How We Communicate #6: Richard Hughes

By Richard Hughes in How We Communicate on January 08, 2015

First, tell us a little bit about yourself

Richard Hughes
I work in the marketing team at BroadVision, where I do a lot of writing for the blog and longer form content such as white papers and The Business Communication Revolution. In the past I’ve done lot of business travelling, but these days work from my home office most of the time so am a remote-but-fairly-static worker.

How many different services do you send and receive business-related messages through?

I’ve counted them up and think it’s eight: Clearvale, Vmoso, email, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, LinkedIn and finally Feedly, which I use as a my main aggregator for industry news feeds.

What’s the first communication tool you check in the morning when you start work?

Usually Facebook, and usually from my Android phone before I start work. Viewing photos of what my friends had for lunch yesterday or what their pets are up to doesn’t require my brain to be quite as awake as business communication does.

When I get to work I try to spend the first 30-60 minutes catching up on all the different information sources, so go through the eight listed above in turn, although not always in the same order.

How much of your communication takes place from your desk, and how much while you’re away from your desk?

These days, probably 90% at my desk because I’m travelling a lot less than I used to. Although I work at home, I have a distinctly separate office where I work, and I often use my phone and iPad to check in on Clearvale and Vmoso before I’ve gone to work or after ‘’ve come home.

Do you check messages as soon as they arrive, or save them up for specific times of the day?

I try to discipline myself to catch up on communication at specific times in the day – first thing in the morning, just before lunch, just after lunch, at the end of the day. As I spend a lot of my day writing (or trying to write), reading messages as soon as they arrive can be very distracting. But I must admit I do it more often than I should as a form of “justifiable prevarication”. I’m trying hard to cut down on this though, and make sure that I am in control of my communication rather than it being in control of me.

How has the way you communicate changed over the last 3 years?

Email within the company has almost entirely disappeared. 95% of internal communication happens through Clearvale, and more recently Vmoso. This is a hugely positive change because it means discussions are held in a central place, and I don’t have to worry about filing emails away. If I want to go back to an older discussion, I just search Clearvale.

Email – your best friend or worst enemy?

Neither really. Email’s great for throwaway person-to-person communication like “I’ll be 10 minutes late for the meeting” – nobody ever needs to go back to find that sort of discussion a year later, and none the rest of your followers want that sort of thing spamming their activity stream. But misuse of email, for things like big group discussions certainly falls into the “worst enemy” category.

Popup notifications – love them or hate them?

Mostly “hate”. The problem is there are just too many of them, often telling you about trivial things. I’m amazed at the number of people who don’t disable the constant “Bob is now online” pop-ups from Skype. Do you really need to know that right now? And for a while I even had an app on my phone that insisted on popping up messages about which day my rubbish bin was going to be collected.

I find the notification management on both iOS and Android quite poor, and not granular enough to choose which sorts of notifications you want from each app. For example, most of the time “Bob is now online” is just noise to me, but there may be a time when I desperately need to talk to Bob and really want to know when he’s online. I’d really like notification systems that were intelligent enough to understand (and learn) what sort of information I need at different times of the day.

If I stole your smart phone and only gave it back to you after I deleted every app except one, which one would you choose to keep?

I know this is a bit of cheat, but probably “Google Chrome”; almost all of the communication services I use have reasonable web interfaces. I’ve always been disappointed in the way mobile development has been so app-centric – it feels a very backward step at a time when so many desktop apps were moving to the browser. I would love to see some real innovation in mobile web apps.

If you could fix just one thing in the business communication tools you use, what would it be?

I’d really like to have fewer tools. There are times when I go round the full cycle of communication tools I use and by the time I’ve finished I have to start again because of all the new updates since I last checked. “One tool to rule them all” is probably unrealistic, but some consolidation would be most welcome. However, to achieve that, I think we’re going to need to see new standards for interchange of information between social networks and other communication tools – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Clearvale, Vmoso etc all have their own APIs, and Skype doesn’t really have a proper open API.