How MongoHQ Uses HipChat to Connect a Distributed Team


This blog post is republished from the HipChat blog, co-authored by Elena Gorman.

Since its conception MongoHQ has grown from a 2-person start-up to a 24 person company. The staff is absolutely multi-locational, with people in California, Alabama, Utah, Illinois, Ontario, Quebec, and London.

In this post, Elisabeth Morgan shares how the MongoHQ team uses HipChat to keep their distributed team on the same page.

"While there are a number of unique challenges associated with being scattered across the globe, we wouldn't change it for the world, because it allows us to hire the very best people, without having to worry about pesky matters like the fact that they live in another state or country." -- Elisabeth Morgan, MongoHQ

The main challenge is, of course, trying to communicate and work collaboratively across locations, while developing a happy, friendly company culture. Fortunately, we have a number of tools at our disposal to help us out.

Keeping Remote Teams Connected

We use HipChat as our virtual office space, with most conversations taking place in the main MongoHQ room, and some work happening in project-specific rooms.

It's a great remote alternative for real-time communication. It also means that there are logs of conversations that happen while you are away or busy, so it's reasonably easy to catch up on a day or two of activity most of the time.


Beyond the practicalities of communication, HipChat is essential to our healthy remote working culture.

With a couple of central offices (Birmingham, AL and San Mateo, CA), it would be easy to spend all day interacting with our office-buddies and neglecting our remote colleagues. If this were to happen, our remote folks would feel isolated and unsupported.

We wouldn't want that, so we have a rule, which is "work as if you're not here". That means put it in writing, whether on HipChat or one of the other collaborative work tools we use like Confluence, Hackpad, and our in-house invention, Compose.

With this method, our remote employees don't miss out on important information. If also means that they get to experience all the little things that make a work environment friendly, like watercooler chat and jokes from out bot, Toothy McBotPants.

Going Beyond Chat with Integrations

We go beyond using HipChat for simply communicating with one another. We also use it as our notification center.

The MongoHQ team runs a bunch of integrations on HipChat, including Github, Trello, PagerDuty, CircleCI, Zendesk, and a number of custom apps, including our in-house commitment management tool, Compose.

Integrations screenshot

It's great to have so many tools at our disposal, but sometimes it can be hard to keep track of everything. HipChat solves this problem for the MongoHQ team.

Bringing Bots to Life

Not only does HipChat provide us with a virtual office and central notification system, it's also given us the opportunity to develop our own virtual workmate, affectionately named Toothy McBotPants.

Toothy is an adaptation of Hubot, Github's open source chatbot. Toothy lives happily in HipChat and we ask him to do a range of tasks such as telling us who is on call and performing simple web searches.

He also keeps us inline by reprimanding us when we breach he verbal morality code. Toothy is a rather sensitive fellow with a long list of words that he doesn't like. Chances are that if it doesn't offend Toothy, it won't offend anyone else.

Toothy also provides essential cheer throughout the day. We've programmed him to tell jokes on command.

Toothy Joke

He also provides 'pug bombs' on demand.

Toothy just pug-bombed you!
Toothy just pug-bombed you!
Kurt Mackey
Kurt Mackey was a founder and CEO of Compose. He previously wrote and managed infrastructure for Ars Technica. Current inventory includes 4 kids, 1 dog, 1 cat, 3 chickens, and 1 venus flytrap. Love this article? Head over to Kurt Mackey’s author page to keep reading.

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