We like Slack too! Except…
Slack is the most popular internal communication tool for technology companies the world over. And why not? It’s easy to use, has thousands of integrations with other applications and makes communication between individuals and groups especially simple. Add in the occasional funny meme added to the #General channel and what’s not to like?
Well, it turns out there are a lot of things that are, while not necessarily, unlikeable, could certainly be improved.
But who would start a business to simply improve upon a fast-growing monolith? We’re certainly smart enough to recognize that it’s silly to position ourselves as “Slack but better.” When has that ever worked? It’s not like Facebook was “like MySpace but better” or that Google ever was “like Alta Vista but better” or….actually, wait. Turns out maybe that’s not a bad idea after all.
What we like about Slack
Hey, we like Slack too! We like the innovation that marked the early years of the platform. We love the ubiquity with which the idea of simplified, direct communication was adopted by so many people and companies. We love that an entire category of software that was being done already by HipChat and Lync finally got a jolt in the arm and came to market in a way that was easy to understand and easy to use. And if we are being honest, we also like the occasional funny meme added to the #General channel. But there are also some things that we don’t like and some things that we like but wish we could love. Here are just a few….
The Slack UI isn’t for everyone.
Yes, there is a web version and an app. Yes, you can access Slack from almost any connected device. But what about when we want to include someone in a conversation and they aren’t on Slack or don’t want to join that specific instance?
Why not have email work with a messaging tool so that those using the app and those using their inbox can communicate seamlessly in the same place? Why not make a system that sits in the middle of the messages, not on the edges? That way the preferred user experience for the user is dictated by the user.
Examples: Use Aether for customer support wherein customers can email email@example.com and your support technicians can reply via Aether. Even better, use Aether for neighbourhood groups, study groups at school and anywhere you want a small community to stay in touch without saying “you have to use this tool to be part of our conversation.”
Slack does a poor job organizing shared knowledge
Don’t lie, you’ve had that moment where you are looking for a piece of information or an idea that someone shared in Slack but….(scroll through the channel)….you….(search without success)…just…(scroll through another channel)….can’t….(search field)….find it. It’s great that Slack lets you have a limitless archive of all the stuff you talked about. But it isn’t that useful if you have to remember what shelf in the warehouse you put something on to find it again.
With Aether not only can you notate content and messages for later, but upvoting/downvoting messages and threads helps surface the content you need to see now and are most likely to need in the future. Is it perfect? No, but it’s REALLY good already and we’re working every day to make finding what you need even more intuitive and powerful.
Slack doesn’t take out the garbage
The opposite problem also exists. Slack’s power to keep absolutely everything means that often that’s exactly what happens: you end up keeping absolutely everything. That makes finding anything specific difficult. Eventually, there are so many threads, messages, channels, @s, and apps that the entire promise of streamlining and simplifying has gone out the window. If you started using Slack because your inbox and Groups were overwhelming then your Slack is probably starting to resemble the very environments you tried to leave. No? Give it time.
Aether is the perfect solution for starting groups when they are needed and getting rid of them when they are no longer necessary. Channels archive after sitting idle for too long and inactive members are culled at regular intervals to make sure there are less clutter gunking things up. No one likes a garage full of stuff.
Slack messages are just messages…that’s all. Shouldn’t they be so much more than that?
Wouldn’t it be great if all that information and knowledge and discussion happening in Slack turned into something useful? Like that time 4 months ago in Slack that a really important product decision was made and now no one remembers why? If only you could find the Slack thread!
Aether allows you to turn messages into actual documentation. You can even turn threads into the most painful to create, boring, but entirely necessary technical documentation for whatever you’re actually working on. If you enjoy torturing yourself then you can, of course, come back and do the documentation later. Most people would rather just let Aether help do it along the way.
Slack charges you for more channels
We know people that use Slack instances to handle customer interactions and support. That’s not really what Slack was designed for but, hey, pretty cool idea! Problem is that Slack has a limit on the number of channels even paid users can have. And if you’re using a different channel to support each customer, at some point you can’t add any more customers/channels in Slack.
We imagine at some point some VC will be breathing down our backs to find more revenue streams. But that isn’t happening today and when it does, you can be sure that we won’t limit the number of channels and conversations you’re allowed. Our ToS will ask for reasonable limits and usage so that you can’t write a script that creates 50,000 channels in an hour. But we promise to never nickel and dime you for responsibly using more of the features you count on. More to the point, we want you to use more channels. Aether should be the control centre for your communications.
Slack helps with conversations but not communities
Say you’re in the middle of a “sprint” at work, just joined a Tiger Team, or fallen in with another crowd of this that or the other and need a way to communicate. Well, Slack works pretty well for that…as long as everyone is using Slack. But what if some people would rather stick to email? What if the leader or boss wants to message an entire group but does not necessarily want the entire group to message each other? What about if when the sprint, event, stage, or semester is over the group and all of its threads can quietly and peacefully fade away instead of continuing to clutter up inboxes and messaging applications?
Aether was built for communities in exactly this fashion. Professors can communicate with students and then when the semester is over a new group of students is enrolled in CS101 they simply need to be added to an Aether group and just like that, group communication is super simple. No more annoying email groups that wind up with a thousand different side conversations. No more random threads that include these two people but not this other important person. No more channels that are two years old, inactive and still….there.
Slack is awesome but we thought it could be a whole lot awesome-er
Look, Slack is popular for a reason. It fills a dire need to facilitate conversations and communication that isn’t well-served by how people typically use email. As mentioned, even we used to use Slack and really liked it. But we built Aether because we saw gaps between what Slack could do and what Slack actually could do well.
We appreciate that Slack has moved communication forward for millions of people the world over in business environments, schools and other group situations. We appreciate that hashtags and emojis can live somewhere else now. And we are happy to see that with Slack we’ve evolved to channels and away from email threads.
That was a great feat, a decade ago. Isn’t it time that you started to keep an eye out for what got better since, with all those learnings?
We’ve been doing just that, keeping in mind how the real world works, not just Silicon Valley — that’s Aether.
Have questions? We’re friendly
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