Communication Mantra.

Updated 28 June 2021.

What is this?

This is a manual we use with our clients and Nodes to make sure our communication stays secure and efficient at all time under all circumstances. It is based on years of experience in managing international projects. It is updated as often as needed. 

TL;DR.

  • The organization as a whole is comprised of people from all walks of life, all countries, religions, ages, genders. For most of them English is the second language if not the third. Access to internet is unequal. With this, we must manage complex projects of international marketing and import/export, dealing with orders worth hundreds of thousands of €, dealing with various laws, regulations, custom clearance, explicit and implicit rules. Communication is what will make or break the organization. We need a clear process to have some kind of harmony and consistency within the organization. Something that help people avoid the common mistakes and as the organization grows, something that stays up to date so as to leverage on IT tools to make the organization more efficient and secure instead of IT being seen as cumbersome.
  • We are a distributed organization (Cf. Whitepaper). On each project, “Ad-Hoc teams” are formed, with their own self-governance process. They operate in a trustless and permissionless fashion. Their obligation is therefore to follow a set of rules to keep consistency across the entire organisation.

Content of this article.

01. Dilemma.

02. Fundamentals.

03. Teamwork.

04. Applications.

05. Prioritisation.

06. Offboarding.

01. Dilemma.

90 % of the problems arising can be traced back to some sort of communication problem. So we never put too much time and effort into making sure we’re explicitly understood.

We’re a distributed organization; governance is distributed. It means that once roles and responsibilities have been clearly defined for each task, project, or within each community, people don’t ask permission when something falls under their scope of responsibility, they make any decision that they see fit and take responsibility for it. What this implies is that roles and responsibilities must be crystal clear for any participant, at any time, this information must be equally accessible by all participants. This is the main point of having a communication mantra: ensuring the rules of the game are understood and played by at any time, any where, under any circumstances.

Typical questions in a decentralized governance :

  • What are the ongoing activities we need to pay attention to and who will own each ?
  • What expectations can I reasonably hold of others and vice versa ?
  • Who will make which decisions and within what limits ?
  • What decisions can I make and what actions can I take without having to call a meeting ?
  • What policies or constraints will we honor in our work together ?
  • How can we change the answers to these questions as we learn better ways of working together ?

In a world that is changing faster every day, governance needs to become an ongoing part of how an organization operates. What’s more, the people working on the front line are often better positioned to drive continual improvements within their context and monitor the results from day to day.

02. Fundamentals.

02.01 Short term memory.

  • Memo-pads with pens everywhere. On your desk, in your car, beside your bed, in your backpack (or purse).
  • Short term memory lasts less than a minute. When you have an idea popping up in mind, like the catchphrase of the century or the agreement clause that will win the deal and so on, by the time you get back to your computer, it will be gone, forever. So always have a memo pad nearby and write down what come to mind as soon as possible. Park your car if need be, because before the next stop light it could be gone. 

02.02 Time management.

Get this: In the human brain, there is no area dedicated to measuring time. IRMf has given neuroscience the ability to record brain’s activity down to a single neuron. And it has shown that not a single neuron is used for measuring time, when at the same time humans (mostly males) have the ability to feel magnetic fields.

Conclusion: Always work with a timer, and stick to your schedule. If you have an alarm wrist watch, set alarms for all your appointments.

02.03 Sterile environment.

Multi-tasking is a myth debunked by neuroscience. (Read the book “The memory illusion” by Dr Julia Shaw). Being efficient will require self-discipline, but your mental health will greatly improve.

  • Shut off all notifications of any kind on any device. A pop-up can leave traces in your brain for up to three months. Notifications are destroying your mental health.
  • Group tasks according to brainpower/device/software usage: research, writing, video meeting, answering emails, answering social media, accounting.
  • Then prioritize tasks according to their need for attention to detail and focus. For example, Drafting a contract over writing an article over doing a research over preparing a meeting over calling clients over answering emails over answering social media etc.
    • Then schedule these tasks precisely in your diary according to above priority. Keep tasks requiring the more focus for the morning, going to tasks requiring the most focus to casual tasks along the day.
  • In your diary, give enough time to each task according to their expected requirement so as not to be working under time pressure, this would be counter-productive as you would end up having to do things twice due to countless mistakes.
  • Include a 5 minutes break every 25 minutes to leave your chair and monitor and go stretch your legs and get some fresh air for your brain. Use a countdown timer for this.
  • Sterile environment means -> You must not BE ABLE TO answer emails, phone calls, social media messages. So not only all notifications and software must be turned off, but if you can, remove the devices from your place (i.e leave your phone outside your room).
  • It is advised not to install social media apps on your phone but instead use an emulator on your computer, so that they really become work-related applications, and are accessed accordingly.
  • Open your communication software only during the set time slots. One for emails, one for phone calls, one for video meetings, one for social media etc.
  • Create your own rules, but put your mental health first, work efficiency will only benefit.
    • Once you’ve created your own rules, stick to them for a week or so. Then adjust in an ongoing interactive process.
  • Let people know how you work. Include in the footer of your emails a Post Scriptum for that (example below).

02.04 Rules for emails.

  • Create a sterile environment.
  • Do not use any software that has access to your devices’ notifications (i.e outlook on Windows, Gmail on Android).
  • Shut off any notifications in the settings (sound, lock screen, banners, icon etc).
  • Do not check your emails at all outside of the dedicated “email time” periods. We recommend between 11am-12am and 16pm-17pm.
  • For new inbound emails, do not ever answer the same day. If someone has to reach you urgently, they will use the telephone or a secure app. Anyone sending you an email shouldn’t expect an answer before 7 days. Of course if you get an answer to one of your own email, you can reply asap, don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
  • As an example, here is the Post Scriptum we include in our emails: “Email is the most unsecure communication channel in use. It has been invented in the 70s and has never been designed to be secure in the first place. Unless you can give us your PGP key, please stop using emails and instead use encrypted apps. See our contact page (copy/past): ubinodes.org/contact/

02.05 Rules for Video meetings.

  • Use UTC to coordinate your meeting time.
  • Prepare the meeting thoroughly beforehand using a shared document app. Explicitly describe how the briefing is going to be organised:
    • Date and UTC time of the briefing.
    • Participants.
    • Applications to be used.
    • Pre-requisits. What is expected from participants prior to the briefing. (read this, install that, complete such task etc).
    • Subjects. What are we going to talk about during the briefing. Ask all your questions prior to the meeting so that people have the time to prepare their answers.
    • To Do. During the briefing, define a To Do list for the week.
  • Use a countdown timer, stick to the schedule.
  • It´s better to have multiple 20 minute meetings rather than long, infrequent ones.
  • If any new topic comes up, it will be discussed in the next meeting.
  • The next meeting can be the same day, for example if you have done a meeting in the morning, you can agree to do another one late afternoon for all the new topics, or the day after, but in any case, don’t overshoot the agreed time, otherwise it’s going to become impossible to schedule a meeting in anyone’s agenda.
  • Devices: If possible use a mobile device on 4G for audio/video apps (Wire, Wickr, Olvid, Signal, Threema etc) and the desktop with screensharing and office apps (Jitsi, Jami, Cryptpad etc) on broadband but open also your audio/video messaging app on your desktop to easily write text or share clickable links. Start the call using the mobile device. That way if one channel breaks down you still have a communication channel. Additionally you have more broadband capacity. Also, use ear plugs with microphone so that your audience can hear you clearly.
  • Lighting: Use additional lighting located close by the lens of the camera to be clearly visible for your audience.

02.06 Grammar.

Don’t use SMS like writing, like « tis » or « cu » etc. Nodes are from all walks of life, cultures, languages, education etc. Average age is expected to be closer to 40 than 20. Communication is going to be difficult, everything that can be done to make is easier to understand shall be done. Use simple plain text scholar English.

02.07 Compartmentation.

Compartmentalize everything. Communication, data, lives, etc.

  • Use different apps for different means. One app for clients, one for nodes, one for new candidates, and so on.
  • Create synchronised folders for each specific Ad-Hoc team, so as to share on a need-to-know basis only.

02.08 Trustless and permissionless.

We are a decentralized and distributed organisation, meaning that we shall operate in a trustless and permissionless manner. This is possible if and only if all participants follow and enforce the same set of rules. Bad actors shall be identified and removed from the organisation while new actors shall be correctly and constantly trained to Ubinodes’ standards and procedures.

02.09 No mind reading.

Don’t assume workmates do mind reading. Use communications apps to let them know what you do, why, where you’re at and so on. It’s not because you’ve changed a file’s name that people will know you’ve updated a document. It’s not because you gave people a deadline that they’ll know you’ve actually completed the work on it. etc.

02.10  Toxic People.

There are toxic people in every community, and they present a constant threat to the livelihood of the community. Toxic people tend to join communities to fulfill a toxic latent desire; this could be attention-seeking, obtaining money without making an effort to help, etc. Either way, it’s best to always double check credentials and work effort. Keep a close eye on your own actions by keeping a record of your work. If it seems as though you haven’t done much, look for opportunities to do more, and keep an eye on the progess of other members as well. Improved record keeping will allow a quick identification of toxic person(s), and it’s always best to remove the tumor as quickly as possible.

02.11 Chat Apps.

The problem with chat apps is that information is lost in translation. So they shall be used as channels only to :

  • Pass on a status update on documents, like a new paragraph has been added, a new file or folder has been created.
  • Brainstorm ideas in groups (although video/voice meetings are best).

They should not be used to :

  • Do full briefing/debriefings. This should be put in a proper document.
  • Update information on documents, this should be put in red in the relevant document.
  • Do project planning. Tasks, responsibilities, deadlines, and so on should be put in specific files.

To make your posts easier to read, you can prepare them into a notepad and then copy/paste. That way you can use a more elaborate formatting.

02.12 Disconnection.

Ubinodes being international, it is running 24/7 all week long. It is therefore the responsibility of the receiver to disconnect from communications. To that end, we advise that people use devices and applications specific to Ubinodes which can be physically turned off. Understand the difference in time, culture, and situation will affect when someone responds to communication. Therefore, you should always be patient.

03. Teamwork.

03.01 Time difference.

  • Familiarize yourself with working using UTC time (Coordinated Universal Time) as this is what we use to schedule meetings. To schedule meetings you can use the website TimeandDate.
  • If you are on Windows you can use a live background to display the time in cities where you have contacts. Download the WorldClock “classic” edition, not the new “.net” one as the latest has no live background feature.

03.02 Monday briefing.

After the beginning of the task, everyone is going to mind its own business, get distracted, get confused with information floating around. Once a week some formal process must put everyone back on the same page. Asking people to provide a feedback everyday doesn’t work, so instead we’re doing “Monday briefings”. Here, each participant will explicitly state its situation, both professional and personal, as long as it can have an impact on the project or the other participants’ tasks. Based on the Monday briefing, communication can be done on chat rooms.

We do an analysis by all nodes on the just concluded week to see how much of the weekly tasks was completed, reason for uncompleted tasks, noted problems, solutions and recommendations. We prepare for the coming week and the percentage of work we were able to cover must be a minimum of 70% (we can improve the figure, if possible to 100%).

03.03 Lead Node.

Each task has a lead node who is responsible for forming and supervising the Ad-Hoc Team.

The lead node shall:

  • Create the relevant shared file folders, shared documents, chat apps groups, etc. It’s easier to have all the documents pertaining to a project into a single place, so it’s best to create a specific synchronized file folder and move all the files that are going to be worked on into this folder, once they’re ready they can be dispatched again in the other shared folders for each Ad-Hoc Team.
  • Be responsible for enforcing OpSec rules.
  • Create daily and weekly tasks. Each task must have a specific deadline.
  • Assign roles and responsibilities.
  • Ensure feedback loop and iterative process can occur smoothly.
  • Ensure payments are quickly processed.
  • Supervise the Monday briefings.
  • Create Digital Curation work to improve the organisation.

03.04 Roles and responsibilities.

Make sure there are no redundancy among nodes who would work on the same task.

Make sure roles and responsibilities are clearly assigned on a nominative basis. In front of each specific task you should have a lead node and the associated Ad-Hoc team put together to complete the task.

Ask people questions to make sure they understood correctly. If you just ask if they understood or agree, you’re always going to get a “yes” answer. Check by yourself.

0305 Timeframe.

State clearly timeframes for each task with clear deadlines. “Asap” is not a timeframe and will only lead to pending and partly completed tasks.

03.06 Updates.

When we’re busy completing a project at work, rather than assuming the final product speaks for itself, it’s good to remember to regularly engage and update members of the team during the process.

03.07 Ephemerality.

  • On communication apps, set expiry time to 1 week for groups and individuals.
  • Once you’re done working with a file or folder, destroy it using bleach it or Privazr.
  • Do not duplicate information, this is extremely confusing for your workmates. For example if you’re working with an online document sharing app such as Cryptpad and decide that a file synchronisation app such as Resilio is more appropriate, then cut/paste the content then destroy the old file(s).
  • Pursuant to E.U privacy and data retention law, forensically delete any trace once a project is completed: chat rooms, sync keys, emails, files, folders, etc.

03.08 Sandboxing.

Practice has always been the best way to improve a skill. Nobody is exempt from this rule. Like any other skill, the tasks in Ubinodes can be optimized by repetition. This is why you are expected to try every type of task in a risk-free area first before bringing it to a professional situation. Use pre-made guides when first trying a new process, and gradually add your own experiences over time to improve efficiency. We want to get every task to the level of muscle-memory, in which it should be like second nature.

03.09 Iterative process.

The process of creating projects does not end with creation and making a post. They are constantly reviewed and refined for the purpose of keeping information relevant and up-to-date. As knowledge and information is always changing, people coming to the website should be rest assured that our posts are improving with it. This also ensures that people will come to our website’s posts multiple times in order to view updates, which we will promote on our Twitter feed.

03.10 Feedback loop.

We are a distributed organization, you’re expected to provide feedback on all aspects so that we adjust our processes. You’re expected to take notes of what we teach you so as to write articles, manuals or update existing articles. Ensure that you have memo pads handy everywhere, because the onboarding process is comprehensive and goes fast.

03.11 48h cut loose.

Due to the nature of the decentralized organization made of freelancers, we regularly have nodes going MIA (missing in action) in the middle of a task. We can’t delay the completion of a project due to these behaviours. Often nodes don’t even bother telling people they’re going to take some time off, it’s like they don’t feel any sense of responsibility or reciprocity toward the rest of the team. But people may also be in a situation where they have higher priorities, if not a case of force majeur. We can’t control that. So there is a 48h cut-loose procedure: if after 48h of business day a node isn’t replying, (s)he shall be cut loose and someone else be given its task. If the node re-appears later, then the lead node will manage what to do.

03.12 Payments.

Nodes shall send their invoices on Friday. Payments are to be made using the Ubinodes Token.

03.13 Monthly review.

We do a monthly review to discuss:

  • The success or failure rate,
  • Redundant nodes and what to do,
  • Cleaning of files and documents in our folders and webmail’s or wherever necessary,
  • What can be improved upon,
  • Management of Digital Curation Work.

04. applications.

With participants from all over the world and all backgrounds, applications used must ensure compatibility across devices. So we aim at using applications that are cross-platform and open-source or freemium. We also use secure communication apps.

04.01 Linux, Windows, Mac.

01. Libre Office. Save in .odt to be compatible with most other office suits.

02. Bleachit. To irretrievably delete data.

03. Wickr. Secure messaging. Me or Pro, both are free.

Me vs Pro:

  • Wickr Me: Doesn’t ask you for an email. So you need a password manager to store a strong password as you can’t recover it. Only one-to-one audio-video calls.
  • Wickr Pro: Is using your email to register. Less privacy, less security, but you can restore a lost password. Allows for group audio-video calls.

04.02 Windows only.

01. Privazr. To irretrievably delete data.

05. Prioritization.

With all these tasks in front of you for the day, how do you prioritize them? Answer is simple:

  • Money.

In this order:

  • Money in terms of income, then money stream.

Money is the blood of your organization. You can have a perfectly functioning brain, solid skeleton, a good heart, and strong muscles ready to be put into action. If the blood stream stops, everything dies. Note that money isn’t energy, that would be glucose.

Money income is anything that gets money to come into the organization. The closest to getting money in, the higher in the priority list it is.

Money stream is anything within the organization that gets money flowing freely and rapidly. Again, the freest and fastest to getting money flow, the higher in the priority list. Note that money velocity is what gives value to a currency, as a currency doesn’t have any intrinsic value, contrary to money.

So when you prioritize, you do all the “money income” tasks first, then all the “money stream” actions second, then the rest.

Conclusion: Answering emails or using social media apps is the last item in your priority list! Which is why it is fundamental to use dedicated apps and devices for your communications so as to be able to shield yourself from any kinds of notifications.

Example in order of priority:

1- You have sent an invoice? -> Make sure the client has the bank account details to make a transfer, or the wallet address for crypto, or the payment online page for a credit card, etc.

2- You have sent the completed assignment to the client? -> Send an invoice, then go to number 1.

3- You have several assignments for the day? -> If and only if all things are equal, complete the one(s) that are most likely to be sent by the end of the day. Then by the end of next day. And so on. However, this is only if all things are equal, meaning that you always complete assignments as they came in, never ever allow a client to front run another one because his assignment is quicker and can be completed faster. If you do that you’ll lose the big clients and end up with small and easy assignments, you would go down the value chain.

Example in order of priority. You have received money?

1- Pay other nodes if an Ad-Hoc team is set up.

2- Pay overhead bills.

3- Pay suppliers.

4- Pay Digital Curation works.

5- Donate towards Sponsored Projects.

06. Offboarding.

In accordance with our agreements and European laws, we have designed an offboarding process which aim at protecting organisation’s and clients’ data against the most evil form of corruption, that is: a corrupt judicial system. So this process is to make sure our past stakeholders, and their devices, can no longer be used to cause harm to the organisation or our clients.

If a stakeholder has to be away for an unknown period, (s)he must complete in full the onboarding process. This applies to anyone, node, client, contractor etc.

If at a later date the person comes back, we’ll quickly go through the stage 01 of the onboarding process and assign new IDs.

This applies to applications and accounts related to the organisation in any shape or form to the organisation. If you wish or have to keep contact with anyone, use new private accounts.

01. Accounts. Messaging apps (i.e Wickr), social media apps (i.e Twitter) , email accounts (i.e Protonmail), online services accounts (i.e Cryptpad) etc. This will ensure no-one can impersonate you.

02. Applications. Once you have deleted accounts, then uninstall the application. Some applications such as Resilio are not linked to an account.

03. Destruction. Irretrievably destroy any data from your computer, files and folders, rubbish bin, using dedicated software such as Bleachit or Privazr. If possible, do a clean install of your OS. This is the only way to make sure forensic software can’t retrieve deleted data. Do not keep any backups of data!

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