Workplace vs Slack

I used Workplace for over 3 years and recently started using Slack. How do they compare?

In the past I used Workplace heavily at Facebook. In my experience almost everyone “gets” Workplace instantly and it’s quite hard to use it wrong. Without much effort, our communication was efficient at every level — team, org, company.

Facebook had been using Workplace internally before making it available to anyone.

Similar to Slack channels, Workplace uses Groups. You can post text, photos or videos. You can comment and send private messages. It’s pretty much the same experience as facebook.com.

Seeing Through the Noise Thanks to Machine Learning

Workplace uses machine learning to tailor the news feed to you, helping you find the most relevant information. Say for example you are in five groups with Alice and message each other frequently. Even without having access to your org chart, it’s quite easy for Workplace to tell you work on something related — you might be on the same team. If Alice posts in a group you’ve never heard of, that post is more likely to be surfaced in your news feed. Similarly, for each group you can choose to be notified about “highlights”. This likely uses machine learning to filter your notifications. The end result is you see the important stuff through all the noise. It’s awesome. Same goes for search — it works very well as it can use the same search engine as facebook.com with an awesome team and years of work behind it.

How about Slack?

At first, I hated Slack. The seemingly default way of using Slack as a set of chat rooms with scrolling walls of text is broken for any team larger than a few people. It didn’t matter that Slack was snappy and had tons of integrations. Most channels had twenty people discussing several different things at the same time. Slack was simply unusable at our size (around two hundred people and probably more channels than that).

But as I’ve learned, by adopting a bit of Slack etiquette and figuring out the quirks of Slack’s interface, it was possible to make Slack work for us.

Conclusion

At around two hundred people we’re OK with Slack for now. It is possible to make Slack sane by using threads. I’m not sure where the company size limit for Slack is, but we are struggling a bit with distributing the right information to the right people.

Workplace is excellent at distributing the right information to the right people, and from personal experience it easily scales to at least ten thousand employees.

If you’ve used Slack in a group of 200+ people I’m interested in hearing about your experience.

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Software Engineer based in London

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