Slack Threads: FTFY

Slack threads are great. Especially if you want siloed conversations.

Our team moved from our own chat (aka bonfire, the one used in public Stack Overflow) to Slack and that didn't make me happy. There were a bunch of things I missed (that's why I originally built BetterSlack, now Refined).

My main complaint with Slack is: it favors private conversations. DMs are the clear example of that… but it doesn't stop just there. You also have private channels. And people can create public channels to discuss stuff, but if you don't know they exist, you're not aware of people discussing things you could be interested in. These features favor private conversations and there's nothing I can do with them… since they're features of Slack.

But assuming you're on a channel and all your team members are there… where most of the conversations you're interested in happen, there's still one way siloed conversations take place: threads.

What is wrong with threads?

They hide conversations. In a way you can't easily tell (if it were, they wouldn't be hidden!)

Imagine you work on a team where you have members in different timezones. All the team members use a slack channel. You start your day and join the channel to see what has happened while you were sleeping.

Slack adds a convenient indicator of how many messages unread you have (and a red line so that you can easily scroll up to that point). So you start reading the conversations and every time there's a thread, you click on the link to expand it. Is that enough to see what people have said? no! what if people kept on talking on a thread that was started above the oldest unread message? YOU CAN'T TELL!

But this also happens as you go through your day… I'm not 100% of my time checking Slack, but let's assume I am. I'm only watching the conversation on the team, so I'm up to date… right? no! If somebody chooses to start a thread on an old message, I CAN'T TELL! So I end up missing a conversation that may have been interesting.

Oh, but if people talk on a conversation you're subscribed to (because you've talked on it, reacted to one of those messages or somebody mentioned it) you're notified. Great, so I guess an alternative is to react to every message every time, so that if at some point somebody forks a conversation from it, you're notified.

Is there a better way?

In my opinion, the way our Stack Overflow chat works is ideal… people reply to messages and they all appear on the main channel. When you hover a message that's a reply, the message it's being replied to is highlighted.

Everyone is in the loop of every conversation. Could this be too noisy? It depends on your team's culture. On my team, people always talk about things I find interesting to know about.

Can you do that on Slack?

Well, unfortunately… not if you use it as is. But… with Refined you can enable Visible Threads on Slack. Visible Threads make… thread messages visible :) by broadcasting every message to the main channel and adding the hover logic so that all the messages in the thread are highlighted.

Here you can see how it looks:

Alright, I'd like to try it out!

Nice! You can install it on Chrome, Firefox or Opera.

As with any extension, make sure you understand the security implications of using a browser extension and consider building it from source code if you want to avoid me installing stuff on your browser (if you go that route, you may want to follow @RefinedChat on twitter to learn about updates).