I love the idea and promise of networked computers and software enabling people to collaborate and get their work done faster and with greater ease. Slack, the group chat client (to put it simply) has intrigued me since I heard about it over a year go.

AgileBits just stopped using Slack and the why is intriguing.

With Slack we were more connected than we ever were before. We had 81 channels where anyone could talk to anybody in the company, and if the person you needed wasn’t in that channel, no worries, you could simply @ mention them and they would be added instantly.

If it sounds like it would be hard to focus, it was. But we were willing to accept this in exchange for better communication.

The thing is, being connected doesn’t magically enable effective communication. If you’ve ever listened to an old married couple fight about how the other one never listens to them, you’ll instinctually know this already. If living together doesn’t help the old couple communicate, how can we expect a group chat tool to do it for us?

But for some reason most of us think that communication is simply a tooling problem and completely ignore the human aspect. In reality people are the most important piece of the puzzle, so we should simply teach them how to communicate better, right? If only it was that easy.

People are the key. A chat client, social media website or other online “collaboration” tool are just that, a tool. When we misuse tools or believe by using the tool we’re all set and have solved all problems, we are fooling ourselves. Use purpose made tools for their purpose and reach with them as necessary. But don’t substitute a single tool as the be-all-end-all. Email is my best example. Email is not a solution to your problems. It’s simply a digital message that increases a bold counter on my computer screen telling me that there are some electronic messages awaiting me.

Be conscious of your tools.