Micheal Pettibone writes:

In Getting Real, there is an entire chapter dedicated to the subject of “Meetings are Toxic”.

It seems like you guys use Campfire extensively throughout the day as a replacement for the typical corporate (physical) meeting.

What I’m curious to know is how using Campfire all day is different from that of a typical corporate meeting. They both (chat or a physical meeting) seem to be a type of a “meeting”, which distracts you from your normal daily work load.

Also, as 37signals grows with employees – do you find that using chat (Campfire) becomes ever more difficult/distracting because the number of conversations between various co-workers multiplies?

Campfire differs from a traditional meeting in significant ways:

1. You can pay attention to something other than the meeting without offending or distracting anyone else.

2. You can leave the room and come back later and read everything you’ve missed. You can even search for specific terms in the transcript.

3. Typing forces people to be more economical in what they communicate. There’s a lot less extraneous chatter in a Campfire chat than there is in a typical meeting.

4. You can have a sidebar discussion without interrupting the flow of others. Create a separate room and chat about something you want to keep private or that doesn’t concern the whole team.

5. You don’t have to be there. Want to focus 100% on the task at hand? Just log out of Campfire and get to work.

As for the second part of the question: With our growth, the chat room has gotten somewhat busier. In order to prevent distraction, we have more sidebar conversations in different rooms.

We’ve also tried to cut down on inessential banter. At the same time, we don’t want to put a muzzle on the normal “water cooler” conversations that our remote team only gets via Campfire. It’s a balancing act.