In general, prefer having technical conversations in a public forum, such as a public team Slack channel, Google Doc comment or a GitHub pull request comment thread.
This applies to:
- asking the onpoint a technical question (this one in particular!)
- asking your code reviewer about something they commented in a Pull Request
- talking with coworkers to decide a technical approach for something
- a conversation started in a google doc for scoping a project
Instead of a private Slack chat, consider having the conversation in the same forum that the question first came up (the team slack channel, Google Doc or Pull Request).
Public forums let others weigh in.
- It’s not unlikely that someone else on the team has an opinion or knows the answer.
- You might get an answer from someone else quicker!
- Asking the question where others can see it leads to more knowledge sharing.
Private channels are private.
- There’s no searchable paper trail for future teammates to refer back to later about the surrounding context in which a decision was made.
- (Yes this is also true of equivalent in-person meetings, but that’s a seperate blog post for another day)
Private Slack channel message history may be ephemeral by default.
- Depending on your Slack plan - you might have to remember to set the private slack thread message history beyond some default. Otherwise the message history and context may get deleted after some time!
What should I do if someone DMs me a technical question anyway?
Don’t be afraid to gently respond something like “hey, let’s take this back to <team channel> so others can weigh in!” and move the conversation over.
(Or feel free to link to this post and let me be the killjoy :P)