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What happened when Buffer stopped using Slack on Fridays (fastcompany.com)
108 points by prostoalex 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 119 comments





Honestly, I never viewed Slack as synchronous. I kept all notifications off, and checked it whenever I had a few minute break or wanted to catch up on our office's conversation.

Slack allowed anyone to contact me by tagging me or @here, so it was obvious when someone wanted it to be synchronous (therefore breaking my communication), but the grand majority of communication was asynchronous unlike email - which does a poor job of differentiating between messages that should (and shouldn't) break attention.


I work fully remote and that's what I think as well. It's a thing that let's you wait or respond immediately, up to you. That's the major selling point.

Depends on company culture, of course. But my team is also distributed from -8 to + 10 UTC. So nobody is expecting someone who is asleep to write back to them.

Another thing to note is the presence of other sources of communication, like GitLab issues. If you have those you don't always have to ping a live person in sync mode. Often you can just pick up an issue and do it with minimal input.


Hem, plain classic emails offer the very same thing: it's up to you respond quickly or leave the message behind... IMAP IDLE is not exactly a new thing...

As does snail mail.

But I think by now the benefits of a chatroom UX are clearly valued by a lot of people.


Mh, perhaps lot of people who never tried good modern MUA like notmuch-emacs or mu4e or perhaps even mutt&forks of pine&forks...

I still have to find a webui more effective than my notmuch-emacs UI (with, of course, notmuch underneath)...


They mentioned this in the article - "Slack is capable of being both sync and async, though we’ve noticed that there does seem to be some social expectation of a quick response on Slack regardless of how explicitly we state otherwise."

That is the first thing I do when I install a slack client at a new job. Turn off all the notifications. Then I check it when it makes sense for me.

I give team members my phone number and say "text me if you need something ASAP". People don't do that unless it really is important, in my experience.


I really wish they had @ and @-whenever-you-get-to-it tags

Same. I have Slack on my phone but I refuse to enable notifications. I open it when I choose to and respond when I can/if I need to.

At least for me, the whole problem with Slack is how many/how often I get @mentions or DMs, not the other stuff. Sure the other stuff is async, that’s not really the issue at least for me and lots of others

Productivity would go even higher if you stopped using for the other 4 days. Synchronous chatrooms have very little work value in my experience. You either miss out on a ton of information from all the people chatting or you have to watch it every minute for updates. Nonsense.

> Synchronous chatrooms

Slack doesn't have to be synchronous.

I am part of hundreds of channels across 10 accounts. I only respond to notifications but will typically spend an hour or so at the end of the day just catching up on everything. With email I would simply never know these discussions were even happening.


At the end of the day, you can read all the places where you didn't say one sentence and prevent forty minutes of circling in confusion by others, or all of those decisions that were made earlier in the day, so that you can now decide whether to foment uncertainty by reopening the case, or to just live with the suboptimal solution that you didn't weigh in on.

You can use Slack this asynchronously, but if you do it every day, it might as well be static.

On the other hand, I only use one account at a time, for the most part: my work account.


All the problems you describe exist without Slack so the point is kind of moot.

But they don't exist if you use slack synchronously

Then you haven't balanced the size of your rooms. Slack should be your first and primary communication channel and there's a load of good reasons.

For one, you can never guarantee nor should you expect your team to be colocated. Even if you have one office, people should be free to work from home. Side chats get lost, people forget or don't hear. Slack is public and searchable. No mumbling and if you mistype, you can fix it. Plus you can add documents, links, images while you're talking.

People say getting communication on their phones is like an anchor to their desk but I feel the exact opposite. It means I can leave my desk anytime I want and not be out of communication. If something critical needs my attention, I can answer while I'm home and not go back to work.


Searching in slack is a dumpster fire due to the nature of a chat room (which all slack is). It is impossible to group bits of useful information together. Once a chat gets going in a room about topic A there is absolutely no way to separate that information from another chat going on in the same room. If the answer is "smaller rooms" then that sort defeats the whole purpose of a chat room.

Sorry to say this, but if you are answering things on slack at home, you are "working" and anchored to your phone.


At a previous job, we had a mandatory policy of creating a new Slack chat room for every incident involving 2 or more engineers. This was before threaded messages. It really, really helped.

And then we started making our own clique chat rooms. Then it became mandatory to not have tech discussions in a clique room.


There's a thread feature built into slack if you need to t ake conversations "aside" but in the same channel

Threads are the most horrible and broken feature in Slack ever. So much that I wish we could disable them altogether. The visibility is bad, notifications are bad, the UI is confusing. I don't even understand how can some people use it.

Slack should be your first and primary communication channel

Am I old fashioned in thinking that voice to ear (or nearest equivalent) should have the role of primary communication channel?


It can't be primary. If you're going to schedule a meeting you need a fixed agenda and the right attendees to not waste people's time. If you have an agenda and need a decision made as a group, then definitely call a meeting.

Do you record your voice chats for archival and sharing purposes? Otherwise it's mathematically impossible to communicate all the necessary information in available time. If you transcribe all the chats via machine so people can read them, there's a chance, but much technical material still requires the clarity of written language.

Completely agree. Chats are a perfect way to waste time and proprietary one are a perfect way to depend on someone else for no reasons.

> People say getting communication on their phones is like an anchor to their desk

I’ve been struggling with this lately, to the point where I’ve experimented with going back to a dumb phone, and trying to use my smart phone without Slack. As a remote employee, I think having Slack on mobile has lead to a greater degree of freedom, as you mentioned, but I also wonder if the constant tether is leading me to burnout more quickly.


Just tune your alerts tighter and remind people to @ you if it's something urgent.

Productivity require a good work organization, need a constant communication means a REALLY poor organization or even personal incompetence IMVHO.

Urgent things should be passed by audio (traditional VoIP phone call, not bound to any desk since we have mobile internet and softphones) non-urgent thing goes better via mail instead of wasting people time to look a chats.


Agreed. Synchronous chat is good for small teams who are working on the same thing at the same time, and for banter during lunch break.

Yeah. All jokes aside, Slack is really only good for slacking off.

We use it for upgrades and patching events that have team members from multiple departments. We are all on the same campus (a university) but these events don't require a dedicated meeting room. Slack is perfect for that.

It depends on how you use it. Split up channels into teams and keep the chit chat to special rooms designated for that. I find chats extremely useful, especially compared to being bothered in person or setting up a time to meet with someone. The key is to use it correctly and hoping your company culture supports that.

From what I've experienced, slack is to the virtual company what the open office plan is to physical offices. Cheap, easy, and in many ways pleasant, but having everyone present in the same space makes it very hard to focus.

For centuries tech has been about making everything easier, faster, more connected. IMHO, next we have to thoughtfully and discerningly step back from that where it isn't helping.

As an example, for the last 30 days I've stopped looking at news and Twitter before noon. They put me in a fast-paced, reactive, what's-next mindset. Leaving them until later means I'm more focused and less tense. I'm doing it for at least another 30 days.


> makes it very hard to focus.

Companies don't go out of business because employees are distracted by chat messages and noisy conversations, they go out of business because employees are working on the wrong thing. Slack still has a lot of work to do if they really want to succeed in their mission, but I also don't think it's entirely fair to judge them (excessively) negatively based on it being distracting because that's not the point.


> entirely fair to judge them (excessively) negatively

This is tautological. Maybe try expressing this more usefully?

> Companies don't go out of business because employees are distracted by chat messages and noisy conversations

Why not? Unending distraction raises costs and encourages a focus on the urgent rather than the important. That will raise prices and lower the company's ability to do strategic rather than tactical work. That seems like a major risk to me.

I agree that there are risks the other direction as well. A company can become too insular or too scattered. But that doesn't mean that one can ignore the opposite risks.

> being distracting because that's not the point

I agree that's not the point for them. But as a user, it's definitely a point for me. And if you're looking for ways that companies go out of business, doing what they want rather than what the user needs is a common one.


Thatvis a strawman. Open spaces don't make companies go bankrupt either. Yoi could also say Slack does not cause nuclear wars, which is also true but also not the point.

Slack was supposed to be a progress compared to other communications channels, for instance mails, phone calls and previous IRC channels.

My takeaway from Slack is that it is very nice for chatting casually and organizing lunches, but it does a poor job at improving professional communication. I sometimes feel its appeal is mostly gifs for fun and the ability for managers to ping people and expect immediate answers.


I use slack a lot to communicate with my distributed team. We very rarely use any channels though. Always direct messages or small groups of 2 or 3.

> 4. A CASUALTY: “CHECK OUT THIS ARTICLE I SAW”

Wait what? If only there was some application out there that could queue up article sharing to an appropriate time.


This made me lol, but also reflect.

I bet the people that championed this deep work experiment, ironically, do not like social media for its distracting effects. It's the main reason I stay off social media.


You are on social media right now.

Yes and no. HN is definitely social, but there are no friends, no feeds, and no notifications, so it's unlike social media as most people understand the term.

If I skip HN for a day, there's a whole front page of articles that I'll probably never see, and never know that I missed.


Sorta...yes it is media as it is information transferred over a medium..but I think nerdponx is excluding this because its more 'social internet' than social media. With social media, you are like a company, with your brand, that you are trying to ensure looks good and shows good collaboration with other companies. With social internet, you are a human talking to other humans through technology.

Exactly what I thought when I read that. I wonder how much stopping slack meant they all just jumped on twitter

I don't get the slack hate. It's just a chatroom, if your team is using it in a way that impedes productivity that's on you. Noone is forcing you to look at it immediately every time there's new conversation happening.

>Noone is forcing you to look at it immediately

Ugh this is such a common strawman for why most people criticize Slack. I've never heard someone say "Slack has a weird magical power over me where I'm physically incapable of _not_ checking the notifications."

What people are saying is that Slack _encourages_ synchronous communication through it's explicit design choices. Why do people want to use a tool where you have to exert conscious effort to deviate from the designer's intentions in order to get value from the product?


It's uncomfortable any time that you are in an organization that mixes asynchronous and synchronous communications in the same channel. This is more a people problem than a technical one... different platforms can skew towards being more natural for one or the other, but nothing will save you from the Peter Potamuses of the world that use them incorrectly and stomp into your office or blow up your phone three minutes after they send an email, bellowing "Did you get that thing I sent you?"

It wasn't meant to be a strawman - this is genuinely how I'm interpreting most of the really negative comments about slack.

Some people really don't seem to consider that they aren't being forced to use it synchronously by anything other than their own company culture.


Their own company culture and the design of Slack. Many people report a quickening of work tempo when Slack is adopted.

As a contrast, look at email. Both of them allow the sending of text messages between individuals and groups. But the tool designs encourage different cadences.

Note also the difference between this:

> if your team is using it in a way that impedes productivity that's on you

and this:

> anything other than their own company culture

The first clearly blames the individual. The second broadens from "team" to "company", so that's a bit better. But individuals aren't able to change company culture on their own. Especially given that a company's culture isn't isolated; it picks a lot up from the broader corporate work culture.


IMO it’s the fear of missing a direct message from my boss is why I feel the need to check every notification immediately. I don’t know that he expects instant responses from the team, but he hasn’t said otherwise, either.

Ideally there’s a culture where high priority is @here and non urgent is email. I have not seen this in practice.


See, you're still missing my point. You are still jumping to the level of how _you_ emotionally feel about Slack and how _you_ choose to interact with it.

I'm saying that, given a generic human Slack user, Slack's design team is optimizing for engagement. They are making explicit choices about how/where/why to show notifications and how the @ commands work, and their goals are to _increase engagement on Slack_.

Their motivations are antithetical to the motivations of Slack's users, who would explicitly like to see _less_, but _more efficient_ engagement ("email is full of crap I never check it, with Slack I can mute certain channels," etc).


  > I'm saying that, given a generic human Slack user, Slack's design team is optimizing for engagement. They are making explicit choices about how/where/why to show notifications and how the @ commands work, and their goals are to _increase engagement on Slack_.
I don't see this, Slack seems to have a pretty simple feature set to me.

There's a different kind of notification for direct messages, and situations where someone consciously decides to flag a specific person in a channel message. (All features that aren't unique to Slack, and that I would expect any chat application to have).

What would you expect it to do differently? It seems like the Slack devs are just making the notifications behave the way that I would intuitively expect them to behave, and how most people use IRC or other group chat apps.


What do you mean, you "don't see this"? What else would their goals be?

I don't see it as in I don't see anything in Slacks design that seems to be because of what you said.

What incentive does Slack have to focus on metrics like "engagement" rather than building a genuinely useful product. They just charge the customer for it, they aren't an ad driven social network like Facebook where "engagement" actually directly translates to revenue.


I've been taken to task in the past by a boss who sits behind me because I ignored a chat message. So yeah that threat is real but maybe us pions are to blame and we need to "grow some" not put up with it and be prepared to instaquit if necessary. I get the feeling in most countries the demand for developers (etc...) is fierce.

More to the point, if your boss is an asshole they can be an asshole without slack/chat

How is that different from sitting at your inbox all day waiting for an email from boss, while sitting by phone waiting for a call, and staying parked at your desk in case they walk by? That's a problem in your relationship, not in your tools.

> "Noone is forcing you to look at it immediately every time there's new conversation happening."

Nobody except your employer. In shops that use slack it is often the expectation that slack messages should be read and responded to ASAP. If someone PMs you in slack that is taken to be the equivalent of an IM or a phone call, with the same implications of urgency. If there is a chat for your specific team then it's expected you are following that pretty closely (at least as closely as your email if not more so).

Additionally, sometimes it's not possible to avoid paying too much attention to slack. If people have a habit of dumping lots of context and decision making into slack without putting that info elsewhere (like wiki, issues, email, etc.) then at some point you need to go back and read all that backlog to keep up to date on what the hell is going on, typically it's far easier to do that as close in time as possible to the original messages, so that you're in the loop. Relatedly, people have a habit of having substantive conversations and effectively virtual meetings in slack which can include decision making as well. Meaning they can make decisions without your input, advice, or consent if you're heads-down and not paying attention, which can mean people make the wrong decisions (they did it without additional context, information, or advice you could have provided) or they make decisions that put you individually at a disadvantage (because you "weren't in the room" when things got decided).

Yes, these are absolutely undesirable and unnecessary ways of using the platform but they are also very common and they are some of the big reasons why people tend to dislike slack.


Sucks for you that you need to be responding ASAP but that's not necessarily the norm. My organization and team clearly set expectations that we are only expected to respond ASAP if it's regular work hours or if you're on call. All other times people can ping you but no one's gonna hold you to it if you don't reply all Sunday.

In our team what organically transpires is that we generally get a response time of 3-8 hours over weekends and a few hours in weekday evenings. No one's complaining over lost sleep.

And from what I've heard from my friends who all made informed decisions on where to work, that seems to be the norm. I'm perfectly fine with that. Looks more like you've decided these hardass companies are the only places worth working at for various reasons and have concluded that these are the norms everywhere.


This is not, mostly, my personal anecdotal experience these are my observations of the "way it works" for many people throughout the industry, especially those working at startups.

Notice that I said nothing about working outside of the typical 40 hour work week and yet you immediately took my comment to be concerned with that. Absolutely the core problem with slack is that it makes it easier for people to be inconsiderate of other's time by making synchronous communication the norm. Slack normalizes the model of everyone communicating synchronously all the time and everyone interrupting everyone else's work in order to communicate, which is corrosive both to productivity and the overall office environment (for the reasons I outlined above).

And yes, there are ways to "use slack better" but the problem here is that most tools encourage a natural pattern of use, and if that pattern has a severe negative impact then using that tool will tend to have a negative impact on work as well, on average. See also: using gotos in code or writing readable Perl programs. If there is a "correct" way to use slack then that should be the default, baked into the software, and it should take work to use slack incorrectly. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is true, using slack well requires an uphill battle. People aren't complaining about slack being impossible to use "correctly", they are complaining that it's an uphill battle to do so.


"only expected to respond ASAP if it's regular work hours" - I think InclinedPlane meant regular work hours.

It's a problem if you have to respond ASAP during work hours, if your job involves doing deep work during work hours.


> "If someone PMs you in slack that is taken to be the equivalent of an IM "

How is a Slack PM NOT the equivalent of an IM? It's exactly the same thing, isn't it?


Exactly. The difference is that slack is used much more casually so people (including your boss) will have a tendency to PM you much more casually as well, even when that conversation is not important or doesn't need to be synchronous.

One of the most successful sysops I knew at Amazon (he was director level last I checked, maybe higher now) refused to use any instant messaging app whatsoever on the grounds that the interrupts were a productivity killer.

True, but there's something to be said about the defaults.

Unless you're experienced enough to know you should turn sound notifications off, `/mute` channels that are mostly noise but you still need to follow, and type `/dnd until 5:30pm` when you log in in the morning to get the message across that "no, I won't be reading this now unless you confirm it's actually time sensitive", it's easy to get interrupted by pointless messages all day long.

(There's also something to be said about documenting decisions outside of slack.)


I think the distinction between async and sync messaging is really critical here and highlights a different form of communication that folks are incorrectly using Slack to solve.

When I was at Facebook, this type of communication was extremely abundant and took place on Workplace. When you are pushed information, there is some expectation to respond (as highlighted by the author). However, Workplace's opt-in type of communication via feed didn't have this problem. And interestingly isn't really prevalent outside forums and groups (which I don't think are used commonly at companies).

I think splitting out that kind of behavior was beneficial, it wasn't email (which is a push that people ignore), but rather a subscribe where there was no stigma to be late, and people could take their own time to catch up on posts.


Exactly. 99% of workplace coms don't need to be synchronous. Slack assumes that they do. Thus you get tons of noise and chatter and the feeling that you have to check it all the time.

Hell, even the idea of a chat room isn't productive to getting "work" done at all IMO. If you aren't watching it every minute, you immediately lose all the context and knowledge. It's such a waste.


But it means everybody has to keep one eye on Slack at all times, which translates into huge "engagement" numbers for Slack. So "synchronous everything" may be bad for you, but it's great for them!

Nah. Just turn off all notifications outside of mentions. If people want to reach you they can mention or message you. I do this and don’t check Slack for hours or even a whole day.

Most problems people have with Slack are people problems.


I'm not on Slack, we have Lync or whatever Microsoft calls it now at work. I have all notifications off, so I only notice new messages when I bring that window to the foreground.

>Most problems people have with Slack are _design_ problems.

FTFY


I think a no-Hacker-News or no-reddit day would be far more productive for me.

I spend more time knowingly slacking off than I do reading slack.

Then again I fully subscribe to the '4 hours of full productivity per day' theory.


Is that a real theory? Seems to totally fit how I work!

We(as in HN) should have a no-HN day.

In my experience the use of a chatroom has been nothing but positive. We use Google Chat and it's largely where I do most of my work even. I'm able to talk to any person in the organization (which is very spread out physically) instantly.

All of my coworkers share information and ask each other questions either directly or in our shared rooms and all of that can be easily searched and found by anyone else who needs it.

Maybe it's just something Chat does better than Slack (no experience with it) but I can mute any person, room, or conversation in a room. Personally I don't use sound notifications so maybe that's more of a bother. Since Chat is just a tab I have open I can just look up and see the icon colour change when something new shows up (blue for new message, red for new direct message).

All of this also really hinges on the type of work you do I guess as well.


We use Google Chat and it's largely where I do most of my work even

Most of us here have jobs where our actual work needs to be done outside of chat rooms.


>All of this also really hinges on the type of work you do I guess as well.

The worst part of a synchronous chatroom is repeatedly asking for something you need now - and getting drowned out by irrelevant conversations, other tech chats, and cat gifs. Because you need the PR to finish the ticket and go home. But 2 people who are done for the day are still discussing house siding with a remote dev.

That's what separate channels are for.

You're suggesting to start a new channel just for the PR?

I think they're suggesting seperate channels for the non work related stuff.

Or just smaller channels in general.


And how do you expect to get the siding discussion into the other channel if you can't get their attention?

It's not a one time deal. You have to set the expectation that some channels are for work only, some channels are for off-topic discussions.

You might need someone with some authority to help with this. I take charge of managing some of the slack channels at my company, and we're able to keep the off-topic conversation mostly contained.


Isn't that what direct messages are for?

"But you don't _have_ to do X"

"But you _could_ use it like Y"

Stop with this. Why are you trying to force the square peg into the round hole so hard? Why do people like the idea of using Slack against how it's designed? These arguments are so tiresome.


Can you explain why you think Slack is designed to be synchronous and have people constantly checking it? I don't feel like to pushes me in that direction at all.

Because its design primarily pushes sync and while you can do async with it, many bosses treat is as an instant messenger.

A bit off-topic but the nagging and distracting on that website is insufferable. Firefox reader mode did a great job of cleaning it up and making it readable.

I really wonder how a website can end up looking like this: https://i.imgur.com/GL2buwD.png

Holy cow, I didn't even see a few of those probably because of blockers I have installed. That's even worse than what I was seeing.

Well, the top and bottom notifications are probably due to GDPR.

But the one on the left is horrible, yes.


I'm not sure how being related to GDPR somehow makes them okay? It's still a crappy experience.

Slack is good for group messaging for a real time chat about an issue that will get resolved hopefully in the next few hours, coordinating lunch orders, posting random YouTube videos, news articles and memes.

There are focused channels on dealing with specific projects that can be productive. But those are lesser utilized.

The daily stand-up channel, only a couple people actually read them. For actual stand-ups, every one is checked out.

Slack is nice for a few things because email is useless with thousands of emails that are irrelevant. On the plus side I'm glad I don't have a work voicemail anymore.

At a previous company the owner would forward 30 minute recordings of a conversation, for 3 years I just deleted every voicemail. It actually never caused a problem. Every day I'd have 8-10 voicemails waiting, every day I just hit 7, 8-10 times.

People over communicate but say nothing important and it just adds noise.


I'm inbox zero type of personality and my workplace is incredibly email heavy. Reply-All with far more people than need be present is commonplace and it almost feels taboo to remove someone. What you end up with in a situation like that is inbox overload, synchronous conversations in email and lots of anxiety because now I have 2,000 emails in my "inbox" and just the thought of categorizing them now exhausts me.

For that type of culture, I much prefer slack. The synchronous conversation can happen, you can choose to pay attention or not and, generally, someone will @ you if they really need your input. The one thing I wish slack had was a way to mark comments as "decision points", much like what I heard stride was doing. Hopefully that'll get merged into slack after the buyout.


I've taken up almost refusing to use email (I'm in engineering if it matters). I'll write RFOs and that sort of "report" portion via email, write HR, etc, or communicate outside of the company with it but I'll go days now without even opening my inbox.

I am absolutely up-front about it as well and mention it to my managers and other engs and a lot of them say the same thing.

Either the companies I've worked for over the last 10 years have gone more and more that route or the fact that I don't check email is causing people to not email me.

It's fabulous.


"...the vast majority of summer Fridays were spent in deep work, strategic thinking, or learning a new skill. When the team was surveyed each Monday, no one ever reported taking the Friday fully off."

This made me chuckle. What do you expect employees to say in that situation?


In my current work we use Zulip and I'm very happy. I'm one of those people who is fine with most stuff and never complain so you wouldn't read a complaint of zulip from me but I honestly really like it. We get real time errors and alarms in dev systems and prob via zulip and its asynchronous model works super good.

Slack is a cancer, I said it publicly in multiple avenues and I still believe it's fundamentally true. I hate it and I hope it went away. At this point it's the digital equivalent of open spaces.

Most used Slack channels at our company:

#freefood<location>


Any "big" try to offer "emails alternative" simply because emails are free, interoperable and decentralized, something IT's bigs do really dislike. They want control and they want people live on their platform not on their own world.

That's why we do not have any modern MUA for non techies, that's why there is a big push to web-crap stuff. That's why there is a big push toward centralization instead of cooperation and "power/responsibility division".

People today do not even realize that we are in process to became new illiterate, even loosing writing (on keyboard eh!) ability in favor of audio/video contents, the new "oral system".


BaseCamp + Slack has been a general win for us.

We use BaseCamp for anything that should have any temporal meaning beyond the present, and Slack for water-cooler conversation, coordinating tests, coordinating releases, hot-topic issues, and similar. Basically, anything that is best served with a post-mortem or no record at all goes in Slack.

Slack can be totally ignored and one can remain a positively contributing member of the team; but it exists because we're social mammals and we _don't have an office_. Slack _shouldn't_ be ignored because it is a place of coordination and rapid response, but it _can_ be if one wants to focus on a particular task.

That said, Slack's VoIP for meetings sucks when you have more than a half-dozen people.


I've been looking to ditch Slack in favor of Basecamp, isn't Campfire enough to replace Slack?

We tried campfire and found that mapping chat to projects didn't make sense when what we really wanted was an office banter space. It was even harder to track meaningful conversations!

Also, not enough fun integrations for our team. We have all sorts of custom bots, emoji, and such. ;)


Slack + Trello for the money minded, works great.

15 years ago I thought that we are soon going to use our communication tools in an informed manner - what needs synchronicity will be done on IMs, what is more conversational, but not synchronous, will stay email, things that are more contextual will move to wikis, we'll have general pub-sub infrastructure where the sender and the receiver would have means to negotiate what gets through.

But now I learned that channel stickiness is much bigger than I thought.


Shameless plug, but this synchronous vs asynchronous communication is exactly what I wanted to solve with my Slack app (https://www.qdochat.com/). I was thinking of building a chat-like communication tool, but to be asynchronous by design. I settled with the Slack app for the time being.

Your plug is ineffective, because after reading this comment I still have no idea what your app does.

Yes, you're right. Your comment is much appreciated. I'll certainly act upon it and work on improving my (personal project) marketing skills.

BTW, put simply, qdochat.com is Pomodoro technique for Slack teams.


I'm shocked at many of the responses here, when people will also complain about hostility towards remote workers.

Slack is a vital part of my working, PARTICULARLY when one of the parties is remote. Sure, as this article is saying, having some space to not be interrupted is a good thing - but that's hardly the same as saying USUALLY having no synchronous option is good, much less EVER having a synchronous option.

1) Email was great...until too much crap showed up in email and people stopped reading it. Remove the synchronous option and you'll just have another form of email. The Mythical Man Month talks about communication overhead -

2) The vast bulk of my slack communication is quick questions/answers. Sure, an interruption is annoying, but usually well worth it if it unblocks someone. (and when that someone is me, I value it much more). The value here tends to vary in proportion to someone's quick response time. I have a few coworkers that wont' check Slack more than once or twice a day. I hate having to work with them on anything, and we tend to have more scheduled meetings that are far less efficient. Others can be counted on to respond within 10 mins, and usually within a min - working with them is a breeze.

There is definitely a number of tricks to adopt and etiquette to follow...just like any form of communication. It can be used poorly and have more costs than benefits, or well and have the reverse.

My tricks:

* I replaced the default notification sound with something less jarring. Basically a gentle sound that clues me in to glance at the notification. If it's not something I need to respond to, I'm usually not pulled out of flow. This is a huge difference.

* When that notification is still too much, and/or someone starts a detailed chat about something I don't care about, `/dnd 10min` tells slack to shut up for a bit, without me having to tinker with settings and worry about remembering to UN-tinker those settings.

* If using a Pomodoro technique, add in a scan of Slack between sessions. That's fast enough that most people are happy and not blocked long, but doesn't break up your work efforts. This advice is only partially tested, as I'm still struggling to adopt a routine.

* Many people will tell you to turn off notifications - I recommend AGAINST this unless you're using a technique like the last to make sure you don't miss things. Instead, make sure you're only in channels that are relevant to you - if you're getting pinged and aren't interested, the problem is not the tool. In particular, you want to manage the expectations about reaching you - if people think you aren't responding, they'll just get more annoying, not patient. I have coworkers that will often join into channels for related teams, get their answers, then leave...a process they repeat possibly multiple times that day, while I hang out in many, many channels. Both ways do the job well.

* I gave a presentation where I worked on effective ways to communicate with text. One of the best is to not ask A or B questions - instead ask yes/no questions.

Not: "Is the API key for foobar still in file.env? Or is it from the new service call?" (You will be told "Yes" or "no" and have no idea what the actual answer is)

Instead: "The API key for foobar is still in file.env? And not yet from the new service call?" ("yes" or "no" will have a clear meaning)

This technique alone has taken a big bite out of my frustrations in using slack (and any other communication) and reduced unnecessary traffic, though it takes some practice.

I responded to Slack pings in the course of writing this :)


I missed one trick - "Remind me". you can tell Slack to ping you about any message at a later time. This is great someone asks something that involves more time/effort than I can give right now. two clicks and I'm back at work but confident that the matter won't be lost. The options are (too) limited, but 20 mins, 1 hour, 3 hours, tomorrow, or next week do cover MOST of my needs.

Except, I don't get too much crap in my work e-mail account.

A combination of E-mail and IM (when an immediate response is required) works quite well.


Work with entirely remote staff.. I'll take the pain of Slack over the pain of 5+ hours of voice conferencing days, anytime.

Where's the "We had Skype/GTM/Hangouts/call-free days" articles?


Where I work Slack gets a little bit of use for some semi synchronous conversations. Not a lot. The rest of the time it's mostly a way to copy paste things to other people... links, code snippets, log files, screen shots

I'll take slack over email by a country mile.

A lot (maybe even most or all) of the negativity around slack in this thread is from misuse.

Slack is a tool. If it's becoming a distraction, change your approach.


Out of the incredible volume of emails I get, if it's important I'll either be watching for it. Or someone will instantly come over to my desk asking if I looked at it. this seems to be a trend at every company I've worked at dating back to 90s.

Email is also a tool that can be misused.

So is a circular saw. But between the 3 options, one is a clear winner for the topic at hand.

>misuse

You mean, using it how the designers expressly intend it to be used?


This date uses insane amount of notifications! Tell me more about removing distractions!

"A tool's utility is directly proportionate to the skill of the one wielding it."

-Anon




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