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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.
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.
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:
- Too confusing: Threading adds complexity in such a way that either ruins the conversation flow or otherwise makes the product terrible;
- Too obtuse: It makes people have to completely relearn how to use Slack, which many people aren’t willing to do;
- 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.
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:
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:
Health care in 2017:
Other reading from around the Internet:
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.
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:
Laurent Perrin, CTO at Front, on building tools for the knowledge workers of the future:
Matt Koskela, VP Product at Airmap, on Unmanned Traffic Management for drones:
Have a great week, and keep on building all the great things you’re building.
Alex & the team at Social Capital