2015-04-02 How Zipier communicates as a team#
Zipier operates "remote by default". In many ways, our tools make us more productive than being in the same room, and it feels like the future.
Internal chat: Slack, $0#
Chat is our default communication tool for everything. We use the Slack Lite $0 plan for everyone. We only use one integration, webhooks, for showing Zipier attendance clockins and production deploys.
External chat & video: Skype, $0#
We use Skype for external communications, e.g. interviewing job applicants. Skype's also our "go to" app for longer internal conversations. We always turn on video for both external and internal conversations (even if the other person doesn't).
Presence: Sqwiggle, $0#
We all run Sqwiggle when we're working, with shots taken every minute. It makes a big difference knowing who's around at different times of the day.
Most of the developers run a dedicated Sqwiggle laptop (like an old netbook or chromebook) to the side of their work space, and run Sqwiggle full-screen. We tried running Sqwiggle on our main computer, but it would grab the webcam resource and not release it for other apps, like Skype. We experimented with second webcams, but in the end, running it on a cheap 2nd laptop made it most reliable.
We don't use any of Sqwiggle's other chat and file sharing features.
Email: Google Apps, $5 each per month#
We all have email accounts on Google Apps for Work. We don't write emails to each other very often, but email is great for communications outside Zipier.
The part of Google Apps we use the most is Google Sheets. These are fantastic. We use them for things like budgeting, recruitment tracking (Google Forms), cost proposals, and much more.
We also use Google Hangouts for video chats with those who are on Chromebooks. We hope to move a lot more of Zipier to Chromebooks in the near future.
To-do lists: Trello, $0#
Trello is our newest tooling change and it's awesome! Everyone chooses how they want to layout their own to-do list, and we all happily add to each other's lists. Trello on Android is great, but we mostly run Trello in Chrome with the following modifications:
- Run in it's own window: Chrome > Options > More tools > Create application shortcuts...
- Plus for Trello $0: This is a great Chrome extension. I try to run the timer on every task so I have a feel for how much time I spend on things.
- Slim Lists for Trello $0: I like to decrease the font size (Ctrl+-) and make the lists slim so I can see more in one go.
Screen-sharing: Screenhero, Mikogo, Skype, $0#
Screenhero is great for screen-sharing within Zipier. I like how easily it connects, plus you can see each other's cursor.
Mikogo is what we've used for many years before we switched to Screenhero. Mikogo is more robust if you are doing a long screen-sharing session (like 1+ hrs) and also has the remote pointer feature.
Skype is our fall back for a quick screen share on external conversations like recruitment.
Capturing a part of what's on your screen and dumping it into Slack is super useful.
- Windows capture a single window: Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Print Screen
- Mac: Cmd+Shift+4
- Animated GIFs: LICEcap is easy to use and works for both Windows and Mac. Great for help docs, or submitting bug reports.
- Windows catpure an area: This tool is built into Windows. Start > Programs > Accessories > Snipping Tool
Headsets, $74 - $300#
A good headset when working remote is important. Here's what we've found works best:
- Happiness hackers: We've tried quite a few, but Bose is the best. It's comfortable enough to wear all day. The AAA battery will last a week. It has a mic on the cable, so you can just talk if a call comes in. Go for either the Bose QuietComfort 15, $180 or Bose QuietComfort 25, $300. If you're on a tight budget, go for a second hand 15 as it's just as good as the 25. The cable is a bit of a pain, but the long battery life and low weight comfort beats any of the wireless ones we've tried so far.
- Happiness heros: We selected the plantronices BT300M, $74 as the best wireless headset for all our customer happiness team. It was the only wireless headset we could get to work with Chromebooks. It's 4.5 hour battery life means a recharge during lunch break, but otherwise it's great. It allows heros and hackers to easily talk when resolving customer issues. Our heros move around a lot, showing their screen to others, and solving problems through discussion. A light Chromebook and a wireless headset helps heros solve issues faster. Some of the heros with smaller ears use some Blu Tack to get a better fit for all day comfort.
Our tools are a constant work in progress and we're always on the look-out for a better setup. In general, the trend I see is:
- A movement to hosted web-based apps that are free
- Greater transparency and openness in team communications
- Less talking, more doing