Lord Forbid That Slack Frees From The Tyranny Of Email

This is where we get one of those differences of opinion that makes markets. The idea that Slack would free us from the tyranny of email horrifies me even as it seems to please others.

If Slack can free us from the tyranny of email, it is worth at least $17bn

The problem being that Slack is a less edited form of email. As email itself is a less edited form of the physical letter. Less editing is not always a good thing:

The first email, like so many technological firsts, revealed little about the invention’s real potential. It was sent in 1971 between two computers sat directly next to each other, and its contents have been long forgotten, suggesting they contained no useful information. It would need cheap and available personal computers, and the internet, for its use as a worldwide communication system to become apparent: electronic versions of letters, which could be sent for free and cross continents immediately. Now approaching its 50th birthday, email has been a remarkably resilient technology.

Cheap and immediate – yes, good things. And yet that very thing degrades the thought that goes into the composition of the message being sent. As Slack and instant messaging and so on take that all a step further.

As, actually, the difference between a Tweet and a blog post.

The few times I’ve used Slack I’ve ended up being horrified at the manner in which no one ever does produce anything coherent on it. It’s fractions of a meme – to use the word correctly, as a unit of thought – rather than the fully fleshed out message that is needed. This isn’t, of course, the technology itself, it’s the people using it. But the technology encourages that, umm, slackness.

OK, fuddy duddy and all that. But everyone’s right that we’ve too much information inflowing. So, the least everyone can do is, with each specific message, give us the whole message in one go.

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Tim AlmondJonathan HarstonThe MoleDodgy Geezer Recent comment authors
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Dodgy Geezer
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Dodgy Geezer

I operate my own specialist communications protocol.

It involves calling round at a friend’s house, and saying ‘Do you want to go to the pub?’.

This enables immediate private messaging with no coherence issue whatsoever – or at least none that we are concerned about…

The Mole
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The Mole

Agreed, Slack is enabling conversations, and like most conversations if someone later asks ‘what did you talk about’ you realise that the summary is massively shorter than the time spent in discussion.

Tim Almond
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Tim Almond

This author really doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. We’ve had “conversation enabling” tech like ICQ and MSN Messenger for donkeys years. The “conversation” stuff was already done. Slack is MSN Messenger with bells and whistles. Like, you can do a feed from server monitoring to a slack group, so if a server falls over, it goes into slack. You can add applications into your messages. It’s nicer, but honestly, $17bn worth? I doubt it. Slack’s biggest problem is that Microsoft have made a rival called Teams that is free and if you’re running things like Exchange server, it integrates… Read more »

Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

It’s like complaining that the invention of the memo pad is going to destroy letters. Tools for uses.

And, yes, the earliest email preserved from the system I wrote is the second one 😉