From the Atlantic: “Slack Is Basically Facebook Now”

I understand that many on this forum value and use Slack. I’m not criticizing those who find it beneficial. :slightly_smiling_face:

When I implemented it with my senior team during the Covid pandemic, we discontinued its use fairly quickly. It seemed to result in more distractions than actual productivity boosts. This excerpt from a recent The Atlantic article describes accurately my experience even before the upgraded version was released.

All change is bad when you don’t think you need it. But this change felt distinctive because it laid bare a difficult fact: Office work is now more like social media than like office work.

The new Slack is not, in fact, “more focused.” It adds a dedicated “Activity” tab, which catalogs every user’s movement in your vicinity on the software, along with a numeral that counts them up: mentions, emoji reactions, replies, thread replies, app notices. These are tallied separately from notifications on the “Home” tab, which light up channels and DMs, and “Unreads,” a collection of every single post I have not yet seen but apparently ought to.

The overwhelm associated with contemporary white-collar work is legendary. Idleness was once the ultimate goal of the rich and powerful, but over time, even they would embrace workism. Being endlessly on call produces misery but also signals consequence. “How are things?” a colleague from another department asks in the workplace kitchen. “Oh, busy,” you say. The rat race is a source of meaning. Without you, the whole place would fall apart! (It wouldn’t.)

Technology has strengthened this illusion. The ring-ring-ring of an office, the ping-ping-ping of arriving emails, the ability to access those messages from home (or the train, or the toilet): All of these innovations converged on the same effect.


This tracks well with my experience using slack :grin:

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I have worked for teams that used Slack and teams that used Teams and I prefer Teams for workplace communications.

The groups that used Teams use Teams strictly as a work-collaboration tool. People that used Slack for work mixed legitimate business communications with water-cooler chitchat, which degraded the quality of both.

And I find the rising popularity of Discord to be frustrating. It’s just such a difficult application to use if your goal is to jump in and zero in on interesting discussions. It follows the YouTube/Facebook/Twitter business model of wanting to maximize the amount of time you use the app by precisely calibrating your levels of frustration to just below the point where you say the heck with it.


It’s such a problem that users are left to configure Slack on their own. It’s important in onboarding to make sure everyone knows

  • how to make groups
  • per/group and per channel notification and visibility settings
  • keyboard shortcuts
  • when acceptable to use here/channel notifications (if ever)
  • which channels (if any) actually have expectations to be available or respond quickly
  • to change the red badges to gray in the app :slight_smile:

Maybe there are enterprise Slack tools that can preconfigure some of this. I haven’t been exposed to them.

Anyway, I liked the article though I’d hoped it would be longer and more of a detailed critique. My main issue with Activity and Unread is those feeds don’t have loci like focused channels do. I think most users are better off long term putting the channels they care about into a folder and paging through each one of them.

I also see an opportunity to make Activity more useful. Now that all your Slack groups are hidden in favor of sidebar icons for the current group, there’s room to save shortcuts to emoji reactions only, threads only, etc. on the sidebar. (And saved searches, but I’m already asking for more than they’ll do.)

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Are people using Discord in work contexts? I’ve only ever used it in very casual themed or project based servers but there’s never been an attempt to be “productive” in them just have a place for conversations.

It’s perfectly fine for that but I’m curious why it seems to steadily be appearing recently in places with a lot of dislike.

We use Teams at work and it suffers from some of the same types of problems.

  1. Someone puts a thumbs up on a chat post. I can see that on the post and I can hover over it if I want to see who left it. But… Teams insists on adding a badge to the Activity icon. The only way to get rid of that badge is to click on Activity and click on the specific notification. Then of course, click back to the chat that I was monitoring.

  2. Someone posts in a channel. I get a badge on the channel and also a badge on Activities. Again… pointless distraction!

  3. One day, someone at Microsoft said “Hey, what if we could put everything in Teams?” And someone listened and responded “Yes!” It has become an unfocused mess.

I follow a podcast community in Discord and I assume none of them has ever used Slack. It’s a terrible experience for anything other than live participation and it’s annoying for that, too.

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I do not see people using Discord for work purposes—although I do see a couple of application communities using Discord, so I guess that’s a kind of work.

I participate in a few Discords for podcasts and newsletters I subscribe to. Or I try to.

Here in Discourse, it’s very easy to see if there are any updates to discussions I’m participating in or watching, and whether there are new discussions I might be interested in. In Discord, it’s tough to filter traffic in the same direction.

I saw the same thing on Slack, for the one work team I participated in that used Slack. People were posting memes, funny GIFs and birthday greetings in the same channels that contained important work information. Now, I love me some memes (anybody who follows me on social media knows that). But not in the same channels that are used for important work discussions.

The other problem with Slack is it’s not as searchable as email.

In general, email is underrated. One of its many virtues is you can use it EITHER as realtime communication or asynchronous.


Wow! I have never before heard of anyone who wanted an article in The Atlantic to be longer. :grinning: