

> On Sat, Dec 10, 2011 at 11:06:14PM +0000, ian docherty wrote:
> > The small 'ping' of an IRC is less disruptive than a tap on the
> > shoulder and you can complete your current work before giving it,
> > and your co-developer, your full attention.
> Doesn't work so well when the IRC window is buried under twenty other
> windows because you're actually *working*.  At my last job (woo-hoo! I
> can say that about the BBC now that I am unemployed - by the way, I
> don't yet have any trousers on and had marmalade flavoured vodka and
> ice cream for breakfast. Once I've put some trousers on I'm going to
> go shopping for Lego) messages on IRC would go unnoticed for hours or
> even days.  Likewise emails, because people would disappear into their
> work.

At $work, we use IRC a lot; I have irssi open in a small terminal
window at the top right of my screen, always visible (I use Terminator
to manage my terminals).  Thus, it's always visible, and I glance at it
occasionally; mentions of my nick will cause it to briefly flash then
show the channel name highlighted, so I know someone wants my
attention; I can then actually look at it when I'm at a point where I
can spare a moment without ruining my conversation, and I find it easy
to devote a little concentration to an IRC conversation whilst still
getting work done.

On the other hand, when I'm in the office, if someone comes over to my
desk, they're essentially demanding more or less 100% attention there
and then, and many people feel you're being rude if you don't give them
that attention quickly, thereby disrupting your mental focus.  For that
reason, most of the time even when we're in the office and sitting
close to each other, we'll often discuss stuff on IRC, unless it turns
into a discussion that's better carried out as a meeting rather than a
quick chat.

We also have some degree of social chatter on IRC, which I find helps
us all feel part of a tight team, even when we spend the majority of
time working from home.

> It's hardly the end of the world to tell someone "I'll be with you in
> a few minutes".

As mentioned, though, a lot of people (especially non-technical types)
don't fully understand the effects of breaking off concentration when
you're deep in code, and feel a little offended or awkward being brushed
off if only for a few minutes.

> In fact, often it goes:
>   Me:         [code code code code code]
>   Supplicant: " Hey, Dave "
>   Me:         " gimme a moment "
>   Supplicant: " I'll put it on IRC "
>   Me:         [code code code code code cup of tea IRC]

You're basically replacing a convenient, non-obtrusive notification
that someone wants a moment of your attention on IRC when you're free
to give it with a real-life nudge instead; I find the former much less
disruptive, and as a bonus it works equally well when I'm sitting at
home instead of the office.

> which instead of trying to solve a problem with Magic Technology is a
> blend of technology and primitive caveman grunting, which IME works
> better than either of 'em on their own.

It's not about a magic bullet, but using whatever technology works well
for you.  Also, caveman grunting has limited range :)

David Precious ("bigpresh") <davidp at>

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