liz writes stuff down
4Nov/16Off

Slack doesn’t listen to its users.

In a rush of hubris, Slack published a full page ad taunting Microsoft Teams in the New York Times:

Part of their letter reads:

Communication is hard, yet it is the most fundamental thing we do as human beings. We’ve spent tens of thousands of hours talking to customers and adapting Slack to find the grooves that match all those human quirks.

Slack knows it is used in a lot of places, in a lot of different ways. Many users have been requesting the ability to mute or block other users:

Users have offered numerous reasons they might want this feature:

I found those tweets in a couple minutes, and you can easily find more. I'm not sure when Slack first heard users wanted blocking and muting, but they definitely did almost two years ago:

Despite hearing this request for two years, Slack's position now is that no one needs blocking and muting features:

That's not attentively listening to users like their ad claims.

5Nov/152

Hearts, stars, and trumpets: the things I “favorite” but don’t “like”

Twitter recently changed "favorites" to "likes".

We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.

It's true - not everything can be my favorite. For me, there are three categories for tweets I "favorited": tweets talking about something I like, tweets about something important, and tweets that make me want to offer the author support. I probably didn't favorite anywhere near all of the tweets that talked about something I liked, but I find there's only so many times I'm interested in actively clicking to like a gif of a cat rolling around.

The other two categories - tweets that are about something important and tweets that make me want to offer the author support - are not always things I categorize as things I "like". In fact, the ones that I think are most important to favorite are definitely not things I like, such as commentary on Sandra Bland's death or a friend struggling with her workplace's sexism.

By favoriting, I could help highlight something important, especially since favorites/likes are one of the "engagements" that influence Twitter's "While you were away" selections, and I could highlight anything I found important, not just the easier topics I found "like"able. There are a lot of important stories I want to tell that social media algorithms overlook because they are not "like"able, and in my circles, Twitter was one of the places that was less affected than average by this phenomenon. By favoriting, I could increment a counter. That counter makes it easier for the author to see that myself and 54 other people found their thoughts important and supported them. As the type of person who can internalize metrics better than scattered - though thoughtful and appreciated - notes, I can attest to the positive impact a high (or even just non-zero) favorite count can have. By favoriting, I could express support with a mere click. I enjoyed being able to provide that support when I didn't have the energy to do more than that or couldn't find the time to phrase my support correctly, and I felt a little bit better when friends did the same for me. These nuances are lost when I have to "heart" someone's comments instead of "star" them.

More granularity for our reactions can be helpful. Slack employs a very liberal "do whatever you want with an emoji" reaction, and thanks to Emily Price's creativity, my favorite channel - XOXO's #ladies - uses the trumpet emoji to express emotional support. It works well because we've agreed that "the emotional support trumpet" is sounding our support and because we also agree that we do not need to say anything more to show meaningful support. This is awesome beacuse it's much easier to give support when you don't have to turn often complex feelings into words first. I feel intrinsically empowered to give emotional support trumpets to others, and I feel warm and fuzzy when I receive emotional support trumpets, too.

Maybe adding something like the emotional support trumpet to Twitter's responses could replace the support usage of "favorite"; maybe adding another different thing could replace using "favorite" to highlight something important. But that's just covering how I used the less specific "favorite" where I won't use "like". With an audience as large as Twitter's, we might not even be able agree on a finite set of specific reactions. Whatever the next steps, I miss "favorite" a lot and feel like we've lost something important.