At Motherboard, we're reevaluating how we use the group chatting app as a newsroom.
A Motherboard "blog-b-que" on July 4, 2015. Photo: Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai
Like many publications, Motherboard uses Slack to coordinate our daily operation.
We send more than 5,000 messages a week in eight Slack channels. Reporters and contributors pitch story ideas and ask for edits in Slack. We have a room where people share interesting links. We have a room for voting on headlines.
It's a marvelous thing to be able to talk to everyone on your team in one place. Most of our team is in New York, but we have an editor and reporter in Toronto, an editor and reporter in London, two writers in the San Francisco area, and an editor in Oregon. Our video producers are on the floor below us, and we have several regular contributors who work from home.
This week, Motherboard is going cold turkey. That's right—we're cutting off Slack
Slack has been an indispensible tool. However, we noticed that more and more time was being diverted to Slack. It wasn't just joking around, although there was plenty of that. We'd find ourselves spending 30 minutes in a spirited debate about a story we all seemed interested in, but then… no one would write something for the site. It was as if the Slack discussion had replaced the blogging process. Talking about a topic with our colleagues fulfilled the urge to publish.
The other recurring issue with Slack is that it's just baseline distracting. People are always talking, often directly to you, and they usually expect an immediate response. Writers and editors need unbroken blocks of time to work. Slack makes that difficult.
This week, Motherboard is going cold turkey. That's right—we're cutting off Slack. Writers will talk directly to their editors. We'll talk via face-to-face conversation, the phone, Google Hangouts, and Gchat. (Why is Gchat allowed?, you might ask. Because Gchat is optimized for one-on-one conversations, and doesn't have persistent rooms.)
We're hoping that cutting off Slack will give reporters a chance to refocus on writing stories and encourage more in-depth conversations with editors.
After this experiment we'll reevaluate where we really need to use Slack (or any group chat app—we've also used Hipchat, Campfire, and Cryptocat), and how we can restructure in order to use our walled-off conversations in Slack to facilitate our mission of covering tech and science for cyberpunks.