How many Slack channels is too many?

Every Slack administrator we talk to at slash-hyphen is figuring out how to maximize information sharing while minimizing noise. Effective Slack administration is all about helping teams communicate without overwhelming them. The highest leverage way to impact this is to change your channel taxonomy. In order to encourage productive Slack usage teams need to be diligent about the scope of their channels.

We’ve heard rumors that the team at Slack headquarters has more than 1,000 channels. With about 500 employees today, they’re averaging more than two channels per employee. On the other hand, we’ve worked with organizations that have less than one channel per employee. As Slack usage in an organization grows, it’s important to re-evaluate how specific your channels are.

In the early days of Slack at an organization, having too many channels can kill usage. When you spread meager activity out across many channels, Slack feels empty. In a nascent installation, it’s much better to concentrate message activity into a few broad channels. This way, new users experience a lively and active Slack implementation.

However, as soon as those first few channels get noisy, you risk overwhelming your coworkers. With a few noisy channels, using Slack is like drinking from a fire hose. If employees don’t stay glued to Slack, they might miss something they need to see. In these installs, the parts of a conversation a given user cares about get buried under messages that they don’t need to see at all. In order to do their job, users are forced to spend time sifting through messages they don’t need to see.

This can be pretty destructive. In what the press has dubbed, “The Slackening,” we’ve seen some Slack users blog about abandoning Slack due to overwhelming noise. It’s likely that these users ended up using Slack with too few channels.

If they had set up Slack with more granular channel definitions, the “Slackening” bloggers might find it easier to filter out the conversations that weren’t relevant to them. When you break Slack down into more specific channels, each user can decide exactly which messages they want to see, and which they don’t. Slack becomes much easier to skim.

It’s important to be thoughtful about your organization’s policy on channels. Try to avoid keeping conversations to just a few channels. Great organizations encourage employees to create new channels regularly.

This post is a part of a series on getting the most out of Slack. Next week, we’ll dive into some of the strategies teams are using to encourage more granular channel creation. If you’d like to hear more, follow us on Medium or subscribe to our email newsletter.