RailsConf 2019 - Hacking Verbal Communications

RailsConf 2019 - Hacking Verbal Communications

Our native systems of conversational flow control might work fine for talking face to face, but they start to have problems when put into many of the conversational scenarios that arise as part of working on a modern development team. Other groups have faced similar challenges and come up with ways to facilitate and improve communication. I'm going to focus on a simple system of hand signals used by the Occupy movement who adapted them from the Quakers. These hand signals mitigate a number of problems with group discussions, including problems of communication over a laggy connection, and working with remotees.


Ryan Alexander

April 30, 2019


  1. 7.

    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 conversation. #ConvoHack @RNAlexander
  2. 11.

    Even if our algorithms were identical we’d all still be

    using our own individual weightings. #ConvoHack @RNAlexander
  3. 16.

    We use pauses in our language as part of the

    flow control signalling, this generates race conditions #ConvoHack @RNAlexander
  4. 17.

    Using a visual channel for explicit signalling allows people to

    avoid some of the race conditions #ConvoHack @RNAlexander
  5. 19.

    Inserting yourself into conversation is a skill that is unevenly

    distributed, and does not correlate to the value of what is to be said. #ConvoHack @RNAlexander
  6. 21.

    The ‘speaking’ set of symbols also act as an active

    polling system for consensus around flow control #ConvoHack @RNAlexander
  7. 30.

    The more you use it, 
 the less you might

    need to use it, but don’t let it slip into undocumented dogma #ConvoHack @RNAlexander
  8. 32.

    Give it a try, and thank you! Handsignals image and

    more information: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_movement_hand_signals #ConvoHack @RNAlexander