I have a strange mix of preferences when it comes to technology. I like technology and find it pretty easy to learn and use. (See rooting my Android.) But I dislike change, so I sometimes stick with old technologies. (See how long I kept my Palm Pilot.) Most importantly, I find it a badge of honor to figure out how to use a technology “off-label.” (See my three-way replication scheme to get music synced to multiple devices without involving a product that starts with “i”.)
Many people at the office use Google Drive, Evernote, and their local file system to store documents. For file sharing, some people like Dropbox, others like Box, or Google Drive, or OneDrive, or Infinit. Some shared files are on Google Drive, while others are on Evernote. Images may be on OneDrive, while executables or log files may be on one of the other platforms. The owners feel like each of those tools is specifically suited for different tasks – and I get it. Some of these have better thumbnails, or more granular permissions. But now I have to have a login to each of them to get my work done. Not only that, but I also have to keep track of which kind of file can be found where. Really any one of them (or maybe two) with some minor lifehacks would probably suffice for all of the use cases.
Which brings me to Slack. Slack is the new darling of internal IM platforms. It’s some combination of what Yammer and Chatter were trying to do, with tagging and simplicity of short messages that are reminiscent of Twitter. There are different “rooms” that you can opt in or out of that are set up around teams or projects.
All and all it’s a pretty good platform. Except I don’t need it. It’s not doing anything for me that I don’t otherwise get through email and IM. So it makes me less productive, because it’s just another thing I have to log in to and pay attention to. See, I’m maniacal about my email, so I don’t find email disruptive, I find it a great way to manage things people need from me. And I like that I can search my (google) mail and (google) IM in one fell swoop.
With Slack, now I have to pay attention to discussions that are happening there as well as those happening in my email, as well as IMs from people. And it’s not just to know what’s happening: now I’m receiving requests for content or perspective over both email and Slack. #Ugh.
The flip side is everyone else’s productivity. For many other members of our team, Slack is great. They don’t treat email the way I do, so they find it disruptive and a chore. They like to use Slack for temporal things – things that if you aren’t actively working on something you have no need to know about. They use it to broadcast questions where they aren’t sure who would be interested to weigh in. And they use it to coordinate quickly around things like test servers, parking spaces, and rather than with several email reply chains.
So while it is decreasing my productivity, it’s increasing the productivity of many people around me. Which raises some interesting questions.
- Is a slight decrease in my productivity worth an increase in 10 others’ productivity?
- Is making the people around me more productive a net benefit for me or for the company, or just a tradeoff?
- Can my productivity actually increase if that of the people around me increases?
I’m not sure.