An introduction to using the Occupy Movement hand signals to improve your group conversations.
Hello! My name is Ryan Alexander and I am the Lead back-end Developer for the Money Advice service. Just a quick bit of housekeeping: These slides will be available
after the conference, I’ll post a link to them on my site at RNAlexander.com
This is how to ﬁnd me. Please note you don’t need to capitalise the ‘RNA’ part.
Also I’ve totally stolen the talk-speciﬁc hashtag idea and for this talk it’ll be #ConvoHack
I would like to talk to you about improving how we have our conversations. This is what google gives me for the deﬁnition of conversation.
The word to pay attention to in that deﬁnition is ‘exchange’. Conversations are not a one-way thing. They’re made up of multiple ideas.
Navigating the brackish water between technical and non technical people is one of our core skills as Leads. This often means we’re translating in both directions but
before we can translate anything, we’ve got to hear it ﬁrst.
We need to bring diverse sets of expertise to bear on our goals, individuals doesn’t just need to be heard, their ideas need to interact. There needs to be a back and
forth, and a lot of the time, that’s going to be happening through conversations.
So I’m going to narrow in on a very speciﬁc part of conversation. Flow control (with a pinch of consensus modeling, ‘cause those are totally linked.) And that’s where
we’re going to implement our hack.
So, who controls the ﬂow?
We all do, but collectively
The simple answer is we all do, but collectively.
In fact, we’re doing it right now. I’ve got a lot of control, but I’m still paying attention to your feedback. Are you shuﬄing or still, are you staring at me or at your phones?
The longer answer is where we get into some interesting , hackable possibilities.
We have complex semi-conscious real-time
algorithms which we use in collaboration
with other people’s complex semi-conscious
real-time algorithms to control the ﬂow of the
…and if that sounds like a big mess, IT IS.
These algorithms are complex, and every person’s is diﬀerent.
So let’s hack those algorithms!
Quick confession, this is not an original hack, most of us have been doing versions of this hack since we were kids, in fact, that very childhood association is usually one
of the things that make people resistant to trying this, but I’m going to try to show you that it’s worth doing.
- Occupy Movement, coming from Quaker meeting
- Speaking / ﬂow control section
- 1 symbol for stay on topic
- 3 symbols for 3 kinds of interrupts
- The Want to Talk symbol is like raising your hand in school
- Feeling / consensus section
- Agree and don’t agree used
- oppose and block almost never used
Flaws in our algorithms
To illustrate how these symbols can help our conversations, I’d like to take a look at what are, in my experience, two of the most common weaknesses of our existing
Latency and Assholes
[give it a second]
We use pauses in our language
as part of the ﬂow control
signalling, this generates race
And this is why Latency screws us up. These pauses are the starting pistols for the next point in the conversation. Once they’re ﬁred, the race is on. But what if it takes
an extra second or two for some of the runners to hear that pistol ﬁre? You can see this happening when there are groups of people talking over remote connections,
and you can *really* see this happening when you have two or more small groups of people talking over a remote connection.
The symbol hack mitigates this problem by removing that ‘starting pistol’ you can put up your hand at the moment you realise you want to enter into the ﬂow of
conversation, and you can do that because you don’t have to interrupt the conversation itself to publish that signal. It also helps you listen because you can spend more
attention to the content of what’s being said, and less on early-pause-detection.
But even when everyone’s hearing that starting pistol at the same time, some of us are just faster oﬀ the mark. In fact some of us, won’t even wait for the pistol, which
brings us to ﬂaw number two.
Inserting yourself into
conversation is a skill that is
unevenly distributed and has no
correlation to the value of what
is to be said.
Just to be clear, not everyone who’s good at interrupting is an asshole, but interrupting someone else is kind of an asshole thing to do. Even worse, when someone
jumps that starting pistol, usually everyone else just doesn’t bother to signal and goes back to waiting to speak. And when than happens we only see the current
speaker being stepped on, not all the people who were waiting to talk, and those are often the most marginalised voices.
And again, this is where the symbols help in three ways:
- you don’t have to step on someone else’s speech to make your bid to enter the conversation
- they allow everyone to see all of the people who might wish to speak
- they require you to classify the nature of your interrupt, so that someone who needs clariﬁcation within the current context can be prioritised over someone who wants
to talk about the next thing.
• Doesn’t work audio-only / disadvantages seeing-impaired
• Can be much friendlier for neurodiverse individuals
• Can help encourage underrepresented people to contribute
• Works great with an explicit facilitator (makes their job easier)
• Facilitator can implement a ‘progressive stack’
Give it a try, and Thank You!
Slides will be on
Handsignals image and more information: