5 Reasons That Slack Is Sort of Growing on Me

Jeanne A. Curley

A few months ago, I wrote a piece called “5 Ways That I’m Bad at Slack.”

My self-reported Slack failings included:

  1. The Mistake of Using Slack Like Email
  2. Having Little Skills in Slack Small Talk
  3. Not Having the Discipline to Stay Off Slack
  4. Not Knowing All the Power-User Slack Tricks
  5. Challenged to Do Two Things at Once

Back in April of 2022, a more honest title to the post might have been “5 Reasons Why I Hate Slack.”

Well … if you asked me today, I’d say that Slack is sort of growing on me. My coming around to Slack is likely a sure sign that Slack will get very uncool. So if you own stock in Salesforce, the company that bought Slack last July for $27.7 billion, you may want to sell.

Here are the five reasons that Slack is growing on me.

1. The Zoom Chat Feature Is So Atrocious That Slack Is the New Zoom Backchannel

Zoom meetings are many meetings. There is a meeting that everyone is attending. And there are the meetings where everyone is furiously backchanneling.

Perhaps the most atrocious UI in all of the software universe is the Zoom chat feature. There is no way to chat with a subset of people. It is far, far too easy to accidentally chat to the entire group while trying to chat privately.

Slack has become the solution to the Zoom backchannel need. We talk in Zoom and type in Slack.

2. Our New Hybrid Academic Workplace

Hybrid academic work is causing me acute levels of professional cognitive dissonance. Intellectually, I’m all for the flexibility that hybrid academic work enables. Emotionally, I want to be together with everyone on campus.

The reality is that higher ed is not going to return to a campus-only work reality. A combination of in-person and digitally mediated collaboration is here to stay. We might as well at least do the best we can to make hybrid academic work as productive and enjoyable as possible.

With that framing, Slack becomes a tool—likely one of many we will need—to improve the quality of hybrid work.

3. More Colleagues Are Going to Slack

Slack conforms to the iron rules of network effects: the more people on Slack, the more useful Slack becomes.

Over the last few months, more of my colleagues have put themselves in Slack. Conversations seem to be leaking out of email and on to Slack. Slack holdouts (such as myself) are starting to capitulate.

The new academic staff reality (at least my local reality) is that you are missing out on the work if you are not participating in Slack.

4. Cross-Institutional Slack

Where I’m enjoying Slack, as opposed to grudgingly accepting, is in conversations with colleagues at other schools. There seems to be a growing trend to shift ecosystemwide professional and disciplinary discussions out of email and onto Slack.

This cross-institutional shift to Slack is certainly not universal. Many of you can’t stand Slack and would never want to interact with peers and colleagues on the platform. I understand your feelings—and agree with many of your complaints. But chatting with peers from other universities on Slack seems better than consigning those conversations to email.

A message from a colleague at another school is almost always a happy occasion. If Slack is encouraging and enabling more cross-institutional communication, then go Slack!

5. Slack Stockholm Syndrome

There is a high probability that I’m suffering from Slack Stockholm syndrome. Humans seemed to be wired to identify with our captors.

The arguments against integrating Slack into the administrative elements of university life are substantial. Instead of replacing email, Slack has become one other place to check. Slack’s confusing UI elevates our cognitive load, as hunting for information across separate workspaces and channels is inefficient.

On the positive side, Slack seems to enable us to have a different sort of informal yet persistent digital presence than email allows. Social pressure to respond to Slack messages seems to be lower than the norms around email.

In this new world of hybrid academic work, we may need all the communication tools we can get our hands on.

Are you warming up to Slack?

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