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Slack

  • It’s official.

    So, the trend begins. Tech startups will no longer IPO, but instead direct list. I’m kind of into it. It gets right to the point. There’s no ritualistic dance with investors, no large ceremonial bell ringing, no superficial breakfast or charade between bankers, investors, shareholders, workers, and founders.

    The public, the investors, the VCs and so on — they all get what they want on the big day, without the headache, fever and subsequent hangover from the IPO. You just list, and poof — you’re on the exchange. Simple enough.

    Matt Levine of Bloomberg:

    It seems to me that the IPO process is going through something similar: It used to be that, if you wanted to go public, there was one way to do it. Now there are two. But the choice creates the possibility of more choice, of unlimited customization, of tweaking each feature to get exactly the tradeoffs you want.


    It sort of makes sense that this would be a project led by tech companies, no? The story is that there was a big old legacy business that comfortably sold a standard package of features for a lucrative price, and then a bunch of tech startups came in and questioned everything; they unbundled the service so customers could get what they wanted rather than what the legacy players wanted to sell. It’s just that the tech companies didn’t do it as competitors, by offering the disruptive unbundled product, but as customers, by demanding it.

    Interesting, huh? Leave it to the startups to disrupt a 236 year old process.

    I can’t quite read the oracle bones on Slack, but it has serious potential. The jury is still out on their rebrand. While the rebrand stings, their engineering prowess and vision is impressive. Slack isn’t the new watercooler, there’s no money in that metaphor — Slack is the new vending machine.

    At any rate, it seems that direct listing will become the new norm for VC-funded tech startups. I have to say, I don’t hate the thought of it.

  • Slack Rebrands

    The Slack homepage, as of early 2019

    Slack, the communication tool goliath rebranded today. Personally, I think it falls short. The homepage re-design, more-so. I know, I know — I’m pretty contrarian on these topics, but hear me out. Gone are the illustrations, branding and web design by Ueno. Front-and-center are images mainly of people — which feels very Apple-esque. Could be worse I suppose.

    The new logo.

    It’s apropos though, given the news that Slack may just list directly instead of the traditional IPO route. Which is equally astounding and shocking. I suppose given the impressive amount of cash on hand, and imminent fundraising success Slack may ride in on the next couple of years — they decided it was a good opportunity to rebrand.

    A screenshot of the WeeChat IRC client. Shamelessly stolen from Thoughtbot.

    The Slack rebrand is a harsh abandonment of Slack’s IRC past, deep cultural chat roots of the 90’s and internet progeny. This smells of hubris, and if there’s some big software revision coming soon, I would be nervous.

    To make matter’s worse, Slack claims the real impetus to change the branding is because their previous logo, was too difficult to use. I’m not kidding — really:

    Our first logo was created before the company launched. It was distinctive, and playful, and the octothorpe (or pound sign, or hash, or whatever name by which you know it) resembled the same character that you see in front of channels in our product. 

    It was also extremely easy to get wrong. It was 11 different colors—and if placed on any color other than white, or at the wrong angle (instead of the precisely prescribed 18º rotation), or with the colors tweaked wrong, it looked terrible.

    Ok…

    Many beautiful things—but without a sense of cohesion that you might expect. So here we are. Our in-house design and brand team, together with Michael Bierut and the team from Pentagram, worked to create a new and more cohesive visual identity. And we’re starting, today, with the logo.

    I’m not discounting the design problem Slack’s branding had — I’m just discounting your reasoning. An angle adjustment and tightening of the brand colors? It took this long to do this? Was this mostly internal direction? Was only Michael Beirut of Pentagram involved? Were there other iterations? You couldn’t wait to publish a long-form blog entry on the steps you took as a company, as a culture, to decide upon this?

    Isn’t that a bit… I don’t know — hasty? This rebrand is a hot-mess.

    So many questions will go unanswered. Mainly because Slack is no longer a communication software company — it’s a media empire that happens to sell software.

    Call me old-fashioned, I think it’s a major bummer to see Slack embrace this new “identity” and disregard its internet past so nonchalantly.

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • You’ve’ll Float Too

    There’s a problem with Slack. It adds noise to the workplace. It has added more keystrokes to my daily tasks. It’s just another thing I have to check-in with before proceeding with an actual task at hand.

    It simultaneously befuddles processes, and untangles messes. Both are true.

    However, Slack has never been a project management tool. It’s no doubt proved useful to teams, big and small (with a $5.1 billion valuation). I’m a firm believer that if your organization employs Slack and Email and no project management software… you’re in for a world of hurt.

    But if you’re in the camp that employs the holy trinity (Slack, Email, and any PMS tool), Slack Actions might be your knight in shining armor.

    You see, the problem is (as it currently exists) when an email thread goes off the rails, and your sidebar with your co-worker or project manager on Slack — everyone on the email chain is cut off from your singular conversation.

    But what if there was a way to loop a Slack conversation back into the communication trinity? An example from The Verge:

    In the work-tracking service Asana, for example, you’ll be able to turn a Slack message into a task, complete with the person responsible, due date, and corresponding project. You can also add Slack messages to existing Asana tasks to provide additional context.

    Which hopefully emails a notification to the responsible parties. Elementary documentation of record keeps everyone in the loop.

    Image from Slack.com

    The expanded definition of a Slack Action, from Slack’s documentation:

    Actions allow your users to quickly send messages from Slack directly to your app, enabling them to create tasks, comment on messages, follow-up from tickets, and more.

    Actions are one way of integrating your app with Slack, similar to the integration points provided by slash commands or interactive messages.

    When an action is selected in Slack, your app will be notified with some relevant info; your app could then follow up by:

    I believe this helps Slack’s continuity problem. This should prove useful, turning little strings of text into actionable tasks. Any feature improvement that reduces keystrokes for creating a task, or improves productivity is a win.

    But, I also believe this is a loss. A loss for those who do not use project management tools. Any feature improvement that excludes workplaces will feel left out and see no positive benefit. I’d like to see a default Slack Action, called Email the Team. Basically, instead of creating an Asana Task, or a Jira Issue, why not open the Mail.app composer and a snippet of the quoted text from our Slack conversation? That would easily be the fastest and sure-fire way to loop my singular conversation back to the main team. Hell, I’d even settle for an Action to Slack DM quoted text to a channel or teammate.

    Again, it all comes back to reducing keystrokes. In productivity, that’s the ultimate endgame.