A lot of people are familiar with Slack, the fast-growing, joy-bringing, GIF-enabling business collaboration tool. The company has over a million users in over 200k teams. It’s a bright, shiny unicorn and with its multitude of integrations and bots, it sure looks like the future of enterprise collaboration to me.
But that’s not how I use it, not most of the time anyway.
Like everyone with a phone, my husband and I use iMessage or Facebook Messenger for our day-to-day communication (I can’t think of a time we’ve actually talked on the phone). These tools are fast and free and get the job done. But, like a lot of people with significant others, our chat is one long, continuous ticker-tape of topics, covering everything from status updates (“I’ll be home at 8”) to reminders (“we need more soap”) to random chitchat and GIFs.
That was until a year ago.
About this time last year we started a Slack team for the two of us (and they say romance is dead!). We have channels for topics that need follow-up or saving — “groceries,” “stuff-for-house,” “trip-details,” “house-hunt,” where we drop in lists, links, confirmation numbers, and to-dos. Of course, we still have that ongoing general chat of randomness, but with Slack channels, we’ve organized a lot of our back-and-forth for later when we need it.
Whenever I mention this to anyone that actually works at Slack, they sort of shake their head and laugh and get right back to talking about Slack, the workplace tool. And they should. The company is very early in that there remains a huge market opportunity ahead for them. Focus is critical. It doesn’t hurt that enterprise customers pay, too.
But I’m not alone in using Slack a bit off-script. Hundreds of public or semi-public Slack groups have emerged over the last year where people who definitely don’t work together chat, share, and collaborate. There are groups for coffee lovers, developers in New Zealand, people who like to camp, etc. Slack’s just too good to leave at the office.
And while the emerging Slack platform is true to brand, focused on the enterprise, it could equally support more personal use. It could actually do my to-dos. An Instacart bot could place orders for items added to #groceries, a Fandango bot could buy tickets added to #weekend-plans, an Amazon bot could take care of the #stuff-for-house. The Roomino bot already manages travel bookings for teams — why not me?
What emerges is something that looks a little like Facebook’s M, only crowd-sourced through third parties. As Stewart even said earlier this summer: “Slack is the kind of environment where delivering services via a conversational UI makes sense.” There’s no reason those services have be all work, and no play.
This isn’t where the company is headed as far as I know, and if you’re a developer building for Slack, definitely ignore me and build for businesses. But, with some friendly product hacking, it is possible. Collaboration happens at home too, after all.
[Disclaimer: People get really hot & bothered if I don’t include this. I am an investor in Slack. I was also an early beta user, I know a lot of people that work at the company, and my husband is a board observer. But, believe it or not, we don’t talk about Slack over dinner. Also, as you can read above, this post is about hacking Slack for my own needs. I’m not exactly toeing the company line. OK, whew, got that done.]