A word of caution on Slack’s new threaded conversations

The Internet nearly broke today after Slack announced its latest feature: threaded conversations.

The feature has been long-awaited in helping solve the inevitable noise that company-wide chat rooms can create.

But before you start creating threads like crazy out of excitement, I’d like to offer a few words of caution.

Note: I’m aware this is a totally debatable topic, so feel free to start the debate in the comments :)

Threading should be reserved for specific, predictable use cases

My greatest fear with my team using Threaded conversations right now is that I’m going to miss an important message or point made by someone that’s collapsed in a thread that I never saw or started.

For this reason, I’d suggest setting an expectation with your team that the feature should only be used for certain use cases.

Such as:

  • Welcoming a new team member — all “Hi! Welcome!” messages can be threaded to keep the channel clean (but at the expense of some of the liveliness of the channel).
  • Asking for feedback on something — all feedback will be nicely contained to one conversation
  • Making an announcement to the channel
  • A topic that is mostly between you and someone else — it’s still good for others to see your conversation, but it doesn’t need to take over the channel.

But threads probably shouldn’t be used for conversations that:

  • Might impact multiple people from the channel. There’s a good chance they won’t ever see your posts in the thread until you @ them into it, and the more people, the harder it is to @ everyone into it.
  • Are incredibly important topics. If the whole channel should know about it, keep it in the open so it is clear that it’s a priority to talk about (otherwise it might get lost as new chatter takes over the room).

This said, I’m pretty excited to see if threads end up becoming really useful in Slack and help reduce some noise in a productive way that doesn’t take away from the overall atmosphere of working as a remote team.

What do you think? What other use cases should threads not be used?

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Ryan Chartrand is the CEO of X-Team, a global team of extraordinary remote developers who can join your team and start executing today.

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