Why We Don't Show Typing Status in Cardinal

Published June 1, 2022

Early on when working on building Cardinal we made a deliberate decision not to show typing status within discussions and comments. We've always had a mentality that our defaults should be optimized for the kind of workplace we're trying to help teams achieve, and a few of those ideals came to play when building out discussions.

Asynchronous By Default

In most discussion apps that show your typing status, you feel pressure to wait for your peers to finish typing and sending a message before typing one yourself. Most of us are taught to have good manners and not interrupt others as they speak from a young age, and showing typing status pulls those manners into the digital realm.

Those manners are great for synchronous communication, but they create friction when it comes to communicating asynchronously. Rather than responding in your own time, they put pressure on sticking around to see a discussion through to completion, and they put pressure on not starting a discussion until all the needed parties are present. In a distributed team with members spread through varying timezones that's not ideal.

In Cardinal, by avoiding the typing indicator, we've tried to keep it where anyone feels confident starting a conversation at any time and responding as they have time.

Inclusive By Default

We all tend to operate within explicit and implicit hierarchies within our teams. Explicitly we know we have a manager we should defer to, and that there are executives and other roles that are important to the team. Implicitly we know there are people with more experience in particular topics or simply more social capital within the team. If you see someone above you in either of those hierarchies, you're more likely to pause and listen, and potentially to decide it's not worth the effort to bring your ideas forward.

Our goal by removing typing indicators is to help teams build environments where anyone can think through an idea and bring it forward without having to wait for those above them to speak up first. We want everyone to feel included in discussions when they have an important idea to bring to the table.

Deliberate By Default

One ideal element of the typing indicator is that when you see someone typing you basically know someone's about to add some information, and it's a cue to wait to see what that idea is before moving ahead with the discussion yourself. That's healthy, but taken to its real-time end it means that it can at times promote moving fast over moving deliberately.

We all want to have a stake in what's happening with our team. We all want to influence the results. I've had so many times where I see a discussion getting more and more active and feel like if I don't say something now I'll never be able to.

Moving fast is important, but moving fast should always be paired with being thoughtful about what is happening. Thinking through consequences of a particular strategy or idea should be the role of everyone on the team.

When using Cardinal discussions we've found that the removal of the typing indicator helps promote longer, more thoughtful responses. It promotes thinking through potential problems with ideas and not simply relying on the gauntlet of real-time debate to do so.

Our goal with Cardinal is to help teams operate deliberately and structure their communications. We've made hundreds if not thousands of small, deliberate decisions to help teams reach that goal, including our decision not to include typing indicators despite it being considered a core feature of most messaging systems. Several people may be typing, but we hope you'll ignore that, say what you need to say, and keep moving forward.

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