Apple Watch doesn’t need more apps.

Slack is the latest app to ditch the Apple Watch:

Like Twitter, Amazon, and Google Maps before it, Slack is ditching its Apple Watch app. The team chat and collaboration platform for businesses quietly announced the news via an update to its iOS app. But, that doesn’t mean Slack will disappear entirely from your wrist.

You’ll still be able to respond to incoming messages on your Apple Watch courtesy of rich notifications — all that’s absent is the ability to view unread mentions. So, you may not be missing much after all, which sums up the essential problem with dedicated Apple Watch apps.

This move makes sense. The Apple Watch isn’t the iPhone.

For me Apple Watch is a glanceable, health-tracking, message notifier that unlocks my MacBook when I wake it up (my favorite feature).

I have no need for the apps on my Apple Watch to mirror the ones on my iPhone.


Interface, Mobility, Product


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Google’s Slackalike

Google Hangouts is getting a major overhaul to take on Slack:

If you know anything about Google’s messaging strategy in the last few years, you know that it’s been a bit of a mess. Allo, the consumer app, launched without the cross-platform features users expect. Text messaging on mobile is mired in inter-carrier warfare. And Hangouts has become a punchline.

On two of those fronts, Google has been making progress. And today, in a bit of a surprise, Google has signaled that it finally decided Hangouts is supposed to be: a business communication tool to complement its consumer apps. We’re now getting a glimpse of what that means — and if the early demo I saw is any indication, it might be time to stop making fun of Hangouts.

That’s because Hangouts is turning into a group chat system that looks a hell of a lot like Slack. Like Microsoft, Google is launching a Slackalike — and like Microsoft, it’s betting that deep integration with the rest of its office suite is going to be catnip for IT managers and cost-conscious CFOs.

I’ve used Slack at different companies and projects over the last three years and I’ve never understood what all the hype was about. To me it was just the newest kid on the messaging block. Then about two weeks ago I started a new job and the company I work for uses Hipchat. I immediately became aware of how inferior Hipchat is to Slack. There is zero delight, personality, and thoughtfulness to it. Sometimes you don’t miss something until it’s gone.

For all the great thinking that went into the design and usability of Slack, I’ve always found it to be where people waste a lot of time sharing links, videos, animated GIFs, and chatting about things unrelated to their work.

If I ran a company, I’d be willing to try offsetting time wasted on Slack by eliminating email.


Interface, Product

Microsoft Slack. I mean Teams.

Yesterday Microsoft launched their Slack competitor, Teams.

Then Slack responded in a full-page ad and on their site/Medium:

Dear Microsoft,

Wow. Big news! Congratulations on today’s announcements. We’re genuinely excited to have some competition.

We realized a few years ago that the value of switching to Slack was so obvious and the advantages so overwhelming that every business would be using Slack, or “something just like it,” within the decade. It’s validating to see you’ve come around to the same way of thinking. And even though — being honest here — it’s a little scary, we know it will bring a better future forward faster.

However, all this is harder than it looks. So, as you set out to build “something just like it,” we want to give you some friendly advice.

That, my friends, is what’s called passive-aggressive. It’s also douchey. This is how nerds talk shit. Soooo intimidating.

After checking out their product video, I’m quickly reminded of what I just wrote earlier today about Microsoft always being a day late and a dollar short.

I’ve been using Slack for a few years now with different companies. I think it’s solid, but I don’t think it’s as amazing as a lot of reviews make it out to be. From the two companies I’ve used it at I’ve actually found Slack to be the place where a lot of people waste time not working, posting animated GIFs and sharing stuff. I’m sure those companies were complete edge cases.

The reality is I won’t be using Microsoft Teams unless a client or the company I’m working for asks me to. It looks interesting based on the screenshots and you can clearly see where they’ve been influenced by Slack.


Product, Technology

Slacky Skype

It looks like Microsoft has some updates coming to Skype:

It was recently reported that Microsoft wanted to buy Slack for $8 billion. Slack, for those unfamiliar, is a messaging app for teams that’s been getting quite popular recently. Now, Microsoft is working on a direct Slack competitor under the Skype brand, according to people familiar with the matter.

Meet Skype Teams.

Skype Teams is going to be Microsoft’s take on messaging apps for teams. Skype Teams will include a lot of similar features which you’ll find on Slack. For example, Skype Teams will allow you to chat in different groups within a team, also known as “channels”. Additionally, users will be able to talk to each other via Direct Messages on Skype Teams.

Now this is the Microsoft of old that I know and love: reacting to what other companies are doing, rather than innovating on their own.

As a longtime user of Skype, it’s hard for me to see how Microsoft has improved it since they bought it in 2011.


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“Treat chat like a sauna — stay a while but then get out.”

Last week Basecamp CEO Jason Fried published a great piece on all the ways group chat applications like Slack are bad.

The whole piece is a must-read, but here’s one nugget:

Many chat platforms put a little green dot next to people telling you they are online/available. That’s called presence, and it’s worse than you might expect. It’s professional pressure to stay logged into chat. It’s saying “if you aren’t green, you aren’t at work”. Quitting chat suggests you aren’t part of the group. And that pressure forces you to keep a chat room open all day. Which forces you to absorb the blows of all-day distractions while you’re trying to actually get the work done you’re supposed to be doing. It’s just a modern version of the outdated butts in seats. Sure you can say do not disturb, but the true version of do not disturb is quitting the app.

In the world of technology, I believe there are very view examples of ‘the good old days’. Computers were always slower and monitors were always lower resolution than they are now. Always. I should know because I’ve been on computers since 1981.

There’s one example that bucks this trend: instant messaging. I miss the days of AIM, aka AOL Instant Messenger. What I miss about AIM is explicitly signing on and signing off. In fact, that was an explicit declaration I used to make with my friends and coworkers when were were mid-chat and ready to sign off, “OK, Mark. I’m out. Late.”

This world doesn’t exist anymore. We’re always online and always available. Apple’s Messages app even gives you the ability to send read confirmations on iMessages you’ve received and opened. I turned this option off years ago.

It’s important for a company to have a strong culture defined so employees clearly understand the rules around instant messaging and the environment such rules aim to establish.

Shit, do I have to spell it out for these people?

Yes. Yes you do.

The fact that Jason Fried wrote the piece mentioned above and he’s the CEO of his company makes a world of difference than if he were just a designer or project manager. Company culture is established at the top, and communicated to the rest of the company. It never happens the other way around.