12 Habits of Good Twist Citizens

Leave your team’s workspace better than you found it

12 Habits of Good Twist Citizens
Illustration by Kelsey Wroten

Twist was designed to promote organized and asynchronous team communication, but even the most thoughtful UX has its limitations. It’s the habits that your team creates around communication that matter most.

At Doist we’ve found that a few simple actions, taken consistently, go a long way in ensuring that:

  • Team members see the information that’s most relevant to them without a bunch of extra noise.
  • Conversations stay organized and easy to find later.
  • Everyone can disconnect to focus on “deep work” without constant interruptions.

Whether your team is new to Twist or you’re already seasoned veterans, these 12 communication habits will help keep your teamwork calm, organized, and productive.

1. When in doubt, default to threads.

Twist gives you two ways to communicate: Threads and Messages.

Threads are public conversations that allow teams to go deep on a specific topic – for example, proposing a new product feature or providing feedback on a proposed design. They tend to be more in-depth, longer-term discussions and are great for preserving information to reference later.

On the other hand, Messages are private one-on-one or group conversations that are perfect for quick check-ins or just to socialize. They tend to be shorter-term conversations that aren’t organized around a specific topic.

When you’re first starting out in Twist, it can be hard to know whether you should start a thread or send a message. When in doubt, default to a thread. The more discussions that happen in public threads, the more public information your team will have access to, and the easier it will be for everyone to do their jobs.threads versus messages

2. Pick the right channel.

Twist threads are organized into channels that represent broader topics. Picking the right channel for your new thread helps others know where to look for information.

channels

If you’re not sure where to put a new thread, browse your team’s list of public channels. You’ll see all of the channel names plus a short description for each one. You can search for keywords to narrow down the channel list, and click through to preview a channel so you can see all of its existing threads.

If you end up starting a thread in the wrong channel, it’s not the end of the world. You can always move your thread to a different channel later.

See 6 different ways that teams organize their channels in Twist.

3. Name your threads intentionally.

Thread subject lines are a powerful tool for helping your team locate the right conversation quickly. People can quickly skim thread subjects within public channels to get an overview of what’s being discussed or search for specific keywords to find the right thread. That’s why giving your thread a clear and descriptive subject line is so important.

subject line bad vs good

Your team might even come up with thread naming conventions to help everyone locate the right thread. For example, you might start all design-related threads with “[Design]” so those conversations are easier to spot and search for.

4. Notify mindfully.

Unlike group chat apps like Slack, where a new message triggers an unread indicator for everyone in the channel, Twist gives you more fine-tuned control over who gets notified about a new thread or comment. Even though everyone in a channel can see and search for all threads in public channels, only the people you choose to notify will see the new thread or comment as unread in their Inbox.

Being mindful about who you notify in new threads and comments helps cut down on the amount of noise for everyone.

notifications bad versus good
You can create custom groups to notify a whole team, like “Marketing” or “Android,” at the same time.

Sometimes you need someone to see and respond to a specific part of a thread or comment. In those cases, get the person’s attention with an @mention.

mention

@mentions bump new comments to the top of that teammate’s Inbox and flag them with an @ sign so teammates know whatever’s new is particularly relevant to them.

mentions inbox

5. Summarize for your teammates.

CC bad versus good

No matter how carefully you consider who to notify, you’ll inevitably find you need to pull a teammate in mid-conversation for input. For example, I’m often @mentioned in threads partway through to edit or draft app copy.

While the person can go back and read through the whole thread for context, it can often be confusing to piece together exactly what’s needed, especially for longer threads. Taking the time to clearly recap what’s needed from that person makes it 10x easier for them to respond.

6. Close threads and document outcomes.

Twist isn’t just about organizing current conversations. Threads also create a rich archive of past outcomes the whole team can refer back to, even years later.

When conversations come to an end, take an extra few minutes to close the thread and add a detailed conclusion so that teammates looking for information can quickly understand what the outcome was and why.

Closing threads is also useful when you come across duplicate conversations. No matter how diligent you are in your thread naming, you’ll inevitably end up with duplicate threads on the same topic. When that happens, don’t delete the duplicate thread. Instead, close it and add a link to the original thread in the conclusion. That way if someone searches for and finds the duplicate thread in the future, they’ll be able to quickly follow the link to the original.

closed threat

7. Comment judiciously.

One of the biggest benefits of Twist is that it gives the whole team access to all of the conversations happening across the company. But the transparent, asynchronous nature of threads also means that anyone can jump into any conversation at any time. Threads can quickly get bogged down in discussion with input from too many people.

Is your feedback critical, or can you trust your teammates will make the right decision without your input?

Before commenting on a thread you’re not directly involved in, ask yourself this question first: Is my feedback critical or can I trust that my teammates will make the right decision without my input?

Our back-end team lead, Roman, wrote practical advice on how to handle feedback and make decisions efficiently in a flat organization where everyone has access to most conversations.

8. Send messages assuming you won’t get an immediate response.

Asynchronous bad versus good

Getting the most out of Twist requires a shift in mindset from real-time, all-the-time communication to a more asynchronous way of collaborating. Take the example above: If you just say “hey, you there?” you’re expecting the other person to interrupt whatever they were working on to help you with your request. It may seem like just a small interruption, but the productivity cost of those “do you have a sec?” requests compounds throughout the day.

Instead, send your request expecting that the other person may not read and respond to it for several hours. Include as much context as possible, and make clear when you need a response so that your teammate has all of the information they need to take action. Use visuals to communicate whenever possible. An annotated screenshot or screencast is often worth a thousand words. The goal is to minimize back-and-forth follow-ups that can delay things by hours or even days in an asynchronous environment.

9. Respond within 24 hours.

Asynchronous communication isn’t an excuse to go radio silent. On the Doist team where we’re spread across 10+ time zones, we have an understanding that things should be responded to within 24 hours, even if it’s just to tell your teammate you read their comment and will get back to them later.

10. Make deep work your default.

The asynchronous nature of Twist frees you from the real-time tyranny of constantly checking and responding to notifications as they come in. You can set aside large chunks of the day to focus on work that has the most impact, free from interruption.

When you want to enter focused work mode, snooze all of your Twist notifications.snooze notifications

Better yet, experiment with turning off all of your notifications, and set aside specific time blocks to check Twist and respond to threads and messages 2-3 times a day. You may be surprised by how much you accomplish and how little you miss when deep work is your default mode.

For the very occasional emergency (1-2 times a year), we use Telegram messaging to reach people quickly. See all of the tools we use to keep our remote team in sync.

11. Keep Time Off sacred.

Research shows that taking time to fully disconnect from work is essential for building a healthy and resilient workplace. That’s why Twist lets you set your Time Off status.

time off 1

When in effect, Time Off will silence your notifications. Your teammates will be able to see that you’re away and when you’ll be back so they know when to expect a response.

time off 2

While you have Time Off set, resist the urge to check Twist. Instead, enjoy a guilt- and work-free vacation that will let you come back refreshed and ready for the next challenge. Your threads will be there waiting for you when you get back – organized by topic so you can quickly catch up on anything you missed.

12. Don’t forget to have fun!

Team communication shouldn’t always be about getting things done. Bonding with teammates over common interests is productive too! That’s why we recommend starting “just for fun” channels and threads.

At Doist we have channels to discuss music, books, parenting, fitness, gaming, and more. Pierre, a member of the support team, starts random threads in our default # Doist Lounge channel posing interesting questions about anything from “What’s your favorite piece of classical music?” to “Doisters with butterfly keyboards, how has the reliability been so far?” (overall consensus: not good).

fun channels

We start all of our “just for fun” channel names with “z.” so they’re easy to browse and join. They also show up at the bottom of the alphabetical channel list so they aren’t mixed in with our work channels.

We also have a group message called “Generalist” that everyone’s a part of to post announcements, socialize, and build team camaraderie outside of threads.

generalist thread

Writing and responding to threads and messages is simple enough. But without a shared understanding of good conversation etiquette, communication dysfunction is inevitable: discussions become harder to find, key information gets hidden in private messages, and notifications intended for one get sent to all.

Teams that proactively build healthy communication habits will spend less time keeping up with conversations and tracking down key information and more time on the things that matter.