Slack, the workplace chat app, went down Wednesday morning for more than three hours, sending office workers the world over into fits of faux-despair (just hours before the announcement of the retirement of Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy would send many of them into real despair). People who are used to being able to instant-message or group-chat or emoji-bomb their co-workers—even the ones sitting right next to them—were suddenly cut off from their favorite double-edged sword of productivity and distraction. Slate’s employees lived through the experience to recount its horrors, but just barely. Below, an oral history of our very difficult morning.
I Rediscovered the Joys of Email
Forrest Wickman: Instead of Slacking during a meeting, I emailed during a meeting.
Evan Mackinder: I read Forrest’s emails.
Josh Levin: I sent Forrest an email saying he emailed the wrong alias.
Ben Mathis-Lilley: I kept sending follow up emails to my supervisors contradicting earlier emails because I’d forgotten how to talk about work ideas within the formal finality of email.
Shirley Chan: During the great slack outage I emailed a lot and tweeted about how much I enjoyed emailing. I had an email thread with the usual people I share memes and talk nonsense with on Slack, finally replied to emails I’ve been putting off from a police officer and someone from Panoply … I think that’s all. I also Twitter DM’d memes about the Slack outage to Nitish.
Slate: Why were you emailing a police officer?
Chan: For reasons I cannot disclose. JK. I’m trying to apply for a NYPD press pass and had to re-schedule my appointment in which she replied “ok np.”
I Resorted to Unusual Modes of Communication
Dawnthea Price: I Gchatted the copy desk with Slate Gchat. Sorry, Slate Google Hangouts.
Lowen Liu: I CALLED a colleague at a really newsy and busy moment and immediately saw my mistake.
Seth Maxon: I devoted time to significant WhatsApp group chats.
Andrew Kahn: I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
Heidi Grothaus: One of my friend Slacks has a backup group text for when Slack goes down.
Rachelle Hampton: I just talked out loud.
Daniel Schroeder: I wrote a slack message by hand and placed it on Mary’s desk, with the @mary.wilson and everything. I folded it in half and wrote SLACK on it.
Slate: What did the note say?
Schroeder: It was about someone I have strong (not great) feelings about. [Conversation goes off the record.]
It Was Mostly Business as Usual
Grothaus: I used the Slack app on my phone … it still worked!
Kahn: I went to therapy.
Maybe It Was Even Better Than Usual
Christina Bonnington: I actually got a lot of work done!
I Didn’t Notice It Happened
June Thomas: Seems like a lot of people were watching the World Cup during the great Slack outage of 2018, but I was taping a podcast (at the end of which we asked if it’s sexist to allow men to watch the World Cup during work hours).
Slate: Like the person who’s driving and doesn’t realize there’s an earthquake?
Thomas: That was me! In fact, since I don’t know how to drive, that’s as close as I’m ever going to get to having that experience.
I Watched Soccer
Dan Kois: I watched soccer.
I Turned to Twitter
Ruth Graham: I tried to think of Slack-outage-related puns to tweet and then immediately hated myself.
Price: I liked a tweet where Faith said she’d kick Dan in the shins.
Faith Smith: I tweeted about kicking Dan in the shins.
I Was Paralyzed With Indecision, Loneliness, and Other Strange Feelings
Ava Lubell: I had a set of deep thoughts about whether I should text or email someone.
Derreck Johnson: During the outage, I kept refreshing Slack’s status page. It reminded me of when I lived in NYC during a blizzard, where newscasters are reporting for hours and trying to come up with new and creative ways to say “it’s still snowing hard.”
Jonathan L. Fischer: My workflow disrupted, I spent far too long helping [redacted] come up with a concept for coverage of the Slack outage.
Perhaps the Slack Outage Actually Prevented Greater Tragedies
Leon Neyfakh: Our Slack debate about Jonathan Franzen was mercifully cut short by the outage. I was getting out of the shower when I thought of YET ANOTHER THING I WANTED TO SAY and I couldn’t say it because no Slack.
Sam Adams: I feel like the Slack outage interrupted what could have been Peak BDE discussion.