Using Google+ for technical discussions
Written by David Mytton
If your entire team is in the same office, it’s easy to gather round and discuss the technical merits of something – switching to a new tool, whether to use a different library, or ask a question – but there is no record of the debate. Even if you’re remote and use communication tools, it can be difficult to track and store that conversation for historical purposes.
E-mail is a good medium because you can search it, but it can be difficult to find relevant content later if you’re just saving something to come back to. It is also “noisy”, otherwise it’s hidden to anyone else who might just want to follow and listen.
We’ve been using Google+ internally for these things for some time now, and it works really well. Everyone is asked to post a single status update a day saying what they’re working on but it has become the place for sharing links, discussing designs, screenshots, asking questions and debating technical topics. The ability to quickly agree with something using +1 and then add your comment is valuable. Everyone in the company can see (or filter) the discussion as they wish and get notifications to comment via e-mail (through the integration with the GMail mobile app) or the web UI.
We also make use of #tags. These are linked in our company handbook (a Github repo of Markdown files) so you can go back and find stuff e.g. company stats. We also tag things for future product ideas/improvements. And as you’d expect, search works nicely. Unfortunately, we’ve hit the Hangouts limit for maximum number of people per chat but all our sprint/dev meetings are arranged as events, which sync to everyone’s Google Calendar!
The downsides are (still) no mobile app that works with the internal by default restriction (so posts aren’t public by default) and annoying UI things that are focused towards the consumer side of G+ – find friends, trending topics, “fun & interesting”. It’d also be nice to have more integration with Drive to allow commenting on designs through there. That said, we moved from status updates in Confluence to Yammer and then to G+, and it has been working very well.