People Feeds
An experimental channel convention for reducing Slack DMs
Microtasks are small, non-urgent tasks that take less than 10 minutes. We think they can increase the collective stress of an organization if they're not recorded, or if they're incorrectly treated as urgent (with a DM).
Here are some examples of microtasks:
  • Reviewing a document before a meeting
  • Approving a small copy change
  • Re-reviewing a small change on a Pull Request
  • Adding someone to an account
  • Providing feedback on a short blog post
At Fabric, we wanted a lightweight solution so we wouldn't get bogged down by microtasks.
We came up with People Feeds, inspired by On Deck's async channels.

Our Goals

  • Adding a task should not trigger a DM
  • It should be easy to add a task
  • It should be easy to mark a task as done
  • It should be easy for a new hire to learn
  • It should be easy to link to a Slack channel or Issue Room
  • It should be easy for the receiver to know the next steps

The People Feeds Solution

The solution we came up with was one public channel for each team member. It would follow the naming convention #feed-<first-name>, and would serve as a feed of tasks for them. To add a task to someone's feed, add a message that starts with todo.
1
`todo` Bring jacket and sticky notes to the wework tomorrow
Copied!
To mark the task as completed, add the ✅ emoji.
A completed task in the #feed-andrew channel.
That's it!

What we liked about People Feeds

Simple read and write

Adding a task is as easy as writing a Slack message. Completing it is just adding an emoji.

Self-expiring

Because tasks are only recorded in the channel, you won't be haunted by unfinished microtasks from months ago. It's okay if you didn't complete everything. If it's important, it'll get recorded elsewhere, like as an issue.

More transparency

Not everything you're working on has to be in your people feed, but having tasks from other people in there will help manage their expectations around response time.

The People Feed Rules

Everyone gets a people feed

For example, Maneesha gets #feed-maneesha.
Everyone gets a channel. We're a small team so no one has had the same first name yet!

Post in anyone's feed

And you can post in your own.

Tasks should start with `todo`

1
`todo` Bring jacket and sticky notes to the wework tomorrow
Copied!
This improves scannability and makes it clear that you're asking for a task to be completed. If you have a question, you can preface it with question.

Use ✅ to mark as done

React on the message with a ✅ to mark it as done (or as "not doing").

One task, one message

This makes it easier to mark tasks as completed and reduces noise. Thread conversations about each task on the original message to keep people's feeds clean.
If you're asking a question about an existing Slack message, link to it. Slack will unfurl it nicely.

The Results

We forgot to benchmark our percentage of messages in DMs before unfortunately, but we do think 7% of messages is pretty good.
How did I get feedback on this blog post? I added a message in some people feeds.
A post in #feed-maneesha.
Let us know on Twitter if you use People Feeds to reduce DMs at your company. We'd love to hear!