The map is not the territory

The ‘making of’ version of the Slack experience

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Katie Benner, a New York Times writer I don’t think I’ve seen before, writes a piece about Slack which is full of factoids, but somehow fails to get at what people are doing with work chat. And she never uses the phrase work chat, either.

However, this is one of the best one liners I’ve heard in awhile.

Katie Benner, Slack, an Upstart in Messaging, Now Faces Giant Tech Rivals

The battle between Slack and its competitors is essentially a fight over who will make the next piece of workplace software that no one can live without.

That line captures the shift from top-down enterprise software decisions imposed by the CIO in the previous generations of ‘collaboration’ tools. Today, all software has to be consumer-grade, filling the needs of the individual first (soloists), then the needs of small teams (sets), and only then the needs of management, which are mostly at the sets of sets level of social scale (scenes) of companywide (spheres). So I could rephrase Benner’s line to say

The battle between Slack and its competitors is essentially a fight over who will make the next piece of workplace software that no individual or team can live without.

The piece includes a quote from Sean Ryan of Facebook, which I completely disagree with:

‘Companies want their employees to collaborate more, because better collaboration reduces the need to jump ship,’ said Sean Ryan, the head of partnerships at Facebook’s Workplace. ‘The №1 reason people leave their jobs is they feel isolated.’

In all my research, I’ve found that the number one reason people quit their jobs is bad bosses. And, candidly, Slack can’t do much about that.

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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