Drive by comments, or likes, while designing remotely

In a quick conversation this morning with Davide Casali, who is a founding member of our new Design Ops team led by Alison Rand, he brought up a phrase I often hear while working remotely of a “drive by” comment. On the one hand that can sound a bit macabre like in the case of how it’s often used in the media involving shootings.

But if we consider it in more of a “pop” way, we end up on a YT music video with close to 150MM views called “Drive By” — referring to driving by a potential love interest and missing out on love. In other words, it’s about being non-committal.

That’s the spirit with which Davide described a phenomenon where one can post design work within a remote organization hoping for substantive commentary, and instead just get a drive by. What does he mean by that? I think it’s one of three things:

  • A “like” — which is as useful as a wet tissue when you’ve just sneezed.
  • One positive word, such as “Awesome!” — which beats a “like” by 5%.
  • One negative word, such as “Awful!” — which does a ton of damage.

Any of these three options lack commitment and fall into the category of being marginally more useful or more damaging than saying nothing at all. I think for that reason remote cultures can easily degrade to going silent.

Why? Because sharing a longer comment that is more substantive can break the flow of your day while working async. You may say the wrong thing, and then somebody will appear out of nowhere and start to argue with you. And if you don’t respond to them (because everyone’s watching to and waiting to see what happens) then you’re a bad person. Hey, that sounds like … the Internet (smile). 

As drive by comments and likes go, if you’re curious about my own method when working with my team it is:

  1. I use a “like” to signify to someone that I’ve read what they posted. It doesn’t have to mean I agree with it.
  2. I use a comment to share an opinion I might have. But I don’t expect anyone to change their mind — my goal is to drive the overall direction, but not to actually micro-direct. 
  3. I use a comment to ask a question that I’d love to know the answer around — or at least I’d like to be sure that the person has asked the question themselves. Ultimately I don’t need the answer.

Okay, this is kind of a drive by blog post as I need to get back to work. I hope it’s useful to you. It was useful to me to write this, so let’s hope for win-win! —JM

Photo by anja. on Unsplash