Are Slack Groups The New Twitter?

Around 2010 there was a spate of blog posts bemoaning the end of the comment thread.

The claim was that Twitter was making us dumber. We were too busy, or too lazy, to spend the time to craft a response to posts. Heck we were too busy to read posts.

They had a point.

The network of linked blogs, via their comment threads was fading away. Instead we were publishing 140 character opinions, or worse, retweeting other people’s opinions instead of forming our own.

Well, that might have been so, but I still got a lot out of Twitter during that time.

I made lasting friendships and expanded my network in ways that I wouldn’t have via traditional methods.

I didn’t have the time to read through lots of blog posts and I was unlikely to want to comment on them anyway.

Good stuff to read just floated to the top of my Twitter stream and useful conversations were being had. Just not in the way that they were being had before (and they were using much less bandwidth).

More recently, though, Twitter feels a lot more shallow.

It’s great for keeping up with what your extended network is doing, but there is a lot of rubbish to filter out.

It’s common to only check in once a day and not bother to catch-up with the backlog.

The debate seems to be gone and when it’s not being used as a sales vehicle it is used for sharing links and personal show reel highlights; a noisier Facebook almost.

In parallel as Twitter was reaching it’s arguable peak, Slack burst onto the scene and established itself as the communication medium for teams.

I immediately hated it and it turns out I wasn’t alone.

That didn’t stop me taking out a commercial subscription, though.

Here’s the thing: I needed Slack to keep in touch with my distributed team. That doesn’t mean that I’m a fan of how it’s used as an IRC analogue (I never got on with IRC either).

But it is great as allowing people to keep in touch.

It’s just that it’s so intrusive, like Skype or other IM used to be before everyone started putting themselves on DND.

Yet, there is one area that Slack shines and that’s when a community of people use it to keep in touch, but not in real-time fashion.

The 30DWC slack channel that some of us have joined has been a fantastic example of this. We have been sharing our posts with each other for comment, but also providing related workflow tips and reading lists. Not only that but random links, opinions and even advice on subjects like how to meditate.

That is to say we’re having conversations.

Not writing high bandwidth essays.

Nothing that requires real-time communication.

If we miss a day or two it’s OK, we can either scroll up through the backlog or ignore it.

It’s like how Twitter used to be.

I’ve only met a few of these people in real life but you get that feeling that there’s a long-term community growing. That we’ll get to know each other’s stories; we’ll keep in touch. We’ll make sure to meet up if ever in the same physical location.

Just like how Twitter used to be.

Twitter is still useful, I can’t see me dropping my account any time soon but the community feels like it’s gone.

I was missing that, but right this minute common interest Slack channels might be picking up the, erm, slack.

It’s not all perfect, though.

A free Slack group only has 10,000 messages before the old ones get deleted, so there’s not a huge archive to refer back to.

Maybe communities will get around this by charging a fee for access to cover Slack’s fees. Though I fear that this would start to make these sorts of communities cliquey or exclusive.

Maybe, I’m not sure.

Right now I’m just enjoying being part of a growing community again.

For me this sort of Slack group is the new Twitter.

Word count: 674.

Time taken: 1.5 hours

This post is one of 30 I wrote daily during April 2016 as part of the 30 Day Writing Challenge.