Tips for Digital Communication in 2.009
By Justin Lai '07 and Geoff Tsai '09, 2.009 alum and former team mentors
You will be communicating over email and digital documents in 2.009. Your inbox will be an order of magnitude messier this term, so take the time to find what works best for you to make the information more manageable. Although we give these tips, always communicate about team communication, seeing what is and isn’t working.
There are mail lists setup for your sections and teams, as well as most other groups related to the course.
- Use filters to manage your emails.
- Gmail, among many things, can thread conversations, grouping all emails with the same subject. Also, you can get emails sent to your MIT address forwarded to Gmail automatically.
- If you haven’t tried inbox zero and would like better email management, give it a try, but don’t waste too much time on it.
- Is it better to pick up the phone and call?
- Write a draft of your email some time before you have to send it out. Dump out your thoughts so you have time to refine it.
- Have boilerplate (text describing your project) for communicating with clients, customers, users, etc.
- Have a summary at the beginning if the email is lengthy. Also, have conclusions/deliverables at the end.
- Be explicit about day, date, time and location. For instance, if you write an email at night, put the day you refer to in talking about “tomorrow.”
- Make the “Subject” field informative.
- Check whether your email is clear and concise before you send it.
- Post large files to the Wiki or another location (Athena space, Dropbox Public folder). Although storage for email is large nowadays, this is a way to be considerate of others.
Responding to email
- Is it more appropriate to “reply to all” or reply only to the sender?
- If the conversation is going in a new direction, break the thread by entering a new, informative subject.
- If you know someone is expecting a response from you, but you can’t respond immediately, send them a quick reply to let them know you’ve received it.
- If someone asks for help and you can’t, it’s better to say I can’t than not to reply at all.
- Use the team Wiki. Ask the TAs for help. The Wiki can serve as an archive of how your project has developed over the term, a place to document design thinking, and a forum where comments on ideas can be made asynchronously.. The wiki can also be used as a drop box for files (with no file size limit) and also provides version control.
- Etherpad once existed officially, but there are still functional alternatives. It is a word processor that updates in real time, especially good for meetings, where everyone can view/contribute as they need to. Since it is no longer an official service, make sure to save your information frequently, before archiving it on the Wiki.
- Drop box is a quick way to share files, up to 2 Gb in total for each box. If you need to collect/share files quickly, consider using this as an intermediate step before archiving in the Wiki.
- Doodle helps you schedule meetings and make decisions. Make sure the instructions you write for the Doodle are clear.