Bulletins vs bulletin boards

[Here’s a simple communications hack for small teams and organizations:]

When times are changing and you’re adjusting on the fly, it’s tempting to send another alert.

The rules at the farmer’s market, the latest schedule for a changing event, the status of a server…

When I was growing up in Buffalo, they used to announce school closings on the radio. Twice an hour, we’d huddle around and listen to an endless list of schools (mine started with a W), wasting everyone’s time and emotional energy.

The problem with alerts is that they don’t scale. They create noise. Every time you poke everyone with a bulletin, you’ve taken attention away with no hope of giving it back.

The alternative is the bulletin board.

Want to know how you did on the exam? Go look at the bulletin board. The grades will be posted when they’re ready.

Want to know the latest situation before you head out? Go look at the bulletin board.

Social media got everyone into the bulletin habit, but we left behind bulletin boards too quickly.

And in our digital world, you don’t need to be a computer programmer to have one. Simply create a shared Google doc. It’s free and it doesn’t crash and it’s low tech. (And yes, there are many alternatives that don’t come from big companies).

Give people the link to view the doc. Include it in your Facebook post or your last email on the topic. “Click here to see the latest updates.” Don’t worry about whether your tweet or post (a bulletin) moves down the screen, because everyone who cares already has the link to your bulletin board and you’ve trained them to check it when they want to know the status of your event or situation. It’s not a great choice for a high-traffic site, but if you’re trying to coordinate a few hundred people, it’s a lot easier than trusting social media.

And you can even share editing privileges with your core team, so there’s no bottleneck for updates. You don’t need to get a programmer out of bed in the middle of the night to update the school closing list. It’s a simple thing to update the bulletin board, to keep making it more up to date and complete as your situation changes.

Information on demand is way more useful than information that demands our attention at moments when we’re not interested.