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Slack Introduces Reactions, but Where's Comment Threading?

Get ready to poo your co-worker's chats.


You can now “Like” posts in workplace chatting app Slack. More importantly, not only can you “Like” posts — you can also applaud them, sad-face them or poo them.


Slack’s version of the “Like” button is called “reactions,” and instead of just allowing liking it lets people respond to others’ posts with a full library of emojis. The emojis appear just beneath the post; if multiple people respond using the same emoji, a number button will show how many.

This feature can cut down on the amount of clutter on channels. If a new person joins the company, there’s no need for an endless wall of hellos when everyone can just “wave.” If a poll needs to be taken about whether to serve Italian or salads at staff lunch, people can be asked to vote using the pizza emoji or the apple emoji. If someone needs a head count about who can attend an event, there’s the option for a simple number addition. There are many uses for this in addition to just entertainment.

The reactions button is clever and well designed — an interesting take on “Liking” or faving, which haven’t seen much of a revamp since they were first popularized by Facebook and Twitter. Depending on how reactions are received in Slack, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it spread to other applications. Mark Zuckerberg has spoken about the need for a kind of “dislike” button when people post sad or upsetting news on Facebook, a way to show solidarity without looking callous.

Although the reactions button is well done, Slack sure took a hell of a long time to introduce it. The app launched publicly in February 2014, so the company waited a year and a half to launch its version of “Likes” — which are a basic, fundamental feature expected in social networks today.

This isn’t the only feature release on which Slack has moved like a glacier. Much to the frustration of many Slack users, there’s still no comment threading: The feed is an endless stream of chats and if you step away for a few hours it’s difficult to catch up. Important information is lost in the flow — which has real-world consequences in the workplace.

CEO Stewart Butterfield told me six months ago that comment threading was “coming soon” and reiterated the same thing to Kara Swisher this week on the Re/code Decode podcast. But the company won’t give an actual timeline on when we can see it.

“I don’t think people would approve of a shitty version of things,” Simon Vallee, the Slack product manager in charge of reactions, told me. “If they do — it’s not the way we want to do things here.” He said from a design perspective, threaded comments is a challenging problem — they don’t want to build something that feels like a completely separate layer from the core chatting service.

Slack’s company culture is the opposite of “move fast, break things” — it’s careful and exact to the point of detriment to its users. It may be annoying to the Slack cult following, but it hasn’t hurt the company yet. Stewart told Swisher it is pulling in just under $30 million in annual recurring revenue.

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