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Slack, I’m Breaking Up with You (medium.com)
72 points by bithavoc on Feb 29, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments



I haven't really used Slack, but I had an immediate, negative, and surprisingly-visceral reaction when I saw one of their animal-ads on Youtube... Can you spot the moment it all goes horribly horribly wrong?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6sSa5NpqUI

The lion-manager is gazing out a window, has a passing thought about "flying umbrellas". Naturally, he instantly sends a mass-broadcast, interrupting and disrupting the work of the entire office. (Who all, of course, leap joyously to implement his brilliant vision.)

Now, this makes a lot of sense if you want to sell copies of Slack, since it appeals to the managers with the power to approve-purchases and mandate-adoption... But it implies Slack is going to either become the latest tool-of-oppression at a dysfunctional company, or that managers are going to buy Slack with the idea that they can use it to micromanage everybody.

Further on, as the Slack team adds features, guess what kinds of features are going to get priority? The ones that sell. Which ones are those? The ones that lion-managers love and other-employees hate.


Looking back into when Slack really took off, it took off primarily because development teams were adopting it internally, and then in many cases evangelizing it enough to get organization wide adoption. To emphasize the point, developers were the primary ones driving Slack adoption at that time.

In order for Slack to move beyond the smaller companies and larger startups where developers have the power to do the above, Slack has to start targeting the people who have the power to change how a 10k person corporation communicates. To those people, usability and integrations are nice-to-haves, but more important are metrics and "process". The issues you have with this commercial are the exact kinds of things that high-level executives will think about when they want to get a new communications tool. "This will let me keep track of who's doing what", "this will let me reach whoever I want, whenever I want", "this will let me centralize ALL company communication".

For better or for worse, Slack is growing up and trying to target the biggest, and most traditional corporations, and some of that will look a bit ugly to its comparatively granola hippy early adopters.


oh come on. You are reading too much into a commercial made by a marketing department.

Slack is a tool, and a good one. It is up to you (and your team), on what to do with it.


The problem with communication tools is that the meta-conversations necessary to set and adjust expectations around them don't happen as low-level and as often as they ought to. So they blow up into things like the medium post.

I would suggest at a bare minimum making part of the topic of your slack channels "Everyone must read everything posted here within 30 minutes," "everyone must read everything posted here on a daily basis," "don't read the history. If you didn't see it, it didn't happen" and also carefully consider everyone else's time before posting anything.

I would suggest that, but I'm done getting called autistic for discussing the facets of social protocol that social protocol discourages discussing. It feels better for people to be able to speak in one of those contexts without explicitly declaring how much they want to impose on someone elses time, and nobody wants to perform out-of-band signalling as a conversation casually slips between the different contexts. The way Slack tends to get used is just a rude ways to waste other people's time.


I wrote my 2 cents about this article, in a follow-up Medium post - https://medium.com/@preslavrachev/slack-isn-t-the-problem-we...). Here is a just a relevant comment to this discussion:

"[none of the arguments], has to do with the tools themselves, as much as it does with our way of using them. We have come to a point in our development, in which 24/7 availability is perceived as normal and expected behavior. Yet, to blame it on the tools we use, is like blaming it on the hammer for accidentally hitting your finger while trying to hang a picture. Indeed, the tools we use, have certainly made it easier for us to reach this point, but ultimately, it is us who pulled the trigger, not the tools."


I wrote a follow up to both your article and the original one. https://medium.com/@rnotani/the-different-frustrations-of-sl...

Here is a relevant quote from the article.

"In my opinion both of these posts get it partly right. Both of these articles also have as a subtext an implicit or explicit comparison with email. Both, Slack and email tend towards “communication overload”. However, the generic description of “communication overload” obscures the very different type of overload created by these two technologies. Understanding this distinction also leads us to a possible solution.


Zulip (https://zulip.org/), a recently open-sourced Slack alternative, has a clever solution for this. They have a light-weight threading model which ensure that discussions stay within context. That way, you can just ignore discussions about topics you're not concerned with without missing anything else. It's great.

> Sometimes, important things get discussed when you’re not around. Unfortunately, so do a lot of unimportant things.

> Zulip makes it easy to review the conversations you missed, so you can focus on that important project without having to catch up on how Jim’s guitar lessons are going.

Someone on HN described it very well:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10281065


This will have the same problem, slack, by design is a time black hole where you have to dance when the other side say you must. Email allows you to prioritize tasks in your own time.


Having used Slack for over a year and a half, you nailed it.


I still prefer email as my communication tool of choice. Sure it may take some self discipline to ignore it and treat it as asynchronous when you need to be doing something else, but at least there's a lot less pressure to respond that there is in chat apps where instant reply is more likely to be expected and the person on the other side can often see that you're there.


hey - I'm just interested how much your comment resonated with the HN crowd. Do you mind telling me how many upvotes you got for this comment bsharitt?


Sounds way too familiar. I am generally amazed that people refer to Slack as chat AND asynchronous communication tools. The two are kind of opposite for me.

I too miss times when email was for longer async communication and chat/gtalk/irc was for ad-hoc brief chats or production incident triage.


great similar post on the Economist talking about the broader issue of distraction and over collaboration.

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21688872-fashion-maki...


I don't really understand how this is software problem. This being said - I never found myself distracted by either Slack or email. Or Skype. Or Telegram. Or twitter. etc. Despite using all of them.


>I don't really understand how this is software problem.

Because every piece software, and social/collaboration software doubly so, affords and encourages certain ways in which it can be used.

>This being said - I never found myself distracted by either Slack or email. Or Skype. Or Telegram. Or twitter. etc. Despite using all of them.

Either that or you can't faithfully assess the level to which you've been distracted.


>Because every piece software, and social/collaboration software doubly so, affords and encourages certain ways in which it can be used.

Well, yes, but no forses you to do so. There are people who can't get away from facebook page once they've opened it and there are people who use it just as an address book with photo's. Blaming software for not knowing where "dnd" button is - is kind of strange.

>Either that or you can't faithfully assess the level to which you've been distracted.

I don't spend more than half an hour a day viewing those or posting replyies. I'm pretty sure I do can assess the said level.


>Well, yes, but no forces you to do so.

Well, such implicit nudges are much more effective for making most of people do something than someone actually forcing them to (against which they might have rebelled).

>I don't spend more than half an hour a day viewing those or posting replyies. I'm pretty sure I do can assess the said level.

OK, then the issue is with "using". Half an hour each day is not actually "using" those services. Just answering a work email could take 30 minutes for example.


>Well, yes, but no forces you to do so.

Well, such implicit nudges are much more effective for making most of people do something than someone actually forcing them to (against which they might have rebelled).


>Just answering a work email could take 30 minutes for example.

Depends on workflows at you office, the way you communicate etc. I don't have too much email coming at me and for Slack and other messaging - I just have a set of rules for me and people to follow. Have something urgent? Come to me and talk and give me a phone call. Not urgent? I'll give it a look and reply as soon as I have time for this. (short version of rules :) )

The problem for many people think that if they are online they should answer immediately, which is not true.


Sick burn




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