That was the message over 500,000 organizations and 8 million people received as they were left chat-less for three hours on June 27, 2018 – the day Slack experienced its last major outage.
The slack outage started with a bug that caused unexpected network spikes and disconnected all customers, according to Slack, and they tweeted frequent updates on their progress throughout the morning.
But it’s what their users did between the hours of 9:33 a.m. and 12:49 p.m. Eastern Time that made Slack the 4th most popular topic on Twitter.
Some people were angry. Others were supportive.
And, in typical Internet fashion, even more, expressed humour.
(One writer at The Verge even wrote a poem about the outage.)
It all made one fact glaringly obvious: we love chat.
Here’s why we care so much about it
Yes, Slackers had other options – email, phone, and social media were still up and running. But nothing else is quite as human as real-time messaging.
Human. That’s a key word here, quoted by Christina Janzer, Slack’s UX research lead. “It makes the workplace much more personal, which is maybe why people have such an emotional tie to it,” she told New York Magazine.
The idea of a conversational interface that reflects the way we actually talk to people in person is one aspect that has helped apps like Slack rise to fame, but there are many more reasons why chat is indispensable in the workplace:
Imagine you’re taking the train into work when it derails, leaving you stuck in a delay that lasts hours. But you have your phone, so you can still check in with the team, provide your update and see what they’re working on. Universal access means we can still be in touch – even when things quite literally go off the rails.
Chat communications happen in real time, which makes finding the information we need to do our jobs that much easier. Have a question you need answered? You can ask it quickly before it slips your mind. Need to look up a past conversation? It’s all at your fingertips in one place.
It’s a meeting space
Most chat apps make it incredibly easy to turn a one-to-one conversation into a group conversation, into a phone call, into a video call – all without leaving the app. If you need to pull a group together for a quick chat, you don’t need to waste time booking a meeting when a five-minute check-in will do.
It puts communication in context
Between emoji, reactions, image and gif support, communications aren’t limited to text. That’s a good thing, because our text-only communications lack the context of body language and vocal tone that come naturally with in-person conversations. Something as simple as a smiley face can make all the difference when it comes to interpreting emotion and intention.
It keeps track of conversations
You know the pain that comes with searching an email inbox for a specific message about that project from two years ago. It’s not fun… and it might have been purged in your last inbox clean-up. Conversations on chat apps are logged and easily searchable – especially when organized into channels – making retrieval a lot easier when you need that tiny nugget of info.
It builds and bolsters culture
Companies that use chat best know it’s not all about work. Culture comes from people talking, sharing and inspiring each other, and chat is a great way to enable that, whether it’s with dedicated channels for hobbies, challenges, events, learning or celebrations. That goes doubly for teams with multiple locations or remote workers.
Who can argue with a dancing bird flashing every colour of the rainbow? Party Parrot is one of the most popular emojis you can add to your Slack channels, along with extensions like giphy made to inject a little levity into your workday communications.
Speaking of extensions, there are a lot to choose from in Slack, and they’re all available to serve a purpose: to tailor your Slack to the needs of your team. Some are for fun, but others are great productivity boosters. This is where chatbots like Kiite come in, too.
It’s not just an app – it’s a platform
These apps don’t want to just be the place where conversation happens. They want to be the place where work happens, without asking users to switch between apps. We see this unfolding already as external apps, like CRM systems, introduce integrations into chat.
A slack outage is nothing new. Prior to June 27, service was disrupted in January, April, and May this year, and each time it made headlines. Its current uptime over the past 30 days is 99.82%, but clearly that 0.18% makes a difference.