A few months ago I wrote an article titled 5 ways I’m bad at Slack.
My self-reported Slack failures included:
- The mistake of using Slack as email
- Have small skills in Slack Small Talk
- Not having the discipline to avoid slack
- Not knowing all the Slack tips from power users
- Challenged to do two things at once
In April 2022, a more honest post title might have been “5 Reasons Why I Hate Slack”.
Well… if you were to ask me today, I’d say Slack is kind of growing on me. My coming to Slack is probably a sure sign that Slack will become very cool. So if you own stock in Salesforce, the company that purchased Slack last July for $27.7 billion, you might want to sell.
Here are five reasons why Slack is growing on me.
1. Zoom Chat is so atrocious that Slack is the new Zoom back channel
Zoom meetings are many meetings. There is a meeting that everyone attends. And there are the meetings where everyone is backsliding furiously.
Perhaps the most atrocious user interface in the entire software universe is the Zoom chat feature. There is no way to chat with a subset of people. It’s far, far too easy to accidentally chat with the whole group while trying to chat privately.
Slack has become the solution to Zoom’s backchanneling need. We talk in Zoom and type in Slack.
2. Our new hybrid university workplace
Hybrid academic work causes me acute levels of professional cognitive dissonance. Intellectually, I am for the flexibility that hybrid university work allows. Emotionally, I want to be with everyone on campus.
The reality is that higher education will not return to a campus-only work reality. A combination of in-person and digitally mediated collaboration is here to stay. At least we might as well do our best to make hybrid university work as productive and enjoyable as possible.
With this framing, Slack becomes a tool – probably one of many we will need – to improve the quality of hybrid work.
3. More colleagues will slack off
Slack follows the iron rules of network effects. The more people on Slack, the more useful Slack becomes.
Over the past few months, more of my colleagues have taken to Slack. Conversations seem to be leaking from emails and heading to Slack. Cowardly recalcitrants (like me) begin to capitulate.
The new reality for academic staff (at least my local reality) is that you miss work if you don’t participate in Slack.
4. Inter-institutional laxity
Where I appreciate Slack, instead of grudgingly accepting, is in conversations with colleagues from other schools. There seems to be a growing trend of moving professional and disciplinary discussions across the email ecosystem to Slack.
This cross-institution move to Slack is certainly not universal. Many of you don’t support Slack and would never want to interact with your peers and colleagues on the platform. I understand your feelings – and agree with many of your complaints. But chatting with peers from other universities on Slack seems better than logging those conversations via email.
A message from a colleague from another school is almost always a happy occasion. If Slack encourages and enables more inter-institutional communication, then switch to Slack!
5. Soft Stockholm Syndrome
There is a high probability that I suffer from Slack Stockholm Syndrome. Humans seemed to be wired to identify with our captors.
The arguments against integrating Slack into the administrative elements of university life are considerable. Instead of replacing email, Slack has become another place to check. Slack’s confusing user interface increases our cognitive load because searching for information across separate workspaces and channels is inefficient.
On the plus side, Slack seems to allow us to have a sort of informal but persistent digital presence different from what email allows. Social pressure to respond to Slack messages appears to be below the norm around email.
In this new world of hybrid academic work, we may need every communication tool we can get our hands on.
Getting ready for Slack?