Question

How have you made team chat better?

Has your team done anything to tweak Slack, Microsoft Teams, or other team chat apps to make them more productive, less distracting, and a better assistant to your work? Any tips to customize chat apps, or add-ons to make them better?

Feels like Slack almost needs what Superhuman is to Gmail, something that rethinks the interface and makes it more productivity-centric.

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qthdh's avatar
28d

I think it's more about the philosophy with which you approach these apps that matters more than what setup you could put in place using it.

Slack, and similar team chat tools, were made to get rid of email, to not be distracted by it. But by essence, they're still chat tools, and that's the problem.
We are naturally inclined to respond immediately to chat messages.
Don't you feel anxiety when you see that red little dot, knowing someone just talked to you and are probably sitting there waiting for an answer? (I know it's not always the case, but it's what my brain pictures whenever I get a message on Slack, thus the anxiety).

So to me, the best way to make these tool really productive and less distracting is not by any kind customization, but by changing the whole team's expectation, and using purely team chats apps as async communication tools.

4 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @qthdh )
27d

Great point!

In the philosophy sense, often that's the biggest change in how people use email as well. After all, archiving and relying on search instead of spending time filing emails, or going for inbox zero, are tool-agnostic and more of a change in how you approach email. Telling yourself email can wait is a similar thing there.

So that's an interesting idea on team chat, that you need the entire team to buy-in on the idea that chat's not urgent and can wait until you're ready to check it. Feels like you might also have to turn off notifications and the dot to achieve that, but could work!

1 point
maguay's avatar
27d

One thing I've done over the past year that's worked nicely: Organizing channels into sections. It takes a bit of work to list the sections you want and move channels around. Once you do it, though, you can minimize sections to cleanup the sidebar, mute a whole section at once, and more. That, along with muting noisier channels (like one we have at Capiche that shows all new posts in the community), has made Slack tidier and quieter.

2 points
DREAMSLOTH's avatar
@DREAMSLOTH (replying to @maguay )
14d

I accidentally found Ctrl+Shift+D (or CMD+Shift+D) for Slack and it has changed my life.

The lack of clutter in my sidebar has allowed me to live with an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. Well.. that's mostly true haha. It's better than it used to be at least.

1 point
evilsizor's avatar
  1. We follow the core principles outlined in A World Without Email (keeping the conversation in the project tool itself, etc. etc. et al).

  2. We have protocols that direct the best methods for communication, when email or chat must be used.

It's that easy. :)

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @evilsizor )
26d

Oh wow I haven't had a chance to read A World Without Email yet—what were your favorite takeaways from it? Worth the read?

On the protocols for communication, did your team add those after you found chat become too overwhelming, or did you start out using those from the beginning?

1 point
evilsizor's avatar
@evilsizor (replying to @maguay )
24d

Cal's done a great job giving names to all the things much of us observe and know to be true, but haven't perhaps codified with language yet. His central thesis centers on workflow (how work is coordinated) vs. work execution (knowledge work (KW) / value-producing activities) and how to minimize unstructured workflow (chat, email) in order to maximize our attention capital (your ability to single task avoid context switches (which is exactly what email and chat is... constant context switching) and thus maximize our KW outputs. A great analogy in the book centers on Henry Ford's production line innovation and how essentially, this revolutionary model hasn't yet been invented for KW.

RE: Chat. Oddly, it wasn't being used enough... because people were using email like chat, which was even worse. So we simply codified when chat makes sense to use. For example, we should use chat for quick, easy, non-complex, unambiguous and unlikely to get convoluted-type questions (as long as you're not interrupting someone's maker time). Or, it should be used for urgent situations where everyone needs to be alerted immediately (we have a 2-day response rule for email, explicitly so people are not checking it constantly). Chat works good for after hours emergencies, as we have a strict "no evenings or weekends" email-sending rule. Chat is not good for conversations that should be over voice, F2F, or a meeting (complex or nuanced topics). Finally, we're also getting everyone to start using WhatsApp or iPhone direct voice messages... in lieu of a meeting or less robust commo platform.

Yeah, anyhow, I have some strong beliefs on all of this, obviously 🤓 — thank you for asking! 😃

1 point
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