1 min read

Live Chats Suck for Information Dense Transfers

Live chat (Slack, Teams, etc.) sucks for important discussions. Thinking one line at a time lowers the quality of the discussion. Knee jerk rapid fire responses become the norm. Conversations that last weeks or even days get lost and context gets fuzzy. Threads scroll up into the past and are never seen again. Despite the “asychronous” claim, you have to keep a steady eye on it and reply in realtime or the conversation will move on without you. Anyone who takes the time to ponder and respond thoughtfully with context and explanation will find that they’re too late. If you go on vacation or even take a few hours of focused time for deep work, you come back to hundreds or thousands of messages. Often your only option is to declare chat room bankruptcy which means missing out on important discussions and big decisions. I’m not saying live chat is useless. It’s great at some things: In other words, live chat is for the things that can get lost. Rule of thumb: If a discussion will matter after today, don’t have it in a chat room. Check out Discource, Twist, Carrot, Threads, Basecamp, Flarum, or heck even GitHub issues. These tools exist for a reason. They solve a real problem. They encourage longer form responses rather than quick one liner replies. They show you a list of threads with titles for maximum skim-ability. They let you sort (by last comment, for example) and filter threads or archive them once a decision has been reached. They don’t show online/offline indicators or timezone notifications or “XYZ is typing…” because nobody expects a quick response anyway. Some of them even support multi-level (Reddit-style) threading, which can help if a lot of people are involved.

Live chat SUCKS for anything with a bit of substance. The call-and-response nature completely kneecaps trains of thought, and creates group brainstorms (which are proven highly ineffective) with depth levels of n=1 or n=n at most (threads with child comments).

The only comment systems I like support threads and even then there is always some additional cognitive load of understanding parent and child comment context.