Stop Saying “Hi!” on Slack. Now. Please.

I see: you are uneasy about interrupting someone. You feel you might as well do it gently. Break the ice, prepare the turf, something like that. You are asking them a favor or question on Slack, and you don’t want to overwhelm them right off the bat. Except you might be doing something worse: interrupting that person to notify them you’re still typing whatever it is you want to send their way.

João Craveiro is typing… and I got distracted just to stare at him doing it.

“Stop the madness!”

Kevin O’Leary

If the person you’re contacting is someone who aims at a balance between

  • being reliably responsive within a reasonable time frame; and
  • (not) being overloaded with notifications;

then Direct Messages will be among the few things that trigger a notification on their computer. Notifications are bad (I’ll be the first to sign under that), but Slack is kind of “synchronous asynchronous” — it’s asynchronous, but one’s expected to keep a reasonable response time (somewhere between that of an in-person interruption and that of an email). So your colleague might Alt+Tab (or Cmd+Tab, or four-fingers-and-an-elbow-swipe, or whatever they need to do to switch context) to Slack, to see if it’s something they can quickly reply, and…it isn’t. You’re still typing. Argh!

If responding to direct interactions is critical for them, they might even have Direct Messages trigger push notifications on their mobile device. With sound. And vibration. And you just made someone get their phone from their pocket to find you saying “Hi”, or “ping”. Argh!

At this point you might be thinking: “Screw the bloody bastard. If he got notified, it’s his problem.” Yeah. Right. GG. Maybe he’ll just get tired of people talking on Slack as if they’re writing a letter on a typewriter, and disable notifications altogether. And then you’ll wonder why you can’t count on him to get back to you on Slack. Argh!

So, next time you find yourself saying “Hi” in a Direct Message on Slack, just hold back that impulse to hit Enter. Type a comma, and say what you want right away. Deal?

(And if you’re on a Slack channel, you might also consider using threads.)

“Ah yeeaaahhhh! Can you see dems? Out on the Porch. Potato wave”

This post represents my personal opinion on this subject, not that of any company I work at/for on this subject area.