Butterfield “Slacks” every 10 minutes. When does he work?

I’ve been working remotely for almost 5 years now. With the bulk of the team in Chennai (India), and then a few people here and there on the other side of the world. I’ve come to realize that asynchronous communication is a big reason why email still rules business communication and it probably will for the years to come. I look at it as one of the greatest inventions of this century, after the Internet itself. And no, Slack is definitely not going to kill it, FastCo.

Yesterday, I stumbled on this post titled How Slack uses Slack (yeah, pretty late, I know. That’s why the Internet is so fascinating!) and this very quote disturbed me a bit:

I rarely in a working day go more than 10 minutes without looking at Slack. I mean, we’ve been in this room for an hour, and I’ve looked at my Slack instance a dozen times. — Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s cofounder and CEO.

A question popped out of my head – when does he really work? Of course, communication is important and Slack is a great tool for that, but that’s not where “real” work happens, right? Unless you’re paid to… well, just “chat”.

There’s Microsoft’s Yammer, Facebook at Work, Atlassian’s HipChat, VMware’s Socialcast, and a few others that are popular in the enterprise chat software market. Slack is probably the coolest of them all. The Slack bots are intuitive, and the company has done well for itself. Heck, they’re the poster child of the modern day work communication landscape. But hey, who works within the Slack interface? I think Butterfield has a habit of going over the top. Remember when he said Slack has no sales team and still does over 60M in revenue? OK, I’m a big fan of the memo that Butterfield shared with his team in 2013 – “We Don’t Sell Saddles Here”. But hey, come on. At that scale, eventually, everyone has a sales team.

Contrary to this, I like what Jason Fried said a couple of weeks in a post where he described how the teams at BaseCamp work. Quoting him,

Splitting work and communication and management across separate tools/products is 1. a highly inefficient, and 2. makes it very difficult for the whole team to see the whole picture.

Earlier this year he listed several reasons on why group chat does more harm than good for your team.  Is group chat making you sweat?

Group chat is like being in an all-day meeting with random participants and no agenda.

The biggest problem with chat tools is the expectation they come bundled with by default. That you’ll respond immediately. The “read notification” that some of them have doesn’t make it any better. It’s the form of the medium that I have a problem with.

When you send an email, you don’t necessarily expect an immediate response (I know some people respond to most emails the moment they see them in their inbox, but the medium doesn’t make you assume that by design). With chat, things change dramatically. When people see you online, they expect an immediate response.

My productivity peaks when I mute chat notifications. Well, all kinds of notifications. They’re probably one of the biggest distractions of modern day web workers. It does feel a bit awkward at times when I have my phone, computer, tablet, and watch all trying to notify me about my mom calling me on FaceTime. 🙂

Don’t get me wrong. There’s no way I could have survived as a remote worker, without a great chat tool. Btw, I  use Zoho Chat at work (dogfooding, of course). But I don’t like peeping into my chat application every 10 minutes. There are times when chat is the best way to communicate — be it catching up the team first thing in the morning, broadcasting a message in real-time, deciding on where should we go out for lunch, or even asking for a quick feedback (yay or nay) on a copy. But once I am set to doing real work, Slack my chat application is the last thing I want to see.

And no, I’m not alone. I’ve seen people breaking up with Slack, offering advice and guides on how to stay productive when using Slack, and calling it the Ultimate Workday Distractor.

One reason why I love Slack is the communities that I find running on it. I’m part of around 10 Slack groups including the MakerHunt, Product Marketing by Drift, and Buffer amongst others, and they all offer great insights from people outside of the organization but in overlapping domains.

Which tools do you use to get work done? Which ones do you find the most distracting? I’d love to hear from you on twitter.

 

How does ‘Showrooming’ help eCommerce?

Have you ever walked into a store – looking for a pair of shoes, headphones or a microwave oven – and popped out your smartphone to compare the prices online? Well, I have started doing that way too often – experience offline, research and buy online.

My friend Annkur, who runs PriceBaba.com targets customers who research online and buy offline. But that doesn’t work for me, much. However, the fact that he’s doing well for himself shows that there are enough people who choose this route!

I am a fan of Tom Fishburne’s marketoons and earlier this year, he published one titled – Showrooming.

130121.showroomingThat’s exactly how I am when it comes to experiencing retail. I know it’s sad, but I look at it in a different way. It’s an evolution and retailers need to address this in a better way – offer a better experience offline, if not a better price. More than anything else it’s a marketing problem!

In India, it’s very rare that the in-store experience is good enough to swipe my card at the store, unless of course there is a dire sense of urgency, or a better price available (which is rare). For a lot of things including electronics, clothes, groceries and books (for gifts, I use a Kindle for myself – I prefer to shop online. The reason are pretty straightforward – better pricing, great return policy (esp. with Myntra and Flipkart) and convenience of ordering it online.

Additionally, one great thing about online shopping is the availability of discount coupons. I usually find them at one of the coupon sites. Recently, I tried Flipit for recharging a mobile connection on Paytm and I liked their interface. In the past, I got some good discount coupons for eBay on CouponDunia. There are bunch of such sites that let you save an additional 5-15% when you use the coupon.

Having said that, I still prefer to buy a Bose or an Apple product off the stores (In India, they’re apple retailers, not official stores but still!) – just because I like experiencing these products at the store and it’s difficult to resist the urge of walking out of the store with the product I am sold on. Ordering it online and waiting for another 2-3 days to get it is a clear no in such cases.

On a related note, here’s a nice deck on The Zero Moment of Truth

It’ll be an interesting trend to watch how offline stores save themselves from showrooming. What’s your take on that?

 

Mailbox for iPhone didn’t impress me much!

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Today morning, I was lucky to get access to the MailBox app. There’s so much that a queue to get something and good reviews for the same, can do to you!

Mailbox is a nice email app, but nothing revolutionary, as I expected. After having used it for a day, I realise that it’s better marketed than built or conceived as a product! Early access to a ‘few’ folks, brilliant idea of reserving the app in advance and all that topped with the icing that allows you to download and keep looking at the ticker! This game looked very interesting, in a good sense.

However, while there was so much noise about this app ‘changing’ the way we’ll handle email, I realised that it is for a certain ‘kind’ of users. They’re definitely not the ones who have considerably high volume of emails coming in.

Not just that, it tries to mix the task app and the email app, which for me, serve very different purposes. I would instead wish for an excellent integration between the two. Not a replacement of either.

Reminds me of John Gruber, who rightly said that this app has a different target audience, those who are very gmail centric and have one email address.

I would agree with John on the fact that this won’t replace the Mail.app on iPhone for me. I love labels, folders and the ability to ‘manage’ email.

Bryan on Pandodaily correctly calls it a ‘feature’, not a product!

If you love giving away the control of your email and hide behind the curtain of procrastination fabricated within a good UI, you must try this app. 🙂

Here’s an interesting conversation I had with Tim Van Damme (@maxvoltar) of Instagram and Chris Herbert (@hrbrt) from MacWorld, on what they feel about Mailbox. Turns out that Tim is liking it for his personal email!

Twitter conversation - Mailboxapp

 

Speaker Deck = SlideShare minus the Jazz!

Everyday, the Internet continues to (pleasantly) surprise us! Be it the Instagram acquisition by Facebook or stuff like the best of DrawSomething. Sometimes, it’s the coffee bean for the day that gets you charged!

Recently, I stumbled upon Speaker Deck Share Presentations without the mess. One thing I really liked about the product is the simplicity (No wonder, the GitHub team is behind it!). It allows you to upload a slide deck (in PDF), share and embed. Just that! This reminds me about the early days of how Slideshare was. I really like some of the features of Slideshare , but the ads are too intrusive. For someone who needs to share a presentation and limit it to just that, Speaker Deck is not doubt a good alternative.

With some digging around, I found OrderedList and here’s what Steve Smith, the founder has to say about Speaker Deck. It’s been 7 months since it was launched and I hope it continues to be clean as it is, today!

But, does it make sense to switch to Speaker Deck and toss the Slide Share Pro account I have? I guess I would wait for a while before I take that decision. 🙂

For now, here’s my first upload on my Speaker Deck account;

 

What NOT to do with Bloggers!

Having worked closely with brands, agencies and bloggers in the past 3 years, I can say that each day comes packed with as much fun as it has challenges to take up. With Bloggers (esp. tech/ mobile bloggers) now being on the center stage, along with the journalists – the power of web publishers can not be ignored. I like calling it community journalism!

Brands have started to understand it. Thanks to agencies and their compelling pitches for blogger related campaigns!

The idea is to throw up the product/ service to bloggers, allow them to soak their hands in it and come up with an *honest* review. Bloggers aren’t paid for this. There are exceptions though! (It reminds me of an excellent story on ‘Bribing Bloggers‘ at JoelonSoftware, published 5 years ago. )

That isn’t as simple as it looks to be in 4 lines of text! Why? Each one has his own agenda to propagate, and I guess fairly so. Brands needs reach, engagement, sales & support. Agencies need money, clientele, experience. Bloggers need content exclusive content, first hand information, opportunity to interact with the product team, traffic on the blog, etc.

Did I miss something? – Credibility & Authority. Everyone needs it – Brands, Agencies and Individuals.

In the whole process of coming up with an interesting, engaging concept around bloggers and cool products/ services, we as human beings (read – Brands, Agencies and Individuals) tend to overkill or over-tune some dynamics. The dynamics of creating an ROI on the Internet. I guess we as human beings should identify the bars and encourage healthy reach/ engagement programs, much before brands and more importantly consumers begin to consider this exercise a fake practice.

This post is *inspired* by a discussion started on facebook by a known tech blogger in the Indian blogosphere. It’s against some Blogger Campaign and involves bloggers who participated & those who chose not to. Interesting conversations are what I will leave you with. While I wrote this post, I see it has attracted more than 34 comments and 21 Likes, within an hour.

Some screenshots (includes a comment from, yours truly);

 

You may view the entire discussion thread.

Disclaimer: I am the cofounder at Media Redefined, a social media and web technology agency and have been a blogger. For those asking me of our involvement with the brand or this campaign, I would like to clarify that we are NOT associated with it. Moreover, this case isn’t just about a particular brand, agency or individual – instead it’s a story on how we need to fine tune our initiatives to ensure a healthy communication and know our responsibilities as whosoever we are.

Feel free to share your thought as comments/ tweets! Cheers. 🙂

UPDATE: Within 24 hours, this post has got more than 500 views from twitter & facebook alone. Today I noticed, there is a huge rage amongst the Indian blogger community as well with the twitter #hashtag #IndiSammyScam. Here are some screenshots of the conversations;

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

There is another post by a blogger highlighting some details. I am not sure about the authenticity of the story but here it is.

Personally, I use an iPad2, but have used Galaxy TAB 10.1. I liked the product and I feel the bloggers could have been reached and communicated in a better way to avoid this crisis. From what was positioned to ensure reach, this is a classic example of how the bloggers can get offended in absence of proper communication & lack of clarity in expectations.

 

Idiot boxed?

 

Why has it always been an Idiot box?

I have been a no television guy for almost a decade. Not in terms of owning one, but spending time before it. (When you live with your parents, TV is an integral part of your family! I own a 32″ full HD masterpiece.)

As an extension to that, I am a little impatient too, when it comes to watching movies on TV (often in theaters as well). All the more, when it comes to movies.

However, I love sports, esp. Tennis and Cricket. I often watch them, when I get a chance to (that’s why the LCD TV arrived, last year, just before IPL!). Over the last one month, I did watch India play superbly at the Cricket World Cup’11 (Glad that we won!).

Now, that urged me to clear out my taste/ personality when it comes to  liking television (or the very act of viewing it). I realized that I can not be tagged as a “no TV guy”. Simply because, I own one and I do watch certain things – what if it’s not a daily soap, or a reality show, for that matter?

One thing is apparent. I am boxed. But idiot boxed? – wait!

I consider myself sane enough to stay away from the likes of Splitsvilla, BigBoss, etc. The list, I know is long. No hard feelings for people who have a liking towards them. It’s a matter of personal choice. I do watch a TV show (the only one, I watch regularly), called “Zayka India Ka“, hosted by Vinod Dua (give that to me being a foodie!). I also like some shows that showcase the way people in most parts of the country think, work and sport a lifestyle. Though I seldom get to watch them.

I assume, everything on TV is not bad. Yes, you may waste a lot of time flipping channels – one reason I hated TV, ever since. But isn’t that true with the Internet too? (Let’s keep that discussion for a future post.)

How about the content on Television? I am always a fan of paid/ premium content – read it as, I feel comfortable paying to watch a documentary, game, movie – without ads, unless it’s an exorbitant amount of money. However, I doubt if the providers will be able to take this forward. Yes, some of them did try screening World Cup matches without ads. I wonder how successful that was! Time shall tell.

Alongside, I am in a mood to watch a few good movies which I have never ever. Sholey is one of them, yes. 🙂

Having closed in with my classification of content I am interested in and would want to watch, I am checking out options for the best HD feed by a provider. I have been told that Tata Sky+ HD is THE best option. Not cheap, but worth it. Let’s see. I am still contemplating. The best part is setting it up to record your favorite shows/ series, from a Blackberry/ iPhone app. Wow!

As I clear out the blur, an update to this post may be soon be expected. Cheers!

Chak de India – for winning the World Cup’ 2011!

Image courtesy: Profound Whatever

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

 

Marketers rejoice on the Valentine’s Day – Lovers take a ride

Valentine’s day and the entire week of roses and chocolates just got over. “Love is in the air”. You would have probably read this, if not experienced it everywhere you’d have been. It’s more like, the whole world will conspire to make you feel so.

Thanks to St. Valentine. Hats off to the marketers.

We’re living in an era where consumerism is a function of media spends and discounts. Especially for days like these. Marketers are smart enough to know the consumer behavior and journey to ride on us in an attempt to maneuver the buying habits.

The roses would sell for more, stuffed toys which would otherwise be valuable for kids, suddenly looks at different demographics. Chocolates and the whole new branding around them. Facebook apps and games, Campaigns (Check out AT&T’s campaign) around public display of affection, malls painted red and pink with heart shaped balloons which would run short of gas with 24 hours. The list is long.

Having said that, every year, more and more people fall for it. Only if, love needed a day to be expressed differently. Why not everyday or every week? Why not on your anniversary?

While I write this, I can see love birds in the park, down from the window of my 6th floor house. Under the sun and above the greens. Maybe, they’re not the mall types.

Hail Marketers!

Image credits: Eric731 & Dan Winckler