Threading at last: January 22, 2017 Snippets

Alex Danco
Jan 23, 2017 · 6 min read

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Well, last week a long-awaited day finally came. Some looked forward to it with giddy excitement; others nervous beyond belief that their beloved and trusted home would be ruined forever.

That’s right: Slack finally released threaded messages.

Threaded messaging comes to Slack | Slack HQ (Several People are Typing)

Slack adds threaded messages to take the clutter out of public channels | Casey Newton, The Verge

Slack’s users have been asking for threaded conversations for a long time; some have even proposed that the conspicuous absence of message threading was an evilly brilliant lock-in mechanism (a highly enjoyable take). But Slack, a company known for its thoughtful design and carefully pondered features, held off on the product update for nearly two years until they felt they’d gotten it right. Despite the fact that threaded conversations were clearly in high demand, it doesn’t mean you necessarily know what to build, or how.

The unexpected design challenge behind Slack’s new threaded conversations | Harry McCracken, Fast Company

Part of Slack’s charm is how it works so delightfully. So threaded conversations, no matter how well-intentioned, were a serious threat to blowing up that charm and replacing it with frustration. There are three bad outcomes here that needed to be avoided:

  1. Too confusing: Threading adds complexity in such a way that either ruins the conversation flow or otherwise makes the product terrible;
  2. Too obtuse: It makes people have to completely relearn how to use Slack, which many people aren’t willing to do;
  3. Too subtle: Some users figure it out but others don’t; you get a separation between different ‘categories’ of Slack users in the office.

Now that Slack’s rollout of threaded messaging is complete, we’ll have to sit tight a little bit to see how their users respond to the change. At first glance it looks very well done, capturing that elusive balance between powerful, easy to adopt and not too complex. And in the longer term, we may look back on threaded messaging as an important step towards something bigger: Slack’s evolution as a real platform business.

Bringing your bot into threaded messages | Slack Platform Blog

Threads = Serious Software in Slack | Ben Brown, Howdy.ai

Ben Brown of Howdy.ai, which you may know from their eponymous Bot, helpfully explains why threads may actually be a bigger deal than we think:

“The new thread feature gives bots their own dedicated, blank canvas to build upon, outside of the constraints and the ever-changing context of the public channel. Better yet, this canvas looks nearly identical in the desktop app as it does on a mobile screen. With the increasing capabilities of Slack messages — buttons, attachments, dynamically updating messages — bots are starting to present user interfaces that look more and more like native apps that live inside Slack.”

After all, who says that the threaded conversation panel has to belong to conversations only? Why can’t it pave the way for not just bots, but full-fledged mini apps, services and functions that quietly do work in the background, yet only a quick swipe away? Is this where all of these services naturally belong? As this evolves, we’ll be expecting early signs of success brewing at the Slack Fund and on the Slack Platform Blog. But the real success of any platform is best measured in terms of the value created in the ecosystem:

Building a scalable business on Slack | Slack Platform Blog

Fuelling Growbot: our path to revenue and best practices for bot builders | Justin Vandehey

Big things are happening, and sometimes they look at first like little updates. Like threaded conversations, for instance. We’re really looking forward to what comes next.


Elsewhere in the world:

Viral Whatsapp hoaxes are India’s own fake news crisis | Pranav Dixit, Buzzfeed News

The Problem with English | The Financial Times

Apple is ready to start making iPhones in India, but at a price | Saritha Rai, Live Mint

Fascinating people:

Inside the weird, industry-shaking world of Donald Glover | Allison Samuels, Wired

The man who saves you from yourself: going undercover with a cult infiltrator | Nathaniel Rich, Harper’s

Preferential sorting:

Tower of Babel | Eugene Wei

Californian Dreams: the extreme blockbuster dynamics of California | Dan Wang

Move over, coders — physicists will soon rule Silicon Valley | Cade Metz, Wired

Health care in 2017:

The heroism of incremental care | Atul Gawande, The New Yorker

Watch this administration’s new health picks | Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex

Could Apple’s upcoming regulated cardiac device be headphone-based? | Jonah Comstock, Mobihealthnews

Energy:

The shift to Base Cost renewables, and 10 predictions for 2017 | Michael Liebreich & Angus McCrone, Bloomberg New Energy Finance

First Solar proves that PV plants can rival frequency response services from natural gas peakers | Jeff St. John, Green Tech Media

NuScale submits designs to US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for small, modular nuclear reactor | Robert Walton, Utility Dive

Other reading from around the Internet:

Amidst fears about political hacking, the Army needs hackers more than ever | Kate Conger, TechCrunch

The rise of the professional Airbnb investor | Pricenomics data studio

Buy; squeeze; repeat: cost-cutting after the Kraft Heinz merger | Geoff Colvin, Fortune

Sell Netflix; Buy Blockbuster: on escaping old ideas | Michael Batnick, The Irrelevant Investor

AMP is Google’s last hope for relevance in mobile search | Alex Austin, Branch Metrics

Cabinet Exit Memo | Office of Science and Technology Policy, United States Government

What the touch bar will be | Yogev Ahuvia


We have a few announcements and thoughts to share from the Social Capital family this week. First of all, if you haven’t tried it out already, you’ve got to get a taste of Sprig’s new menu. After years of learning and measuring, Sprig is rolling out its improved delivery plan, along with a bigger food selection, to make it incredibly easy for you to eat healthy every day.

We’ve turned over a new leaf! | Gagan Biyani, Sprig

Meal-delivery service Sprig cooks up a bigger menu and new delivery plan | Emily Price, Fast Company

The updated product features fresher food and more choice as headlining achievements, but there’s an equally important but hidden consequence behind the scenes: the potential for a lot less food waste. That’s great news. It means less waste not only relative to earlier versions of Sprig and its peers in the food delivery business, but relative to the food supply chain overall, from restaurants to grocery stores. The average consumer in North America wastes hundreds of pounds of food a year, and it’s a hard cycle to escape. Sprig’s centralized, data-driven approach could help make a dent. From Fast Company: “While waste is certainly an issue for any food-based business, [Sprig CEO Gagan] Biyani says that Sprig’s new approach should actually result in less waste, and it’s adding more high-quality ingredients, not taking them away. ‘One of the reasons we’re moving to this model is if you imagine you’re going to stock a car of food, you might have it roaming around, and you might lose some meals that you predicted would go out, and you were wrong about your prediction,’ he says. ‘Now what we do is, we have all the meals in one facility, so it’s easier for us to predict the waste we might have and minimize that waste.’” If you haven’t checked out Sprig yet, be sure to download their app and give it a shot next time you’re hungry: you’ll be able to feel good about it, too.

A few rapid fire hits to bring us home:

David Spitz, CMO at mParticle, on the difficulty of tracking metrics across siloed apps:

The problem with app measurement: time to break down the walls | David Spitz, mParticle

Laurent Perrin, CTO at Front, on building tools for the knowledge workers of the future:

Our vision for Front | Laurent Perrin, Front

Matt Koskela, VP Product at Airmap, on Unmanned Traffic Management for drones:

Airmap & UTM: Q&A with Matt Koskela | Airmap Logbook

Have a great week, and keep on building all the great things you’re building.

Alex & the team at Social Capital

Social Capital

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Alex Danco

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Discover team @socialcapital

Social Capital

A place to share news, notes and points of view

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