The (Hidden) Costs of Real-Time Communication

Jason Fried on the pitfalls of group chat (he discusses some of this in a recent episode of Product Hunt radio):

At its very core, group chat and real-time communication are all about now. That’s why in some select circumstances it really shines. But chat conditions us to believe everything’s worth discussing quickly right now, except that hardly anything is. Turns out, very few things require ASAP attention. Further, ASAP is inflationary — it devalues any request that doesn’t say ASAP.

Jason makes a good argument that the presence of well-meaning features in group chat tools doesn't matter much if the design doesn't encourage them at a fundamental level:

A product is a series of design decisions with a specific outcome in mind. Yes, you can use tools as they weren’t intended, but most people follow the patterns suggested by the design. And so in the end, if people are exhausted and feeling unable to keep up, it’s the tool’s fault, not the user’s fault. If the design leads to stress, it’s a bad design.

More than any other group chat software I've used, Slack has gone out of its way to promote good behaviors (like the absence of 'idle' states). However, it's up to your team to be aware of the cost of real-time communication and make sure you protect against the types of issues Jason brings up. Hopefully, we'll see more features like Do Not Disturb hours coming from the Slack team to promote better communication patterns.