Reshaping design team communications

In September, the design team chose to shorten meetings length, remove one triage as results were varied and some people were feeling overwhelmed, finding it hard to follow everything. This was done as an experiment while the team figured out what other items could be added to the make/design team.

As it was discussed during design team meeting, the problems raised in the conversation are:

  • It’s hard to see the work going on. During meetings lots of work is being shared but maybe surfacing that more in posts? How could the work be included of people that don’t attend the meetings regularly?
  • Make/design feels inaccessible to write to or a hurdle? Lacking incentive?
  • Older issues feel lost?
  • There can be a lot going on so finding your way can be hard.
  • Triage and feedback are sometimes seen as the same thing, and frustration can arise when a ticket doesn’t move forward after triage only, how can we make sure tickets keep moving?.
  • Often things fall to one person, how can we encourage more pairing or groups?.

What suits one person may not suit someone else. This post is designed to bring the SlackSlack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform https://slack.com/. The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at https://make.wordpress.org/chat/. conversation to a wider audience and start working on some opportunities to adjust the communication flows and find the right combination for the team. That ‘one thing’ might of course be multiple optional things, let’s find out together!

Existing communications

The team primarily communicates via Slack, GitHubGitHub GitHub is a website that offers online implementation of git repositories that can can easily be shared, copied and modified by other developers. Public repositories are free to host, private repositories require a paid subscription. GitHub introduced the concept of the ‘pull request’ where code changes done in branches by contributors can be reviewed and discussed before being merged be the repository owner. https://github.com/ or TracTrac Trac is the place where contributors create issues for bugs or feature requests much like GitHub.https://core.trac.wordpress.org/. and uses this site for agendas, notes. This has changed over time, but is the current state right now. Here is a summary of what happens right now as far as organised sessions are concerned:

Scheduled meetings:

  • AccessibilityAccessibility Accessibility (commonly shortened to a11y) refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design ensures both “direct access” (i.e. unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a person’s assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accessibility)/design office hour: Combined effort to review tickets pertinent to both teams.
  • Triage: Review of Trac tickets and PRs to check their urgent status and needs.
  • Weekly meeting: Check in and working meetings for the design team.
  • Show and tell: Once a month Zoom meetings where team members showcase the project they are working on. Attendees can ask questions/give feedback. 

Un-scheduled sessions:

  • Hallway hangouts: Zoom meetings where a team member works live on a project or issue. Usually attendees ask questions/make suggestions/give opinions. The goal is more educational than showcasing the work.
  • Feedback sessions: Full review and discussion of Trac tickets and PRs.

Make/design posts:

  • Agenda
  • Notes

List of ideas

Let’s now dive into some of the ideas that came up during the meeting.

  • Find a way of encouraging more to write on make/design. This needs ideas in itself!
  • x-post more update posts for GutenbergGutenberg The Gutenberg project is the new Editor Interface for WordPress. The editor improves the process and experience of creating new content, making writing rich content much simpler. It uses ‘blocks’ to add richness rather than shortcodes, custom HTML etc. https://wordpress.org/gutenberg/ to design.
  • Be willing for meetings to run on if conversation needs, but stick to 30 minutes.
  • Distinguish between triage and feedback clearly.
  • Encourage and enable APAC sessions / meetings to happen. It’s something been talked about for a while, so how can it begin?
  • Find ways to surface the work being done to everyone on make/design.
  • Post summaries in Slack after feedback sessions of tickets covered so others can join out of timezone.
  • Post a monthly summary of tickets that design is working on, has reviewed or closed. A post similar to how it is done in themes.
  • Encourage commenting on meeting agendas even outside of timezone to keep to those for those facilitating and ensure all voices are heard.
  • Consider ‘old ticket’ sessions.

Along with the above, here are some additional ideas pulled from the post when meeting times were adjusted:

  • Async Design Discussion, where an issue is pinned to the channel, that becomes the Async topic for say 6 hrs, where people can comment on a thread of that topic, etc. Then the issues could wrap up discussion during a regular scheduled meeting. This way, there are constantly new issues that can be discussed throughout the day/week.
  • Consider that we elect team reps who are not both in the same time zone? That would help keep other time zones involved.
  • Posting the shortlist of tickets 30 min before Triage? So, there’s more room to read before discussion.

Next steps

There is a lot of information to process, so this post will be open for a couple of weeks, to gather ideas. It will also be a topic in the meeting after the next, as next week’s meeting is a show and tell session. A post will be written up summarising action points, ways to get involved after discussion has reached a point and ideas have been gathered.

Questions to get the conversation started

It would be great to have a continued discussion in the comments. To begin that, here are a few starting points.

  • What has stopped you posting or asking to post on make/design when you had something to contribute there?
  • What ideas do you have for things could be added to the communications this team uses?
  • What ideas do you have for things could be iterated on existing communications this team uses?
  • Would you like to be involved in any aspect of this increased communication flow? If so please comment what that would be. As ways are identified there will be further calls for volunteers, but if you have an area you are passionate about please say.

This post was a summary of the meeting points from 21/10/2020 and collaborated with @estelaris, @hedgefield. Thanks to @chaion07 for the review. Props to everyone that attended the meeting and over the past few months given their input on ways to iterate the way this team works.