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Slack Tips Tuesday: How a Developer's Daily Update Should Look

Let’s start with the good news: it’s getting easier to remind developers to post a daily status update on Slack (Geekbot, for example).

The bad news is that developers still don’t like writing.

You’ve probably seen incredibly brief updates like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 5.42.31 PM

Or perhaps you’re used to seeing this…helpful…line:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 5.42.17 PM

Or perhaps your developers consider the Github bot as their daily update:

slack-github

Now I get it — developers are busy people.

But busy shouldn’t have to mean “I don’t have time for good communication.”

Instead, a helpful, trust-building daily update from a developer on Slack should be a snapshot of progress, and a vision of what’s next.

You can achieve this by making sure your updates are:

  1. Informative (gives context, but not heavy details)
  2. Visual(in any possible way)
  3. Consistent (never misses a day, and always provides the same level of informative + visual)

Take this as an example:

We see in this post a well-written, informative and visual update.

Anyone who reads it gets a sense of a snapshot of what’s done, and we can start to imagine what we should see in tomorrow’s update based on this one.

The visual aspect is incredibly important — you might not want to show off how ugly, broken or incomplete your work is at this stage, but providing that visual goes a long way in building trust with your team (especially management) and gives at least some sense of progress.

Regardless of whether your team already trusts you, we’re all human here — and Snapchat-like visual evidence is the greatest, simplest and easiest way to put people at ease in an instant.

Now if a project is so early on in development that there isn’t anything visual yet, find something!

Even if it has to be a screenshot of Terminal, or a “Welcome to nginx!” screen, show that progress is happening**.

The visual is there simply to help support your text updates and create a vision for what’s to come tomorrow.

That’s all that matters, and that’s all that it takes to make a manager (product or dev) feel more confident in you as a developer each day.

informativeconsistentvisual (2)

Bonus: Let your updates inspire documentation

When you write daily status updates that are this good, you’re actually contributing to the history of the project. And that history is important documentation that needs to be recorded outside of a real-time chat environment.

The inevitable noise that will come after each update you make (noise like: “Oh, hey, I have a fix for that..” or “What’s the plan when…”) is far too cluttered to treat as true, reliable documentation.

But these updates in Slack can inspire great documentation. You not only need the discipline to write these updates, but you also need the discipline to let them inspire your team’s documentation.

So it’s your responsibility as a great developer to make sure the knowledge that comes out of these updates also makes its way into documentation for the project as well.

Take-away

Next time you go to write your daily progress update on Slack, whether it be through a bot or otherwise, remember in the back of your head these thoughts:

What can I write that will give my team a snapshot of my progress?

What can I show visually that will help build trust with my team?

Is my update as informative, visual and well-written as my last one?

Hold yourself and your team to this higher standard, and you’ll have a team fueled by trust & discipline that moves forward together.

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