Communication ninjas all around?

Have you ever noticed that some people check their IRC backlog and answer every ping while others couldn’t care less about who tried to contact them while they were away? Are there people around you who answer emails within a day (most of the time much less though) while you can wait a week for your uncle to answer that email asking for photos of your latest family reunion?

The people around us communicate very differently on the web for various reasons.  Let’s simplify it by separating them into 4 groups:

  • communication ninjas
  • selective communicators
  • part-time communicators
  • communication abstainers

Communication ninjas are those who you can always reach, no matter where. They read their emails regularly, check IRC backlogs, follow what is happening on Twitter/, know who broke up with whom on Facebook and have a huge contact list for different networks in their instant messenger of choise.

Selective communicators are reachable on a few selected mediums. They might check emails regularly and Jabber. Or follow and IRC. They have chosen one or a few mediums and stick to it. You can rely on reaching them there but don’t bet on reaching them anywhere else.

Part-time communicators are on top of things when they are “online” but nearly completely drop off the earth from time to time. They are probably the trickiest of them all because you can’t always rely on their communication pattern.

Communication abstainers… Well, don’t rely on them getting any information. They don’t like communicating online or simply don’t have the time for it. You will have to spent some extra effort on them.

So you might ask yourself why this is important for you. It is very important if you want to get a message to a person or a group of people. Unfortunately in the Free Software community we forget about it too often or are not aware of its implications while relying so heavily on communication every single day.

Say you have a part-time communicator who does IRC and reads backlog. There is little sense in sending him a simple “ping”. He’ll read it 5 hours later due to time-zone difference between you two and “pong” you. This ping pong can go on for days without ever any of you two getting the message to the other. (Yes I’ve see it happen multiple times. Don’t ask.) “ping – I need you to do X” would have been so much more effective in this case.

Other example: You have a communication abstainer and need to contact him quickly. You could send an email and wait days to get a reply. Or you could ask around in his network and get his cellphone number and call him quickly. Or ask his collegues at work to tell him you need him to do X or know about Y.

Another example: You have a part-time communicator who can’t use IRC at work but you need something dealt with quickly. Contact him on Jabber which he uses at work.

Things to take away:

  • Find out which category people around you fit in and then adjust accordingly if you want to get your message across successfully.
  • Spread important messages to the communication ninjas in your network and ask them to spread it. They are often also the multipliers in your network who reach the most people most effectively.
  • Take into consideration what kind of a communicator people in your team are. Do some of them feel excluded because they can’t or don’t want to keep up with IRC/mail/ all the time? Are they loosing out on valuable information? Are they kept out of important decisions?
  • Not all of us are communication ninjas. Don’t rely on it!
  • Where do you fit in? 😉

12 thoughts on “Communication ninjas all around?”

  1. I think i fit in the “Selective communicators” class. I am nearly always reachable via jabber, and am reading backlog in irc (backlog reading is so comfortable with quassel 🙂 ). Since a few weeks i am also using – where i have the link to the blogpost from.

    I try to avoid those large “social networks” like Facebook etc. I dont know why but i dont feel comfortable with those. Also, most of the functions they offer are already covered with im/irc/email/blog.

    Kaddressbook could have a new field for every im/email address to enter how often they are checked. That could help sometimes 😉

    Nice blog post, by the way.


  2. richmoore just reminded me of the wonderful memoserv on IRC. Give it a try to leave messages for people when they are offline. They will be delivered when the person comes online.

  3. I guess I’m a combination of communication ninjas, selective communicator and part-time communicator. Uuh?

    E-mail is my central place which I check regularly. If someone tries to contact me on e.g. Facebook or, I get a mail notification about it. These mails don’t disturb me because they get filtered and put under the right label automatically.

    If it’s something important, I reply immediately. However, if it’s just chit-chat, it might take some time before I respond (depending on how busy I am).

    For IMs, I’m pretty often online but with the “away” status. I always check my backlog and pong back if the person still is available.

    Sometimes, e.g. when traveling, I pretty much disappear from the internet for a while. I try to check my mail from time to time, but you won’t see me on IRC etc. Of course I inform people that might wonder where I am before I vanish.

  4. @Hans Yea those categories very likely don’t fit perfectly for anyone. It’s a simplification.
    Thanks for sharing your pattern 🙂

  5. “Selective communicators”. You can reach me if I’m online, or via email, but not really at any other time. I don’t read IRC backlogs, simply because I don’t keep my computer on all the time…

  6. Great post! Have you thought of becoming a sociologist? 🙂
    I’d definitely put myself in the “selective communicator” category. You can count on getting an answer to an email within two days but you won’t usually find me on IM and definitely won’t see me on social networks (so far :)).
    I’ve got a friend who is a communication ninja and I just don’t know how he doesn’t go crazy from constantly being on top of facebook and keeping so many people and facts about them in his head 🙂

  7. This reminds me of a project that I think I might want to start coding for KDE…

    Remind me to tell you about it when we’re using some real-time communication, heh.

    /me doesn’t like talking about vapourware in public.

  8. Unlike Troy I have no problem with contaminating the environment with dangerous vapourware.

    KDE stands on the threshhold of being able to bring different classes of communicators together without having to manually remember which media contact X prefers and check with the relevant client – the equivalent of

    QObject::connect(contact_who_likes_mail, SIGNAL(newItem()), this, SLOT(checkMail()));

    I’m talking about Akonadi (with a sprinking of PIMO from Nepomuk). By basing our communication apps around Akonadi, and using Nepomuk’s ability to record how different identities relate to real people, it becomes possible to code a single view that ‘Shows me everything from X’ – emails, IM/IRC msgs, tweets, dents, blogs.

    This is what Kopete has been doing for disparate IM systems for years with its metacontacts (a first for KDE) taken to its logical conclusion.

    Ok, balloon inflated, stand by for take-off!

  9. Selective communicator: I have several e-mail accounts and if you send mail to a “less important” account like the one where KDE mails go to you might have to tell me to read that mail on IRC.
    I read mail to my more private account a few times a week.
    Sometimes I have ICQ on, sometimes I don’t.

Comments are closed.