Asynchronous communication is missing todos

Asynchronous communication like chat and email is key when you work with people who are coding or otherwise creative. It’s annoying to be tapped on the shoulder or constantly called, ‘hey’ed, or interrupted when you are trying to focus.

Read Github’s 15 rules on communication or our no email at AngelList posts to go deeper on the why and how.

Slack to the rescue

Now, most people (including us) use Slack nowadays, since it is good looking, makes nice sounds, and handles GIFs really well (an important feature for good chat). It can also hook into a ton of other services that broaden its usefulness, like Google Docs, Skype, and more.

Email as request and answer

I love using email. I am good at filtering and ignoring it, forwarding, and otherwise making it work in ways that help me get shit done.
Other people, including a lot of my colleagues, hate email with a passion. I agree that it is not useful for conversations, and fails terribly at ad hoc-, group-, and timely communication. However, it does have one massive advantage over chat: it is literally someone else’s to do list. That means, if you work with someone and expect an answer, there is a clear understanding that something is answered, solved, or reacted to or not.

What I’m missing from Slack

Chat, including Hipchat and Slack, have one disadvantage: You ask someone (either a person or group) for something (an answer, a solution, a file), and that question gets buried in other chat. In my personal situation, this happens because I am in a different location and time zone than most of my colleagues, and because we all use chat so much.

For example, I might be chatting to my colleague Amit in New York:

8pm NY time:

Amit: Hey Phil, can you give me the bank details to wire this money?

Amit: Also, how was dinner last night?

7 hours later, 8am in Berlin:

Phil: I checked out the place you told me about, it was great! Thanks for the recommendation.

Amit: Yeah, I know, isn’t it. I went there with Dave, the band was great. We should go together.

Phil: True – how about Thursday next week when I’m over?

And just like that I forget to give him what he asked me to do, as the chat is about different topics, broken up by time zone, and maybe I’m checking it at the wrong time.

Please build this

I would like Slack (or Wunderlist, or Trello, or anyone else) to build an integration that lets the user add todos to conversations.

How about:

Amit: Hey Phil, can you ??give @Amit the bank details to wire this money?

By using ??, a todo gets added to my Wunderlist inbox (or to a list that’s specific for this chatroom) and I can simply tick it off when I’m done. Amit will be notified, and everyone’s happy.

Companies like Spatch are building a protocol that might add this to email, but I hope that the hundreds of millions that Slack raised (or Benedikt’s design team) are enough to build something like this much quicker.

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