The team I work in is small (4 people) and we all work within 20 feet of each other. So, when When Tom Watson suggested that we start using Campfire for internal communication I was skeptical.
After all, email suited us just fine and wasn’t the whole online chat / instant messaging concept intended for people who were spread apart geographically?
However, after only a few weeks usage (we’ve now been using it for some months), it became clear that it had become an essential tool for communication within our team, even though we are all within -shouting- raised voice distance of each other.
There are several reasons why Campfire (or any other chat room / IM tool) has proved to be so useful:
- It’s a much more efficient way to send short messages than email.
- You can ask someone a question or to do something without having to disturb them by walking over to them.
- It’s easier to ask a quick question to a group than by email. As soon as someone replies, everyone else sees it.
- It keeps a log of all our conversations, so it’s really easy to look up old information (I find myself searching for links a lot).
- You can have the odd non-work conversation without feeling like you’re wasting other people’s time by clogging up their email.
Of course, it doesn’t really work unless people respond to messages in a (reasonably) timely fashion, but because it’s so quick to click on the Campfire tab in your browser this hasn’t proved to be disruptive to my workflow.
We’ve got into the convention of putting someone’s initials at the start of a message if it’s being directed solely to them, and that works well.
I dare say we could have used any one of a number of tools. However, Campfire has worked out just fine for us so that’s what we’re sticking with.
I love the fact that it’s completely web-based so that there’s nothing to install and you can login from anywhere.
It has the functionality we need, including the ability to upload files, search through old transcripts and it has a clean, simple interface.
You can even make conversations “off the record” if you need to discuss something private — though I’m pretty happy with the real world alternative of closing the door.
I wouldn’t mind some formatting options for our messages (it would be great if we could use Textile); however, I’ll forgo that for Campfire’s ease-of-use, and the fact that it’s free for up to 5 users.