IM Needs an Inbox


I’ve used Slack at a couple of companies, back 2015 and now in 2020 as well as minimally for personal uses. In that time my opinion has been fairly consistent. I don’t like Slack. There are a number of reasons for this, from superficial reasons such as the fact that their “share” button looks like a “reply” button, to more “power user” reasons such as the minimal control over how I read, receive and get notified about messages. However at the end of the day the primary reason I don’t like Slack is that it has no inbox.

When I say inbox I mean a list of things that I haven’t handled yet. Slack tracks your “unread” messages, but reading a message isn’t the same as dealing with it. In Slack once you have read a message it is removed from your unread list and unless you happen to remember it, or get another message in whatever channel it was in you will never see it again.

This “done by default” logic means that I regularly fail to act upon important messages. Maybe I am checking slack minutes before a meeting and don’t have time to respond, or don’t have time to perform the required task. In this case I still need to take explicit action in order to retain that message. (Either marking as unread, or asking Slackbot to remind me.) If I was dilligent it would work, but there is always something to distract you, and so I will continue to miss messages.

This problem isn’t unique to Slack, it is present in just about all IM clients. In my opinion it makes them unsutiable for important communication.

I guess what I am saying is… if you email me I will respond, but if you send an IM you might want to follow up after a day or two to make sure I wasn’t distracted when that notification popped up.