[Show NC] Open Letters, (another) Future of Workplace Communication

  • TL;DR

    Give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth.
    ~ Oscar Wilde

    I want to propose something.

    How about we start using open letters to communicate in our workplace?

    No, I am not kidding.

    If you aren’t on a covert operation by the CIA, or living under a huuuuuuge rock, you might have noticed a lot of open letters popping up in the news during the last few months.

    I definitely did.

    And to be honest; I like the idea of it. Sharing your thoughts addressed to another person, in PUBLIC.

    I got to thinking. Initially it was one of those stupid ideas (maybe it still is).

    How about we use open letters in workplace communication. The ecosystem is encouraging transparency (Cheers to the guys at Buffer and Groove), and I am learning ruby on rails, there couldn’t be any better time to do this.

    Every company, no matter the size, is making its processes more transparent to all of its employees. Heck! some have even made their processes and revenues PUBLIC.

    The sole reason behind all of this being,

    Transparency breeds trust.

    Initially I thought of building a global community where we could address a letter to someone’s twitter handle while staying anonymous (or not).

    Then I thought of associating the letters with company emails, people could have a healthy debate (with comments and hundred other features).

    Then it struck me, people could use Slack. They could share their opinion about a person or his/her decision on a team channel. This made a lot of sense.

    But slack has a problem.


    Take that away, and you will start to see the magic of Open Letters.

    I started working on this simple rails app in April this year, then forgot about it. Then, this week I ran out of stuff to do, I got to work again. Added some stuff and gave all of it a makeover.

    Use it at your startup, share it with the community, contribute a few lines of code. Heck! Correct my grammar in the README.

    Here is the link to the Github repository.

    Whatever you do, don’t take away the anonymity, it’ll take the spirit out of this piece of code.

    Note: Using Open Letters effectively requires a sense of responsibility among the people using it. As uncle Ben puts it, “with great power comes great responsibility”. So beware, you are playing with fire, don’t burn your house in the effort to heat it.

  • I like the reasoning behind Open Letters. And of course, the Wildean quote! One thing I'd suggest - maybe it might be a good idea to host this on a free Heroku dyno, to give people a sense of what they can do with Open Letters? For someone who's not very well-versed with Rails, installing the gemset might seem daunting.

    Where would you like to take this forward, btw?

  • I have an idea. Maybe some of us could go ahead and put this up at our workplaces - as an experiment - and see what it leads to?

  • @rudimk Yeah! I'll be doing that this week.

    Where do I see it going?
    I don't know. It can go anywhere. It is just a simple app, I want other developers to add features, build clones and work on stuff that could help bring in the culture of open letters. Someone might clone it and build some cool shit over what I've started and start licensing it. It will be fun. The day I made it live, someone contacted me on twitter saying, "Open Letters is a company's own private Wikileaks".

    About using this thing,
    That would be great! Give it a try at your workplace, see how it works out and introduce other people to it. Also, to @santoshpanda and @paraschopra how about using something like this Explara and Wingify?

  • @nshntarora To me it sounds like something that I built myself: NightOwl which was essentially a social network around the shroud of anonymity. I geared this idea towards a closed informal community like a college campus intranet and so far it has been quite popular in my college campus, both as a venting and bitching portal, former I wanted it to be, the latter, not so much.

    However, given the Formal workplace setting for OpenLetter, I guess the idea should take off well enough. Nice work on the UI though :+1:

    Post on notCRUD about NightOwl

  • @arkokoley Well, bitching is something that comes with anonymity. But, if not contained, it can be really dangerous. Secret shutdown because they couldn't control bullying on the network. That is something both of our projects are vulnerable to. Having said that, it's the same thing which makes it fun and better than others.

    The problem with Open Letters is, no company would adopt the idea until they see someone else using it. The famous chicken and egg problem.

    Btw! Loved your Github profile! (thanks for starring the repo)
    Even you're from Bangalore. Let's catch up sometime.

  • @nshntarora
    I guess you can very well approach local entrepreneurs and new startup owners to try Open Letters and get the ball rolling.

    I just realised now, that you too are from Bangalore. We should definitely meet up sometime.