Why Slack ruins companies, and why only products can save data teams.
I do love the point about algorithmic curation of Slack. It's one of my struggles with Mastodon... sometimes I want the reverse chrono feed, but quite often the algo on twitter shows me things I do like.
The challenge is training the algo on what the business needs and not what gets attention. The worst thing you could do is have tik-tok for Slack which just shows me all of the content that appeals to my monkey brain (whatever that may be).
I use reminders a lot in slack to get to inbox zero but then inevitably I have a list of messages to triage in my slackbot channel which isn't a great experience oftentimes.
I have to plug https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/communication/#slack as well - we had a 90 day retention policy at GitLab and I would've loved to see an even shorter one. There was nothing better for forcing a more async and documentation-first culture in my opinion.
Still waiting for Slack to produce a digest feature like https://getlowdown.com/
What I'd like to see:
- show me the most important message in the last x hours, based on recency/frequency of interaction
- show me the conversations where I needed to engage
- show me the top 3 conversations where my input was not necessary
For better or worse, tools tend to amplify existing processes - or lack thereof.
Not sure I agree with this comment: “Slack doesn’t have any mechanisms for triaging work”
The data team I’m on has an alerts channel from our data pipelines, and we have a clear process built into the channel topic to mark something as yellow if in process and green if done (or non-issue)
Also, for personal triaging, if I can’t get to something actionable now or that I need to read, I’ll have Slack “remind me about it X” where X is tomorrow or in N hours
I get what you’re getting at with the post, just wanted to bring alternative perspective to that statement :)
Am I about to... set my slack status to “email me”? 🤔 And set up email slack notifications for important channels?
The thing that gets me about slack is they push you towards threads for organizing conversations and then the “unreads” view for threads is HORRIFIC. There is no good reason that threads can’t have some version of “all unreads” where you can skim messages without marking them as “read”. (Failure to build this into their fundamental architecture is still not a good reason.)
Plus the “oh people can search it and see their questions already answered” doesn’t really scale. And enforcing it makes you sound like an asshole--“hey can you help me with this?” “I know the answer but I won’t tell you because I want to teach you a lesson so search the channel first and try to piece it together from chaotic, fragmented half-discussions and then get back to me--even though I could have already answered your question in the time it took me to type this.”
Preach it! 🙌
A ha! Substack made you write this way didn’t it?
I think the problem here is that an army of poorly trained managers has been given permission to manage the largest number of individuals in all of human history. Never have we had so many 20 year olds managing so many people. The consequence is that a lot of this management responsibility is passed on to products. Rather than create the right culture, or best practices, managers rely on, for example, Slack to help all individual contributors figure out their role.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. But this does mean that hiring & onboarding processes have to be slower than with active management. And in these processes we need to give guidance to new candidates on the "right" use of tools in company X. For example, here is what I use for Asana:
"The problem is Slack." ~ Slack has been around, in public, since 2013. I could be wrong but I don't think that alone explains something that was first observed 35 years ago.
So, I can buy the various harms that Slack perpetrates, and that better tools can solve them. But at the risk of having the point of the article whoosh over my head, I have *process concerns* (though they're interrelated to tooling).
Specifically, imagine a workplace that is remote-first, without Slack (or equivalent substitutes: Teams, Discord, a good ol' IRC server, etc). All of our notions of how you stay up to date with what's happening, build relationships with colleagues through little banal interactions and side chats... all of them are presuming an in-person environment where important async messages can be sent over email or deferred. In that world, we can concentrate for as long as we want to, and then swing by the water cooler when we need a break or some interaction. Relationship building can happen as you run out to grab lunch, or before / after a meeting. The latter happens partially in zoom calls, but most of the other formation of a team, and the synergies which makes it more than a sum of its parts, require a chat-like dynamic. And if you're not in-person, I'm struggling to even imagine what that looks like for a remote team.
In my pre-Slack-universe days, simple semi-async conversations happened over previous iterations of Microsoft messenger, message boards sometimes, or stuff on blackberries. And limited as that was, it never had to replace or compete with live, serendipitous human interaction.
So what are the working hypotheses? How do you have a remote-first company that makes people still feel like they're part of a team and know their colleagues to some degree, without the eternal distractions of Slack? If we can imagine a working paradigm for that, maybe we can then imagine tools to match. Maybe Gather.Town is on to something. But man, from here it just looks like a Catch-22.
"Second, unlike email, Slack doesn’t have any mechanisms for triaging work ... With Slack, the only two options are read and unread"
you never used the Slack Bot? you can right-click on any message that might need review later, then ask Slack to remind you about it again. it saves these reminders and you can access them anytime. you mentioned how email allows managing workflows by taking additional actions. if you right-click any message in slack, there are additional actions available