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May 16, 2016, 11:08 a.m.
LINK: motherboard.vice.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joseph Lichterman   |   May 16, 2016

I first wrote about news organizations adopting Slack in June 2014. At that point, the chat app had been publicly available for only a few months and had 65,000 users, including outlets such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Business Insider.

Now, nearly two years later, Slack has more than 2.7 million daily users, and it feels as if virtually every publication is using the platform. We’ve written extensively about how various newsrooms are using Slack — from Storyful using it as an extension of its newswire to the Times’ experiment with an election bot.

But have we reached peak Slack? On Monday, Vice’s Motherboard said it was disabling Slack for this entire week. The tech site has contributors globally and it sends more than 5,000 messages weekly across its eight Slack channels.

In a post, Motherboard managing editor Adrianne Jeffries explained why the site was taking a break:

Slack has been an indispensable tool. However, we noticed that more and more time was being diverted to Slack. It wasn’t just joking around, although there was plenty of that. We’d find ourselves spending 30 minutes in a spirited debate about a story we all seemed interested in, but then… no one would write something for the site. It was as if the Slack discussion had replaced the blogging process. Talking about a topic with our colleagues fulfilled the urge to publish.

The other recurring issue with Slack is that it’s just baseline distracting. People are always talking, often directly to you, and they usually expect an immediate response. Writers and editors need unbroken blocks of time to work. Slack makes that difficult.

Jeffries wrote that she hopes the experiment will “will give reporters a chance to refocus on writing stories and encourage more in-depth conversations with editors.” After this week, Motherboard will evaluate whether cutting Slack made a difference and then determine the best way to proceed.

Slack has certainly changed the way publications work. Most of the Lab staff, for example, is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Slack allows us to seamlessly communicate with our colleague in Chicago. (Hi, Ricardo!)

On Twitter, though, many people were sharing Motherboard’s announcement and agreeing with the site’s reasoning: Slack is frequently distracting and the instantaneous nature of the platform can encourage users to spend too much time talking in various channels instead of, you know, doing actual work. (For the record, I’ve interrupted writing this at least 10 times to check various ongoing Slack discussions.)

Still, others questioned Motherboard’s decision:

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