Why should you NOT use Slack?

Hrishikesh Pardeshi

Hrishikesh Pardeshi

I think Slack is by far one of the most popular tools wrt remote working. I ran a quick query on our DB and saw that 56% of Remote Clan members are using Slack.

Slack is of course a great tool and we’ve been using it ourselves for 3+ years (and as the primary mode of communication in the last one year). However, I am curious to know what you think are not-so-great aspects of using Slack and the product itself.

Let me start with my experience -

  1. Slack is inherently a team chat app and it infuses a culture of constant interruptions. Having your notifications always on is almost never possible. In our team, we have formed a set of rules around notifications and when to expect replies but that’s still a workaround.

  2. We have to make peace with the fact that you will lose context when there’s a discussion that’s happened without you when you had snoozed notifications. It’s upto the person to read through previous messages and get up to speed. And honestly, the interface isn’t great to sift through the history of messages.

  3. It promotes short-form conversations by design. Many times, I have found myself brainstorming & sharing ideas on Slack in the middle of an ongoing conversation when I should ideally have given it more thought and instead shared a long, thoughtful response. Additionally, before we finish the chat, one of us has to summarize the conversation, get the go-ahead from other people and then put it up in a permanent place (Slite in our case).

Here's what our users had to say:

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Brendan(@brendan-33), Adam(@jointlyAI), Rhys(@rhys), Justin(@justin-465), Thiago(@thiagomonteiro-438), Kevin(@kevinjalbert-435), Frederick(@dinoscool3), Bojana(@bojana-94), Jean(@jean-47) - Would love to hear what you all have to say!"

  • Jean said "I do agree with the points you made, especially the interruptions and promotion of short form answers, however, in my opinion it’s all about defining the tools and use cases. Slack is great for short messages, brainstorm, sharing quickly and catching up, however, it shouldn’t be your only form of communication, Zoom for face to face interactions and email for thoughtful conversations."

  • Frederick said "Exactly. There is no all-in-one package (the closest is MS Teams, but that’s a whole other can of worms). Slack is a piece of a larger puzzle. It fills that piece well."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Agree with both of you here. I am also realising from the conversation on this thread that Slack is amazing but it needs to be used with a set of internal guidelines and with a specific use-case in mind. We ourselves do that in our team because we all still love Slack since it is an amazing way to quickly catch up with someone. I was however still hoping someone would suggest an alternative or a better workflow that avoids Slack altogether. Was just curious to see how that works out."

  • Chandra said "MS Teams is altogether in a different league. Slack and MS Teams are incomparable. It can do all what Slack can do. It’s integrations with other products are what makes it much more above the competition from slack."

  • Frederick said "That’s my point, MS Teams is the closest to an all-in-one remote tool package. There’s still issues with it though. Slack isn’t trying to be MS Teams, nor should it."

  • Matthew said "I would tend to agree - although - I think we at Wurkr.io have done a decent job at combining Slack and Zoo into one simple to use package Short Intro"

  • Brendan said "I’m not a heavy user, and for the exact reasons you cite. The interruption model isn’t productive, and I’ve no need for any additional sources of interruption. And I, too, find it difficult to have go back and reconstruct conversations . Primarily, we use it to catalog updated files and documents. Hardly the standard use case, I bet. Nice post. Thanks!"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Ah, got it. Makes sense. But do you use any alternative tool or is email the primary form of communication?"

  • Scott Dawson said "I’ve no need for any additional sources of interruption +1"

  • Brendan said "Email, Skype, text. Google Drive and MS OneCloud. Probably 80% email…"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Great, makes sense."

  • Justin said "We’re heavy users at my company - it’s an essential tool and has been so since Day 1. I do think message fatigue is real, particularly when you invite a lot of people to your company Slack. However, I’ve found, at least for me personally, that we’ve been able to establish an understanding that most communication on Slack should be treated as asynchronous. And if a subject is really urgent you should reach out to all relevant parties directly, via phone, DM or email. One thing we do to facilitate this is establish OKRs but on a shorter timeline, 1-2 months. If we all know what we’re respectively supposed to do, as well as the deadlines for these tasks, then the asynchronous communications can proceed a little bit smoother. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s something we make sure to make clear early on so no one gets super frustrated. Also, we demand an all-hands video calls using Google Meet at the beginning of each week so everyone gets at least a little face-to-face that definitely isn’t possible via just Slack."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Great points Justin. We have a similar understanding in our team as well and when I see a snooze icon against anyone, I know I shouldn’t expect a reply for the next 1-2 hours at least. I am curious though to understand if you see the ‘loss of context’ (after you come back online) as a legit problem and if you do anything to solve for it? P.S: @Borisov91 - would love to hear your experience with Slack as well. Forgot to tag you earlier :("

  • Boris Borisov said "For Slack messages, we say that the person should reply within 24 hours. Particularly because we have no fixed working hours, so people may be offline when other team members are online. Having no fixed working hours means async work process. Which is good for some types of companies, and bad for other types of companies. If something is urgent, which almost never happens - they should call on Whatsapp/Phone."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "That’s nice Boris. Also, with a 24-hr response time, it actually should work very well as an async tool itself."

  • Justin said "‘Loss of context’ can be a challenge, for sure. We also have team members from different parts of the world mostly working in English together so there’s that added challenge as well. I don’t think we’ve really solved this at the moment, if I’m honest. We also take a similar approach to you re: items we want to solidify in our work, work culture by “institutionalizing” them via a company Notion document. But in general, we really drive home the point that communication is key in order to avoid any confusion or mix-ups. Not the most efficient, but open to any other suggestions if you have any."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Right, makes sense Justin. Putting the discussion points on the company wiki and also dropping a summary on Slack works best for us now. But let’s see if we learn something more efficient from others :-)"

  • Boris Borisov said "In general, I love Slack. But the thing that I don’t like the most is - I don’t know if I’m interrupting the other person when I write to them. I try to not message people without a good reason, to not interrupt them. Which is not a great solution."

  • Ashley Thomas said "I don’t know if I’m interrupting the other person when I write to them. You spoke exactly what I had in mind here! This is always the case for me and I leave it entirely upto the receiver to decide if they should respond now or when they get free. Again, just a workaround and surely not the best solution."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Absolutely. I actually don’t like the entire status, notifications features in this regard - I feel it practically serves no purpose in a work setting. Even if I am active & online, I am not entirely free to just chat with people. So it never conveys my current status or response time so to say."

  • Cathy T said "Agree with you on this. But, I think there should be a solution that is not as intrusive as Slack, while also being synchronous. Have you come across any such tool?"

  • Boris Borisov said "If they just had a good way that I don’t get (1), pop-ups and sounds - it would be great as async tool. But I think they don’t have a good way of achieving that, unfortunately."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "That’s right. You can also set yourself ‘away’ forever and the popups won’t bother. But that’s not a nice hack. Plus the Slackbot keeps interrupting with the prompt that you’re messaging a user who has turned off notifications. Definitely not built with async in mind."

  • Mark Walter said "Right, Boris. I just came across Twist - an async chat app that is primarily focused on organizing work through topics and channels. I think this would be a perfect alternative to people wanting a less distractive communication tool."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Good point Cathy - I was hoping to see a suggestion myself in the discussion :)"

  • Chandra said "If you are looking for a corporate communication tool, then MS Teams is the best tool, which integrates with almost every other corporate solution you might be using."

  • Chandra said "2 best alternative to slack for corporate communications are MS Teams and Twist. I used both and both are kind of amazing. Twist misses call feature, but have every other thing you might ever need as a corporate communication tool."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "I am honestly quite surprised to know that MS Teams has such a variety of integrations. I did a quick search and found that it even integrates seamlessly with products like Mural. I wouldn’t have expected this from a MS product a few years back but times are surely changing! About Twist, it takes an entirely new approach (async first) and was built by the Doist team because they weren’t happy after using Slack for 2 yrs. I want to myself try out Twist (in our internal team that is) but never got the chance. Did you notice significant differences in using Slack and Twist? Where did you have a better experience?"

  • Brendan said "Has anyone tried Microsoft Teams? It comes with Office but I’ve had no need to test it out."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "@dinoscool3: I saw you have mentioned MS Teams in your reply, so checking to see if you tried it out or have prior experience using it?"

  • Frederick said "Yes, used it briefly earlier this year. It was what my old team was using when COVID stuck. Its a good tool, because it combines a lot of different features in one. But pricing can sometimes be an issue, the browser version is also very bad so including guests can be troublesome. A really good tool though."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Thanks for sharing this Frederick. How’s the speed/ performance? I have usually found MS products to be painfully slow and I am assuming the browser version would surely have poor speed."

  • Chandra said "We use it and it’s fabulous!"

  • Frederick said "I get what your saying, but there are a few things that make up for this, like the search function, mentions, and threads. The search is actually pretty powerful, and old messages can be starred so you can view them later. If you’re needed to see something when you’re offline, mentions will make sure you see it. Finally, you can view individual threads separately. This can make organization easier in the chat, and not flood the channels with too many messages."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Absolutely Frederick. I think all of the features you mentioned are great plus the ability to have channels is amazing. We have a number of channels in the team where only the relevant group of people are added and they can discuss the specifics quickly. We do however have to combine all of this with our permanent wiki (on Slite), otherwise most of our conversations would just remain chats."

  • Scott Dawson said "As I’m not a user at work, I find it difficult to get engaged with using it at home. I belong to a few Slack channels but I never prioritize going in there to check on it. It doesn’t help that I have notifications turned off, either … but the benefits of that far outweigh the drawbacks IMO."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Ah, if you don’t use it at work then you would hardly log onto Slack. Slack communities could be a reason but not so much unless they are really useful. What’s your primary tool at work for internal communication?"

  • Scott Dawson said "We used to use Skype for Business but now … Microsoft Teams!"

  • Kevin Simons said "We found that too often product-related discussions were happening in Slack. People who should have been in the discussions happened to be away, decisions were taken but not properly communicated, people felt like they had to have notifications on all the time for FMO. So when we built Kitemaker (https://kitemaker.co) we wanted to figure out how we could make sure those discussions were captured. For the first step, we decided that whenever a Kitemaker issue is referenced in Slack (e.g. "hey guys! I was just looking at ABC-123", we'll capture that Slack thread and link it in the issue in Kitemaker. That way if you're in the issue in Kitemaker, you can see if there have been discussions about it in Slack. No more FMO. For future versions, we're planning to: 1. Allow assignees of issues to get notified in Kitemaker if people are disussing their issue in Slack 2. Automatically have a 2-way sync between Kitemaker comments and Slack threads so that the conversation can be joined regardless of what tool you happen to be sitting in 3. Expand our search to cover these Slack conversations b/c Slack's search tends to be hopeless"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Interesting approach Kevin. But that would also mean that you use Slack as a permanent store of information (like a Wiki) and not just a chat tool. I am assuming this would also entail opting for the premium version to retain the full history of chat? I can clearly see the advantage here - the tool stack is significantly reduced. So now, you primarily only use Slack & Kitemaker. The features you've planned look great. It would be bring in really nice & tight integration between Slack & Kitemaker."

  • Kevin Simons said "We think more of Kitemaker as the permanent store that captures Slack messages as they pass so that you can always find relevant conversations related to the thing you're working on. So no more going back to say "where was that place where we were discussing that video feature". Just go to the work item (we've recently renamed issues to work items Kitemaker as described here) and you'll see the relevant Slack conversations. As far as paying for Slack - you of course won't be able to go back to slack and iteract with those old conversations if you haven't paid and they're beyond your 10K messages (or whatever the threshold is these days). So paying for slack would be advantageous but not required."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Nice - so I don't have to go back to Slack to read the relevant thread/conversation. I misread your earlier comment - I thought when you said capture & link, the work item on Kitemaker would just have a link to the Slack thread. Having the entire conversation captured on Kitemaker makes a lot of sense. Of course, then argument around having paid tier doesn't come in at all :)"

  • Raj Singh said "We use Slack but most of us have notifications off and we have set rules around it But the other thing we've done is office hours and use virtual office tools to allow more sync comms during that period - we've found this helpful in terms of having deeper convo flows, there are still some transparency issues but we are able to get a lot more things answered quickly vs sync/async Slack."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Hey Raj, That's a really interesting point. I would always imagine that you won't need a tool like Slack if you are using a virtual office. So it got me curious & I quickly read through your blog on Loop team vs. Slack. I am honestly surprised to know that your customers have both of them as part of their workflow - curious to know more on how this works out! Many of our customers use both Loop Team and Slack cohesively as part of their daily workflow, so much so that we have tightly integrated with Slack. I really liked this approach of working with Slack as well, as opposed to just being its competitor. P.S: To share more context for others, Raj is building a virtual office at Loop Team :)"

  • Kaustubh said "@Karthik - I've been using Slack for several years now. I started using it; because it was cool. Slack replaced Skype for our team. However, in my opinion; it's not at all a productivity booster. In fact, it affects team's productivity.  Slack is designed to give you a FOMO. If you don't check messages every few minutes; you'll lose an important message. At work; no one needs updates that frequently; unless you are brainstorming or discussing something.  My second big issue with Slack is that it doesn't give you a good UI for having 'threads'. IMHO, a structured discussion (like this one on Remote Clan) gives you a clear idea of what's being discussed and what points are being made. People too refrain from posting junk; when they are a part of an important discussion. Chats are okay; but only if they are time-limited like a meeting. A constant feed of updates only gives you headaches. 😕"

  • Karthik Sridharan said "Totally agree - I think the problem with Slack is that it’s being used outside what it was ever supposed to. People have project management chats, announcements, etc. too within Slack. This causes quite a bit of disarray. Given remote working has such a bright future, I wonder what the evolution of communication is going to be like."

  • Kaustubh said "I think it’ll be audio/video + threaded discussions - mostly in the form of old forums. Knowledge has to be organized; and it can’t be in the form of constant feed of updates. For example, if we’re to discuss something important related to a client or a project; it needs to reside in a separate discussion; and definitely not within a chat. I can then search for it by topic; and even bookmark it for reference. The big pain we experience with Slack is that if we want to refer to a specific discussion or solution; it’s impossible to do so because it got lost in the chat. Search still is ‘keywords’ based. Slack simply shows all the messages with keywords. Which is super useless."

  • Karthik Sridharan said "hmm, fair points and have faced those problems myself. Basically, we are suggesting documentation over conversations. However, I do think conversations have their place too, especially given that in a remote environment you hardly get to interact with anyone anyway. That's where the audio/video aspects that you have mentioned need to play a solid role. So, products which can facilitate this seamless switch in conversations and documentation would possibly solve the use case better."

  • Rick Lamb said "There are a lot of issues with Slack, at its best it can be a great tool bringing a real sense of teamwork, but misuse of Slack is rampant and it does little to encourage 'good' use. Some of the worst examples I can think of....i) Large org 400+ people 'general' chat channels. No purpose, low level activity, but the occasional important, sometimes urgent message. ii) Secret DM group chat overload, everything is communicated  in secret adhoc groups that forget half the team and make the public channels a wasteland. iii) DM:  "hi!" .....  iv) General massive overuse of individual DMs, being chatted by 10 people simultaneously who all think you are just talking to them. Slack I think almost works better for none work orgs, where nothing is super important and no-one is really waiting for an answer from any one individual. It also seems to work okay for small orgs of less than 15 people. The days before instant messaging when we did everything on a Forum feel like they were better."

  • Karthik Sridharan said "Hmm, quite a fair judgement. At Flexiple, we are still at the size threshold: 15-20 people. So, haven't experienced the serious downsides yet. How do you think people should solve this? Forums seems to lack a certain sense of personalisation."

  • Rick Lamb said "I think you've got to split groups and and have a 'stack' of tools for the different group sizes. At 15-20 people you've likely already hit the 'judas number' where many people start feeling like they aren't really central to the group.https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Group_Thresholds Below 10 people I like the virtual office type setups, unstructured text, audio or video chat. Maybe with office hours Participatory' groups max out around 60 people, which I think is a good max size for a working group forum. People shouldn't expect to participate in more than 2 or maybe 3 of these. Then to communicate with larger groups you want planned broadcasts possibly with moderated questions."

  • Karthik Sridharan said "Right - managing a stack of tools is, I think, an aspect of friction for me. Asking people to jump tools by context is quite tricky. I do see early signs of conversations becoming a bit more complex on Slack. We have currently solved that by using specific channels that have a sub-group, so that all conversations are always relevant to the channel it is posted on. But I can see that fracturing as well, as we grow bigger."

  • Will Mitchell said "We built Tangle to give remote workers back casual chat - which is what falls between the cracks of Zoom and Slack. In the office, conversations are fleeting rather than persistent. You can ask a stupid question and it'll die off, or heckle someone about their sports team when the mood is right. You also process ideas in sequence, and bring people in as needed. Probably the coolest part about Tangle is that you start and end conversations verbally (e.g. "Hey Karthik, you got a second?" ; "Talk to you later"), so you're using that natural barge-in, which is so much more comfortable for both parties than a notification or a 'ping'. Just to be clear, we're using speech/intent AI to channel conversations in real time, so that remote teams can operate like they're next to each other."

  • Karthik Sridharan said "Sounds quite cool, Will. Just curious - how comfortable are customers with the fact that Tangle has to process conversations to be able to channel them efficiently?"

  • Will Mitchell said "They can still click-to-talk, but they tend to use the verbal feature once they get the hang of it!"

  • Karthik Sridharan said "Sounds about right :)"