Title

Forced to Slack?

The pressure to participate in an e-mail alternative.

June 4, 2018
 
 

Is your campus team on Slack?

The Slack bubble seems to have hit academia hard.  Like the flu or meningitis, college campuses seem susceptible to rapid outbreaks of digital contagion.

Remember when all of us had those Iomega Zip drives on desktop computers?  Admit it, you were (if however briefly) excited about Google Wave. Perhaps your institution still owns property on Second Life. How many of you have been convinced at one time or another about the need to spend some budget to acquire a set of VR goggles?

Slack, however, is unlike all the other technologies that were going to change how we work and then went on to disappear.

With Slack, comes pressure.

The whole point of Slack is to kill e-mail. The promise of Slack is that a team can move its asynchronous digital communication out of of the black hole of e-mail, and on to the promise land of a cloud-based team collaboration platform.

Slack is different from e-mail because it has channels. Because it is persistent. Because files can be shared.  Because it combines threaded discussions (sort of) with messaging (sort of) and file sharing (sort of).

But really, Slack is just another way to send messages to groups and individuals. Every Slack message sent is an e-mail unsent. And for many, unsent (and un-received) e-mails are very good things indeed.

The only problem with Slack as an e-mail replacement, and a group collaboration platform, is that Slack is now another place to go. We must check both e-mail and Slack. We get notifications that we have Slack messages and e-mail messages.

Often times I have trouble remember if the message was on Slack or e-mail. Or what channel in Slack the message came from.

For some folks Slack is great. For others, Slack just does not work for them.

The problem is that it is something of a workplace faux pas to unilaterally disarm from Slack. How can one person on a team choose to not be on Slack if everyone else on the team is busily Slacking away?

As long as there is a critical mass of colleagues on Slack, or the boss decrees that everyone will Slack, the abstainers remain vulnerable to the pressure to conform.

Where it is cool to delete your Facebook account, in some work environments it risky to swear off Slack.

Should this be the case?

Should those on a work team be expected to follow the communications digital communications norms of the group, even if those methods reduce an individuals productivity and happiness?

It is very difficult to imagine someone without tenure saying that they will no longer use e-mail.  Norms of acceptable workplace behavior demand that employees (and academic employees) are available and responsive on e-mail.

Do those same workplace norms that apply to e-mail also apply to Slack? Or the next communications platform that will come around to replace Slack?

How does this work for Slack channels that are cross-institutional?  (I’m on 2 of those). How do communications expectations change when the colleagues are at other institutions?

Is your campus team on Slack?

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