On Slack and Joy

Jun 8, 2023

Everything starts on Slack

Slack as we know it is running for over a decade now. Remember the first time you used it? I don’t exactly, but I sure remember that it felt great. There was love and this feeling to belong to some kind of movement. Work felt different from the big old dark ages of email. Using slack was, and still is, a statement.

Start a company? New Slack Space. Study-Program? We need a Slack Space. Professional Networking? Join the Slack. You could say projects are not real unless there is a Slack space for it. Whomever you ask, no-one ever really considered using something else - now that we find curious!

Slack, we feel so 'meh' about you.

Let’s introspect.

Is Slack a great company? They are that one company everyone compares to when joining the “time to 100M ARR”-game. The direct listing (DPO) in 2019 and subsequent $27bn acquisition by Salesforce are just the next trophies to go after. So yes, great company, of course.

When thinking about using it, things start to feel different. What comes to mind is an endless list of channels with unread messages, red banner’s with dozens of new messages and of course, notifications. Slack is great, but it equals “distraction”. As a knowledge worker who likes to complain about not getting into “flow” – Slack is kryptonite.

We like slack – it does what a team chat does. But do we love it? Strangely not. We feel something when thinking about Notion or Linear, but not with Slack. We are pouring our work-lives into Slack, but it’s not giving back. Slack does not spark joy.

For something that we spend so much time on, that is not ok.

Focus and getting things done

As we started thinking about Slack more and more we realised something. We can categorise our most used apps on two dimensions most of us care about.

Obviously the tool stack and the exact placement of each tool differ for everyone of us, but I think the model applies pretty broadly:

  1. “helps me focus” vs. “distracts me”

  2. “I get things done there” vs “support system”

What we noticed is that Slack stands out, but not for the better.

Looking at my Stack, Slack's slogans “Built for Productivity.” or “Where work happens” sound ironic. While the other apps might have to be placed differently for all of us we are pretty confident Slack stays in its place.

Collectively unproductive

It’s not only about your own productivity.

Everything you don’t like about slack multiplies with your companies team size. And the worst about it: You are not only stuck in traffic, you are traffic.

Whenever you scroll for 15 minutes to find a file someone shared, colleagues are doing the same. You are distracted and you distract. Your colleagues don’t think before texting you and neither do you. You are overwhelmed by information but post the link just “FYI”. There are no rules. Slack is the wild-west of collaboration and AI bots will make it worse.

With networked apps like Slack shared problems are not only double problems but actually potentiated.

Stuck with 'meh'

I understand how we ended up here.

Slack was the first to offer the basic functionality we need and we happily adopted it. They capitalised on that with great success. And we don't actually want to go back to email only – inboxes would be even more swamped.

Now, being a part of Salesforce, fighting against Microsoft Teams in Enterprise, they have other fish to fry than bringing back joy and magic. The things you are trying to build are hard enough – chatting about them does not have to be.

Building to get big things done

We wonder what it takes to change Slack to [1] help us focus and [2] let us get things done? What big things can we get done without the distraction? How can Slack spark joy again?

Build with us!

It’s been 10 great years with Slack, but we think it’s time. We deserve something different. That is why we are building Plasma.

→ Request early access and build with us ( public beta coming this fall )