Top 10 reasons why I think Slack is a dangerous tool to have

There is no love or hate when it comes to technology solutions, but Slack seems to strike a chord with people and they keep saying they love it. I don’t hate it, but I think that it is a dangerous tool to have. Here are the top 10 reasons why:

  1. Slack’s lack of structure within a channel leads to anxiety because of “fear of missing out” on important conversations. Maybe with so much discipline we could train ourselves to set the ‘/topic’ so that people know what the current topic is, but then people may cut other people’s topics short and I don’t think people will want to think of a topic before starting to write something.
  2. We were told that we should talk about #something on Slack rather than talking to @somebody, but then this creates too many channels that you have to remember to curate because they don’t just get pushed down as they age. With so many channels, people don’t know where to post a message, and conversations about one topic gets segmented across multiple channels, and sometimes duplicated. Maybe with so much discipline we could train ourselves to archive channels and leave them more frequently.
  3. Slack has too many features that encourage people to send things on Slack that ought to be communicated using a proper knowledge management tool. I think this is a dangerous tool to have since it leads to knowledge segmentation. Maybe with so much discipline we could train ourselves to use Slack only for what it is suitable for (what?).
  4. Slack doesn’t give you enough options for managing your notifications. The options are mute, mention, or everything. There should at least be a distinction between mention me specifically (@username) vs mention all (@channel). Maybe with so much discipline we could train ourselves to only ping particular people and not over-use ping all.
  5. Slack doesn’t have enough features to allow you to share your presence state with others. Something like Vacation Responder. Maybe with so much discipline we could train ourselves to turn on DND for 24 hours every day on the vacation, but then this required an internet connection and performing a daily task while on vacation.
  6. If I want to follow an important subject, and I turn on the notification for all activity in the group/channel then I get one notification per sentence, which drives me and everybody around me (in a meeting?) nuts. Maybe with so much discipline we could train ourselves to always use Ctrl+Enter.
  7. You would think that because now conversations are in channels (and not email threads) then you should be able to rename them and move them around. No! Actually, if you made a mistake and started a conversation in a group, you can’t even give a name to it or convert it into a channel. Maybe with so much discipline we could train ourselves to always carefully choose our channel names.
  8. To get notified about important stuff, the only way in Slack is to get notified about the occurrence of “keywords” you set in the body of the message. There is no way to say that a message is important because it is “to:me and from:ImportantCollaborator”. Maybe with so much discipline we could train ourselves to always curate the keywords list to include what that collaborator would be talking about, for example, add and remove project names.
  9. Slack does not allow you to move an important thread.. well, there is no threading at all. If you want to find an important conversation then you have to go through the whole channel every time you want to look at one of the “threads”. Maybe with so much discipline we could train ourselves to always create a copy of any important conversation as soon as we have it, and put it somewhere where we can find it later such as a wiki page.
  10. Using Slack properly requires a lot of conventions and discipline to follow them, as nothing is baked into the tool. Actually, the @channel was the first thing I abused.

Finally my 2 cents worth of a solution — using something like Google Groups, and here is why:

  1. Google Groups have a very important feature that Slack lacks: threads.
  2. The subject line in threads wipes out the FOMO and the anxiety that comes with it.
  3. The subject line in threads also allows people on the same mailing list to discuss multiple topics in the same time without being confused.
  4. Google Groups have a much more powerful user interface, through your favourite e-mail client. Slack forces you to use their own App.
  5. If Google Groups is not that shiny and cool, there is another platform called https://copyin.com/.

Conclusion:

Slack is “too much rope”, that we could hang ourselves or get all entangled. Maybe with so much discipline we could train ourselves not to hang ourselves given enough rope.

Bibliography:

  1. Curing Our Slack Addiction
  2. Slack, I’m Breaking Up with You — Better People
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