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Slack’s brand-new feature has an unexpectedly rich backstory (fastcompany.com)
58 points by jbredeche on Sept 22, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 51 comments

Yet another 'digital container' of disparate information to house your data and make it difficult for someone find it across an organisation.

As someone who was working in a scale up I found that we had information spread across coda, wiki, markdown, tickets, collaborative whiteboards (Miro), git issues, google docs, coda, (insert random lastest cool SaaS that someone stumbled across one night and used the company card to sign up), local spreadsheets and docs.

Every individual, every team, had their own place for stuff and it was a nightmare trying to find things, let alone the security nightmare of understanding which data was where and what sensitivity it was.

It just seems like it's not the tool itself, it's more there are actually too many options out there

It's not about the options, but the reward.

What's the reward for creating good documentation? That's now describes the upper bound of time and effort people are willing to put in.

Since there is no reward, people will put in the absolute minimum they need to and that's rational behavior.

But also "what is documentation?" You can have great customer-facing-product-docs and keep them up to date. You can have an internal process wiki that is mostely up to date. But what about the conversation over lunch/slack to change a product feature, that then becomes a story card, that gets mockup, that gets notes in the pr and comments in the code, that get ad-hoc slack conversations clarifying details. How many micro-decisions where made in that process? How many those _should_ be documented vs tossed away?

Long ago Mozilla started making all such decisions on mailing lists, because the meetings at water coolers never get documented, and because you can't meet a colleague who lives 10,000 miles away over a water cooler (or at least not very often).

Interestingly enough, fully-remote companies have an advantage here - such "water-cooler" discussions and decisions still happen, but more commonly over Slack and email than in person (and even in-person discussions can be recorded, although few people think of that in advance).

That’s very true. Although I don’t personally count Slack as a good documentation system, at least you can copy from it.

> It just seems like it's not the tool itself, it's more there are actually too many options out there

And that's exactly why every company is building their own version of such a tool. They all want to be the "one place" where all information is stored.

Don’t make me tap the sign*

*the sign: https://m.xkcd.com/927/

Interestingly enough, it seems that information living across so many different tools has become enough of a problem that startups are trying to tackle that issue.

Glean (https://www.glean.com/) for example is building a "Google for work"

Its a pity google stopped selling their search appliances

I wonder how this will work with slack orgs with short data retention policies. It wouldn't make sense to delete parts of a Canvas, as "Canvas docs are collaborative, and all their comments are just Slack threads." (from https://www.theverge.com/2022/9/20/23361717/slack-canvas-doc...)

Bear in mind that at this time, and for many years, data retention policies simply do not apply to uploaded files in a given channel (IIRC it does apply to global retention, but I'm not totally sure of the current behavior). There's a sensitive channel with a short retention period in a Slack for a company I do some consulting for and every few months I remind the admins that images/PDFs/etc that are uploaded to the channel are not purged and they should manually do it... but there's still stuff in there from 2016 if I do a search in:#channel for Files.

It sounds like there’s no file retention policy specified for that Slack workspace. It’s possible to set a policy specifically for files.


Right, the issue is that it's not possible to set file retention for individual channels/conversations, so if you want to have long-term file retention in some places and brief in others, it can't be done (additionally (in my experience, at least), people tend to believe that setting message retention will also apply to files -- it's not called out in the interface/etc).

That’s an interesting question. My bet is it would work similarly to Confluence, Google Docs etc. Basically the canvas would be deleted based on the creation date.

As for the associated Slack message thread, those should be just like they are today. Each individual message in the thread is deleted based on when it was originally created.

Best news in that article was a brief reference to video calls coming to huddles.

Been finding huddles really useful but sometimes a quick chat moves onto a more full on discussion and most of the time now we move over to zoom for that so we can talk face to face. Being able to turn on video for these huddles will be great.

I really dislike huddles. For one I can never find where a huddle is at least with a call its pops a window up. I am consistently asked "can you join the huddle" only to reply "we'll where is it".

Other little things annoy me like the huddle is a tiny square at the bottom left which makes finding the mute button harder.

If someone shares their screen I now have to click a button to open it giving me the call window.

It is great!

I work at Slack, where we've been testing that functionality for a while, and I use it for one-on-ones with remote colleagues. Huddles become like Zoom calls, but with much more context.

Is there any love for discord style "drop-in" voice channels? I'm never going to start a huddle in a channel of 30 people and say "its optional" -- but with a voice channel, people can see we are idling / chatting nonsense and join as needed.

Isn't that what Huddles already are? There's an indicator next to the channel name showing whether people are talking or not. You can choose to drop in if you want.

It sends a notification to everyone announcing they are invited - I want it to be like a water-cooler drop-in chat location, I'm the boss - if I press "huddle" I get 30 people join because Slack tells them "boss started a huddle"

So create a channel called #drop-in and start a huddle?

Huddle needs much love. It is not a first class citizen. Not even full API support for it :(

what else does it need?

API, I want to get rid of zoom as much as possible.

The lowest hanging fruit is being able to use huddle in calendar invites for daily standup. I can't even use Huddles apart of the basic workflows Slack offers.

Once you have that you'll have habit forming behavior with your user and they'll reach for Slack huddle before zoom.

Great, now we can post a Slack link to a Confluence page that links back to a Slack Canvas that links to a Google Doc that links to a Slack thread that says to look in Jira for that outdated video on Sharepoint.

Surely "notion" is in that chain somewhere as well lol. Yeah, I really dislike when tools try to reach outside their "lane" (See: everything Dropbox has done that isn't storing files), you get abandoned half-implemented things that you get forced to use because "well we already pay for X and it has Y feature". If ever there was a use for the "I want X, we have X at home"-meme it would be cases like this. I wish more companies strived (strove? apparently both are valid) to just be the best at 1 thing instead of branching out into things they just aren't good at and won't continue working on. I guess I make some exceptions for the Google/Apple/Microsoft's of the world where it can be beneficial to have a "platform version" of most basic tools (passwords, notes, calendar, etc) but for other companies I feel like it would be better for everyone if they stayed in their lane.

> I wish more companies strived (strove? apparently both are valid) to just be the best at 1 thing instead of branching out into things they just aren't good at and won't continue working on.

GNU/Linux takes a similar approach to commands available in user space. IMO, companies are obligated to chase the profit to the detriment of their product being simple, and this is why this naturally occurs.

There are about 4 upper/lower case letters which are not valid options to ls. Maybe it really is just doing one thing but I’m not exactly sure that this is an example to follow.

Sounds like you would love https://axolo.co/, which creates a Slack channel for every GitHub PR and bidirectionally syncs all GitHub PR comments and messages to that Slack channel.

Someone should create a startup to track all that! /s

My friends and I have a running joke about the name "Mosiac".

Every company I've worked for has had something called Mosiac and it's always a pain to interact with.

Someone should make a startup called Mosiac for tracking information across many different tools.

I don't always come to HN to find good pieces of creative writing, but every now and then there are nuggets like this that give me a big grin. Thank you for this.

It's hard to find, but it's a new feature that's not generally available (apparently will be in 2023) named Canvas. Basically, Slacks version of Google Docs.

Was kind of annoying that this was hidden in the article and I didn't see any mention of it in Slack.

Thank you. Article was low density. Appreciated your summary.

I think Slack is in danger of becoming bloated just as many organizations are also realizing that it leads to employees wasting time. Anything you do on Slack is pretend-work.

This article is unreadable

Wow I thought you were just being pedantically dismissive at first, but I opened it on my phone and holy shit what a fucking dumpster fire.

Even if you scroll past the wall of ads it's almost all a nonsequitar press release.

It’s crazy to see all these new efforts to store and share data, and none of them come even close to being as useful as files.

The only data container that has shown any improvement over files so far has been Google docs. With the caveat that I’m not well versed in this area, I don’t understand why a file couldn’t achieve the same. If there are locking issues, etc. wouldn’t something like a SQLite DB, which can also be contained in a file, help alleviate those?

More info here (there’s a great gif of it in action if you scroll down):


Probably ten years ago Google chat added a slightly secret feature that let you send a quick doodle directly in the app. They never really publicized it and then they decided to run in circles with their communication tools until everyone gave up.

I still kinda miss Wave. Though I suspect in reality it was never as great as my memory makes it out to have been...

Quip sucks. Slack needs to move on from the electron based clients and go native. This is just promo doc fud.

their desktop clients are electron but their iOS app is native, and works pretty well IMHO

I've used Quip at work for years, and it consistently has issues with losing changes during concurrent editing, attributing who made a change, and its search and organization are quite bad. Integrating Quip into Slack gives me one more reason not to put important things in Slack.

> Using Slack’s workflow builder and integrations with other services,

It's going to be such a missed opportunity if this can't POST to external endpoints, just like the current Workflow stuff can't. (Sure you can use a bot, but you shouldn't have to!)

This is a great feature. One of Slack's deficiencies is that it's very difficult to summarize a conversation in-situ. I've tried to do this with Google Docs, but it's too disconnected.

> One of Slack's deficiencies is that it's very difficult to summarize a conversation in-situ

We used to call that email. :)

Email has the same problem. Long threads, especially with branched conversations, are pain to summarize. Getting cc'd on an email chain dozens of replies long sucks to read through (especially with top posting being the corporate default).

Slack is at least better in how it manages the deduplication of content in the thread.

What we really need is some kind of AI auto-summarizer that actually works and is smart enough to ask clarifying question when ambiguities appear. A virtual administrative assistant. What were the decisions, who owns the next steps, what justifications led to the decisions, who needs to be informed, etc ... Most of that can be inferred from a given thread.

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