Hacker News

Traster said 4 days ago:

I thought this twitter thread would be a lot more about

>Network ops & infrastructure engineers deserve huge credit for 99.999% uptime through absolutely unprecedented growth. Folded hands

The company I work at are very busy because of the events of the last few weeks and a huge focus of that has been "Okay, we know these things can happen, the focus right now is to focus, follow our contignency plans and make sure everything just keeps working. No new features, no standard releases, stop everything non-essential and focus on making sure everything holds up".

bvandewalle said 4 days ago:

I have said this before but the way Slack is used today is most of the time a net negative of the modern workplace.

And I will agree that it's mainly because people use it badly but Slack encourages to use it as a dopamine fix contributing to an ever lower attention span in the workspace.

An IM tool is needed in the modern workspace but it should be seen as the last resort. A synchronous answer should not be expected. Instead, Slack has been pushed as the replacement of email and is being used as the single place where all the discussions are going on in real-time, making it extremely difficult to work on a complex task without taking the risk of missing an important decision/discussion.

I find it amazing that this tool is used unquestionably by every small/medium company without ever wondering if it really provides a productivity benefit.

erikbye said 4 days ago:

You seem stuck in the past and project your problems onto others. For many, IM and chat rooms do not cause productivity problems. Different companies use Slack and other tools in their own way, have their own policies as to what is expected and what not.

The client has enough options available you can set as you like as to not disturb you.

Email has its own problems. Sometimes you need answers to important questions promptly. @<user> works better then, at the same time, it is less intrusive than a phone call.

Also, it is work time, you have to expect to be on the ready, and answer people that needs something from you, so they can get their work done, too. It is not your leisure time.

Some people here talk about work like they think it is their own personal project time.

tduberne said 4 days ago:

> Also, it is work time, you have to expect to be on the ready, and answer people that needs something from you, so they can get their work done, too. It is not your leisure time.

I do not agree with that statement. In lots of roles, it does not matter whether you answer now or in one hour, but being constantly disrupted unexpectedly can have a dramatic impact on concentration and productivity. I cannot do any substantial programming or data analysis if I expect to be disrupted. The problem is not someone calling because the house is on fire and I am the only one who can fix it; the problem is someone screaming for my attention to e.g. know if I will participate in an event in 2 months time. Avoiding unnecessary disruptions is not letting people have leisure time, it is allowing them to do their work properly.

On that topic I really like that piece: http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html

ohduran said 4 days ago:

This, please. Why on earth EVERYONE is expected to be "on the ready" all the time? I understand it may be the case for some people but...not being on the ready means you're on your leisure time?

Somewhere along the road we failed to grasp the idea that some jobs require extreme doses of concentration, and being highly available is a counter to those jobs. Don't pretend that customer support and chess players have the same needs to excel at their jobs.

hinkley said 3 days ago:

I have a theory that certain job titles are amenable to people with poor boundaries. The first Pointy Haired Boss I encountered was a customer. Dumber than a post, his primary skill seemed to be in getting things he didn’t deserve.

Salespeople often worry far more about Face than Physics. If they told a customer something was easy, then you have to cobble something together quickly no matter what. Which means massive tech debt, huge time sinks, and later questions about why you guys are so slow now? That only stops when the engineers find solidarity, and agree to always say no.

icebraining said 4 days ago:

> I cannot do any substantial programming or data analysis if I expect to be disrupted.

Yet when you're in an office, you can always be interrupted by anyone coming up to you (and that's usually true even if you have your private office). That doesn't mean we don't reduce the actual number of interruptions. The same applies when working remotely.

nogabebop23 said 4 days ago:

>> Also, it is work time, you have to expect to be on the ready, and answer people that needs something from you,

I don't want anyone who's job requires deep, introspective thought on big problems to be constanly distracted by a flashing toast that's probably a non-time sensitive, low-effort inquiry or worse.

This applies to my newest junior developer trying to learn a big, hairy code base, our senior product manager working through plans for the rest of the year, the CFO figuring out how we can afford to keep everyone employed or the vast majority of positions outside of those explicitly focused on inbound communication. If you work on the help desk, inbound marketing, tech support or sales, sure a big part of your responsibility is responsive communication. For most other roles responsive does not mean immediate or even really, really soon.

leetcrew said 4 days ago:

I can definitely appreciate how distracting it is to get nagged on slack. unless it's a manager, I will usually take at least 20-30 minutes to respond. this tends to cut down on a lot of the lazy questions. people figure out that if it only takes twenty minutes to solve their problem, they may as well just do it instead of waiting the same amount of time for a response.

most questions I get are genuine coordination problems that need to be resolved. "hey, I see you have x file checked out. I also need to make some changes. should I wait for you to submit or will it merge cleanly?" answering this kind of stuff promptly saves everyone a lot of headache in the long run.

there are also questions about code that you are much more familiar with than the other person. it might cost you an hour to get back into "deep work" mode, but you save that person a day or more of floundering around and possibly messing things up (that you will have to fix later).

I'm not making any assumptions about you personally, but I find that many people who complain a lot about distractions really just don't like working with other people. this is fine, but it means you should probably be in a role where other people depend less on your knowledge and/or using your interfaces.

res0nat0r said 4 days ago:

That's exactly what the Pause Notifications for 30m/1/2/4h/until tomororow/next week dropdown is for.

erikbye said 4 days ago:

> I don't want anyone who's job requires deep, introspective thought on big problems to be constanly distracted by a flashing toast that's probably a non-time sensitive, low-effort inquiry or worse.

Who says he needs to? Your company should have communication policies. They should decide which channels/rooms your junior should join. He's a junior, it is likely no one will urgently need an answer from him for some time, so his settings can reflect that. He does not even need a visible/audible notification for that @-message, he can answer when he feels like it.

Also, your last paragraph make it sound like the people in those roles cannot handle their job responsibilities AND a couple of disturbances.

growse said 4 days ago:

> Email has its own problems. Sometimes you need answers to important questions promptly. @<user> works better then, at the same time, it is less intrusive than a phone call.

I think this is a useful way of looking at it - the medium governs the expectation of response. An email basically never expects a response, an "@" in slack expects a response at some point, and a phone call is "I AM MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING YOU MIGHT BE DOING RIGHT NOW TALK TO ME". Slack etc. are obviously useful in filling the middle ground between the two extremes.

> Also, it is work time, you have to expect to be on the ready, and answer people that needs something from you, so they can get their work done, too.

I sort of disagree with this. Being expected to drop everything that you're doing and deal with whoever wants to engage with you at any point is a really bad pattern. If someone's got to the point where they're blocked on a single person responding to something, then that's a really bad smell for some process and organisational failings.

People should be able to own and manage their time. That doesn't mean they get to close themselves off from the world and ignore everyone, but it also doesn't make them an on-demand slave to their colleagues.

protomyth said 4 days ago:

An email basically never expects a response

This might be a SV thing, because I can assure you that many, many e-mails require a response elsewhere including government. Failure to respond to some emails will result in a loss of funding or your job.

bovermyer said 4 days ago:

That first sentence feels a bit like an ad hominem attack to me. There's no call for that here.

Slack, Teams, Mattermost, or any other real time chat application cannot replace email because they are different types of tools. They solve different problem sets, even if they overlap a bit.

I fall into the camp of people who believes that multitasking is bullshit and true productivity is only possible given long stretches of uninterrupted focus time. If someone needs something from me, they should talk to my scrum master or manager - that person will be best positioned to know the ideal time to interrupt me and get new work into my flow.

Work time doesn't mean anyone is allowed to interrupt anyone else whenever they want. Work is like a fluid, and its flow must be managed, or the plumbing is going to get stopped up or even burst.

erikbye said 4 days ago:

> That first sentence feels a bit like an ad hominem attack to me. There's no call for that here.

I meant stuck in the past as in unwilling to move beyond email for primary communication, and that second part of the sentence as in not being able to see that his problems with IM might not be others'.

PragmaticPulp said 4 days ago:

> Also, it is work time, you have to expect to be on the ready, and answer people that needs something from you, so they can get their work done, too. It is not your leisure time.

You're lucky that you've only worked at companies with healthy cultures around interruptions and respecting people's time. This is not true for many of us.

Scheduling a meeting requires some minimal preparation and coordination with other people's schedules. Sending an e-mail is implicitly asynchronous, with an expectation that the receive will make a a best-effort attempt to answer it as quickly as possible, once they finish their current task.

Slack private messages, name tags, and @channel/@here notifications have all of the immediacy of a phone call, but with minimal effort required by the person triggering the interruption. The power balance is asymmetrically tipped toward the interrupters.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_squeaky_wheel_gets_the_gre... ) and Slack is a power tool for squeaky wheels to be as loud as possible.

barrkel said 4 days ago:

> Also, it is work time, you have to expect to be on the ready, and answer people that needs something from you, so they can get their work done, too. It is not your leisure time.

This is excruciatingly entitled logic from the requester. Do you honestly think your coworkers are all taking leisure time if they don't respond instantly to your requests? Does everyone on your slack exist to answer at your beck and call?

erikbye said 4 days ago:

I am the answerer as much as the requester. Either way, it is not entitled to expect helpfulness from your professional colleagues.

hinkley said 3 days ago:

For most people. Covid-19 won’t be a problem. Just because something isn’t a problem for the majority doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. Even a huge one.

And I can speak from vast experience: it feels great to help people, and can win you friends and in some cases referrals, but at the end of the year, it’s a crap shoot whether your boss will commend you or vilify you. Most are going to notice the things you didn’t get done, not the things you facilitated. When facilitators get laid off, office morale tanks, but they are still laid off.

The number of times I get interrupted for a question while I’m right in the cusp of unraveling some hidden truth about our code or a bug is nuts. It’s easy to get nerd sniped, especially if the other person is talking about breaking something they don’t understand.

(Personally, I think your most knowledgeable people should only be booked for like 25 hours a week and the rest of their time earmarked for consultation, but nobody above me in the org chart ever agrees)

HeyLaughingBoy said 3 days ago:

> I think your most knowledgeable people should only be booked for like 25 hours a week and the rest of their time earmarked for consultation

My last job had a lot of problems, but this was one of the things they did well. They realized that the most senior people were more valuable helping others (even others in other departments) than slinging code all day.

I wish more organizations recognized that. [sigh]

cxr said 4 days ago:

> Also, it is work time, you have to expect to be on the ready, and answer people that needs something from you, so they can get their work done, too. It is not your leisure time.

Oh man, the amount of presumptuousness packed into this comment is obnoxious.

krrrh said 4 days ago:

It really just reads like someone whose roles have been more focused on a series of time-critical tasks rather than deep work which requires uninterrupted focus. A bit of a lack of experience, or imagination.

erikbye said 4 days ago:

I think you are misinterpreting. Besides, it goes way. Where I work, and I will take a guess and say it is like that most places, sometimes people need an answer promptly (might not be life or death, but sometimes, in my line of work, it can be), from me, from others. If that is the case, I think an @-interruption is appropriate.

swat535 said 4 days ago:

Oh I see. I love the double standard of HN. When the discussion is about remote where you can have complete focus alone everyone is suddenly up in arms about constant collaboration and communication along with endless churn of in person meetings and water cooler conversations for socialization; yet when we discuss a tool which you literally put on dnd then it suddenly prevents you from working.. not the endless office chatter. Clearly people just wanna appear to work by going to the office. Oh and to everyone who is suggesting we should use email, you clearly haven’t experienced work email spam, just ask the attorney next door and you’ll grasp it . It ain’t better than slack. At least you get to dnd with slack.

72deluxe said 4 days ago:

I strongly disagree with this. It is impossible to work on a task and engage in concentration to solve an issue with constant interruptions. If you're only doing negligible pithy "problems" then it's fine but for difficult problems you absolutely need to be able to concentrate. Here's some other real-life examples where concentration is important:

a. A library. There's a reason it's quiet and not in the middle of a market.

b. A car. There's a reason using a mobile phone whilst driving is illegal.

c. Exams. There's a reason they don't do exams in the middle of a PE lesson.

d. Cubicles or offices. There's a reason they were invented for developers to work in. Open-plan offices are the worst. IM seems to be bypassing this "cubicle" design and still expecting the same type of output, which is impossible.

Of course, if you're right that we're "stuck in the past" I expect to see all of these scenarios transform into loud, noisy affairs with constant interruptions. Obviously you feel they will?

Some people feel that asking and answering questions is the same as "work" and I worked in a place where there were many teams engaged in generating this "work", but for the developers in the company nothing was worse than constant interruptions. Some people just didn't get it. One guy even bought ear defenders and we'd go "do not disturb" on Skype because else nothing would get done and there would be complaints from these "noisy" types that work wasn't being finished in a timely manner...... ironically they were completely oblivious to the fact that they were the ones slowing down work by asking "is it done?" "how are you doing?" "can I confirm what you're doing?" every 5 minutes. To concentrate, you need no interruptions.

On my Slack channels, I get some questions about work (that then typically involve them ringing me anyway even if I answer in text, very irritating) or people posting dumb articles or memes rofl lol garbage.

zarkov99 said 3 days ago:

You seem to believe that one person's desire for prompt information is more important than another's think time. That is only true in rare cases.

davedx said 4 days ago:

Our team has become more productive since the switch to fully remote, and we use Slack all the time to facilitate our communications.

Pro tip: set your notification settings to silent by default. I occasionally turn on notifications for our automated system alerting Slack channel, usually when I'm not actually at my computer.

One thing I do think we do as Slack users is rely on it too much as a general information dump: even with the history, stuff gets lost. Slack is no replacement for wikis or other more static information repositories, make sure you extract valuable knowledge out and put it somewhere more suitable (and findable).

PragmaticPulp said 4 days ago:

> we use Slack all the time to facilitate our communications.

> Pro tip: set your notification settings to silent by default.

You're lucky that your company lets you treat Slack like an asynchronous e-mail inbox with multiple channels. If you have the luxury of ignoring Slack notifications until you're ready to respond, you're in a good place.

But your company isn't using Slack the normal way. The implicit expectation is that Slack is an instant messenger, and that you're expected to reply right now. That's why the default settings lean toward aggressive notifications, and that's why you need to take extra steps to turn them off.

Slack has been a powerful tool for remote work and distributed teams, but it's also an interruption factory by default. Before I left my last company, I routinely had 300-500 notification pop-ups per day as people shifted toward DMs and managers started abusing @channel to rise above the noise and get their answers ASAP.

davedx said 4 days ago:

So there are organisational differences, okay, fine. That isn't Slack's fault?

What kind of company says you have to enable notifications? That's some serious micromanagement going on. I'm sorry to hear you had to endure that.

mmcnl said 3 days ago:

I cannot imagine a company dictating your Slack habits. If that happens, there is something else entirely at fault and Slack is not the problem. I see Slack receiving the same type of criticism agile work methods get, they all boil down to the same type of commentary: higher management using all the tools available to micromanage the workforce for personal gains. Any tool can be misused and that most of the time is not a problem with the tool itself.

jonfw said 4 days ago:

That's not an issue with the tool, that's an issue with people's usage of it.

The company could just as easily expect you to be reachable by phone or email at all times.

Brakenshire said 4 days ago:

Is Slack extensible for an async mention/message? I know as the user you can change the notification settings for different channels, but can the sender explicitly state this message is not vital/immediate?

simonw said 4 days ago:

Create channels that are explicitly described as being for non-immediate communications and get your team to use those for that kind of conversation.

I try to create a culture where most channels are like that, and only a few channels have an expectation of urgent / immediate replies. Then I turn on notifications for all messages in those channels.

dkdk8283 said 4 days ago:

Not that I’ve found, and even in DnD the favicon updates making you realize someone is waiting.

I hate Slack.

pixelrevision said 4 days ago:

It’s pretty typical of the manager/employee tool adoption cycle. Slack is 100% a net positive if your job description requires you monitor multiple things to make sure they are all ok and resolve issues in a timely manner. As usual people with this job description often get to pick the tools used and don’t see why it’s not “so fun” for their employees to keep up with the firehose they’ve inserted in their computer/phone.

ido said 4 days ago:

You can easily mute channels you're not interested in or are too high traffic tho? I usually mute most channels except for a handful I use for my current project/team. And when I need to concentrate I put slack itself in "do not disturb" mode (usually a couple times per day but not for very long each).

Also make heavy use of threads and starting new channels to keep from having a handful of "general" channels that are both high traffic and containing a lot of important info.

gowld said 4 days ago:

It's not managers spamming slack channels. It's people discussing issues.

tduberne said 4 days ago:

On that topic, I really like David Allen's "hierarchy of communication channels" (name is mine) in Getting Things Done. He says that when you need to discuss something with someone, you should consider the following communication channels, in that order:

- e-mail

- leave hand written note on desk/in pigeon hole

- send IM/text message.

- put topic on a "list of things to discuss i next meeting"

- phone call/face to face

You should choose the first that fits the urgency of the situation. The idea being to maximize trackability and minimize disruptions. In the current Slack culture, I actually put IM just before phone call, given the expectation of quick answer most people have.

kristianc said 4 days ago:

Do you think there might be a problem with leaning on a book that is nearly 20 years old when you are talking about communication in the modern workplace?

If someone left a hand-written note on my desk I would today put it in the same category as ‘venomous passive aggressive notes on the fridge’. It seems like possibly the least effective way to get someone to do something.

tduberne said 4 days ago:

There might be a problem in taking it too literally, but I think the underlying concept is very current, and maybe even more important than when the book was written: as much as possible, favor keeping a written trace and avoid disruptions to others.

To the written note: I think that really depends on workplace culture and communication content. I see it as e-mail for printed documents. For instance, in my workplace, it is quite common to exchange printouts of scientific articles that way, with a post it "you might find this interesting".

krrrh said 4 days ago:

> - put topic on a "list of things to discuss i next meeting"

This single habit probably takes care of 80% of the issues people have in this thread. I almost wish Slack encouraged you to elevate DM drafts to a not urgent but important status to short-circuit the interruption pattern. Then you could review this stack as a mini-agenda and batch conversation topics when appropriate.

mehrdadn said 4 days ago:

I'd probably put "ask them face-to-face during lunchtime" first. Email feels like quite a heavy cannon for many things.

maccard said 4 days ago:

> "ask them face-to-face during lunchtime"

Please, please, please don't do this. A lunch break should be a break, not a meeting while eating. Even if you don't mind working throuhg your lunch, others might.

empath75 said 4 days ago:

I think slack’s secret sauce isn’t actually the day to day team work stuff but the cross team communication and fun aspects of it. I’m on a slack team at work that has 50k people in it spread across 5 cities and sometimes multiple offices in each city. There are topics to talk about almost anything you’re interested in from board games to parenting to woodworking to whatever. I think it makes the whole company feel connected to each other as people in a way that email or face to face meetings or phone conversations or regular instant messenger could never accomplish.

And that ability to make spontaneous connections extends to business related topics as well — I spent about an hour just randomly helping someone on a team that I knew only from slack design a kubernetes deployment and took a project from struggling to get off the ground to going full speed ahead. I switched to a machine learning team here despite having zero work experience doing machine learning because I spend time in the machine learning channel and demonstrated that I had interest and knowledge of the topic.

It works _because_ it’s fun and distracting, not in spite of that, imo.

My actual team never uses it because we’re all sitting next to each other, usually, and our support channel is only ever manned by the engineer on call. It’s all the so-called non-productive uses that make it great.

nogabebop23 said 4 days ago:

>> 50k people in it spread across 5 cities ... I think it makes the whole company feel connected to each other

It may help make you feel this way, but what type of connection can you have with superfulous interaction in such a large population?

Maybe you mean it helped you identify very small, niche subsets with which you have subsequently built a relationship? That makes more sense, but I'm highly akeptical that even those relationships are built in an IM network, more likely triggered by...

You side-band, async focus is not how the vast majority of organizations use slack. They explicitly adopt it as the required (i.e. everyone participates) tool for immediate, synchronous communication.

morganvachon said 4 days ago:

We (small business with 7 employees at desks and another 5 on the floor) use it exactly the way you suggest. As the sole IT staff, I get the most messages from the other employees, and send out the most, with the company president close behind me. Two online sales staff, the lead shipping clerk, and the physical store manager follow from there. The warehouse manager doesn't bother with it, and the CFO detests the idea of it (she's also one of the oldest team members at 49).

Most communication is by email, SMS/iMessage, face to face (though we are reducing that due to current concerns), 2-way radio, and phone, in that order. Slack is mainly for sharing the odd file or link, or for staff to reach me for computer related issues that require me to see something rather than hear it (screenshot, etc). We could go with any other messaging service, and before Slack we used Skype, but Slack at our level is free, easy, and runs on all platforms we use.

The idea of it "replacing" email, phone, and radio comms is ludicrous to us. I can't imagine how it can work that way in larger organizations.

jonfw said 4 days ago:

My team of 200 people's sole form of communication is in slack. The only emails we get are calendar invites to meetings.

I genuinely don't understand the problem with that. Slack is great- it's synchronous when you want it to be, and it's asynchronous when somebody is busy. It's easy to search through stuff, and since all of the other teams in my company use it, I can reach out to anybody in the company at any time.

montagg said 4 days ago:

No tool is going to do the job of establishing boundaries with your team members so you can do your best work. You decide that.

Any tool can be positive or negative depending on its use and context. I do deep work and have no problem using Slack because my team talks about how we can use it best, and we use it that way.

helij said 3 days ago:

I moved from a job with Slack to a job without Slack. Finding myself more productive. Some people use Slack but since I saw on the first day that it is not the main medium for comms I now outright refuse to use it anytime anyone mentions it. Nobody seems bothered and email, phone and in person is prefered. And we all (15 employees) regularly worked from home even before this situation.

brundolf said 3 days ago:

> making it extremely difficult to work on a complex task without taking the risk of missing an important decision/discussion

Is this any less true for any other digital communication medium?

If the issue is things getting lost in the chat history, typically in my experience important discussions that we want to preserve will happen in a different place; comments on tickets or PRs, google doc annotations, etc. Slack is a "scratch pad" for discussion.

Waterluvian said 4 days ago:

To each their opinion but I work remote, which is so modern and logical and amazing that I vow never to take a non-remote job again. Slack is critical to my job.

golergka said 3 days ago:

It really depends on the culture. When I write code, I close all chat apps, and check them for notifications every 2-4 hours. Everyone who works with me knows it and understands the reasons behind it. They have my phone number in a case of a real emergency.

You're in charge of your own productivity and your own work patterns. Train your coworkers to respect them.

crocal said 4 days ago:

I think you answered your own question with the ´Dopamine’ comment. Slack clearly has an addictive game effect on its users. And since it pleases the crowd and has no visible downside, it’s tempting for busy small/medium business owner to just let it sail initially.

jasode said 4 days ago:

>, Slack has been pushed as the replacement of email [...]

Yes, I empathize your perspective which is very common common among people who want to concentrate without interruptions. Donald Knuth is an extreme example of not wanting to be interrupted -- not even with async email.[1]

However your cause & effect of why chat/Slack is popular is not correct.

Chat apps are more of a replacement for walking up to a coworker's cubicle or desk and interrupting them face-to-face.

>[...] without ever wondering if it really provides a productivity benefit.

It's a productivity benefit to the people who are doing the interrupting. We don't work in an office full of "Donald Knuths" who don't want to bother each other. Because the interrupters outnumber the deep thinkers, that's why a chat tool like AIM/YahooMessenger/Skype/Whatsapp/Slack/etc dominates.

I previously mentioned how early Facebook programmers chatted on instant messaging (AOL AIM ~9 years before Slack) even though they sat next to each other.[2] Their behavior is not replacing "email". They are replacing "realtime speech" without making verbal sounds.

If one doesn't understand that, you'll always be mystified why email isn't used in place of instant messaging!

Email is less ergonomic than chat. Email has extra friction of entering a "subject:" line before the body of the text. Chat doesn't need a subject line because the chat room is already the implied subject. Email also has extra friction of hitting "reply" button instead of just typing. Email is oriented around the "inbox". Chat is oriented around people who are actively online.

Likewise, when my mom texts me an SMS on my smartphone, she isn't replacing email. She's replacing a phone call.

[1] do a mental search & replace :

...on this excerpt from https://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~knuth/email.html: >Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible concentration. I try to learn certain areas of computer science exhaustively; then I try to digest that knowledge into a form that is accessible to people who don't have time for such study.

>On the other hand, I need to communicate with thousands of people all over the world as I write my books. I also want to be responsive to the people who read those books and have questions or comments. My goal is to do this communication efficiently, in batch mode --- like, one day every six months. So if you want to write to me about any topic, please use good ol' snail mail and send a letter

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18321783

Kiro said 4 days ago:

That trope was old before but is even more irrelevant in these turbulent times when people are forced to work from home. What are you suggesting as an alternative?

bvandewalle said 4 days ago:

I disagree, Slack became the online equivalent of "butts in seats" and in those turbulent times it has more potential than ever to be wrongly used.

I think it's partially the company culture that should make it clear that no substantial discussion or decisions should be made on the IM tool (Slack or something else). The issue is that Slack (the product) goes against creating such a culture.

Email is still a way better tool for long complex asynchronous opinionated discussions.

What I find the most damaging is the expectation that you should always be online watching all your channels in order to not miss some bit of information (or show that you are online, busy, doing work).

closeparen said 4 days ago:

>Email is still a way better tool for long complex asynchronous opinionated discussions.

Every experienced and/or powerful person I've worked with felt and preached exactly the opposite: whatever happens, absolutely do not ever have a complex conversation over email. Pick up a phone, schedule a meeting, walk over to them, just make the decision unilaterally, literally anything else.

pilsetnieks said 4 days ago:

> What I find the most damaging is the expectation that you should always be online watching all your channels in order to not miss some bit of information (or show that you are online, busy, doing work).

That sounds either like toxic work culture or maybe the way slack is used in your company has created assumptions that may not be entirely warranted.

Where I work, there is no such expectation. If it's something urgent, people use @-messages so the recipient gets a notification, with reasonable care not to abuse them. If it's anything else, it's normal messages which can be read when convenient. Some, including me, turn off Slack entirely when diving deep into some task but I still get phone notifications for @-messages and a couple of keywords I've set up for urgent matters. If people appreciate each others time and attention, it's actually a fairly pleasant tool to use. We're not a large team, though, maybe it's different in larger orgs.

Alex3917 said 4 days ago:

> Email is still a way better tool for long complex asynchronous opinionated discussions.

Yup. Every time you have a product discussion in Slack, it’s like taking a $100 bill and lighting it on fire.

op03 said 4 days ago:

While I share some of your feelings about IM at work I have learnt it depends on the personalities within the team.

Extroverts and Introverts have different needs. Throw in the needs of Creatives or Agreeable people into the mix and there is a very wide spectrum of different needs.

Assuming all can communicate one way with one tool is a bad idea. Good managers/leaders have some intuitive sense of this.

Especially during crisis. Trait differences and unmet needs get amplified if not handled sensitively.

So whatever heuristics you want to develop on top of your observations - take personalities within your team into account - they all handle stress/info overload differently - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revised_NEO_Personality_Invent...

mlindner said 4 days ago:

I never used email growing up. Real time chat has always been a much more effective method of communication. Email just causes confusion as people misinterpret questions and then write long-winded answers to the question that they misunderstood resulting in a waste of time for both parties. Iterative back and forth communication is key to figuring out an issue. Email does not work.

Email needs to die.

sdoering said 4 days ago:

Email is the most efficient way to communicate if one can communicate clearly. It is a way straight to hell if one can't. It is a tool. It can be used. Or abused.

jessaustin said 4 days ago:

People who don't read comfortably don't like email. (They also don't like closed captioning.) We can't organize the workplace around their preferences, however.

ulisesrmzroche said 4 days ago:

Steven King wrote Carrie in his dining room while he was a schoolteacher and also raising Toddlers.

I personally suffer from neck pain because I can do deep work. A distraction (my dog) is put in place to shake me from deep work and force rest.

If you’re getting easily distracted by your messages, you’re not doing deep work. This is why you’re so easily distracted.

SkyBelow said 4 days ago:

>If you’re getting easily distracted by your messages, you’re not doing deep work.

What about the possibility in differences in how attention works between people. In an extreme case you would have ADD/ADHD, but in less extreme cases you can have people who are broken out of deep work much easier than others. It can also be highly situational.

For example, I can ignore most noises when reading an interesting book, but I cannot ignore noises from a TV, especially advertisement. So I've had to start wearing headphones and playing songs (which I can ignore) when I want to read while located in a room with someone watching TV.

ulisesrmzroche said 3 days ago:

I actually do have extreme ADHD, latest test was a couple years ago but I take one every time I go to a new doctor.

I think that is what allows me to focus so intensely that I wind up with a stiff neck and shoulder pain. Hours pass by and you barely noticed. You only notice the neck pain when you’re not doing deep work.

You can’t break out of deep work easily. Even if it’s self destructive.

If you really are getting distracted you’re not doing deep work. Another example, Basquiat painted with music on, the news on, people visiting, didn’t matter. He was doing deep work.

It’s like playing music. When you’re in the zone, time flies by and you don’t get distracted.

Notice how both of your examples your not doing any creative work. You’re reading for fun.

thanatos_dem said 3 days ago:

That’s not realistic if you ever go on call. When you’re responsible for the uptime of a service and people’s first line of contact for issues is a slack message, you need to always have it be in a state to interrupt you.

Your personal website is down, btw.

ulisesrmzroche said 3 days ago:

It’s been down for years. No one cares. I don’t either. You can judge my linked in if you want.

On call work is not deep work. Fixing a bug may be, but you’re not doing deep work simply by being alert.

I am responsible for the uptime of a ton of big apps. If I’m in deep work, I miss all those slack messages. It’s the nature of intense focus to have tunnel vision.

anoncake said 4 days ago:

> If you’re getting easily distracted by your messages, you’re not doing deep work. This is why you’re so easily distracted.

Psychology is an entire academic discipline. You can't just extrapolate from your own introspection to everyone else.

qchris said 3 days ago:

I'm against the generalization of anecdotal evidence as much as, if not more, than the next guy, but their point about distractions like message alerts is doesn't seem like a controversial stance to me.

That statement is in line with essentially every piece I've ever read over the years on deep work, and I'm not sure why you seem to feel they are only extrapolating from introspection.

staticautomatic said 3 days ago:

In any event the statement is tautological.

ulisesrmzroche said 3 days ago:

But the parent comment is ok because it conforms with the hive mind, right? No need to provide proof in that case

jypepin said 4 days ago:

also, if you need to do deepwork, instead of complaining that slack prevents you from it, just close it! You can re-open it once you are done doing your deep work, and your messages and notifications will still be here.

oauea said 4 days ago:

or just enable do not disturb mode, that's what the big alarm bell looking button is for

mattm said 4 days ago:

Or "/dnd XXmin" from the input bar in any channel

ulisesrmzroche said 3 days ago:

Slack shouldn’t prevent anyone from doing deep work because deep work is by nature like horse blinders.

The problem is taking breaks. That’s why most of us got bad posture and body aches and carpal

dang said 3 days ago:

Vico described writing his Scienza Nuova in his kitchen "while discussing with his friends amid the uproar of his children".

(Or so I remember. I can't seem to find the original source.)

gowld said 4 days ago:

Did he write at school or while feeding the kid, or after bedtime?

fxbois said 4 days ago:

It is a real opportunity missed for google. Slack/Teams is the current heart of company activities all over the world and Google only provides tens of similar chat tools. They should really communicate about this.

pfranz said 4 days ago:

Google is so big I'm sure they had their own ups and downs. I see so many school districts doubling down on Google Classroom--the district may have used it previously, but were now adding accounts for Kindergarteners.

While Google usage is way up, ad buys dropped like a rock.

ian0 said 4 days ago:

Can confirm classroom is seeing huge adoption in SEA too

vowelless said 4 days ago:

Have you tried Hangouts lately? Google needs to kill that whole product line.

moooo99 said 4 days ago:

I never understood how a company like Google constantly tries to build a decent chat app but never succeeds. They have so much software developers, they own the biggest ad-network worldwide and the majority of mobile phones runs their operating system with their appstore and default apps. They are the biggest email provider as well iirc.

How can you fail so miserably with building a chat app when you're in such a starting position?!

Cthulhu_ said 4 days ago:

> They have so much software developers

That answers your question TBH; I'm sure that every week, a team in Google goes "Let's use our 20% time to make a NEW chat app, only better!", and every year or so, one of those experiments makes it to the board who goes "Yeah this is the best thing ever, let's kill <yesterday's chat app> in favor of this!"

I feel like it's down to a lack of focus as a company on the one side, and too much of a shift in focus on the other.

What they should do (IMO) is to capitalize on that shift from Google to Alphabet and create a sub-company dedicated to chat, instead of leaving it to whatever organizational structure Google itself has. Make it their primary reason for existing instead of "a project a team within Google happens to be working on at the moment"

(caveat: this is based entirely on a very superficial view of Google and how things are organized internally. I'm sure there's a whole floor or building dedicated to one project. Probably not Hangouts though, that product is 'done' and all they do now is keeping it alive, maybe some support for paying customers)

jlokier said 4 days ago:

What do Googlers themselves use for company chat?

gregmac said 4 days ago:

One thing I found quite striking was that they started allowing "optional WFH". Slack, which not only makes one of the main tools used to enable distributed work, but the most popular one, didn't allow remote work??

It'll be interesting to see what changes come as they start eating their own dog food.

Niksko said 4 days ago:

I'm sure WFH is allowed. However in companies I've worked for, it's usually expected that you're in the office most of the time, and that if you want to WFH it's either ad-hoc (package being delivered, home repairs, doctors appointment) or it's some scheduled day (eg. our team works from home every Wednesday, or Sally works from home on Thursdays).

The optional here is probably just allowing for individual freedom. My company also had 'optional' WFH, then 'recommended' WFH, followed by total office shutdown on Tuesday.

I'm not sure you could attract top tier tech talent if you forbade working from home. It's a perk that I really enjoy because it's very convenient, and if I don't feel like going in to the office for whatever reason I don't have to. If I interviewed at a company that forbade working from home (or had very strict rules around it) I'd have to really think twice about whether I would work there. To me, it speaks to a culture of valuing employees based on whether they're merely seen to be working, rather than their actual work output.

tablethnuser said 4 days ago:

Slack is surprisingly anti remote work. They only offer it to incredibly senior roles. Everyone else has to jump through hoops and get approvals from many layers of middle management - it's one of those ask Mom / ask Dad policies that's designed to make sure no one gets an answer.

EForEndeavour said 4 days ago:

Genuinely curious: what's your source for this claim? Are you a current or former employee, or did you hear this from one? If so, what position(s)?

asah said 4 days ago:

confirmed with friend who works there in middle mgmt...

iEchoic said 4 days ago:

I'm also curious about this. As a data point: we're fully remote and are in a similar product space @ Guilded (http://www.guilded.gg). One of our best early decisions was to use our product exclusively for all of our work communication.

For us, this degree of dogfooding - which is really only possible at a fully-remote company - has been directly responsible for too many features and improvements to count. There's no better way to develop empathy for your users and a deep care for your products than to have your entire team rely on them for their most critical communications every single day.

Not all companies build products that facilitate remote collaboration, but I think that remote work presents some unique opportunities for those that do.

ec109685 said 4 days ago:

Most companies aren’t fully remote, so dogfooding the common use of Slack seems smart, where it is still a useful tool even if you are slacking someone 5 feet away.

ascorbic said 4 days ago:

This is very true. I recently moved from a mostly on-site company, where I thought we used Slack a lot, to a globally-distributed, fully-remote one where Slack is the primary form of communication. We use it very differently, as the volume is far higher and we have to deal with timezones. e.g. in my previous job, I found threads annoying and rarely used them as I found they meant messages got lost. In my new one it's a faux pas to not use threads except for in very low-volume channels, because otherwise its tough for people to catch up on channels.

iEchoic said 4 days ago:

Yeah, that's an interesting point as well. Our product is for gamers, who are usually "remote" (if you can call it that), but Slack may trend towards over-fitting to highly-engaged, fully remote work if they were to do this.

sneak said 4 days ago:

I was more surprised to see a major CEO hanging out with friends in a restaurant after the pandemic was declared. I’d been in isolation half a week by that point, and was wondering what “the masses” were still doing going out.

I’m astounded to see that smart people were still out socializing by then.

SuoDuanDao said 4 days ago:

I think startup CEOs in general have a different risk tolerance from other smart people...

Jgrubb said 4 days ago:

I have to assume they also have access to health care that most of us (Americans) can't imagine.

RHSeeger said 4 days ago:

And, if the only people they were putting at risk by being out and about was themselves, that would be fine. But that's not the case.

keiferski said 4 days ago:

"Sell shovels, don't dig for gold."

said 4 days ago:
OJFord said 4 days ago:

From one of the tweets:

> In some senses, we were made for this. Slack’s not specifically a “work from home” tool; it’s more of a “create organizational agility” tool. But an all-at-once transition to remote work creates a lot of demand for organizational agility.

baddox said 4 days ago:

I’ve never thought of Slack as a tool primarily for remote work. I suspect the vast majority of their customers are non-remote companies.

whateveracct said 4 days ago:

Most remote companies use Slack or some other IM message.

But remote companies tend to have cultures of async communication, so they don't suffer from the problems described as much.

t0mas88 said 4 days ago:

We did the same. We normally have "office days" on Monday and Friday, for team meetings etc. and the other days are for everyone to decide what works for them. Most have one or two fixed WFH days.

Due to Covid-19 we changed it first to "optional WFH" (but with a hint that it may be a good idea) on all days, then "please WFH", and now "mandatory WFH, unless absolutely impossible"

kevindong said 3 days ago:

In my (limited) experience, companies are initially resistant and look down upon people who dial into a meeting as opposed to attend in person. Having an official policy of permitting/encouraging WFH eases the pressure on employees to come into the office to attend meetings.

erikbye said 4 days ago:

> It'll be interesting to see what changes come as they start eating their own dog food.

They use Teams, actually.

deepakhj said 4 days ago:

Zoom didn’t allow any wfh at all before this either and now they’re 100% remote.

ornornor said 4 days ago:

That’s what surprised me as well.

yread said 4 days ago:

I hate Slack ("you'll never go back to email" wtf?) but this was a great thread, really ties in all the stuff you have to worry about as a CEO

christiansakai said 4 days ago:

I hope once all this over people will ditch their social media and instant messaging apps and begin to take most discussions with civility. We need less social media, we need less instant messaging, we need less echo chambers.

perlgeek said 4 days ago:

Missing from that list: last Friday there was a huge hackathon in Germany that tried to create a slack project and invite around 45k people to it, which totally crashed the project.

The hackathon organizers said they were in contact with Slack's CEO or CTO (cannot remember which one), and they continued trying to add people over most of the weekend.

moooo99 said 4 days ago:

They were in contact with the CEO. They had some problems since they wanted to send out an email to all 42k participants with an invite link. Apparently invite links for Slack are only valid for up to 2k users.

It seems like the Slack team was able to help, but they didn't disclose how exactly [1].

[1] https://twitter.com/WirvsVirusHack/status/124104522882975334...

bennofs said 4 days ago:

I think they added people manually. They had a lot of manpower.

monadic2 said 4 days ago:

I would just hardcode an exception for that link/code/whatever.

pas said 4 days ago:

Could someone elaborate on why? Why would anyone need a project/workspace with 45K users? Especially for a hackathon?

sdoering said 4 days ago:

Exactly that. It was a nightmare. I wanted to participate and it was a disaster. Channels were an unmoderated mess. Lots of people just used it to advertise whatever solution they are currently selling and many people just were not able to find projects they could help get off the ground.

I believe the government will pat itself on the back as will do the organizers, but having lived through it and genuinely tried to help people I can only count it as one of the worst wastes of time I ever experienced.

Sadly, because the idea behind it was totally great. And I believe if a team already had formed before that, that they could achieve interesting results. But going in and trying to just be help- and impactful was doomed.

empath75 said 4 days ago:

The kubernetes slack is quite a bit larger than that.

pas said 4 days ago:

Sure, there are large slacks, but those aren't those for a lot of working groups, and announcements, and basically just being there (like IRC)? Whereas for a hackathon you would need to talk/interact with those who are on your team. And that team can just use whatever they want? (Skype, matrix/riot, hangouts, fb messenger, and of course slack too.)

dclusin said 4 days ago:

I wonder how much of that revenue/usage is sticky? E.g. how much use will decline once people are back to work.

steve_adams_86 said 4 days ago:

It's addressed in the tweets, but there's also the question of how many existing customers are folding or going to fold before this all wraps up. If you have that plus unsticky new customers, you're looking at a potential loss. I have no idea what's realistic at this point, but I suppose neither do they. These are strange times.

paxys said 3 days ago:

Yeah, I like that he called out that no matter how smart or informed people are trying to sound at the moment, everyone - from the largest companies to governments to everyone else - is flying blind.

Cthulhu_ said 4 days ago:

Interesting to see, but I get the impression (purely anecdotal) that once companies have picked Slack, they'll stick with it for years to come. It quickly becomes part of their core communications, and moving to a competitor or back to what they had before is not easy to do (for purely organizational or people reasons, nothing technological - I've only ever used Slack as a very fleeting communications medium, I've never seen it used to drive automation. Maybe some reporting like 'build xyz failed' or 'there is a new issue', but that can be easily switched back to email).

twomoretime said 3 days ago:

Tangent: is it ok to put sensitive stuff on slack?

I mean sure, they're legally prevented from snooping, but considering there'd be no way to find out if that confidence were breached, is it ok to have confidential discussions or upload sensitive documents or private keys?

mhh__ said 3 days ago:

I think this is a situation where you need training in best practices and checklists etc. rather than asking questions on HN.

Marginally I don't think it's a problem but given that most people don't treat slack too carefully I wouldn't trust it regularly (Not slack itself but people gaining access).

paxys said 3 days ago:

That depends on your company. Do you use any hosted services? The same problems apply for those.

40four said 4 days ago:

A tangent if I may...

I freaking hate twitter 'essays' like this. What is it, 30+ tweets in a row? This is such a horrible way to communicate. 240 characters at a time is is not a good way to write, let alone to try to read. I guess it makes me angry I am expected to follow a long, disjointed, meandering stream of thought all the way to the end. Tiny chunk... by tiny chunk.. by chunk.. chunk.. chunk. It just feels bad.

I think I know why people do this, usually people with large followings, and they want to get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible. But if you have this much to say... please can we agree to just write a blog post and post the link on twitter? Then we can go read a long article in a comfortable manner, without all the other distractions of twitter, chunks spinning off a new threads of comments along the way. Meanwhile, you still get to put it in from of all your followers :)

gknoy said 3 days ago:

I don't remember who said it, but someone who tended to post twitter threads noted that they have massive anxiety about writing things, and would/have never managed to write a normal blog post, whereas a tweet is just below the threshold of what is Too Much for them. So, for some authors, we can choose between hearing nothing, or reading a thread of tweets.

afandian said 3 days ago:

You're probably thinking of https://mobile.twitter.com/foone

Foone's stuff is great. But that's a bit different to the [semi]official comms of a CEO.

40four said 3 days ago:

That's interesting! I'm seeing responses from both sides now.

Some folks say they actually like reading in twitter rant form. It suits them. You are saying, some folks are saying, they like writing in twitter rant form. It suits them.

As a couple of commenters have pointed out (And I admit, I was unaware of), there are already services to handle the people who struggle with reading long, distracting Twitter threads (https://threadreaderapp.com/).

Maybe there is an opportunity to handle the other side? Maybe we need to create a service that handles the writing side of the problem. The side for folks, who feel like they can't manage the overwhelming feeling of writing a long form blog post.

An app geared towards writing in small chunks. Then in some way, the chunks could be managed, to try to make it easier to edit into a long form article?

Honestly, after spitballing about for a while, I feel like I could benefit from something like this. Personally, I do tend to wish I did more writing, but I tend to lack the discipline, or focus or whatever, to sit down and write something long-form.

P.S. - I like saying the word folks

sologuardsman2 said 4 days ago:
40four said 4 days ago:

Oh that's awesome, thanks! I was unaware of this. Great product, clearly I'm not the only one this frustrates. Problem solved!


madeofpalk said 3 days ago:

Opposing view - I really like it. Each tweet is a reasonable succinct piece of information that stands on its own. For me, it doesn't feel like a commitment to read like a medium article does.

Very similar to how I find movies hard to watch because of the length, but will happily binge a TV series.

jolmg said 3 days ago:

> Each tweet is a reasonable succinct piece of information that stands on its own

You mean like paragraphs? What's the difference?

Is it that the platform forces people to have reasonably sized paragraphs in the form of tweets?

40four said 3 days ago:

Not my preference, I prefer reading twitter for shorter, more 'one off' type of thoughts. I find the UI, comment threads, lots of buttons, etc. to be very distracting. For long form ideas, I prefer a more plain text approach.

But I acknowledge it is just a preference. It's interesting to hear other people say otherwise.

ProAm said 4 days ago:

Twitter is the worst platform for communication like this. I stopped reading after the 5th blurb. Post a blog post and then a single twitter post with a link to the blob.

said 3 days ago:
city41 said 3 days ago:

I totally agree and for the most part really dislike Twitter. I feel its format really encourages _very_ bad communication and does a lot of harm.

But, I think the reason people do this is because it will hook more people. You've already read the first tweet, the second one is right there, next thing you know you're reading the whole thing. If it was a link to a blog post, far fewer people would click to read it.

40four said 3 days ago:

For sure, you nailed it. I just can't help but get pissed and check out after about 5-6 tweets.

However, nice people have pointed out this lovely site, https://threadreaderapp.com, so I will be using it in the future :)

dehrmann said 3 days ago:

For some reason, it seems impossible it build a long-lasting blog host. He didn't use Wordpress, Blogger (I'd ignore these, too), or Medium for this. My guess is that the network effects of social media are so strong that it's better to post a poorly formatted essay to a platform meant for shorter comments than to post it (and link) to a site that no one visits as a destination.

40four said 3 days ago:

For sure the platform (Twitter) is why this has become such a common thing now. And why (commenters have schooled me), there are services trying to solve the problem https://threadreaderapp.com.

But (tangent), as far as building a long lasting blog host? I'm starting to believe that JAMstack (https://jamstack.org) is the solution. I think maintaining a full blown web server, for something that can be solved with a simple static website, is overkill. I'm working on implementing my own personal site in this fashion as we speak.

But getting the discipline and focus to write some actual blog posts is another story. So I guess I can actually understand the Twitter rants, even though I hate reading them :)

Kiro said 3 days ago:

I think it's great. I would never read this if it was an essay. I love how you need to distill every point into a small tweet. The constraints forces you to compress it into a stream of tl;drs.

40four said 3 days ago:

Interesting to hear the other side of it. Maybe there is an opportunity to build a writing platform that caters to this preference?

harrisonjackson said 3 days ago:

I'd normally agree but this isn't an essay - it is a timeline.

amelius said 3 days ago:

I see an opportunity for a tech startup here: compile a series of Twitter posts into a coherent and easy to read essay.

ijustwanttovote said 3 days ago:

Are you talking about something like threadreader?


otabdeveloper2 said 4 days ago:

> an excruciatingly slow, annoying and information-sparse experience from Slack

Fits like a glove.

P.S. I hate Slack so much...

jrandm said 4 days ago:

If the pen is mightier than the sword; transferring long-form information via Twitter is like leaving hand grenades lying around.

(The above sentence is 129 characters, feel free to tweet it)

I'm not trying to disparage this person, and I suspect he might even agree based on the screenshot of the message posted in Slack, I'm just wondering why we all keep treating this like it's normal.

Slack even has posts and (public?) file sharing as part of the product he could use to distribute this information!

empath75 said 4 days ago:

You go where the audience is.

jrandm said 4 days ago:

It would seem simpler and more effective, to me, to then tweet a link to the information.

Simon_says said 3 days ago:

What if the audience is semi-retarded?

barnyfried said 4 days ago:

At least in IT, Slack has become some form of censorship by reduction. People hate SCRUM meetings run by laypersons (and they mostly are), and then vent on Slack or engage in poser-discussion on private/team Slack channels when they could just talk to each other as real people. Most of them sit right across from each other.

But when the assumption is: "they wont get it anyway", why bother? Slack is better at reducing the amount it takes to create more confusion. Plan B: "dont bother".

effnorwood said 3 days ago:

No one cares

GoodJokes said 4 days ago:

this is gross

sanguy said 3 days ago:

He's a completely arrogant dickhead and while Slack has picked up users due to Corona, Microsoft and Zoom have both won much much bigger shares of the WFH shift.

golergka said 3 days ago:

> He's a completely arrogant dickhead


sanguy said 3 days ago:

Direct interaction

teslademigod1 said 4 days ago:

Slack was a really great idea at the beginning, perhaps.

but mannn the way it is now -- at least, more accurately, the way people are using it -- it's such a huge distractor

and these damn messages at 9pm or 8am or saturdays and sundays...

jve said 4 days ago:
teslademigod1 said 4 days ago:

i guess it depends on your bosses. mine knows that i have it on my phone and that the default notifications go off at 10 pm (?) and turn on at 8am. in other companies, situation is probably different and better