Are you talking to me?

Using @mentions in conversation has become a norm in lots of communication platforms. Even Outlook has found a way to use @mentions, adding the mentioned person to the To: line and highlighting the person’s name in the conversation. @mentions have featured in social media platforms and chat-based collaboration like Microsoft Teams, Slack or Yammer. Those of us who are new to communicating this way aren’t using @mentions enough because they don’t understand why you would use them. When you add to that the concept of communicating in channels or private chats, it is yet another thing to understand.

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Here’s a simple way to think of using @mentions, channels and private chats. It’s no different entering a room to talk with individuals and groups of people. Channels are rooms. Private chats are small meeting rooms. @mentions are used to direct our communication towards individuals, a few individuals mentioned by name, groups of people or everyone. @mentions will send a notification to the intended audience, getting their attention and in most cases, the notification is delivered to the recipient’s activity feed or Inbox.

Look towards me

When you talk with someone, in a lot of cultures, it’s polite to turn your head towards the person you’re talking to. You look at the person, (though I understand as a sign of respect in some cultures, you don’t look a person in the eyes.) The point is, you are facing the person you want to talk with. You are directing your voice towards them. This gives the best chance for your voice to be heard clearly.

So when you @mention someone as you start a new conversation or respond, you are in a sense turning your head to face them and saying their name.  

Imagine you walk into a hall with everyone from your organisation. You turn and face a corner, looking away from everyone and speak. Probably no one will  respond. Who was your communication directed to? Well, you did enter the room they are in. So surely that means you are talking to someone. 

There aren’t really any corners in a conversation channel. When you start a new conversation and don’t @mention anyone, it’s posted in the thread for everyone in the channel to read. But it’s not directed at any individual or group, or even everyone. The first post is just there for anyone to read. It doesn’t become a conversation till someone responds. 

Hello Everyone

When you’re talking in the direction of everyone in the room, usually from the front of the room, and you want to address them all, you say “Hello Everyone. Can I have your attention please?”  

This is when you @mention the name of the whole team or group. You would also choose the right place to address everyone; where everyone will hear you. In a Microsoft Team and in Slack thats the General channel. In Yammer it’s the All Company/Network group.  

Everyone from the York Street office

When you are talking to a room full of people and only want to address a smaller group of people in the room, you say “Hello everyone involved with the Wynyard project.” Or “everyone from the York St office.”  

If you want to have everyone from the York St office focus on the conversation, you would be best to move the conversation to another room. Or better still, visit the York St office.  

There are two things to understand here. @mentioning a group of people from where you are; or visit where the people are and @mentioning them.

  1. You can @mention a group of people. Everyone from the York St office may have a channel or group for their conversations. From the General channel, I can @mention York St and members of the channel will receive a notification. “I’m talking to you York St.” The conversation is directed at people from York St, but it’s held in a public place that everyone has access to and can join in. 
  2. Or you can visit York St (the York St channel or group) and @mention them from there. The conversation is more focused. If the York Street channel or group is public, everyone in the organisation can visit and join the conversation. But the point is they need to visit to read the conversation. 

Yammer has exceptions to these two scenarios. You are unable to @mention a group within the conversation, and you can only add one group to the participants. But Yammer does use conversation feeds that show conversations from public groups together in one feed. You can see a current conversation being held at York St in the feed. Opening the conversation will take you straight to York St, where you can participate in the conversation. 

Can I talk with you for a minute?

If you’re talking to just one or two people, you mention them by name. Maybe you’re talking with them in the large hall, so others can join the conversation or listen. Maybe you’re visiting the York St office and you want to speak with one or two people while you’re there in the lobby. Or you find a small meeting room and invite the one or two people you want to speak with. In each situation, you address them by name. 

Similar to metioning York St, when I want to talk with one or two people, I @mention them. They receive a notification and engage in the conversation. I can hold that conversation in the general channel / group, or in the York St channel. In both places, others can join the conversation. However, if I want to have a private conversation, I use private chat or private messages. That’s the “small meeting room.”

Let’s talk - @audience and location

We have seen how to use @mentions when you want to talk with everyone, a group of people or a few individuals. We have also seen that it matters where you choose to hold that conversation, to limit how widely it is shared. When you think about it, it’s not too different a verbal conversation. You address the person or people you are talking to, in the location appropriate to the nature of the conversation. Things are so much easier to understand when you put real-world scenarios before explaining features, don’t you agree?

Moving to less choice

This is the second post in a series discussing being overwhelmed by Microsoft’s many choices in productivity tools. The series began with a statement about having too many choices. This next post begins to pull apart that statement. Is the answer to move to a platform with less choices?

Microsoft are giving us too many choices. We’re going to move our organisation to a competing technology that offers less choices. We know the platform we move to will have it’s short comings. But we can choose from a number of different third-party services to fill the gaps and integrate with the new non-Microsoft platform.

We will evaluate each third-party service and after we have narrowed down the choices, we can put together a modern workplace that is as good as Microsoft’s offerings. Maybe better. 

...we can choose from a number of different third-party services to fill the gaps...

We have already established that choices are everywhere and not just in the Microsoft ecosystem. Microsoft is creating more an more choices for us. Some that overlap. Many of them integrate, at a minimum using the same authentication service. Moving outside of the Microsoft ecosystem does not mean you have “less choice”.  

Your productivity requirements haven’t changed. The new platform might meet half of the requirements. That may be satisfactory, for now. But soon, there will be questions from people asking how they do the things they used to be able to do. There are still choices to be made, particularly when selecting third-party services to fill the gaps in functionality of the core service.

There will still be an evaluation process for the additional third-party services. Each one will be evaluated based on:

  • Meeting a requirements list.
  • Ease of use.
  • Depth of integration with the core platform.
  • Maintenance effort when services are updated - change management and communication of changes to end users.
  • Cost of the service, on top of the core platform. 

Once the third-party services have been chosen to fill the gaps, you’ll have choices to make about the data you bring across to the new platform. Should everything be migrated? Should it be left on the existing platform, and your organisation start using the new platform for communication, collaboration, coordination and connection scenarios? The next post in this series discusses these questions. The choices that are made will potentially create more choices for end-users to understand and make.

If you find yourself stirred up to agree, disagree, correct me or offer a different viewpoint, I welcome the discussion. 

Too many choices

Microsoft are giving us too many choices. We’re going to move our organisation to a competing technology that offers less choices.
We know the platform we move to will have it’s short comings. But we can choose from a number of different third-party services that integrate with the new non-Microsoft platform.

We will evaluate each third-party service and after we have narrowed down the choices, we can put together a modern workplace that is as good as Microsoft’s offerings. Maybe better.  We will convert and migrate the conversations we want to keep and migrate the documents. We’re going to run some introductory training workshops, to show the basics. I’ll keep it simple. Here’s how we all will communicate in our organisation. This is how we will all create and share documents. This is the way we’re all going to find and connect with each other across the different services we will use. Some services will be new and we’ll let usage grow organically.
We will curate a list of training resources for each of the services to help our organisation get up to speed. 
We will subscribe to each third-party service at the beginning of each month to make sure the invoices all arrive at the same time.
Every month, we will log into each of the services and view reports on active use. Then we’ll aggregate all the usage data and show how our organisation is adopting each of the services. Yes, we’re confident in all the choices we will make as we move away from Microsoft.

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I’m taking a fresh look at this problem of having too many choices in technology. 

I’m taking a fresh look at this problem of having too many choices in technology.  In this series of posts, I will share my opinions and hope to generate some discussion in the community. I’m sure my opinions will be enriched by the responses I receive. The common theme throughout the posts will be that we will always have choices. Where we draw the line can determine the complexity of those choices; around a product, a vendor and their ecosystem, around a selection of vendors? 

IT. Presenter of choices

The IT department has traditionally played the role of evaluator and presenter of choices in technology. They listen to the needs of the organisation, identifying and documenting business problems.

Lists are built and candidates are chosen. Some exceeding the requirements. The possible candidates are presented to the decision makers with approval power, the power to choose. By now, the IT department is firming up some recommendations. They are leaning towards something that fits the requirements and is easy for them to manage.

During the evaluation process, IT should have gathered opinions from a range of business units that will be using the technology, because IT Pros will see things through their lenses and their capability to understand. But Operations, Marketing, Finance, Sales people see things differently, relative to the knowledge and processes they have. The choices are made based on requirements, ease of implementation and management and among other things, how much will it cost.

Do all technology choices follow this path? Nope.

  • Our CEO was talking to their CEO friend on a fishing trip about what technology they’re using. They said they’re having successes with XYZ system and you should look into it.
  • Meanwhile, the Marketing team has a need that isn’t being filled by the current technology available. They hear of a cloud service a friend is using. Or maybe there’s a business version of a consumer service they already use. They drop in the company credit card details because it is within their monthly budget and boom, they have what they need.
  • An individual brings their own device to work because they don’t want to carry two around and they have become quite adept in using it. They figure out how to use the device with the systems at work and show others how to do the same.

The IT department’s traditional role of evaluater and presenter of choices is still important but it’s not the only source of choice. Opinions are formed from so many different perspectives now. Individuals and groups have the power to side-step corporate choices.

Choices are everywhere. It doesn't matter where you draw the line. People still need to make choices.

If your organisation is “overwhelmed by too many choices” with your collaboration tools and platforms and you’re fighting a battle to reduce the number of choices, you’re looking at it wrong. Choices are everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you draw the line. People will still need to make choices. They are making choices. They have a business need, the current operating environment doesn’t meet those needs so they are going outside the organisation to get the solution.

IT departments now more than ever, need to be the concierge of choices. In the world of software as a service, there is less to install, a less to configure, but a whole lot more to understand and make your organisation aware of. That’s taking many IT Pros out of their comfort zone. They are more comfortable working out the technology, implementing, configuring and maintaining it. They are less comfortable with the soft skills of communicating what they know to someone less technical. There’s untapped productivity gains lying dormant in the software and service. The features are working because IT Pro’s have made them work. But they’re underused because no body is showing them. We have a responsibility to inform individuals of their choices and pair their needs with the capabilities of choices available.

In my next post and following posts, I’ll begin pulling apart my statements at the beginning. “Microsoft are giving us too many choices.” If you find yourself stirred up to agree, disagree, correct me or offer a different viewpoint, I welcome the discussion. #LearningOutLoud

YouTube Partner Program changes: What they mean for me

YouTube have changed their threshold for membership to their partner program and everyone is panicking. I'm not. I did. But I'm not now. I've never been motivated by the YouTube dollar. I don't monetize any of my videos. But I was concerned as to whether my channels would lose features that helped promote my content and make it more engaging. That would be a dick-move if YouTube took away the very features that aid in building an audience, be it subscribers or for just one video.

I probably get about 4000 hours of watched video per year. But I don't yet have 10,000 subscribers. The questions I wanted to answer were simple. If I'm not interested in monetizing my videos, will I lose features such as custom thumbnails, a custom URL or cards and end screen annotations.

Custom thumbnails grab the attention of the audience passing by your post. When you embed videos, like I have done above, you're not restricted to the 3 images YouTube choose from the frames in your video. Using a custom thumbnail gives you more control of what you want to use to attract viewers.

Adding a custom URL to your channel means you direct your audience using an intelligible link. Out of the box, your channel name can be searched from YouTube. But the URL is an unfriendly, unpronounceable link. "Please subscribe to 360 Techtorials at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv-ixzchL9xwrMkMNNewnvQ".

Cards are a subtle way to direct your audience to other content on your channel. You can change the timing of when the teaser text appears. In my example for the video above, I created a card to pop up when I started talking about cards. I did this after the live stream, so I could get the timing just right.

End screen annotations are your last call to action. Add a subscribe button for your channel, links to other videos or playlists.

While everyone was worrying about monetization of videos, I just wanted to make my content more engaging and easier to find. The most useful link I found was a post on the YouTube product forum from "Marissa" the community manager.

So in my view, continue to focus on creating good content. The key features to make your content more appealing to click on, and direct your audience to your other content, will still be available to you if don't qualify for the YouTube Partner Program.

If like me, you're not interested in monetizing videos, the thresholds to enter the program won't affect you. If you do want to eventually quit your day job and create content full time, keep using the key features to build and retain your audience. Don't quit your day job till you have worked out what it takes to build an audience large enough to join the partner program AND exceed your living costs.

I'm not leaving YouTube and if you're a creator and don't plan to quit your day job just yet, you shouldn't leave YouTube either.

Thanks Phil Worrell and Odd Modlin for talking this out with me over Twitter and #ThinkingOutLoud.

International Christmas party using Microsoft Teams

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Adopt and Embrace just finished hosting their Christmas party using Microsoft Teams. I had just finished running my last Skype workshop for the day in Hamilton, New Zealand. Everyone else had ordered Uber Eats and I headed down the road to a Thai restaurant I had found. I joined the meeting in our Team as I walked.

Here’s Paul Wood’s write-up from his LinkedIn post.

When your team are distributed around the world... you can still have a great Christmas Party.

Today we are celebrating the year that was with our team across Los Angeles, Hamilton (NZ), Brisbane and Perth. All planned and executed using Microsoft Teams (part of Office 365)

The instructions...

Step 1: review the Uber Eats menu for your area (via the Browser Tab in the "A very -teams- xmas" channel)

Step 2: place your order and delivery address into Planner (another tab in the channel)

Step 3: dress up for the occasion

Step 4: connect via Teams video

Step 5: eat a great meal together as the orders get delivered simultaneously

Step 6: laugh at Darrell Webster's dad jokes

Merry Christmas everyone from the team at Adopt & Embrace!

- https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6346571803997151232

The quality was great. I was on a 4G mobile network and had a 1.5 hour call as we all had a virtual Christmas meal together. I used a Plantronics Edge ear piece and set my camera up on a Ztylus Journalist tripod I use for live streaming interviews.

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On the Brisbane side, Paul, Juliet, Jenn and Jeff grabbed a meeting room at their co-working space in Little Tokyo Two. Jeff connected his Surface to the screen and mounted a web cam on top, then used a Plantronics Bluetooth speakerphone to capture the audio.

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This is what Microsoft Teams is all about, bringing teams together quickly and easily, with good quality audio/video calls. Paul created a channel for organising the catch up meeting, ordering the meals and discussing the event before we held it. Everything pertaining to the event was kept together in the channel. Lastly the event itself was brought together in the channel. I captured the “Team Christmas Photos” as screenshots and posted them back into the channel conversation.

Microsoft Teams brought our Christmas party together. Simple success story, celebrating our year, remaining connected.

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