Whisper it: I'm not a fan of Slack communities


(Robert McIntosh) #1

Slack seems to be the darling of the community world, particularly in tech areas it seems -

e.g.
https://expand.openviewpartners.com/how-we-grew-our-community-by-over-500-by-switching-to-slack-79148e4aac8d

I think they do a great job promoting good technology. I even see a point in having access to it as a tool - but I struggle, personally, to see how it REALLY works for building a community.

Some community platforms are focused on the USER - they are closer to social networks.

  • in these, you follow people, you get alerts when they post, you create private groups around memberships, rather than ideas, information is organised around user’s collections of posts, and content is tagged primarily by who posted it.

Some community platforms are focused on the TOPICS / CONVERSATIONS - these are forums [and my preferred source of ‘community’]

  • in these you mainly work through lists of conversations divided into categories and topics, you can see who posted and who has contributed, but the primary structure is the information posted and the management is less about connections between people, but about meaningful classification of content

Now, it seems to me (after years of using it) that Slack is neither of these. You get minimal ways of connecting to users or learning much about them, and information is organised into rooms but not structured according to topic, but by time. It relies HEAVILY on search and makes it harder to glance through recent updates to find relevance to you.

It is great for quick conversations and messaging, and is more immediate that email. It is better than emailing as well in that the rooms act as tagging of that conversation according to some topic that is relevant to sender & receiver, BUT it does not change the fact that the user experiences information overload. In fact if you are a member of more than a very few active Slack teams you can get completely overloaded with updates.

Whilst I might want to run Slack to keep key members of a community/team alerted to immediate information when they are remote from each other, I would not build a community as a whole on Slack.

Is it just me?


(Bas van Leeuwen) #2

I mostly agree with you.

Slack is great for intensive communications, when you expect everyone to read everything in a given room. (this is typical for professional teams, it’s basically a replacement for email/yammer etc.)

Most communities don’t have this expectation. When I go to FB Experts, I scan the threads and do a deepdive to the threads that interest me.

I think it might be really good for primarily Q&A style communities. Where you need a quick and relatively simple answer (e.g. product-support, such as the one Wistia has).

As a personal experience, I completely zoned out of the CMXHub slack, there was simply too much stuff going on, most of it in a different timezone, so there was always a big backlog in the morning.


(Sarah Hawk) #3

Hallelujah! Someone agrees! No, it’s not just you.

I’ve had this debate so many times. I manage a Slack community and it’s causing me grief. I started it as a platform to run Ask the Experts style chats and for that it works brilliantly. I think that (and internal communication) are the ideal use cases. As a CoP I don’t think it works, and it doesn’t hold any value for the organisation that hosts it, unless you market to the audience.

I’ve thought about pulling valuable Slack discussions over into Discourse so that they’re not ephemeral (and I can point future members with the same question across) but it would involve writing a Slackbot of some description. I’ve also thought about posting Discourse discussions into Slack in case that audience sees something that is of interest but the Discourse <> Slack plugin isn’t yet available until we’re out of Beta next month.

Same. People ask the same questions over and over because they can’t see that they’ve been asked and search isn’t great in that you don’t get a good visual on the excerpt to know how relevant the results are. I can’t be bothered rewriting in depth responses so I can either link out to a forum, or ignore them.


(Lindsay Doebler) #4

All the Slack-only communities I’ve been apart of have eventually withered away. One was a really great writers group, but I think the immediacy of Slack didn’t work well for the type of discussions that people wanted. People would post looking for critique, but then because the focus is on most recent posts, the link to the work itself would get lost and people wouldn’t bother to go back and read it. Which would mean the initial poster would only get one, maybe two eyes on their project.

I think you’ve definitely hit the nail on the head - it works better as a complimentary service to an already existing forum/community, rather than a stand-alone one.

Discord is a similar community-based tool that has really exploded recently, especially in gaming and streaming communities. It also offers voice chat for its channels so it fills a slightly different niche, but it suffers from the same problems as Slack.


(Mark Williams) #5

I fully agree with you. I’ve posted before (maybe here) that I have a wish for a slack style real-time solution that has threading. I think it would be possible as an ‘overlay’ on top of a topics/conversations solution - think some sort of ‘expert’ mode. However, I think getting to work cleanly is difficult.

This is my main issue with Slack. My brain doesn’t work like that. My brain remembers ‘relationally’ - date, time, general theme, maybe people. Asked to pull a keyword to search for and I’m likely done.

Oh, and Slack’s ‘native’ client just eats my Mac. But I think that client is one of the ways they are successful over something like a website. I’ve currently got 7 slack groups I’m a part of and it’s relatively easy to keep up with them vs. remembering to visit all of the various community websites I’m likely a member of (say, here).

As much as I admire the company and some of the other things CEO has put out, I just hope slack isn’t the ‘future of work’.


(Robert McIntosh) #6

to be fair, slack have added threading, but it is not really easy to use or follow


(Sarah Hawk) #7

It’s incredibly counterintuitive and has made things more confusing for me. I see real-time notifications but can’t figure out where they came from and then find a thread miles up in the discussion.


(Mark Williams) #8

I think I’ll rephrase, I don’t actually want [quote=“mdfw, post:5, topic:5846”]
slack style real-time solution that has threading.
[/quote]
but more navigation based on threads/topics with a way to watch all of the threads in real time from one console (ala slack).

This mostly comes from one of my slack group being focused around a series of online classes. It’s great to get real-time help but all that help is lost to the mists. There not good knowledge capture. I acknowledge that threaded discussions does not always help with preventing duplicate questions, but I project on the world that it can more so than Slack style discussions can.