Gini Dietrich

Will All the Slack Haters Please Sit Down?

By: Gini Dietrich | July 13, 2017 | 

Will All the Slack Haters Please Sit Down?Yesterday, I wrote an article about when it’s appropriate (and not) to use email for communication.

It’s an interesting conundrum because so many of us communicate via the written word—text, Slack, email, direct messages, private messages, tweets…oh, my!

As the leader of a virtual organization, it gets even more challenging, what with time zones and busyness and schedules full of meetings.

Even still, there is a time and a place for email and a time and a place for face-to-face (or Zoom-to-Zoom—in my case) conversations.

AND there is a time and place for written communication.

Technology has allowed us to do so much more, including collaboration and real-time conversations that almost replace the in-person experience.

A Virtual Scrum Meeting

Earlier this year, we introduced the daily scrum meeting, but we do it via Slack.

Because of all of the different time zones we work in (and because of my travel schedule), it’s a heck of a lot easier to check in by 9 a.m. EST in our “Daily Check-In” Slack channel than try to log into Zoom at the same time every day.

Having been on the west coast speaking this week, I saw people check in as early as 4:30 a.m. PST because that’s what fits with their personal schedules.

(Truth be told, I was up and at ‘em because my body clock is all screwed up. The silver lining is NO ONE is in the gym at 3:30 a.m.)

The daily check-in provides a quick update on meetings everyone has and what’s on their to-do list for the day.

This allows a few things:

  1. If I need someone for something, I quickly check their meeting schedule. If they’re in a meeting, I either wait to message them or I start with, “I know you’re in a meeting, so no rush…”
  2. Say a colleague is waiting on something and he or she doesn’t see it on your task list, there is a quick conversation to manage expectations. This typically happens in threaded conversations right there in the channel.
  3. Accountability! By golly, if you put it in your check-in, you now have the entire organization holding you accountable to achieving it.
  4. My team knows where I am and why I’m not responding to them. I’m not ignoring you. I swear! I’m just in back-to-back meetings. It has significantly settled nerves, in many cases.
  5. We’ve created the water cooler conversation virtually. The threaded conversations range from why the heck I traveled all the way to LA before I noticed I was wearing one navy shoe and one black shoe (true story) to creating customized emojis specific to our culture.

Slack Has Evolved

For us, Slack has been a godsend.

It’s a collaboration tool, a brainstorming tool, an accountability tool, a project management tool, a productivity tool, a wellness tool, an empathy tool, and many other tools.

(I really wanted to see how many times I could say “tool” in one sentence.)

That’s why I was so surprised to read, “My Company Tried Slack For Two Years. This Is Why We Quit.”

(Also, as humans we don’t want to be wrong and I feel so strongly about our success with Slack…I was drawn to the author’s reasons.)

The author says, in the beginning, Slack was a game-changer for them.

But then it became an issue for these reasons:

  • It’s addictive.
  • It’s built for shallow conversations.
  • It only simulates transparency.
  • It’s disorganized.

And, for those four reasons, they quit Slack.

I’d be curious to know when they quit.

(I also discovered at the end of the article that it was essentially an ad for Twist, the communication tool they built and now sell.)

Because Slack has addressed all of these issues…except, perhaps, the addiction.

It is addictive, just like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Netflix.

But we are all grown-ups. We can limit our use and even manage expectations with our team.

I’m going to be off Slack from 2-5 while I focus on doing my work. If you need something from me before 5:00, speak now or forever hold your peace.

The rest of the issues have been addressed and Slack has become an even more efficient tool for collaborative teamwork.

How to Collaborate Virtually Using Slack

With the updates the Slack team continues to make, it’s much easier now to have deep conversations.

For instance, let’s say I pose a brainstorming question:

Hey, all! I need some help brainstorming. If we were to launch a private Slack channel for PR pros, what would it include?

My team can then create a threaded conversation and answer as they think of things to include.

We might even call said private Slack channel the “PR Dream Team”…which would come up in one of the conversations we had on the topic over several days.

And, because everything is highly searchable, I can always go back to that conversation and add new features as we build the community for all of you.

Sure, you can replicate that same thing in email.

But then you have 100,000,000 “reply all” emails that may or may not be relevant.

And your inbox is already stuffed full, which means you might miss a thing or two (or 200).

Plus, sorting through and searching email is significantly harder than it is in Slack.

(Not to mention having to save all of those emails, which violates my obsessive need for Inbox Zero.)

All the Slack Haters Can Please Sit Down

There is a time and a place for face-to-face communication.

And there is a time and place for written communication.

For team collaboration, brainstorming, virtual scrum meetings, and more, Slack is the tool.

So all of the Slack haters can please sit down (please sit down, please sit down…go on, sing along with me).

Step outside of your comfort zone and see if this is the tool for you.

P.S. I’m kind of amused with my meme generation this week. Is it a sign of insanity when you sit and laugh at yourself?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Travis Peterson

    I thought the Slim Shady graphic was awesome. Clearly you’re not “Slacking” off too much.

  • Dawn Buford

    Haters gonna hate. It just means they’ve closed their minds to another way of effectively communicating amongst a team. Their loss. Nothing is perfect, but Slack comes pretty damn close to being the perfect tool for a virtual team (or any team that is scattered around a building). It’s a million steps up from instant messaging (which was the tool used in my former corporate office), and it has enabled me to feel connected to our virtual team in ways that I never felt connected to people who worked in the next cubicle over. I LOVE SLACK! (yes, I’m yelling it!)

  • Bill Dorman

    Did you say tool? I’m thinking maybe my organization should use something like this internally.

    I’m not a hater, I’m ok w/ no drama….:).

    • It would definitely have to be adopted within your organization. But you will love it if you do.

  • Nancy Davis

    I like Slack because I can randomly show up and say something. I tried to get my bridesmaids to use Slack for wedding stuff, but found doing a Facebook private group message to be just as useful. I like Slack, and I am the ultimate late adopter as Gini knows. 🙂

    • I also love a Facebook private group, but I find I get too distracted when I go there for work. I think, “I need to find this in our group” and 20 minutes later, I can’t remember why I opened it to begin with, but I’ve seen what all my friends are up to.

  • Hating one thing or another is a huge waste of energy. I mean it is just a tool. Try it, if it doesn’t work for your (what’s wrong with you?) move on to something else. But hating it means you have too much free time on your hands.

    I love Slack. It’s still unbelievable to me I get to speak with amazing people all the way over the ocean, every day. How cool is that?

  • Sue Duris

    After reading your post and the FC post, I think the “Slack Hater” label is a little extreme. I like Slack a lot but to be fair, the FC post brings up some “dark side” things of Slack. The multiple channels, the plethora of messages, etc. Slack can be addictive and can get out of control if it isn’t managed well. I’ve left Slack groups that had way too many messages, etc. that it was too much, it lost its value. I stayed in the ones I continue to find of value. I don’t frequent as much as I’d like but I can go in and out as I please. I especially like the @channel, direct message, mentioning me and I can get notifications for the things I want to see. In the end, it comes down to a person/group/company’s purpose for using Slack. If Slack helps, great. If it doesn’t, find or create another tool. Different strokes for different folks.

  • You’ve neatly missed the most substantial reasons people don’t like Slack. One, it’s a “startup” funded by venture capitalists, which means that Slack users are not its customers but its assets, assets gathered to increase the cash payout the founders and VCs get when Slack is sold to “investors”, in an “IPO” or “acquisition”. The app will serve its users’ needs only as much as it must to keep them hooked. Two, it’s proprietary software, which means that the software controls its users, rather than the users being in control of the software, and its development. Three, it’s a grossly inefficient resource hog, something that’s unlikely to be fixed because it’s proprietary software, and can’t be improved through open source collaboration, unlike free code software Slack replacements like MatterMost, RocketChat, Riot, or Patchwork.

    • All fair points. And I think most people don’t care. Look at how much data we give to Facebook and to Google. Of course, when they sell or go public, people will complain, but to your point, we’re not the customers.