With our, P2, and WordPress communication stack, we cover the three levels, three speeds, and three archetypal spaces of communication, collaboration, and sociality.


  • Three Levels: Conversation, Discussion, Publication
  • Three Speeds: Realtime, Async, Storage
  • Three Spaces: Caves, Campfires, Watering Holes
  • Three Sensitivities: Dandelions, Tulips, Orchids

Three Levels: Conversation, Discussion, Publication

The three levels of communication: Conversation -> Discussion -> Publication

An example of the three levels of communication at Automattic

Say I have a new idea about something at work, for example, I think we should automatically check for JavaScript console errors during our e2e automated test execution. I might start with an asynchronous conversation in Slack about this, just mentioning it and seeing if anyone has any ideas. Someone might mention they saw a blog article about that recently, and post a link to it. I’m immediately ahead before I started that conversation since I now have a head-start on how to achieve this.

I go about my ways of working on this and having resolved a few different issues along the way through conversation, I am now ready for discussion on my idea. At Automattic we make extensive use of internal sites called P2s which are a way to quickly post an idea internally for people to read and have threaded discussions. So for example I could post all the details I have about my idea so far, and it’s via this I learn about another approach that’s currently taking place by a different team using a service called Sentry.

Taking all the discussion and feedback into account, I may choose to add information on JavaScript console logging to a new or existing article on our knowledge base called The Field Guide. This is the guide to all things Automattic and contains only the publication of information, not discussion. It’s still kept very up to date by allowing everyone edit access to any part of it (much like a wiki) – and each page shows the people who have edited it the most.

Source: How we Communicate at Automattic – Quality Thoughts

Three Speeds: Realtime, Async, Storage

The three speeds of collaboration: Realtime, Async, Storage

This is the speed where you must be there to engage in the conversation. This kind of collaboration happens often in one-to-one discussions, with a lot of messages exchanged in a short amount of time and quick replies. Sometimes this can happen with more than 2 people, but it’s unlikely to reach a large team. For this speed to work well it’s very important to have a good notifications system in place.

This is the speed where you will be there at some point to reply in the conversation. This form of discussion involves small groups of people. Usually, the groups consist of 1- 3 participants but not often more than 10 or conversation becomes very difficult. It is frequently represented by content displayed in an activity flow.

This is the speed where you are not there anymore in the conversation after you wrote it. This is a form of broadcast communication: one person writes, many people listen, often in a long timeframe. It’s often a piece of content that is able to stand on its own, covering a specific topic or subject.

Source: The Three Speeds of Collaboration: Tool Selection and Culture Fit · Intense Minimalism

Three Spaces: Caves, Campfires, Watering Holes

The three archetypal learning spaces: Caves, Campfires, Watering Holes

Futurist David Thornburg identifies three archetypal learning spaces- the campfire, cave, and watering hole-that schools can use as physical spaces and virtual spaces for student and adult learning,

The campfire is a space where people gather to learn from an expert. In the days of yore, wise elders passed down insights through storytelling, and in doing so replicated culture for the next generation. In today’s schools, the experts are not only teachers and guest speakers, but also students who are empowered to share their learning with peers and other teachers.

The watering hole is an informal space where peers can share information and discoveries, acting as both learner and teacher simultaneously. This shared space can serve as an incubator for ideas and can promote a sense of shared culture.

The cave is a private space where an individual can think, reflect, and transform learning from external knowledge to internal belief. Schools across Australia had both posters and places to encourage this private individual time.

Source: Australia’s Campfires, Caves, and Watering Holes: Educators on ISTE’s Australian Study Tour Discovered How to Create New Learning and Teaching Environments where Curriculum and Instructional Tools Meet the Digital Age, UNCG NC DOCKS (North Carolina Digital Online Collection of Knowledge and Scholarship)


Three Sensitivities: Dandelions, Tulips, Orchids

With these tools, we can design a communication environment that supports low-sensitive, medium-sensitive, and high-sensitive individuals: Dandelions, Tulips, Orchids

According to empirical studies and recent theories, people differ substantially in their reactivity or sensitivity to environmental influences with some being generally more affected than others. More sensitive individuals have been described as orchids and less-sensitive ones as dandelions.

Although our analysis supports the existence of highly sensitive or responsive individuals (i.e. orchids), the story regarding ‘dandelions’ is more complicated because they can be further divided into two categories. If we consider ‘dandelions’ as the metaphorical example of the low-sensitive group, what plant species best reflects the medium-sensitive group? Sticking to the well-known flower metaphor, we suggest ‘tulips’ as a prototypical example for medium sensitivity. Tulips are very common, but less fragile than orchids while more sensitive to climate than dandelions. In summary, while some people are highly sensitive (i.e. orchids), the majority have a medium sensitivity (i.e. tulips) and a substantial minority are characterised by a particularly low sensitivity (i.e. dandelions).

Source: Dandelions, tulips and orchids: evidence for the existence of low-sensitive, medium-sensitive and high-sensitive individuals | Translational Psychiatry

Most of us have genes that make us as hardy as dandelions: able to take root and survive almost anywhere. A few of us, however, are more like the orchid: fragile and fickle, but capable of blooming spectacularly if given greenhouse care. So holds a provocative new theory of genetics, which asserts that the very genes that give us the most trouble as a species, causing behaviors that are self-destructive and antisocial, also underlie humankind’s phenomenal adaptability and evolutionary success. With a bad environment and poor parenting, orchid children can end up depressed, drug-addicted, or in jail-but with the right environment and good parenting, they can grow up to be society’s most creative, successful, and happy people.

At first glance, this idea, which I’ll call the orchid hypothesis, may seem a simple amendment to the vulnerability hypothesis. It merely adds that environment and experience can steer a person up instead of down. Yet it’s actually a completely new way to think about genetics and human behavior. Risk becomes possibility; vulnerability becomes plasticity and responsiveness. It’s one of those simple ideas with big, spreading implications. Gene variants generally considered misfortunes (poor Jim, he got the “bad” gene) can instead now be understood as highly leveraged evolutionary bets, with both high risks and high potential rewards: gambles that help create a diversified-portfolio approach to survival, with selection favoring parents who happen to invest in both dandelions and orchids.

Source: The Science of Success – The Atlantic

For in the story of the figure of speech from which this book draws its enigmatic title-the metaphor of orchid and dandelion-lies a deep and often helpful truth about the origins of affliction and the redemption of individual lives. Most children-in our families, classrooms, or communities-are more or less like dandelions; they prosper and thrive almost anywhere they are planted. Like dandelions, these are the majority of children whose well-being is all but assured by their constitutional hardiness and strength. There are others, however, who, more like orchids, can wither and fade when unattended by caring support, but who-also like orchids-can become creatures of rare beauty, complexity, and elegance when met with compassion and kindness.

While a conventional but arguably deficient wisdom has held that children are either “vulnerable” or “resilient” to the trials that the world presents them, what our research and that of others has increasingly revealed is that the vulnerability/resilience contrast is a false (or at least misleading) dualism. It is a flawed dichotomy that attributes weakness or strength-frailty or vigor-to individual subgroups of youth and obscures a deeper reality that children simply differ, like orchids and dandelions, in their susceptibilities and sensitivities to the conditions of life that surround and sustain them. Most of our children can, like dandelions, thrive in all but the harshest, most bestial circumstances, but a minority of others, like orchids, either blossom beautifully or wane disappointingly, depending upon how we tend and spare and care for them. This is the redemptive secret the story herein reveals: that those orchid children who founder and fail can as easily become those who enliven and thrive in singular ways.

Source: The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive