How It Is

Let’s Talk, Slack

Dear Slack, I want to like you more, but you don’t understand adults.

Hi, Slack. You’re the cool product everyone uses to communicate on scale. You’ve introduced a lot of features and aspects that are great. We all like to use you for our non-company work, but I’ve noticed something interesting.

See. You constantly remind us that Slack is for Business. But you don’t seem to have actually spent enough time in corporate land to understand what that means. So, as someone who worked for nearly 15 years (and recently at that) with The Man, and the last five with a smaller company, let me try to explain to you what mistakes you’re making. Oh, and before anyone asks, yes, I’ve pitched all of this in tickets/suggestions to Slack already.

Constant Barrage Constant Barrage

Being able to tune alerts on Slack is basically the only way you have to live or die. I can mute channels or group-chats pretty easily, to allow a conversation I need to be aware of, but not right now to carry on around me.

What I can’t do is mute my really, really, really chatty and annoying coworker for an hour so I can get work done.

Oh sure, Slack, it’s passive aggressive to just mute Bob over there who knows I love the Cleveland Problematically Named Baseball Team, and wants to tell me something I will care about in an hour or so. But right now? I have a job. And I want to concentrate without your alerts popping up on my screen and showing that dreaded unread icon. And yes, Slack, I could mute everything, but what about my coworker Jane, the nice one who pings me with an apology because she knows I’m super busy, but she has a critical work problem, and I’m the expert.

Come on, Slack.

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Asynchronicity vs Work/Life Asynchronicity vs Work/Life

While everyone in startup land likes to brag about how they work 80 hours a week, the reality is that most business aren’t actually that stupid. We take vacations. We don’t work weekends. We like to spend time with family, go to a sports game, and not ┬ábe distracted by the ping of work.

While you have do not disturb settings, Slack, I can only set them for specific hours. So yes, I do set them for 4pm to 7am, because I actually do have an end of day. But I can’t set my work days, I can’t connect Slack to (say) my Google Calendar and have it automatically detect that I’m out of the office. I have to constantly fiddle and tweak things. It’s a mess.

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Out of Office Messages Out of Office Messages

Speaking of this, if I (perchance) happen to forget to mark myself as out of the office, I’m going to get alerts. Fine, that’s on me. But. You introduced custom status messages, which you tout I can use to announce I’m on vacation. Awesome! Now can you make them useful?

See the problem is I put in “Out of the office until Feb 20” pretty recently, and I thought “My coworkers are intelligent, they’ll see this message and know ‘Aha! Mika is out!’ They don’t. And looking at this, I can’t blame them becuase of two things:

  1. Readability on MacOS is shit
  2. The message doesn’t fully show on iOS

Don’t believe me? Here:

Slack Example from iOS
Slack example from MacOS

Those are hard to read! And why don’t they auto-alert like a DND message does when someone DMs me? “Mika is currently [status message]” — Oh yes, Slack, I know people like to use those for jokes. Want to stop them? Make them auto-reply. Then people would only use them for real.

And by the way…

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You’re Ageist You’re Ageist

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, not very long ago either, I supported desktop software. I received a phone call from someone in the Big Building, aka where the real bankers worked, and she couldn’t use a product because the screen was unreadable. She couldn’t see the buttons or dropdown. I asked her to give me 30 minutes and I would call her back. Quickly I went through a few steps to size and resize the window, and I couldn’t figure it out. I called her back and asked if I could come to her office.

One 20 minute bus ride later, I’m at the fancy building, going through metal detectors, and I head up to her floor. I apologize for not being in a suit and ask her to please show me her desktop. One glance and I realized the problem was that her desktop itself had been resized. I explained I was going to change the resolution, resize it, and see if that fixed it. I promised I would reset everything.

Nervous, she allowed this. After all, if I closed a specific window, I could cost the company a hefty bit of money. I very cautiously (without minimizing anything), changed the resolution.

“Oh, that’s how it was this morning! My coworker was using my workstation.”

After I head-desked a few times, I checked the app I was responsible for. It was set to take up most of the screen but not all. I resized it, manually, and then restored her preferred resolution. I then wrote down how I did that, how to fix it in the future, and went to give her coworker a stern word that began with “The first rule of using someone else’s workstation is THOU SHALT NOT MESS WITH THEIR SETTINGS.”

A few years later, when I no longer worked on that team, I got a phone call from her again. “My new coworker is having the weird screen problem I had a million years ago. Can we pay you with lunch to fix it again?”

Of course I said yes.

Now re-read those problems I have with you, Slack. Because you’re worse.

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To Review To Review

I look at Slack, and I look at the problems I have, and I think “If I wasn’t technically competent, I would be lost.” And I realized “I am technically competent and I still get lost.”

Slack. If you want to make it bigger, if you want big companies and banks to start using you instead of Lotus Notes Messenger, you need to step up your game. Provide business tools, the ones they need to make sure if they’re not available, someone knows who to contact next. Treat people like grown ups with mortgages, not 20-somethings who exist on packing peanuts and internships.

Basically, Slack, you want the grown ups? Grow up.