Rousseau Kazi
Created on September 28, 2022 at 7:14 pm

Teams today need more than just chat

A few years ago, work was predominantly done in an office setting, with chat as sort of a "second screen experience" to talk with colleagues, figure out problems, talk about work, etc.

And it served a purpose. Chat was amazing for the quick clarification, the occasional product fire, and shooting the breeze with coworkers in a different part of the office. It cut down on time, tamed crazy emails, and more.

But that was then.

Now, the massive shift to hybrid work has drastically changed how we communicate. Chat went from the second screen to the default communication channel for everything. But no medium is built for everything, so it ends up being abused, and its strengths for some use cases become the weaknesses for others.

And we've seen these problems first hand.

At Threads, we've interviewed hundreds of teams, learning that people were struggling through "just using Slack/Chat" and experienced real drawbacks / hits to productivity as a result.

Three main themes

  1. Constant interruptions (for things that don't warrant it)
  2. Constant worry (that important items are getting dropped or forgotten)
  3. Feeling of "doing a lot but accomplishing a little"


We do our best work when we have good energy and uninterrupted time. We can't do this work in 30-minute chunks or if we're getting constantly pinged. We need 3-4 hours of focus to do anything that matters and if we get distracted, it takes another 30-minutes to ramp back up.

Thirteen years ago, YC founder Paul Graham wrote an essay titled Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule. It's a timeless essay that's become required reading for all entrepreneurs, and centers around how meetings cost makers more than managers.

In a hybrid world, messaging is becoming the new meeting. It just happens with 10x the frequency since there's zero friction to start one.

A simple message can quickly turn into a speculative conversation and before you know it — 30 minutes are gone from your "uninterrupted time." We end up calling "time bankruptcy," spend the next couple of hours responding to others, and try again the next day.


We can't always be available. Whether it's blocking off time to get work done, jumping into a meeting, or just getting back to regular life, these all mean we can't be actively attending to conversations happening in chat. We need to ignore them for a bit.

However, there's a constant feeling of either being worried we're missing important conversations or a feeling of guilt because we might be letting our team down (because someone is blocked on something critical). This eventually compounds on itself, leading to a loss of focus and a drain in energy.

3) feeling like they're doing a lot but accomplishing a little

The last major theme is that there's a general feeling of motion over progress.

Chatting with people can be a lot of fun, and clearing all of your bolded channels throughout the day definitely feels like work (even though it isn't). We end the week tired and feeling like we "did a lot" but also like we "accomplished very little."

This feeling is exhausting both mentally and physically. We all could have chosen easier jobs with less stress. However, we chose this because, as builders, designers, creators, and makers, there's a certain future we want here already. Knowing that it's delayed because we couldn't control our time is just frustrating.

It actually reminds me of my favorite poster at Facebook Meta. The rocking horse is such solid imagery here.


Chat is good (just not for everything)

This isn't a dig at the Slack. Their product is well built, pulled enterprise SaaS towards more focused design, and is arguably the most powerful chat product in history.

This is a dig at just using a single medium for conversations.


It's sort of like if your parents refuse to learn to text so they call you about everything.

You might be at work, in a meeting, out with friends, at the doctor's, or in any other scenario. However, in the middle of it, you get a phone call from them.

The issue is that since everything comes through a single medium, you have no idea if it's an emergency or if they're calling you to complain about how the TV remote you bought them is horrible.

If it's the former, you obviously stop what you're doing to answer. If not, then you can call them back when you get home. But how do you know?


In this scenario, you have to break flow and answer because the cost of it being an emergency and you not answering is too high.

This is because when everything is sent through a single medium, you lose the ability to discern if something is urgent or quick (worth breaking flow for) or if it's something you could get to later.

Modern teams need more than just a single medium.

They need a platform that gives them:

  1. A distinct format to have focused, non-real-time discussions, which will reduce constant interruptions because they know they don't have to drop what they're doing at the moment to address it
  2. A workflow that neatly organizes all discussions taking place and makes it trivial for them to catch up in minutes, which will reduce the worry that they're missing out or won't be able to catch up
  3. Table-stake text and voice chat capability for the items that are truly quick and urgent

All of these elements need to be fast, focused, and blend well together because team communication is highly dynamic and fluid. Fragmentation across platforms leads to teams centralizing on one medium again, creating the issues above.

So that's what we built

Over the past year, we've been building out this vision, onboarding thousands of people into a private beta, and have found a foundation that has repeatedly solved the problems above by replacing current single-medium chat platforms (i.e. Slack, Discord) with a well integrated set of formats (which includes chat) that helps you control your time and get more done.


I'll be writing more about how we exactly solve this problem over the coming weeks. However, if you'd like to see a product walkthrough of our approach, check out the tweet I shared yesterday.

Thanks for (th)reading!

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