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These functions aren’t so different from those of previous chat apps, but Slack makes them look good (a friendly interface) and run better (speedy, reliable, with a strong search function).
All of this has earned Slack word-of-mouth enthusiasm, not something generally associated with workplace software.
Originally, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield set out to design games.
In 2002, he began work on Game Neverending, an online fantasy video game in which it was impossible for players to win or lose — that project failed, but some of its code gave rise to Flickr.
For better or worse, it makes work life more like digital life, albeit a digital life where you can also smell what everyone else is eating for lunch.
The question is, what does this intrusion do to the delicate diplomacy of office life?
Slack, first released in 2013, has essentially ushered employer-sanctioned social media into the workplace.
At some point over the last year, it started to feel, at least in a certain kind of office, as ubiquitous as those other social-media giants.
Channels are sometimes devoted to hobbies or snacks, but the overall idea is to improve workplace collaboration and communication.
Like Facebook or Twitter, Slack induces the same anxious, attention-hungry rhythm in its users, the same need to endlessly refresh, and gives off the same illusion of intimacy in an ultimately public space.
It also makes the line between work and not-work blurrier than ever — the constant scroll of maybe-relevant chatter in your chosen Slack channels registers at times like the background noise of any other newsfeed.
And, “people were getting called ‘dumb sluts’ left and right.” At first, as salespeople started reading, the talk continued, but then the account managers noticed who was joining and began to flee.
The fight-or-flight impulse was not particularly useful here: They could make the channel disappear from their own view of Slack, but running away did nothing to delete its history.
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What happens when we bring our digital selves to work? Valued at $3.8 billion last year, Slack claims 5 million daily active users across workplaces that include 21st Century Fox, Dow Jones, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.