Evaluating/Choosing media: Slack

Media usually is not something good nore bad. A piece of Software for example, is just a tool. But while nobody uses a Hammer for putting a screw in a wall (provided there’s a better suited tool around), with media – let’s stick to the software example for now – it is much more difficult to choose. First, because new tools emerge every day and there already exist quite a lot. Second, because – compare the Hammer example above – they are ALL around and at your disposal. And last but not least: because we loooove new and shiny stuff and we all are quite biased in this. So how to choose?

To be honest, you will usually not have to look for new software. People out there are constantly searching for the new and pushing it. So it will come to you unasked.

You will then have to evaluate, though. My advise would be here to compare the advantages and disadvantages. As basic as this seems, we have to brace ourselves to do it properly. Most of the time we feel good with the new stuff. It’s our beautiful new toy. It’s shiny and nice – and while we are more than ready to praise it’s advantages, it seems quite difficult to notice the disadvantages. But we have to – at least in case we want media to make our lifes better. (This is a major and neverending topic and there’s more posts on this in this blog…)

Let’s look at an everyday situation: I am looking for a solution to a strange problem, I have in, let’s say, TYPO3. I will do a web search and I find someone, who has this problem too. A highly professional person even – so I think my day might be saved.

I click on the link and find myself in a page, where dozens of people are obviously talking about different topics at the same time. Short sentences I do not understand, technical termini, Smileys and animated gifs. And while the solution to my topic is somewhere here, publicly solved, written down right before my eyes, I will most probably never going to find it. Welcome to the epitome of frustration. Welcome to slack!

So the first problem is obvious: There’s no good way for me to filter and sort the topics. Although in theory, even slack could be used in ways, to make this possible, it is not meant for it. It’s meant for the actual talk, for the moment. For the group having a conversation. For chattering. That’s of course OK, as long as people using it are aware, that the tool is not suitable for archiving and research – which the tool they used before, quite probably was!

The other difference is slightly more sublime: The media used, changes content and behaviour of the people using it. People will write in a completely different way, when using slack. This also is natural, but it has the same consequences: If you write in a way, that only your actual counterpart can understand in only the actual situation (regarding the context, previously mentioned things as well as his professional level), all other persons will not understand your post. I think it’s even OK to not care about other people. But why actually publish it then? It does not add up at all.

So to sum it up: here’s a new tool, that people love, that help them in their work. This is good. If you decide using it, fully aware of the drawbacks, it’s a perfect choice for you.

But you have to be aware of this: if you used a simple old fashioned newslist instead of slack, admittedly you might have to put a little more time and effort in. But this effort is worth it: hundreds of people out there would, now and in the future, find the solution to the problem you already solved, without any problems. If you use slack, they will not.

So for the open source community, where slack has been popular quite a while, on multiple occasions, I felt I had to say “stop talking so much about share the wealth, if sharing is your last priority”.

Going back to the hammer example: choosing slack is like using a Hammer for putting in a screw. Because my wall is soft anyway, hence the job is really done much quicker. And by the way, did you notice how cool the design of this hammer? It even has a glow-in-the-dark handle. I love using it.

And I have to admit, it really works, because you anyway only want to hang a very small picture without a frame.

Only that you don’t care that next year you’ll move out of the appartment. The guy moving in, will notice the screw and will be delighted at first. He will hang a bigger picture. It will fall down and the glass will break. And in the wall quite a big hole will be left.