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    Helpful hint: you can turn slack notifications off.

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      When I did this my coworkers got super mad I wasn’t answering things promptly.

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        Do they get mad when you try to negotiate for “Do No Distract” times in the day?

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          We didn’t have a culture where people actually followed that. You could have a do not disturb time but people would interrupt you anyway. A couple of us started making fake meetings just to get some time to code.

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            Ouch. It’s telling when things get that bad.

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              A couple of us started making fake meetings just to get some time to code.

              It’s a good trick, I’ve been doing this for years so I could make sure I got lunch and time to do work.

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                Wow. These comments, and the recent thread about maybe not working long hours, paint a bleak picture of current work practices in the US.

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            get better co-workers

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              I actually got the different answer. I was using slack as a message queue, when I saw a coworker that I wanted to distract, I’d slack them (via the app) and wait for an answer, but they actually prefered me to come to talk to them and bother them.

              I found this weird but complied…

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              If you read the article, notifications are only a very small part of the problem. The author was speaking about wide scale effects happening at the organization level.

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                This. So much this. I know that the discussion can take different forms and sometimes there are also larger organizational issues at play. But with that said, I think people often forget that they can disable notification on devices. I’ve seen co-workers across two companies leave notifications on for every single message in a channel (yes, you read that correctly) and with sound nonetheless. It baffles me.

                macOS comes with a built-in Do Not Disturb mode. Slack lets you configure your notifications so that you’re not getting notifications for each single message across a bajillion channels.

                [Slack] normalizes interruptions, multitasking, and distractions, implicitly permitting these things to happen IRL as well as online. It normalizes insanely short reply times for questions. In the slack world people can escalate from asking in a room to @person to @here in a matter of minutes. And they’re not wrong to – if your request isn’t handled in 5 minutes it’s as good as forgotten.

                Somewhere along the way we forgot that interruptions are toxic to real work. It wasn’t always this way. On day 1 of my first trading job the only instruction I received was ‘when the market is open, mute your phone.’ The subtext was ‘or else’. If someone said this to me today I’d give them a hug, and I’m not a hugger.

                I think people need this reminder today. Outside of work I see people with group chats on their phones (be it Facebook, Twitter, Hangouts, whathaveyou) that bleeps and bloops without rest. I can’t imagine living in that world.

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                Wow I couldn’t agree more with his assertions around e-mail. I’m seeing a generational divide happen, ADD youngsters are telling me “Email is awful!” on a fairly regular basis now. WHY? I’ve yet to get an actual, viable, useful answer.

                Mostly what I get is “It’s so 5 minutes ago”.

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                  This is a good point. Email and Slack are just communication tools. The workplace is full of low-quality communication because most workplaces are low in quality: inept management, no real desire to motivate people, stupid projects, and crappy ideas. The problem never was email itself. Nor is it Slack per se.

                  It’s like the common comment about dating sites: the sites are a solved problem, but people are broken.

                  Now, Jira is evil and should die in a taint fire. That’s just an objective fact.

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                    I’m on board with your core sentiment here, and broadly characterizing a generation as suffering from a disability isn’t much better of a rationale than those “youngsters” are giving you for not liking email.

                    (Having spent a decade as a teacher and middle school administrator before venturing into dev work, I’m well aware of the very real challenges of keeping the attention of people younger than me…)

                    Not trying to poke you in the eye (metaphorically or otherwise). Just saying… 🍻

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                      What’s doubly amusing about your choice of wording is that I am in fact blind in one eye and low vision in the other, so go ahead and poke away as long as it’s the left side :)

                      And, to address the meat of what you’re saying, you’re right. I had no business being cavalier about the term ADD. Thanks for pointing that out.

                      I need to find a new turn of phrase to describe the ever shortening attention span of humans :)

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                        Haha… Well clearly I stepped in it there with my choice of metaphor. 🤦🏻‍♂️

                        Agreed. We definitely need a better shorthand for shrinking attention spans…

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                      My main issue with email is that unless everyone uses the same email client and email client settings things become a mess. Some people add replies at the bottom of the chain, others at the top. Some people use HTML email, some don’t. Some people have signatures 8 miles long.

                      It’s just so darn messy.

                      What I like about instant messaging is that it is quicker, (to me) more organized, and most of his arguments against it are mostly due to not knowing how to set status. If you don’t want to be distracted set yourself to “do not disturb”. I haven’t worked with a team where this was a problem (assuming you do eventually answer questions).

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                        It doesn’t have to be messy. HTML versus not should be transparent to you (I use mutt for work) - the top posting problem is a larger issue, and I blame Google and Microsoft. They’ve attempted to make mail act like IM.

                        There is only one true way to respond to email messages, and it was defined in RFC-1855

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                          I’m not saying it has to be messy, I’m just saying it is in the real world. And while I could start sending mail that complies with RFC-1855, I still have to deal with everyone who sends me mail and doesn’t comply to any standard.

                          HTML versus not should be transparent to you

                          How? I use outlook at work because I need it for meeting requests, shared address books, etc.

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                            So, wait, you’re complaining about HTML email because you choose to use a GUI client?

                            Fascinating, captain :)

                            I too use Outlook/Exchange for meetings, but that’s all I use it for. My mail pipeline is fetcmail/procmail and mutt and it works famously with Exchange. Google it and see :)

                            Your point about not being able to control unruly senders is valid, but I’m not sure that merits throwing the baby out with the bath water.

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                        Email has good properties, but I see many problems with email that other tools avoid:

                        • With email, it’s harder to jump into an existing conversation. You can’t just visit a link and read the existing conversation. You have to wait for someone to post something new to the mailing list, or ask someone to forward you the discussion so far. And then you have to read the previous messages with a zig-zag path – read top to bottom within each message, but read the list of messages bottom to top.

                        • The culture of email suggests that you surround your message with salutations and sign-offs. In most environments, every time you write a new email, you have to write “Hi John,” or “Greetings all,” at the beginning, and then “Thanks, Rory” or “Sincerely, Rory” at the end. It takes time away from writing the content of the message, time that is usually not worth the signaling it provides.

                        • In some companies, emails have signatures at the bottom that repeat information you already know such as the contact information of the company. It requires more scrolling and mental filtering to see the actual content.

                        • Emails have a sending delay and require writing subject lines. This makes them less appropriate for messages that should be sent in real time, because they are relevant to a real-time conversation. For example, if you are telling a coworker about a relevant blog post and why they should read it, it’s better if you can just paste the URL into a message with them and they get it instantly.

                        • Emails can’t be edited. If you make a stupid typo or forget an attachment, you have no choice but to either accept the error or to send another email with the correction. If you send a correction email, all readers have to manually apply in their heads your described patch to the original email – no one can apply the fix so the others don’t have to. And if someone else sends an email with a subject line that is revealed to be irrelevant, you can’t change the subject line to focus future discussion – the best you can do is send a correction email.

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                        I’ve switched to using TwistApp (https://www.twistapp.com) with my team. Unlike Slack where you have channels where everyone talks about everything, TwistApp bases conversations around threads. Every problem that’s being worked on has its own thread. Once it’s completed, I close and archive the threads. Very effective for getting things done as every task is isolated in a separate thread and discussions rarely overlap.

                        Also read this post by Amir, the founder of TwistApp - Why we’re betting against real time messaging - https://blog.doist.com/why-were-betting-against-real-time-team-messaging-521804a3da09

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                          Though this article was published recently, the author is out of touch with the current versions of software.

                          Chat, at least on slack, isn’t grouped or threaded.

                          Slack supports threads now. Any top-level message can be replied to in that messages thread. People aren’t notified of new messages in a thread unless they are following it.

                          My company, which has about 35 regular users of Slack, uses that feature often. I find it easy to keep track of the current conversations.

                          I agree that rooms don’t provide much separation of topics, but at least there is the #random room by default, so people are discouraged from posting funny links to the work-related rooms.

                          SO has become relatively shitty now, and replaced docs for a lot of OSS libs.

                          I don’t see the relevance of the official Stack Overflow website, which still supports the same features it used to, when the context is about a hypothetical company-specific Stack Overflow. But this statement is out of date. Stack Overflow deleted their experimental Documentation section of the site, and migrated worthy Examples from there into normal questions and answers.

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                            I’d argue that slack threads are even MORE annoying and distracting. They’re an unneeded and poorly implemented abstraction when the actual solution to room overcrowding and noise is to simply get your own room.

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                            A phone network isn’t an organisation’s memory either. Treating it that way would be a mistake, and the same holds for Slack. I think there is a hint in “instant messaging”. That aside, I agree that Slack can lead to distractions but I don’t think that moving to email (as suggested) would solve that problem.

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                              I feel like a lot of the author’s concerns (interruptibility, urgency) can be addressed by putting into place the recommendations of The Asshole Filter. Specifically:

                              • Encourage people to use low-interruption methods like tickets, email or bugs (whatever you or your team has declared ‘the right way’ to be contacted).
                              • If anyone attempts to priority-bump in an inappropriate manner, refuse to help until they go through the proper channel. “Sure I can help, can you please file a ticket so we can track this?” etc.
                              • Actively check and respond to items submitted ‘the right way.’ This is critical – people need to feel that the best way to get what they need is to go through the appropriate channel. As soon as people get the impression that tickets/emails/bugs are never checked, they’ll attempt to priority-bump and then you’re back to square one.
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                                This is true. It’s a pathetic replacement for documentation. Confluence sucks but at least it works.

                                That said, Slack isn’t innately evil. It’s just how people use it that’s the problem. Skype or Hipchat could be just as toxic. I don’t blame the tool; I blame people, and the fact that software engineers lack the backbone to stand up against the increasing crapflood of surveillance and nonsense inflicted upon them. If you have to work under “Agile Scrum” and aren’t talking to a union right now, then you’re a punk– in the prison sense of the word.

                                Now, Jira is the devil. I can’t come up with a single product I hate more. It was OK as a bug-tracker, but now that Spreadsheet Eichmanns are using it as an all-purpose panopticon, it deserves to die in a fire.

                                Back when I came up, if you asked someone to do something, it usually got done; but if you CC’d that person’s boss while asking, that was almost cause for a fistfight– as it ought to be, because it’s a shitty move, and people who play that passive-aggressive game deserve to be brought right. But Jira has normalized that behavior: it’s essentially a machine for sending emails not just to someone’s boss, but to the whole company.

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                                  I have no particular love for any Atlassian products, but… Jira, out of the box, is really just a bug tracker. One with enough structure and features that you might be able to manage the development of a large body of software with several concurrent release trains.

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                                  Some aphorisms apply:

                                  1. It’s a poor craftsman that blames his tools.
                                  2. Be the change that you wish to see in the world.
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                                    Fair warning, this is a rant.

                                    It’s a poor craftsman that blames his tools.

                                    This aphorism is the reason I quit HN all those years ago. It is absolute trash. A much improved version is “A craftsman takes responsibility for the tools they use.” This is still irrelevant to the article that was posted, but it has a chance of being useful in some discussion happening somewhere, probably (but if I were to bet on it, I wouldn’t).

                                    What if you’re being forced to use bad tools? What if your tools are actively sabotaging your ability to work? What if your tools really are the biggest source of pain and distraction? What if not using the tool will be held against you? What if not using the tool will get you fired? What if the tool genuinely does the opposite of what it claims to do?

                                    What if you’re sitting down to really think about the impact your tools have on your work, and seeing one of them come up severely short? Is that blaming [their] tools? Or should we all just put up with whatever we’re handed, because it is always on us as craftspeople to take on the full burden of bad tools—even when there is no good reason—and just slog through it as our lives unhappily waste away?

                                    I wish people would be more honest with this whole “a poor craftsperson” thing and just say “I think you’re bad and that it’s your fault,” or even “quit your bitching”. It’s still a lowest tier comment, but at least it’s direct.

                                    And yes, I’m going to continue to use gender neutral words because I want to…

                                    Be the change that you wish to see in the world.

                                    Yeah, that’s why he’s writing about it.

                                    Some aphorisms apply

                                    These ones don’t, but it’s easy to miss that when you don’t attempt to justify the application of those aphorisms.

                                    The article is a) an analysis of the ways slack can decrease organizational productivity, even circumventing individual countermeasures, and b) a call to action to change the culture that embraces slack.

                                    Neither of your aphorisms meaningfully interact with the two (clearly expressed) core ideas of the article, in any way.

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                                      Thank you for this. You’re spot-on.

                                      The craftsman metaphor is terrible, when applied to programming. It says “his tools”. In the workplace, you don’t use your tools; you’re forced to use their tools.

                                      Slack (as often used) is terrible, and Jira is worse. These have become tools of managerial surveillance; they are tooled used against, not by, workers.

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                                        Maybe a poor craftsman blames his manager.

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                                        I used the first aphorism correctly, and I am also aware that a lot of people are triggered by it.*

                                        If the tools suck don’t use them. If they’re valuable but flawed be constructive? It doesn’t have the same ring to it. Slack has a place, what’s the alternative? IRC? A directory with everyone’s phone numbers in it? There’s no ‘turn off notifications’ button for your manager taps you on the shoulder twice an hour.

                                        The article didn’t read as a call to action to me as much as a long poorly formatted ramble by someone who was having a adverse reaction to their current work environment.

                                        It’s a flawed workplace culture… Are they blaming someone else’s tools? Is that better?

                                        Which gets into the second aphorism. I think the author should talk to his manager/coworkers or quit instead of writing passive aggressive blog posts.

                                        If I’m really going to lengths to make myself absolutely clear. By talk I don’t mean go on crusade against the tools, they fail to present any alternatives in the post! (Besides use email for everything, maybe they’re too young to remember how difficult that was.)

                                        *Maybe I was hoping to get a rise out of someone. Plato was fond of the Dialectic, maybe I am too.

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                                          If the tools suck don’t use them.

                                          You really seem to have not read the post you’re replying to:

                                          What if you’re being forced to use bad tools? What if your tools are actively sabotaging your ability to work? What if your tools really are the biggest source of pain and distraction? What if not using the tool will be held against you? What if not using the tool will get you fired? What if the tool genuinely does the opposite of what it claims to do?

                                          That addresses your ~first aphorism~ really quite neatly. They’re blaming someone else’s tools, sure, because they’re to blame. Rejecting reality because you have a pithy quote that suggests you should is not productive.

                                          I think the author should talk to his manager/coworkers or quit instead of writing passive aggressive blog posts.

                                          Who’s to say they’re not doing that too? Writing a post like this has value as well; it lets a wider community reflect on it, submit comments (there have been some useful ones here, this thread notwithstanding), and possibly come up with some mitigations or thoughts on how future tools could do better. This is not a new concept.

                                          “Be the change you want to see in the world” is great when you’re all-powerful, but that’s almost never the case in real life.

                                          and I am also aware that a lot of people are triggered by it.*

                                          christ man, get back to HN

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                                            I have never been on HN… That’s a personal attack, it’s toxic, you shouldn’t do it, I shouldn’t get into the mud with you by responding.

                                            Nobody is being forced to do anything here. A good crafts-laborer would realize this. It’s an apt aphorism. It’s not a dangerous idea to suggest that a worker can determine the conditions under which he works…

                                            Just because I used an aphorism and that’s something that trolls do doesn’t mean I’m a troll. I didn’t expect to get any upvotes for an unpopular opinion voiced in an unpopular way, but I also didn’t expect so much hostility!

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                                              I am honestly interested in the mechanism by which a craftsperson could determine the conditions under which they work, assuming a standard capitalist employee-employer relationship.

                                              If we all tend to agree a person needs to work in order to make a living, I find this might be possible if you’re “your own boss”. Even then you probably have clients, and they tend to demand their own sets of tools and processes you need to adjust to. This isn’t only a matter of IT: my dad worked in a car repair shop, and they really didn’t have a choice with regards to the diagnostic hardware and software they could use, nor the hardware they used to do the actual repairs (it’s mostly proprietary, and dependent on the manufacturer).

                                              Of course, you can always quit and find another job with better tooling; IT people today are severely privileged since jobs are abundant and we’re in very high demand. It’s certainly not unreasonable to expect this won’t be the case forever, and actually discussing problems with the tooling (and management, and processes, and …) seems like a good thing to do if you want to improve your working environment.

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                                                My mechanisms are the same as yours. Employers by and large are people too. My grandfather was an auto mechanic too, and he had his side projects just like I do.

                                                I think the only point we actually disagree on is whether this blog post is constructive.

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                                                That’s a personal attack, it’s toxic, you shouldn’t do it, I shouldn’t get into the mud with you by responding.

                                                Your flippant use of the word “triggered” is what’s toxic.

                                                It’s not a dangerous idea to suggest that a worker can determine the conditions under which he works…

                                                No, just dangerously wrong.

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                                                  Discussing triggers big and small is important. I can’t think of another way to put it, but being triggered by the use of the word triggered isn’t a mentally safe place to be.