We’ve been using group chat at 37signals/Basecamp for 10 years. I’ve seen the distraction, anxiety, stress, and misunderstanding group chat can cause. Those are things that can really damage people and an organization.
I believe attention is one of your most precious resources. If something else controls my attention, that something else controls what I’m capable of. I also believe your full attention is required to do great work. So when something like a pile of group chats, and the expectations that come along with them, systematically steals that resource from me, I consider it a potential enemy.
That said, I still think group chat is an important tool in the communications toolbox. I just don’t think it’s the go-to tool. I think it’s the exception tool.
(1) In the full article, Jason Fried demonstrates why group chat leads to constant distraction and shallowness. If you use (or are thinking of using) Slack or Hipchat as your startup’s primary communication tool, you’ll want to read it.
(2) Cf. Samuel Hulick’s critique of Slack in What happens when you mistake user engagement for customer success.
(3) Cf. If you want to get more done, stop doing these things.
(4) Note the extreme contrast between group chat and this approach to email.