Ever received a voicemail or text message that says nothing other than “call me”? You got a “naked ping” – a context-free request for response / attention / action.
The naked ping should be Considered Harmful, for at least two reasons. The first is that it conveys no information. The recipient of your ping, like you, is a Busy Person. They may be in the middle of something requiring intricate thought, and should not be interrupted for anything less than fire, flood, or six figures of revenue. Worse, you may forget why you pinged someone; when, four hours later, your victim gets back to IRC and responds to you, you will be disrupted in turn trying to remember what was on your mind in the first place.
Context is key – document “why”!
The second, more subtle reason proceeds from the first. A ping with no data is essentially a command. It’s passive-aggressive; it implies that the recipient’s time is less valuable than yours. The pingee will respond in one (or both) of two ways. Either they will experience increased stress due to increased unpredictable demands on their time, or they will simply ignore naked pings.
The more context you give, the better the recipient can judge and act.
Finally, by including that context, the recipient can respond usefully. “Hey are you there?” limits me to responding “I am now”. “Hey are you there? I’m using X and Y is happening but I want Z” lets me help you immediately, whether it’s “Sure here’s a solution” or “Busy now but talk to A, they use X a lot” or any one of a countless things that mean you can get what you need straight away.
We live in an age where it’s so easy to send information.
Give me information, give me context, tell me what i can do, tell me why you want me, tell me what you need.