Communicating efficiently and effectively by using the right protocols

Updated: 2011-01-11

Given various communication mediums, we can break any task down into its smaller components where each bit of data can then be dealt with using a particular protocol.

I think that by putting some thought into the ways we communicate, we can be more efficient in what we do. That is, spending less time wrestling with the tools and focusing more on the messages. If one tries to complete a task and faces unnecessary obstacles which appears to be due to the inefficiency of the tool(s) in use, then it would be beneficial to reconsider the tool(s) to complete that same task.

By briefly defining the following, I hope that some of these communication protocols will shed some light to those that are not entirely familiar with them and hence allow them to communicate more efficiently with others.

Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
Ideal (See: IRC is a social networking platform)
Real-time one-to-many communication (e.g., freenode)
Conversations can be logged and accessed via URL for future use
Ability to use channels on virtually any topic to communicate with others
Instant Messaging (IM)
Real-time one-to-many communication (e.g., XMPP)
Similar to IRC but video and audio conversations are more common through the clients
Web feeds
Allows subscription to any content (See RSS or Atom formats
Various data resources can be pulled (e.g., Wiki updates, Blog posts)
Collaborative knowledge dump (e.g., Wikipedia)
Centralised documentation with history (i.e., changes to entries)
Status updates (Microblogging)
Public or private brief notices (e.g.,
Updates from users can be made using various protocols (e.g., IM, SMS texting)
Information can be accessed through a URI
Notices can be subscribed using feeds
Quick dump locations for data which can be accessed through a URI
In person
All good when coffee or beer is involved ;)
Lot's of information can be transmitted simultaneously (e.g., pheromones, hands, body posture and facial expression)
Professional group meetings may be redundant and costly, but may also be good for improving the quality of communication between members
Digital video meetings (or conversations)
Similar to in person but with less quality
Can be archived
Unnecessary cognitive load and doesn't scale well. (See Tantek's Email is Efail)
Indexing and searching past messages is an unpleasant experience
Effective but can be unnecessarily time consuming
Audio quality varies
Although there is nothing like hearing an old friend's or family member's voice
One-way transmission (from sender)
Can be recorded, however, indexing and searching information is not simple
Smoke signals
Time consuming (requires natural resources and human power)
May be inaccurate given the complexity of information
Visible from great distances
Perhaps environmentally unfriendly if everyone were to communicate this way today
Message in a bottle
Destination of the message is usually dependent on geography
Receiver may be anyone
Morse code
Not dependant on the medium (information can be sent using various methods)
Requires training and experience to transmit accurately and efficiently.
Able to invoke various emotions
Still known as a paranormal phenomenon
Digital audio meetings (or conversations)
Similar to telephone
Time consuming from both ends (i.e., sender, receiver)
Can't index, search (unless there is voice recognition)
Becoming more environmentally unfriendly with ink (e.g., snail-mail)
Too slow
Archiving consumes time, space
Can't index or search easily
Good for authenticated documents (although can be forged)
Similar to paper, but requires telecommunications


This document is inspired by Tantek's Communication Protocols and my ongoing frustration (lack of good experience) with inefficient ways of communicating digitally.