2.009 Product Engineering Processes

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.

Managing email

  • 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.

Composing email

  • 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.”

Sending email

  • Make the “Subject” field informative.
  • Check whether your email is clear and concise before you send it.
  • Post large files to the team management site or another location (team Dropbox 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 your team's project management site. Ask the TAs for help. The site can serve as an archive of how your project has developed over the term, a place to document design thinking, manage tasks and milestones, and a forum where comments on ideas can be made asynchronously.. The management site can also be used with your team's dropbox.
  • Drop box is a quick way to share files and every team has its own dropbox with unlimited storage.
  • Doodle helps you schedule meetings and make decisions. Make sure the instructions you write for the Doodle are clear.