Working from a queue?

There’s an idea that keeps floating around my mind, but I’m not quite sure how to describe it: What if everyone was to work out of a queue?

We’ve all got task lists.  In the particular office environment that I work in, I can get a request in any number of forms: an email, a JIRA ticket, a slack message, or someone actually coming up to me in person to ask me something.  What if all these got funneled into a priority queue?  The reason for doing this is:

  1. People making urgent requests would be able to see the impact of their request in relation to other pending tasks.
  2. The important items would float to the top more quickly.
  3. It’d be easier to concentrate on getting things done if I can turn off notifications in one spot.

Imagine if all email requests, slack messages, JIRA tickets, and anything else (except in-person communication) got pushed into a queue.  As a user, you would have the ability to prioritize which items come first.  For example, my priorities would look something like:

  1. Outlook Calendar notifications
  2. Direct slack messages
  3. Specific project channel related Slack messages
  4. Outlook emails
  5. Github pull request/comment notifications
  6. Less important Slack channels
  7. Emails sent from particular people
  8. RSS feeds
  9. Twitter, etc.

It would be possible to see the queue length, as well as “peek” at any given thing in the queue, but the general idea is that you are always working off the one end.  Messages are shoved into one end, and processed out the other.  The priority allows me to set the order that I want to see things.  For example, if someone sends me a direct slack message at the same time I have a meeting reminder, the meeting reminder takes precedence, and shows up on the top.  Once I’ve dismissed it, then I’d see the next thing in the queue – the direct message.

Users would be able to see the position of their requests in other user’s queues.  Privacy settings would allow you to make some queue items public (so anyone can see it) vs. private, so no one can actually see the contents of the queue messages.  (By default, queued items would be private, except perhaps the source – Outlook, Slack, Github, etc.).

Users would also be able to put their own items into their own queue.  For example, I could put in an item like “Send a Happy Father’s Day message to dad” into my queue.  Users would also have the ability to push things back into the queue, to a given depth.  For example, maybe I’m dealing with a few really important tasks right now, so I push a reminder 10 or 15 items deep into the queue.  It’d be similar to snoozing an alarm clock or meeting notification.

There’s also the idea of allowing a user to push their item to a higher priority, and in doing so, anyone else who’s requests are bumped by it, would be able to see it.  That way, if there’s several people waiting in the request line, and someone comes along with a “high priority” request, and bumps everyone else down, those other people can then go contend with the person making the high priority request.  That way it’s not up to the person handling the requests to settle the fight of who’s request is highest priority – the people waiting in line get to decide that, leaving the person handling requests alone, so they can actually get some work done.

I imagine that writing such a system would be pretty complicated – you’d need hooks into the various systems, and it would require everyone in a given office to be on board with it.  That being said, I think the idea sounds entertaining, if anything, at least for an experiment.

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