Confession – this is a flashy title to attract an attention. Slack is a great tool and you should use it. But, please, STOP abusing it.
Let me explain my point of view. It’s a great tool to have a conversation with your team members. But it should not be used to preserve the knowledge. What knowledge? Anything that related to your work like discussions about product features, roadmaps, decision points and so on that you may need to reference back in the future.
Let’s say you have to discuss a specific feature of your product. I assume that you already have it tracked in one of the applications like Trello or Asana. It’s so tempting to just jump into one of the Slack rooms and start the discussion there. But unless you have a room for each features, bug, task don’t do it. And, no, I don’t advocate to have a room for each working item you have to discuss. Instead of going to Slack, find this item in the tracking system that you use and discuss it there. Your discussion is the knowledge that you would like to preserve. It can be useful for you in a couple of months or for your teammates when they will need it later. One item – one place to store everything important about it. It makes much easier and faster to find information when you need it.
Have you ever came back from vacation to find your Slack room full of unread messages? No? Well, I guess you don’t use Slack then :). How can you get up to speed with any decisions that were made about a particular task? Search? Read all the messages in a particular room? But it has discussions about 10 other items, all “shuffled” and polluted with totally unrelated chatty messages. But if that discussion is kept with an item itself in the tracking system, then you will get what you need right away.
Are you a manager? Then you have to track all work items of your team. But you don’t have to track ALL of them right away. Some need your attention right away, but some – can wait. You know that there is a discussion going on, but you don’t care about it right now. You will deal with it later. But when the time will come, you want to get up to speed fast.
So, do use Slack. But keep your knowledge where it belongs – with your work items. A small effort to put the information where it really belongs will go a long way when you will need it.
Urgent vs delayed
Another disadvantage of Slack comparing to email + IM is no explicit sense of urgency. In most cases, when we receive email, we know that we can reply later (unless it’s stamped as urgent). But when somebody pings you via IM, it means that there is a need for an immediate reply. Well, this is how it is in most cases. And this is not very clear with Slack. Unless you read the message, you don’t know whether a response is expected right away or it can wait.
This is not a big deal, because it can be easily fixed with some tag or “stamp” of the post. Just agree with your team what it will be.
And remember, a tool only as good as the user.