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Here’s a Big Irony: I’m Getting Burned Out on Slack (That’s Where You Come In)

Help! Slack is getting old. And it’s time to figure out what to do about the problem.

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BY John Brandon - 08 Jun 2018

Here's a Big Irony: I'm Getting Burned Out on Slack (That's Where You Come In)

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I know, I know--I've been a champion for Slack as a way to deal with email overload for years now. And I'm not about to start advocating for more email. Yet, in recent months, the constant chatter and tagging on Slack has made me wonder if there is a better way to communicate with each other, one that is not quite so text-centric and lifeless.

Not that I plan to stop using Slack, but here's my predicament.

For the past 17 years, I've been processing email on a daily basis, sometimes to the tune of 200 messages per day. That's nothing compared to Slack, though. In a typical workday, I might see around 400 messages on Slack, most of them as part of a chat. Not all of them are meant for me of course, and sometimes I'm tagged on a message only as an FYI and not because I need to respond. But Slack comes in waves upon waves. In a flurry of messaging, my fellow Slack users can sometimes engage in a conversation that adds up to a few dozen messages an hour, and I'm constantly reading reading, reading,

Again, I like Slack--it's not quite the same as email overload, and I strongly prefer the real-time communication approach. I like resolving things right there and then, rather than dealing with the delays of email and sometimes the misunderstandings that occur.

After at least three years of using Slack every day, I wonder if there is a way to improve the service or if there are other communication channels that could help reduce the deluge, probably in addition to Slack and as another email replacement.

My problem? I have not found one yet. Or maybe an entrepreneur out there has not invented one yet, something that is a Slack and email hybrid.

One idea is for AI to play a larger role, which is something I've mentioned many times before as a way to deal with email overload as well.

On Slack, I know there are many bots that can help with task management, surveys, and linking to apps like Trello. But AI could help deal with Slack messages I don't even need to see, perhaps responding for me when there's a message that asks about my plans for a project or why I haven't been on the forum as much lately. For that to work, the bot would need to know a lot more about my workload and my schedule, and would also need some machine learning to know how to respond in a way that sounds human.

I also wonder if voicebots can help here.

I'd like to tell Amazon Alexa to handle some of my Slack duties, such as reminding people about things or automating some tasks. "Alexa, have a conversation with everyone on Slack to find out what they are working on and then do a report for me" is not a thing yet, but maybe it could be at some point. And, maybe it could save a ton of time.

Some of this, of course, is easy to fix. On Slack, I've talked to people about how to improve communication, about not engaging in idle chatter. It works for a while, but we drift back into old habits. One of the real productivity killers is that people tend to forget things and need reminders on teams, so if AI or a voicebot could watch conversations, and then jump in and remind people about things automatically, it would also save time.

The real truth? What I'm looking for hasn't been invented yet. I'm hoping for a hybrid of Slack and email that also has some automations that go beyond tasks and schedules, that brings AI and relationship-building into the mix, that takes some of the tediousness out of messaging, and that creates a more vibrant communication channel. I don't mean more video or more emoticons and GIFs, I mean something to help deal with the overload and connect us in a way that seems more like we're in the same room.

I'm curious if you have experienced the same problem on Slack, now that many of us have used it for several years. Is the app getting a little old for you as well? Does it seem like digital noise? How have you relieved the boredom and solved the problem on your team, or do you just accept the messaging onslaught? If you have ideas for me, drop me an email to explain how you've made Slack more vibrant and valuable.

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