I love Slack, but i also hate it.

This quote covers a lot of the why:

“slack is inherently rushed: I feel like I’m in a hurry to whisper before someone shouts. The ‘is typing’ feature is the nail in the coffin here. … Paradoxically, speed is just as toxic to group thought, as people will race to get out ideas and leave them half-formed or contradictory.” – Slack is the opposite of organizational memory

This combined with the indeed useless search has me nodding my head in agreement with Abe’s take on Slack. My hunch is that most of what i like about Slack; quick one-on-one questions; timed considerately, is fairly easily replaced by any messaging app with a good desktop client. It would kill the one-to-many features of Slack but that may be an improvement as it would move some activities better suited for other communication modes back to those ‘old’ modes or tools.

  • Figuring something out together: walk over and talk to each other.
  • Document something: Notion, Dropbox Paper, Gitbook, etc.
  • A cool article: email it to the people who would care.
  • I’m late for the meeting: message the meeting organizer.
  • Did you see x, Meme y, cat pictures: the water cooler.
  • Planning & assigning tasks: dear god please use something sensible like Clubhouse, Asana or even Trello.
  • Meeting notes: see previous item.
  • Slack bots: very neato, love to build them, useful though? Not yet anyway.
  • Finding a time to meet with multiple people: yeah ok, no idea how do that well. But transferable to messaging with (ad-hoc) groups at least.

At the very least it should be OK to just be ‘away’ for a couple of hours on a (remote) work day. If you can do that and teach people to consider the impact of their interruption (and how to use the mute button) your probably well on your way to using Slack sustainably. Thoughtful deployment of the tools used in your teams is a must with the sheer quantity of them in use.

Most modern organisations work with teams in very varied and quick changing formations, and those are really easy to manage in Slack. The fact that it’s easy to represent these loose and often unofficial groupings of people in Slack, and allow the members to find each other, might be it’s killer feature. This surely has value, but is perhaps hard to quantify.

So yeah in a sense it might be better to kill Slack and move forward without distractions. But in the sort of mixed teams that i tend to see a lot (different roles, external and internal staff, junior to c-level) i can’t really come up with a better way to make the organisation of these different groupings transparent to anyone joining one of those teams, from day one. And giving them a way to reach out to their new team members without fear of upending some unknown political boundaries in the process. In a sense Slack makes the org chart transparent which is probably a good thing considering how fluid that chart tends to be these days.

Tijs Teulings @tijs