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The Arc of Collaboration

Full Title:: The Arc of Collaboration

Highlights first synced by Readwise June 19th, 2022

A new generation of functional apps have risen, with messaging and collaboration built directly into them as first parties. And with them it becomes increasingly clear that Slack isn’t air traffic control for every app, it’s 911 for when they fail.

Slack is the 911 for whatever isn’t possible natively in a company’s productivity apps. And though it’s improving, there are still many structural cracks. Slack is current best solution for filling these cracks. But it doesn’t fix the cracks themselves, improved processes and productivity apps are needed for that.

As the ecosystem of specialized SaaS apps and workflows continues to mature, messaging becomes a place of last resort. When things are running smoothly, work happens in the apps built to produce them. And collaboration happens within them. Going to slack is increasingly a channel of last resort, for when there’s no established workflow of what to do. And as these functional apps evolve, there are fewer and fewer exceptions that need Slack. In fact, a sign of a maturing company is one that progressively removes the need to use Slack for more and more situations.


New highlights added June 24th, 2022 at 7:37 PM

It’s not that Slack is too distracting and killing individual productivity. It’s that your company’s processes are so dysfunctional you need Slack to be distracting and killing individual productivity.

Slack is not air traffic control that coordinates everything. It’s 911 for when everything falls apart.

Every slack message about a new document your feedback is wanted on or coordinating about what a design should look like is a failing of process or tools. Slack is exception handling. When there’s no other way to make sure someone sees and update, or knows context, Slack is the 911 that can be used.


And Figma is not alone. More and more apps in all categories understand that collaboration should and must be built in as a first party if they want to best serve their customers. Notion, Airtable, etc all understand this. The feedback loops of collaboration get so short that they become part of the productivity loop.

The future increasingly looks like one where companies use very specific apps to solve their jobs to be done. And collaboration is right where we work. And that makes sense, of course. Collaboration *should* be where you work.


However, there is a need for a layer across all the applications. A layer for things that should be shared across the apps as well collaborative functionality across them.

Slack in its current form cannot be this. If you have to switch out of a product to use Slack, then it is not the layer tying them altogether. Instead, the layer needs to exist a layer above. If everything was in browser it’d be a browser extension. But since most apps are not, it needs to be at the OS layer.

There is some mix of presence, collaboration, coordination, and identity that should be ubiquitous across whatever apps are being used. A layer more attached to the people doing work and what they’re trying to accomplish—than which specific app they’re in.