Tech is nothing if not trendy and faddish.  Every year there is the cool stuff and the ex-cool stuff from last year that’s now totally passe.  At the moment, Slack is big as an internal substitute for email.  I am frankly not sure why.  Email was doing fine and had pretty much all the functionality I needed.  And Slack still seems to be sorely missing some basics.

The only significant add I see from Slack is the ability to see a continuing conversation with someone.  I used to achieve this using gmail chat when I needed to maintain some long running context.

Here’s what I miss most:

  1. I can’t see what’s going on.  With email you can glance at the top headers and see which are the topics de jour.  With Slack, if I don’t remember the channel or DM that had the pertinent discussion I have to go rooting around.  If Slack could simply sort the channels/DMs by most recently active, that would probably help enormously.
  2. I can’t simply +1 (add) somebody to a thread.  With email, halfway through a discussion you can realize “oh yeah, that’s something Joe can help with” and you just add ’em.  Easy.  Or if you realize you’re generating annoying noise for Joe, just take ’em off the thread.  I’ve found kludge ways to approximate this in Slack, but it doesn’t seem fundamental.
  3. Searching by day when I need to figure out what was cooking on a particular day doesn’t seem easy or obvious to me. I can search by day but it doesn’t give me an easy-to-parse slice so I can re-hydrate a particular day’s activities.
  4. It can’t reach outside.  You can’t easily add someone outside your company to an in-progress communication the way you could with email.  You could argue you shouldn’t do that, but it was not an uncommon use case that we’d loop in the outside people who maintain some foreign resources for us.
  5. Email wasn’t broken, why did we need to fix it?  Email plus chat did everything I needed and more.  Why pick up and move to a whole new thing for no apparent reason and with an attendant loss in functionality?
  6. There is a single provider and it’s proprietary.  Email allowed you your choice of provider and the underlying standards were, well, “standard.”  Now I’m dependent on a single company and limited by their rate of innovation.
  7. There are even more places to look now when I recall having a communication.  Was it email, Slack, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, or Facebook?
  8. I miss customer email now.  Because I’m attuned to Slack for internal communication when one of those pesky customers wants something I’m liable to miss it because I’m not checking email as frequently.

So yes, I’m saying the emperor doesn’t really have any clothes on.  I know, I know, Nickleback and last year’s tech are bad, but in this case, really?!?!

P.S. the image above has the word “brainwashed” on her shirt so you see there really is a connection, albeit a somewhat tenuous one.