Many Hands – One Voice

Every interaction matters. Every line of marketing copy, every error message, every release note of every update is a chance to build a stronger relationship with your users. When building a personality for your company or your brand, how do you create or nurture a sense of the real people behind the product – and how do you scale it?

Over the last couple of years at Slack, Anna Pickard has been wrestling with how to solidify, sharpen and scale the brand voice: From style guides to grammar-bots, workshops to weekly office hours — to tapping into the shared characteristics and values, and the cultural channels and stories that help unlock them. So that users know they’re hearing from the same company — even if several people are typing.

Anna does words. Officially, she’s the Creative Director of Voice and Tone… and her job is to make Slack feel Slack-y.

Slack has grown a lot while Anna has been doing this – when she started there was no marketing team. There are lots of reasons she feels have made Slack successful – and feel friendly.

When you join Slack, Slackbot welcomes you. It tells it’s a bot and then asks your name and suggests you upload an avatar. While it’s a very simple script, it helps people get into the right mode: “this is a space in which you have conversations”. So from the beginning there is a humanity, a “human-ness” to Slack.

All their copy is driven by being human. They use various things like welcome messages, release notes, twitter posts and in-app error messages to reinforce the fact there are real humans making the product.

Caveat: these are not universal truths. Anna has been making it up as she goes along. All she can tell you is what happened at Slack and what did or didn’t work for them.

She worked on a game called Glitch where she had to do odd things like write dialogue for pigs. The game unfortunately died, so she ended up working on Slack.

Until Anna joined, the CEO had been doing all the writing – product, blogs, everything ‘wordsy’. To hand this over to Anna, he peppered her with things and saying “we don’t sound like this!” (example of a huge slab of text full of buzzwords). That’s a good way to start, but it doesn’t give you what you do sound like. It’s also quite negative and doesn’t scale, because people can’t follow the rules – it’s like saying “I’ve hidden three fist-sized diamonds on the planet. They’re not in your laundry cabinet…”

So you take the ‘nots’ and flip them around


Anna did a ‘this but not that’ list:

  • Confident (never cocky)
  • Witty (but not silly)
  • Informal (but appropriate)
  • Intelligent (always treat others as intelligent, too)
  • Friendly (but not ingratiating)
  • Helpful (never overbearing)
  • Clear, concise and human.

It was thorough – they have a full guide just for writing Twitter posts. They do break their own rules occasionally too – “we do not LOL….except sometimes because it’s funny”.

But people had trouble following it and sometimes people sounded robotic rather than human. Anna had put down these guidelines, why did people sound like a pale imitation of what they were supposed to sound like?

You have to have a reason to follow rules. You can try to condense things down to a tiny set of rules (this is how we do release notes…) but it probably won’t get a consistent result. People need to know what their motivation is, what the purpose and goal is for the thing they are writing.

A great example was this error:

People tend to screenshot and share this error message. Somehow they’ve been stopped doing their work, and come out of the moment delighted. There’s empathy – the user’s annoyance is noted and the developers’ frustration is also shared. There are real people behind this who aren’t happy with what’s happening either.

How to encourage empathy – ask these questions:

  • Who am I talking to?
  • What emotional state are they in? – describe the state in emoji if it helps. Exactly which angry are they?
  • What is the context (frequency, placement)? – if people will see a message 18 times a day, strip all jokey tone out of it; if they will see it just once, go for it
  • What do I want them to take away from this?

Be courteous – say things as politely and concisely as you can, then get out of the way.

Example: “Welcome to the new and improved Posts!” with “Tell me more” and “I’ll figure it out” buttons.

Slack also coaches users to be courteous – if you’re about to use @channel, “you are about to notify 38 people in 10 time zones. Are you sure?”. From the product design point of view, is this point of friction necessary? Do we need to take the user out of their flow to tell them something?

Craftsmanship. Set aside ego! Be prepared to work with others, explain reasoning behind decisions

  • Is this as good as I can make it?
  • Whose work am I representing?
  • Can someone help make this better?
  • Does this deserve the word “deluxe”?

Why “deluxe”? The emoji picker is not an emoji picker, it’s “Emoji Deluxe™”. There was a funny conversation about choosing the word “deluxe” where someone explained the feeling in emoji.

Playfulness – it’s not just about throwing emoji everywhere. It’s about playing the game as best we can, then playing it better. Have a spirit of play, look at things with Child Mind. (Example of the user suggesting you change your name to ‘Viper’… so they all did and it was indeed confusing)

Release notes – they list things out in detail, to acknowledge in a way that they impacted users. It also subtly teaches people what they can do in the product. They write the notes with enough charm that people want to read them, perhaps even share them. Not too much charm, not over the top – just Minimum Viable Charm! They do it in solidarity with the people they work with.

They say nice things. They say things that make you feel a little better. Like a tweet “It’s all good. You’ve got this. :balloon:”

The culture turned inward makes the product. The culture turned outward makes the brand.

Having created fairy dust that could be sprinkled over any new copy, Anna discovered people were going nuts and doing too much. They needed to tone it back down. One ladybird in your house is cute, but a million of them is terrifying.


Xavier Ho ?? @Xavier_Ho


9:51 AM – 11 Nov 2016

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“If you work for this company, you are part of the voice of the company.” But you don’t have to throw everything at every single interaction.

(slide: diagram of modulating voice and tone to the correct level. the glowing middle box is the product. the most oomphed-up section is social media, parties and events.) They’ve had people wanting to inject lots of personality into an analyst deck that needed to be really serious.

They do “magic hour” twice a week where people can come in for a few minutes for advice on the copy they are writing. People say “thanks for your magic” but mostly they’re just fresh eyes.

Some aspects of voice and tone are subtle. When you autocomplete emoji, :th should go to thumbs down first; but they actually set thumbs up as the default because they presume people want to be positive more than they want to be negative.

View image on Twitter


Teresa Watts @Chisa

This talk is pushing the limits of my #sketchnoting with all the emojis and magic sparkles @annapickard on @SlackHQvoice #Direction16

9:58 AM – 11 Nov 2016

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Last thoughts…

  • Words are powerful. You should weigh each one. You can change peoples’ experience but you can also cause harm.
  • Words are hard. They’re not impossible, we all use words.
  • Meet people where they are.
  • Do the work. Be courteous, don’t present anything where the user needs to guess what you meant.
  • Make sense. Clarity over correct grammar.
  • Make room for joy.
  • Have character, but never let that overwhelm the content.
  • Surpass expectations. A little surprise and delight.
  • Know when to stop.



Mentioned: Slack took out a full page ad in the NYT (“Sometimes we are provocative and sometimes we are serious. We also wanted to tell our big customers that we were serious and here to stay.”)

There’s a sense that anything that is not engineering is marketing. Every time you talk to a customer, by any means, it’s basically marketing.

Help the user with their story, don’t pull them into yours. Do things for them, not yourselves.


– So, who uses Slack? In the, that? There we go.

Oh don’t, now, we can…

(laughs) It’s been a phenomenon really is, hasn’t it, that has swept, initially, the developer world, but I think increasingly impacting, kind of, far beyond just the developer community and developer, you know, kind of, workforce, for want a better word. And I think in no small part, that has to do with very much its character. People talk about being very design-focused, obviously. But I think a big part of that design focus is the tone and the language.

So last night, we heard Jen talking about that from the perspective, you know, the character and the tone and how language is pretty central to conveying that in, you know, Cards Against Humanity, in a very kind of off the wall, consumer friendly, kind of product, but Slack, in some respects, is almost the complete opposite.

It’s very much a work place, work flow tool to make you more productive, and yet they seem to embody many of the same principles. So one of the people, really, incredibly influential in that is our first speaker this morning. So Anna Pickard essentially is responsible for tone and voice.

She’s the Creative Director of Tone and Voice at Slack and has been there since there were about 40 people, and now there are 720 people, so she’s been through that. She is gonna talk to us about the role of language in tone and voice in products.

Which is something I think is, we often vastly overlook but hopefully less so.

So to hear all about that and kick off our second morning, would you please welcome Anna Pickard. (applause) – Hello.

– Uh, yes, that is me.

Oh, good.

There has been an error.

That’s right, I’m talking about the U.S. election. (audience laughs) Not really.

Not gonna talk about the U.S. election.

There’s been an error.

Your user is using your app, and suddenly, oh no, there’s an error.

Computer says no.

They were in the middle of a workflow, they were getting stuff done, and suddenly, they’re stopped in the course of their work. All they have to do, all they can do now, is reload the app, and they have to stop what they’re doing, and they have to quit it, and they have to restart it, and how do you think they feel? How do you imagine they feel? Do they feel A, angry? They might swear a bit.

Or defenestrate their computer if there’s a window near by. Or B, frustrated.

They know that, you know, this stuff happens, but gosh darn it, why haven’t we got it sorted by now? Or C, they might feel sad.

They might feel like software is out to get them, and with a heavy, heavy sigh, they restart their app. Or D, do they feel delighted and happy and like they’d like to take your app and everyone behind it out for a pint? (audience laughs) Obviously, the correct answer is D.

I want you to say D.

D would be great.

D would be amazing.

If we could get people feeling like, happy, when something goes wrong, like forgiving you before you need forgiving, then that’s an amazing state to be in, but how could you possibly get people to that state? How could you possibly create an experience so smooth or so friendly or so something that people feel that way when something goes wrong? Surely it must be magic.

(audience laughs) Maybe unicorns.

With fairy dust.

All put together in some kind of secret sauce. Whoops.

That’s a reveal, because you know what? There’s no such thing as unicorns.

I know.

(audience laughs) I know.

I was sitting there yesterday listening to everyone talk about magic going, oh no.

I’m gonna say the opposite.

(audience laughs) So counter argument.

There’s no such thing as unicorns.

In fact, you’re designers.

You’ve probably guessed this already.

That’s not a real unicorn.

(audience laughs) I couldn’t find a real picture of a unicorn because they don’t exist.

I had to make it up from bits of Power Point clip art. (audience laughs) Because unicorns don’t exist.

It’s actually, it’s something that I get quite annoyed about because when people, when there’s something that people like about the work that you do, when there’s something that people admire about the way you’re doing it, they quite often say, “Ooo, it’s magic.

Ooo, they must be magical creatures like unicorns.” Or they, and even in my own team, people will say, “Oh we’ve almost finished this feature. Anna can you come and sprinkle some fairy dust on it?” And I’m like, I don’t understand where this feature has come from.

You haven’t had me in any of the meetings.

How am I going to come in and sprinkle fairy dust and make it magical when I don’t know what we’re doing? That’s not how this works, that’s not how copy writing works, that’s not how writing works, that’s not how good writing works.

It’s not just kind of a level of polish or magic that goes on at the end.

You can’t just wheel in the unicorns and expect them to do their business.

You have to kind of bake it in, and it’s a much longer process.

So, I was indecisive about title.

So here we are.

Words are hard, or being human, or sounding like a human is hard, or titles are hard, or there’s no such thing as magic. Or something.

I’ve gone through many iterations of this talk, and just pick one.

Pick the one you like best.

It’s probably gonna be that one.

So let’s go back to the beginning.



(laughs) Hello is one of my favourite pieces of copy, actually, it’s short, and it’s sweet, and it’s concise, and it is extremely illuminating.

Hello is a friendly word.

Hello means that I’m here and you’re here, and my attention is on you, and that there is a conversation that is about to begin. It’s an extremely powerful piece of copy, and it’s only one word.

I am Anna, yup.

That’s me, this is me, that’s my name.

And I do words.

I can’t really find a better way to describe my job differently.

I do words.

I used to be a writer.

But God knows I don’t really get to do much writing anymore that isn’t more than 140 characters, say.

I wrangle words.

I wrangle other people’s words.

I review other people’s words.

I move words around to make them feel a little better and nicer, and that’s why I work in the design department, and I work kind of very closely with designers, kind of helping the words that are threaded throughout our product and throughout our marketing and throughout everything else feel Slacky. And, as John said, I’m the Creative Director of Voice and Tone.

I didn’t know that was even a thing until I became it. But now I have to try to explain it to, well, people like my mum, and when I do, I say, okay, voice is about understanding yourself, whether it’s you or your company or your character. Understanding yourself, knowing who you are, how you speak, and why you speak like that. And then tone is about understanding your audience. It’s about knowing when to speak and when not to speak, and how you’re gonna speak when you do speak.

So I look at Slack.

Apparently, some of you use it, which is lovely, thank you. We came, I mean, we’re a lot bigger now than when I’m used to, I used to say this quite a lot, but in the first year or so, the first two years, we didn’t have a marketing department at all. And the way that we grew was mainly through organic word of mouth growth.

It was through people telling each other, you should use this.

It’s nice.

You should use this.

I like it.

And part of the thing that made them like it was this sense of it somehow feeling more human than usual software.

It was something that didn’t feel like they were fighting against it or it was fighting against them. Or it was a wall that they had to climb over. Somehow, we managed to get to a point where people felt like it wasn’t something being imposed upon their team, but just another member of the team. And I’ve had to spend a long time kind of trying to work out why that was in order to keep doing it, and one good reason, and I’m going to go through just some brief examples which I’ll come back to you later, but for people who have never used Slack, this might be a useful thing.

So the first reason is a Slackbot.

The only, the one in the middle is Slackbot for those who don’t know.

Slackbot is a really useful thing to me ’cause that’s how we find our way in.

That’s how we introduce the element of humanness, humanity, humanness is fine.

And it’s because when you start using Slack, Slackbot welcomes you, and talks you through the onboarding. Slackbot says, “Hi, I’m Slackbot.

I’m a bot.

I’m not a very smart bot, I’m a bot.

But what’s your name?” And you tell it to him.

“That’s a lovely name.

Would you like to upload an avatar? You look great.” And it’s very clearly a scripted, it’s a very clearly, very simple script, but somehow, it helps people to get into the mode of conversation.

It says this is a space in which you will be having conversation.

This is a space in which you will be kind of going back and forth, usually with other humans, but this is the space you do it, and this is the way you do it.

And so, from that very opening interaction, which is extremely useful, ’cause we can use that to kind of test different new markets, say. We’re kind of using it to test how informal or formal we need to be in other languages, you know, we can test that with a Slackbot script, because that’s the first interaction.

That’s the thing that people kind of, that help shape their idea of Slack.

So from there, the humanness is just kind of threaded through.

We have loading messages that say things like, “You look nice today.” And you do.

And release notes, don’t try and read those. Don’t try and read those.

Release notes are a really important thing to us, and we’ll come back to that in a bit.

And Twitter.

We use Twitter a lot.

We use Twitter a lot for support, but we also use Twitter for kind of reaching out to people and just saying nice things occasionally for no reason.

And error messages, which was the one of which I spoke. And I will come back to this one in a bit.

But basically, they all kind of boil down to being human. Sorry, I really like this unicorn, so I’ve used it a lot.

And that’s the kind of the common thread there, is that these are the touch points where we remind people that there are real humans involved in this process.

So, what are we gonna talk about? Part one, building and scaling a voice.

So how I’ve taken what we had, and kind of kept it consistent, and part two, using that voice responsibly. Caveat.

I feel like I should say now, I’d feel wrong if I said these are great universal truths because I don’t know what these are.

Literally, I’ve been making this up as I go along. That’s something that we say in Slack a lot. We’re just making this up as we go along.

As John said, we were a very small company and now we’re a big company, and we’re working out how to do that, and we’re working out how to serve other businesses and how to kind of move into other markets, so we’re all making it up as we go along.

But this is the first time I’ve ever done any kind of work like this.

It’s the first time I’ve ever worked in this kind of tech company, so I can only tell you, so you will notice there are no examples from anywhere else, partly ’cause I don’t want to do other people down, but also because this is all I know.

This is all I kind of steep myself in.

So let’s go back.

We’ll start at the very beginning.

Not of time, but of how I started on this journey. And because it’s a very good place to start. Does anyone get that reference? (laughs) Oh, good.

I’m so proud of that.

So, when I started at Slack, it was still a very, very small team.

I’d worked for the company before, actually. They were building a game called Glitch.

Did anyone play Glitch? No? That’s okay, well, there’s a reason it died, so let’s um.

(audience laughs) We were building a game called Glitch which was a peaceful MMO in which you just kind of wondered around the world and did cooperative things and helped each other and petted piggies and harvested from trees, and I wrote dialogue for pigs and chickens. (laughs) And rocks.

And all these sorts of things.

And then the game died.

Who’d have thunk it from that description? (audience laughs) And I went away, and I did other jobs, like pretending to be a cat on Facebook or other, other things.

Oh, I had a baby.

And then, when I heard what the team were doing, that they were making a new thing, and it was getting bigger, and that they were gonna need more help in these kind of areas, I poked my old boss.

I literally poked him on Facebook, and we started an e-mail conversation about going back and the conversation went basically, “You know you used to write dialogue for piggies and chickens and rocks and trees? How about coming back and giving voice to enterprise software instead?” And I said, “Pfff, yeah, sounds similar.

Let’s give it a go.

How hard can it be?” Turns out, quite hard.

So the team was still quite small, and the person who had been doing most of the writing up to that point was the CEO, and he had to go do CEO stuff instead, so I was taking over the writing.

I was taking over the Twitter account and kind of starting a blog, and working out how we announce things and doing some product writing, just doing anything that was wordsy.

But in order to train me up for this, CEO, Steve Butterfield, he had to hand over the voice to me as it was then.

The way he did it was by peppering me with things and saying, “We don’t sound like this.” This is one of the first ones he sent me.

I’m gonna try and read it.

(clears throat) “The most complete, advanced social business platform on the planet.

It enables people to connect, collaborate and communicate from anywhere to get things done far more efficiently than older tools like email, face-to-face meetings and legacy enterprise software.” And he said, “We don’t sound like this.” And then he’d send me phrases and snatches of things and say, “We don’t sound like this, either. Or this. Or this.” And that is one way to do it.

That is a good way to kind of determine which direction you’re going in with your voice, how you want to sound, is by first saying we definitely don’t sound like this, this, this, and this. Okay, we’ve closed down all those avenues.

Now what? And then as we started employing other people who were gonna help with words, I realised that I couldn’t do that.

I couldn’t keep doing that to them of just sending them things saying, “We don’t sound like this or this or this.” Because saying we don’t sound like this or this or this, having that big negative, it puts one person in control, and no one else can follow, because it’s like someone saying, “I’ve hidden three fist-sized diamonds in the world. They’re not in your laundry cabinet.

(audience laughs) They’re not in a Ford Fiesta parked on Elm Street in London, and they’re not in Buton.

Go find them.

I’ll know them, bring them back, I’ll know them when I see them, okay? I’ll know them when I see them.” That’s not a useful thing for anyone.

So you have to move from there and think about, okay, if those are the things we are not, then what, what are we? So you take the negativity, you take the things of the not this, not that, not that, not that, and you flip it around, and I’m very grateful to MailChimp particularly who, if you haven’t seen it, have a wonderful style guide, all online, it’s all public, and it says a lot about who they are and what they do as a company, and how they, a lot about their culture as well. I kind of looked at what that style guide felt like, and I read books about style guides, and I discovered one thing you can do is a “this but not that” list.

This is really useful.

If you’re starting building something, it’s a good way of saying, okay, well I’ve got the negatives.

How can I make the positives? So, we’re confident.

We’re never cocky.

We’re witty.

We’re not silly.

We’re informal, but always appropriate.

We’re intelligent, and we treat our users as intelligent. We’re friendly, not ingratiating, helpful, not overbearing.

Most important, we are clear, concise, and human, and if I had to boil the whole style guide down to one thing, it would be we are clear, concise, and human.

That’s us.

So I started with this, and then I kind of started breaking it down, and broke all the things we did into different sections of style guide.

How we announce products.

The fact that we never say we’re excited to announce, because of course we are.

We never say we’ve been working really hard on this, because of course we have.

Everyone should expect us to be working hard. Just get to the point.

And so I broke it down into all these different sections. And I was thorough.

I mean, I’m gonna show you this.

This is one section of the tweeters style guide, which is for the people who respond to tweets. And we try and respond to every single one as much as we can, and in order to do so in the same tone of voice, we only use “we.” “We at Slack do this.” “Oh, we’re looking into that for you.” In order to help it feel like they’re talking to one person, there’s this massive style guide just for those people.

We don’t cut corners.

We don’t resort to text speak.

We do not LOL.

(laughs) Although, actually, this ends in the real style guide with “except sometimes we do because it’s funny.” (laughs) Because sometimes, we break these rules.

If you see someone saying LOL on Twitter in response to someone, it’s probably me.

So, I broke it down into all these things, and I thought, there we go.

There we go.

Now all of these people will feel like unicorns. All of these people will feel like unicorns armed with bags of magic fairy dust that they can just go out and do these things. And I discovered I didn’t have a unicorns, because remember, I know it’s kind of tempting to forget, but that’s not a real unicorn.

All I had, I didn’t have unicorns.

I had a field full of horses looking confused with a pointy hat on.

(audience laughs) I had a field full of people who were saying, “Yes, I understand that this is how I’m meant to sound. And I’m trying to sound like this, but when I try, it doesn’t come out right.

It sounds forced, and it sounds robotic, and it doesn’t sound human at all.” In fact, it became very difficult to try and work out how to, you know, I’d put down all these rules.

I put down all these guidelines.

Why do people still sound like they were doing a pale imitation of me or Stuart or of what they thought the voice was.

And so I started coming at it from a different angle, which was that rules are not enough.

You have to want to follow them.

You have to have a reason, you have to have a connection to them.

This is not, you know, generally in life, advice, but it is kind of for this.

You have to kind of have some kind of human connection in order to want to follow them. Because I realised that if I wrote down how to do release notes, the very basic guidelines are just how to do our release notes.

Write them all out.

In words people can understand.

Make them worth reading.

And if people tried doing that, they would come up with a whole bunch of things, but they probably wouldn’t sound like our release note sound.

So, excuse my diversion.

I studied theatre.

I studied acting first, and then I did an M. Phil. in dramaturgy, which is studying scripts and story telling and all these sorts of things, and my parents always said it was gonna be useless, so now I try and use it in talks as much as I can just to kinda prove that that degree was totally worth paying for.

This is Constantine’s Stanislavski.

And he’s just one of the kind of touch points I reference when I’m thinking about creating character or kind of taking on a voice.

Stanislavski developed the system, which is not the same as method or method acting, that’s kind of an off shoot of that. But it really is the idea that in order to inhabit a character, in order to inhabit a voice, you have to kind of know what the motivations of that character are.

You have to know where they’ve come from, what they’re kind of, what their needs and desires are, what they want to get to.

You have to have this full 360 feeling of why you’re saying what you’re saying.

So in order to kind of bring that back into my work, I thought about our company values.

Our company values are empathy and courtesy. Playfulness, craftsmanship, solidarity, and thriving.

And I thought, how can we apply these? How can I use these to get people to think about writing in a different way, to think about using them as shared characteristics, how can I get them to think, I’m just approaching this from a courteous point of view or I’m approaching this from an empathetic point of view? So I started kind of breaking things down into those various segments and doing workshops. I do workshops a lot at work because we write all the time.

It’s very important that people feel confident in their writing.

And doing these in workshops.

So, to go through them.

Empathy is massively important and I worry that it’s gonna become some kind of Silicon Valley buzz word and everyone is gonna go, “Ugh, empathy.” (laughs) Which would be sad, because it does kind of power everything that we do.

And as a good example of that is this error message.

And this is the error message that I was talking about that people like.

Honestly, it was kind of the key to trying working, to try and work out how we sound and how it all works was this error message, which obviously I didn’t write.

It was written by Eric Costello, who’s one of our co-founders and is wonderful with words. And the magical bit is “We’ve seen this problem clear up with a restart of Slack, a solution which we suggest to you now only with great regret and self loathing.” And it’s an error message that you don’t see very much anymore, please, God.

But, when people do, they have a habit of taking a picture of it, of taking a screen grab, and putting it on Twitter and saying, “Isn’t this lovely?” And that’s remarkable.

It’s ridiculous.

I couldn’t, it kind of blew my mind when I realised what people were doing with it they were saying I have been stopped in the course of my work, and I feel charmed and delighted by it. (audience laughs) And I think the magical key is the empathy part.

They hear that we’re empathising with them. And then we put our feelings out there.

We say this is frustrating for us ’cause this is actually a problem we can do nothing about.

So we say, this is the solution that we suggest, only with great regret and self loathing, and they say, “Oh, I can hear that you’re frustrated, too. I’m frustrated because I can’t do my work, and you’re frustrated ’cause the thing that you made isn’t working right now, and I’m empathising with you, and you’re empathising with me,” and suddenly, it becomes this two-way conversation. It becomes a human to human interaction.

Suddenly, people see that there are real people trying to get their work done, too, hiding behind this app. There are real people who just want to get this thing done, and we start, pfff.

I mean, not that we start to become friends, I was about to say “oh, we start to become friends,” but that sounds so Californian.

(clears throat) (light audience laughter) But for me, that’s one of the magical keys that kind of allowed me to unlock this voice and kind of climb in.

So when people are saying, “Okay, that’s fine, but how do I write with empathy?” We kind of break it down into some questions. Who is it that I’m talking to? A new user? An experienced user? Someone who doesn’t know anything about Slack at all? What emotional state are they in? And obviously, the emojis I used kind of display the different emotions at the start.

I say, if it helps, give that person a face, and if it helps, give that person an emoji. They are that kind of angry.

They are that kind of frustrated.

What is the context? And this does start to go more into tone, but if you’re gonna see that error message 18 times a day, strip all the fun out of it. I don’t wanna see any fun in it at all.

If people are gonna see something once, okay. But it’s kind of thinking about the frequency and the placement and how often people will see it. And what do I want them to take away from this? I’ve thought about how they feel coming in, how am I, what do I want them to feel like when they walk out of this interaction? Courtesy.

Being British, I always assume that courtesy is about couching things in niceties or saying, “If you wouldn’t mind, could we just, sorry to bother you, if it’s just okay, um, sorry.” And it’s not that.

Courtesy in writing is not about that.

Courtesy in writing is about saying what you need to say as clearly and concisely as you can if you need to say it at all, and then getting out of the way.

One of my favourite examples of this, there are several designers on my team who hate this, but, it’s my favourite one.

These buttons.

We’d launched a new thing called Posts, that were ages ago, and the buttons at the bottom said, “Welcome to new and improved Posts.

Tell me more or I’ll figure it out.” And, admittedly, we’re putting words in people’s mouth, but people feel good about it because we are acknowledging the fact that this is a blank space with a flashing cursor. You can probably work that out.

You’ve used Internet, you’ve used computers for quite a long time.

You know what to do in an empty box.

And it puts the power in their hands.

“Okay, tell me more.” Or “Yes, you’re right.

I am intelligent, and I will figure it out.” And just leave it and get out of the way.

We’re not gonna make people kind of walk through a tutorial if they don’t need to do that.

This is an example of courtesy in design.

And the courtesy that we kind of try and educate people in the product about the courteous way of communicating. Shouty rooster here.

I was about to say, I was gonna get t-shirts printed up with “Don’t be a…” (audience laughs) Another word for rooster, but that’s not something they say in America, so I didn’t.

But yeah, so you’re just telling people that by using this simple command, you might be waking people up all over the place. Do you really need to talk to those 38 people in those 10 time zones right now? Is that something you need to do? And I include this because that’s what we think about every time we’re writing a piece of copy in the product is do I need to cause this point of friction? Do I need to say something here? Or can I just leave it? Do I need to interrupt their flow or is it okay not to? Craftsmanship.

We’re very detailed.

We do a lot of stuff about details.

And I was, because we work very transparently, which really helps with that.

I’ve front loaded this with the questions, is this as good as I can make it? And you have to give up your ego and go to somebody else and say can you make this better? Or go to a channel and say can anyone make this better? Craftsmanship I think about quite often who I’m representing.

The fact that I spend half an hour or an hour trying to get exactly the right tweet to put out this feature release, I do that because there are dozens and dozens of people whose work has gone into making that thing, and there are hundreds of people, customer experience people and sales people, who are going to have to explain that thing for customers forevermore, and it’s this kind of moment where I’m shining a light on both sides of that equation, and I’m shining a light on how much work has gone into it, and I’m not gonna put that thing out with a typo, because if I do that, if we kind of are sloppy in the way that we announce things, if we’re sloppy in our words, then people do extrapolate that down.

They say, “Well if they can’t even bother with this what else have they overlooked? What else are they messing up?” And that’s one reason that that kind of very perfectionist. And does this deserve the word deluxe? ‘Cause deluxe is a lovely word that use should use whenever you want, whenever you like, whenever you can. Deluxe.

Not all the time, that would be weird.

And I thought of this because I was looking through the product and found and remembered this.

Our emoji picker is not just an emoji picker. It’s Emoji Deluxe.

(lightly laughs) And I went back through the archives, and I found a conversation from 2013 in which they were deciding whether to call it Emoji Deluxe, and there was one person, there were only eight people on the team at that point, and there was one person saying, “Do you think maybe we should remove the word deluxe?” And someone said, “No.

Deluxe is a wonderful word.

You should always use it if you can.” And someone else who’s name I’ve removed came back with this.

“When people think of emoji in Slack, I want them to think of it as a gift.

And what’s in that gift? Holy crap, it’s a ring and Jesus, check out the diamond on that ring.

That shit is.

I mean, it is really, wooo, better than what is it? Yup, you at the back.

That’s right, it’s deluxe.

You feel me?” (audience laughs) And this is a conversation about one little word. I get that it out to kind of went a couple of screens, but this was the very best bit.

It’s this the care and attention and the workshopping that goes into all these little details.

That is craftsmanship.

This is my favourite recent thing.

(audience laughs) We have an unreads screen where you can kind of go through all the channels you’ve unread, you haven’t read, and read them.

And when you finish, there are a various number of nice screens that you’ll get that say, “Oh, you’re all caught up.

Well done.” Or, “You’re all read.

Here’s a tractor.” ‘Cause frankly, I’m a ginormous child, and I really like tractors.

(audience laughs) And I’m surprised that they let me put it in, but fine. (lightly giggles) And I also like the little detail, we argued for so long about this, you’ll see at the top it says sorted scientifically. (audience laughs) Because you can choose to have your channels sorted by old to new or new to old or alphabetically, and the fourth one, everyone was going, “Ooo, is it by relevance? It’s kind of relevance, it’s kind of recency, it’s kind of frequency, so it’s kind of, we’re not, ugh.” And I said, “With science.” (audience laughs) “We sorted this with science.” And they eventually caught on, and we managed to get it in the products.

That makes me so happy.

‘Cause it’s that tiny little word.

And playfulness.

That’s kind of an example of that.

Playfulness is not just about throwing an emoji at everything, and I realise that this slide deck kind of belies that.

Playfulness, to us, is about kind of playing the game the best we can.

And then doing even better.

“What’s the game we’re playing? Okay, we’ll play that.

Yes, I can win, I can definitely win at this game that I’ve never played before, yes! Write friend five software, yeah, why not? Okay, I can do that.” It’s about kind of being open minded, being in the spirit of play.

Kind of having the child mind and looking at everything from every different angle.

And saying, “What does this usually sound like? And how can I do it differently? And how can I surpass people’s expectations? And how can I maybe use this moment to make someone’s day a little bit nicer? A little bit more pleasant?” And that comes across a lot.

Playful is how I think of our Twitter account. This was someone who tweeted at us, oh no, he didn’t really tweet at us, he just kind of said, “Protip: Change your Slack avatar to Viper from Top Gun.

Conversations are instantly more awesome.” And we watch all the tweets coming in.

So if you say hello to Slack HQ right now, there’ll be a bunch of people going, “Oh, Anna.” Because I’ll be loading up the queue.

But we watch them all come in and we discuss them.

How’s the best way, what’s the best way we can possibly answer this? And we thought, well we could answer it by saying, “That sounds like fun, but surely if everyone did it, it would get confusing.” And then we realised that it would be funnier if we all just did it, and it got confusing. And screen shot it.

And actually proved our point, said, “Okay, we all did it, we kind of see what you mean, but mainly it was just super confusing.” And there’s like eight different people here pretending to be Viper, and it was just, it was a 10 minute distraction, a 10 minute diversion, which was just kind of an opportunity to play. And my favourite bit about it was that all these people were, of course, in different channels at the same time, and when your avatar and name change in one channel, they’ll change in them all, so suddenly, there were just a bunch of Vipers (audience laughs) all over Slack.

The release notes.

I mentioned them before.

Again, don’t read them.

I’m not sure if giant emoji actually do stop people from trying to read them, but never mind.

The release notes are an example of surpassing expectations. They are very precious to us.

They are very precious to me.

Because, not because they’re somewhere where we get to show off.

Not because they’re somewhere that I kind of get to play. But because they do a whole bunch of really important things.

They show empathy, they say, we know these things were broken.

And we’ve fixed them.

And in a way that wouldn’t be so clear if we just said minor improvements and bug fixes. And that’s all these are.

They’re just minor improvements and bug fixes, mainly. But by listing them all out, we’re saying that we understand that they were painful and we understand that they were non-optimal, and let us tell you about them.

And we’ll educate you.

We’ll let you know sometimes, sometimes people don’t realise what they can do until we’ve broken it and then fixed it and told them about it. We shine a light on the work of our different platform teams and QAs and all those things. We’re saying this is how hard we’re working. It works for us as content marketing, in a way, because it’s saying, hey, we are constantly moving forward. We are not sitting back on our laurels.

This is how much goes into every single release, and we are pushing this forward as hard as we can. And we do so charmingly, and we do so in regular language that any user can understand, hopefully. And we do so with enough charm to make people want to read them and make people want to read them all the way to the end.

And make people want to share them and get other people to read them, because then they get all the other benefits of the empathy and the courtesy and all these things. Because if they like reading them, they’ll come back. That’s good.

That works for everyone.

So it’s minimum viable charming.

I get told off if I add too much charm.

But also, you should reward people for reading them because they have to go to the app store, they have to find the app, they have to press a tiny little arrow that says what’s new, and for doing that, people deserve to be rewarded, I believe.

And solidarity.

We do it in solidarity with the people we work with and with the people we’re making things for. This is a finger bump.

It’s a Slack thing.

It’s like a fist bump except for iOS engineers, so they just do a finger bump instead.

(audience laughs) This is something we put out yesterday.

It’s something that I’ve been planning to put out for a few weeks.

It was meant to be under different circumstances. It was meant to be a whatever you’re celebrating today, you can celebrate it with your whole team. But it wasn’t that.

We had to say something else.

But we still want to get it in the product, because it’s important.

It’s a good emoji.

It works.

It brings people together.

And because we’re all in this together was a really important thing for me to get in there, ’cause that’s something we say a lot, at Slack. We are all in this together, and we’re all making it up as we go along.

We say things on Twitter, just to rally people. Just to say hi.

Just to be human.

It was something that Stuart started doing before I arrived, and I couldn’t work out what it was. He would just kind of say, “Howdy!” Or, “You look nice today.” Or something, and I couldn’t quite work out where that came from, and then I realised that if you ever spend any time in San Francisco, or California in general, if you’re walking down the street, sometimes people say, “That’s a great dress.” Or, “Your hair looks awesome.” And moving from the UK, I was terrified by this. (audience laughs) I was like, are they trying to mug me? Are they trying to hit on me? Is it some kind of weird combination of the two? And then I realised they weren’t.

They were just saying something nice because I was there and they were there and they had no more motivation than to just say it. And so that’s what we do, to remind each other that we’re human.

So that’s what we do.

We say to people, “It’s all good, you’ve got this.” And 100 people will reply saying, “Thank you very much. I thought I was doing well, but it’s good for you to notice.” And we’re like, we didn’t actually notice, but thank you for having that moment.

And this is what I say to people a lot.

The culture turned inward makes the product. The culture turned outward makes the brand. That’s the only brand we’ve got right now, is just who we are, turned around, flipped around, and presented to the world, and that’s why it’s very important that everyone, every single on-boarding class goes through a, what we sound like at Slack workshop with me. Because the way that we talk to each other inside our product, the way that we talk to each other as colleagues, absolutely ends up being the way we talk externally, too.

‘Cause it’s magic.


So yeah, I’ve given all these people fairy dust. I’m like, okay, so you’ve got the rules.

And you’ve got the feelings, so now you take the rules and the feelings, and there you go, fairy dust.

So the problem I found then was that people started being too empowered. Which sounds wrong, but you know, kind of like, throwing fairy dust to everything, thinking, “Ah, so if I just combine this with this and that with that, that’s the secret sauce, right? That’s the secret sauce.” And it got just too much.

And I was like, tone, tone it down.

And so we’re talking about tone.

Because one ladybug is cute.

One ladybug, if you find it in your house, is cute, but if suddenly you have a million ladybugs, and they’re coming at you from all angles, it’s like, you know, too many ladybugs.

That’s not cute anymore, it’s terrifying.

(audience laughs) But I say to people, if you work for this company, you are part of the voice of the company, and it’s true, because we have people typing things to customers, to users, to everyone, all day, to developers, to partners, all these things. So do feel like you’re a part of it, but don’t feel like you have to throw everything at every single interaction.

And because, kind of me doing wild, expressive gestures in meetings wasn’t quite cutting it, I started drawing this on whiteboard.

I suddenly became a whiteboard person, and drew this diagram, and I’ve done a really posh version of it, here we are.

It’s a scientific diagram detailing the importance of maintaining a voice but modulating tone to create consistent, contextually appropriate, holistic and human user experience.

This thing in the middle, with the arrows that is glowing, that’s the product itself.

And that’s how much personality we should have in the product.

It really is quite small.

It really is, it should be the plainest place. Or like, almost the plainest place.

Because, inside Slack, when you have people inside Slack, you want them to be able to focus, and you don’t want to distract them from that focus, so you’re not gonna kind of be all bells and whistles. You know, as you go out towards the unicorn on the right.

(laughs) I don’t know my right from my left, sorry.

As you go out to the unicorn on the right, that’s kind of things like social media marketing things, events, you know, things you can put a lot more oomph and personality into.

But the product itself should be simple.

We should keep things plain, and we should keep things absolutely appropriate at all times.

And so this is where I’ve come back to is… We have a thing called magic hour, me and the head of product marketing.

This is one of my why I hate magic things.

We have a thing called magic hour where twice a week, people who are working on something can bring us something and for 10 minutes at a time, we will sit there and go, okay, maybe you could do this. And that would lift it.

And they go, “Thank you for your magic,” and they leave. And it’s not magic at all, it’s just because we’re a pair of fresh eyes, we’re kind of coming at it from a user point of view.

That’s all it is.

It’s not magic at all.

They could, you know, ask basically anyone in the building, but that’s what we do.

And then someone comes to me, someone comes to that with an analyst deck and says, “How can I inject a bit of Slack personality into this?” And we looked at him aghast and said, “Noooo! You can’t.

It’s an analyst deck.

It has to be simple and plain.” Clear, concise, and human.

Take the jargon out where you can, but people will need that jargon, so keep it in if you have to, but be clear, concise and human, always, that’s all you need, that is the Slack voice. Yes, there are different tones to it, but they are different in different places. They’re appropriate in different ways.

So yes, we can go all the way up to kind of like 11, when we’re on Twitter, but if you’re an analyst deck, then keep it, you know, keep it on the low. So, I say the product should be completely, you know, as simple and concise as possible. But I think one of my favourite things, and one of the things that people do like about Slack, I hope, is that we find the appropriate places to put it in the product.

And I’m just gonna go through some of those just for the hell of it.

This is a way of injecting our values and our personalities into the design.

More emojis, sorry, but if you start typing colon T-H, it defaults to thumbs up.

And alphabetically, it should default to thumbs down, but it defaults to thumbs up because we presume people’s intents are positive.

That people will want to be saying yes more often than they’ll want to be saying no. This is what I would consider an appropriate place. This is when we launched a kind of self DM thing, and it ends with, “you can draught messages, list your to-dos, keep files and links handy.

You can talk to yourself here, but please bear in mind that you’ll have to supply both sides of the conversation.” And that’s a nice moment because people will literally only see that once.

They’re never going to have to see that again. It’s not going to be interrupting them, it’s not going to be coming back.

The tractor, again, we had to work out what the best thing was for that space, for that empty state.

We needed to make sure that when people got there, they felt like they’d achieved something.

When they got there, they felt not like, “Ugh, I’ve just cleared out another inbox, great, let’s go on to the next.” Because that is a real feeling, and that’s the story they could be telling themselves at the end, but instead, we wanted them to get there and go, “Yup.

I’ve done it, and I feel proud and happy.

And here’s a tractor.” So it was about finding the place, not that it’s, you know, yes, that’s one place where people are gonna see it most often, but it’s about guiding the narrative of how they feel when they get to that place. And it’s about that.

It’s about this random and rare error message that helps bring a little bit more life and humanity into the product.

And that’s the secret sauce.

I feel like I should give you a real recipe. I’d want you to be able to take away something very concrete, so the recipe for our super secret sauce? Two parts mayonnaise, one part ketchup, pickle juice, mustard, paprika, and salt and pepper. Not really.

That was meant to be funnier, guys, c’mon.

(audience laughs) Words are powerful.

You have real power with your words, that’s why you should weigh each one, because you can really change people’s experience, you can change people’s day, you can also hurt and words are powerful, and words are hard.

So that’s something that I now impress on people. You know, you’ve got this bit, you’ve got that bit, you’ve got the B appropriate, but words are hard. They’re not that hard.

We all write every day all day.

So it’s not that they’re hard, but you have to kind of judge them that way. We meet people where they are.

See, empathy? We do the work.

Do the work is one of my favourite phrases. It’s the courtesy, it’s you don’t want to present anything to anyone where they have to guess what it is you meant. So you have to do the work.

You have to do all the work beforehand to make sure you’re not expecting them to do the work for you.

Make sense.

Don’t worry if it’s grammatically slightly off, as long as you’re making sense.

I’m a bit of a lax person when it comes to grammar, because I’m bad at it.

But just as long as you’re making sense and being clear and concise, and make room for joy.

Words should always be joyful.

And you could have character, but you never let your character overwhelm your content. You should surpass expectations.

Give people a little surprise, a little bit of delight, just when they’re not expecting it, you should just be ready to always give them a little bit extra.

And you should know when to stop.

And I’m gonna stop now.

(audience laughs) So thanks very much.

(applause) – Thank you so much, and we actually might have time for one or two questions if you, are you – Oh yeah, sure. – up for questions? – Yup.

– Alright.

Let’s take a seat.

– Oh.

Sit down.

– So we’re gonna run a mic around, so if some people got some questions, I think David’s got a mic, but he’s got one with Steve. Okay, Steve.

Let’s start with you.

– [Steve] Hi, Anna.

– Hi.

– [Steve] Hi.

I was just wondering how that full page in the New York Times ad came about? – How the what, sorry? – [Steve] The full page ad in the Times that Slack took out recently.

– Ah, straight in there.


(audience laughs) – I wasn’t gonna mention that one, but.

– How’d it come about? Well, you can buy them.

(audience laughs) We discovered.

When knew Teams was coming out.

We could either get behind it, we could either kind of follow it or we could get in front of it.

And that is part of our character as well.

We are very savvy, we know how to do business, and it was important to get out there for our big business customers and say, “Listen, we’re here to stay, and we’re serious about that.” And I think the context of it being on the back page of the New York Times was very important and sometimes it lost that context, but it was a powerful and yeah.

It was a provocative thing to do, and it’s not something that we’ve done before. But that is also part of our character, we aren’t always humble and self-effacing.

You can’t be all the time if you actually want to succeed as a business, so it’s part of our character, too.

And I was proud we did it.


– Got some other questions out there? I’m sure there are many.

It can be a practical nature.

Jonathan? – [Jonathan] So as a designer, we use a lot of sometimes like, “me” or “my” in the UI, and what is your opinion on that? What is the best practise there that you think is effective? – Oh, blimey.

Best practise.

Give me an example.

– [Jonathan] My profile or my music versus your music or versus just music.

– Yeah, I mean, it depends on how you, the relationship you’re building between them and, and your app, I mean, obviously, you wouldn’t ever use “your music.” That’d be weird.

I’m gonna tell you.

I’m not very good at UI writing.

(audience laughs) We had to hire a whole team ’cause I’m terrible at it. I’m not terrible at it, but I kind of, it’s one of those things that I would do under duress, but I don’t know the best practise for it, and I would just be like, “Well, I could say that sounds alright.” But, you know, you’re asking, I could go ask our lead, UI writer? Product writer, they’re called there.

What if it feels right? (laughs) No, I think, as long as it’s consistent and makes sense to you, I think consistency is more important than what choice you make, probably. So probably not that practical in nature, ’cause I don’t know anything about UI writing. I don’t know anything about marketing, so don’t ask anything about that.

– So, does your team, so obviously, voice is a very strong part of how you market, and like, the New York Times, for example, that was purely words, right? And a lot of them.

A lot more words than you normally have in a marketing piece, so does marketing, does that fall within your ambit as tone and voice? – I used to be in the marketing department. I mean, we have this, we have this sense of anything that is not engineering is marketing, basically. And that comes under, that includes customer experience people, sales people, or did, kind of, we’ve split slightly more now, but every time we talk to a customer through whatever means, every time we talk to a user, whether it’s through the product or through Twitter or through any other means, it’s basically marketing, because it’s through that that they recommend it to somebody else, and it’s through that that organic growth can continue. So yeah, when we first split the org, we split into engineering on one side and marketing on the other side, and anything that wasn’t engineering was marketing. So, it is part of what we do, I mean, I kind of float around now.

I was managing people, and now I’m not, because we have people who are better at being managers, and it’s sounding like I’m terrible at everything.

(audience laughs) I’m not terrible at managing, but it’s just kind of, we’re at the point now where we’re having to kind of move into let’s do what we’re good at.

So I spend a lot of time with the product marketing team and a lot of time with the editorial team.

It’s all just, yeah.

Basically, it’s probably isn’t an answer to your question, but it’s something I like saying.

Once you start growing as fast as and as big as we have, you keep pulling in people who are really good at what they do, they’re really good at their job. They are some of the best in the industry at this particular thing, and that means, you can give up trying to do that particular thing and let them just do it.

But it’s like, and then you move into a slightly different role where, like when you’re weaving, you need warp and the weft to kind of come together, ’cause otherwise, you’re not going to build something strong, so there’s a whole bunch of us who are now just kind of weaving ourselves in and out of things, and kind of going, “Okay, how can I bring this element to that, and how can I make sure that we’re still caring about the details when we’re also doing this massive thing, and how can I make sure all these people are threaded together?” So I think it’s, yeah, marketing is part of it, but all of it is part of it.

I spend a lot of time working with front end developers on secret projects and things now, so.

– Thank you.

Alright, we might have time for one, maybe two more? Does one of you? – Really? – There are lots, I must admit, I’ve never seen a single slide or observation more retweeted at one of our events than the particular about cultures is when you were quitting words, – Oh yeah.

– and that one, there must have been a dozen or more screen shots, quotations.

– I’m really hoping – So obviously it resonated with people, that one.

– I hope so, I’ve been using it quite a lot recently, and I kind of hope that I haven’t got it from some… (laughs) It’s one of those things where you think you’ve thought of it yourself, and then maybe, oh. It’s alright.

– Well, I can just tell you that they very much resonate. – Good.

– Who’s up there? – [Man] Um, whoa.

– Hello.

– [Man] Hi.

So your kinda central thesis seems to be, that you just need to respect human endeavour and the kind of inherent humanity of what’s taking place. But at the same time, you keep using words like user, which to me is great dehumanising – Yeah. – kind of word.

In, you know, like a lot of user interface design, you talk about personas, which is kind of a step closer to respecting the humanity of people, but is there like a suite of words that you would kind of impress upon people to use when you’re trying to discuss the people who use your product? – Usually when I’m, when we’re in, and I need to get better about this, but, usually when we’re talking about people who use our product, we use the phrase “people who use our product,” but it’s something that I am very bad at remembering to do when I’m actually just trying to get through as much as possible, but it is, I think, you know, remembering, thinking about them as people first, and users is something that we’ve been kind of scouring out of a lot of our help centred material, a lot of our materials in general, and as you say, is not a great word to use, because it dehumanises and just kind of places them in a funny place.

So I totally agree with you, and I think people who use our product, like, people first. I know that seemed to kind of clash against what I’m saying, and I’m sorry about that, that wasn’t clear.

I think, yeah.

The way we think about communication with people and people always being people first, I think it’s because, partly the founders and a lot of us were quite, we were blogging in 2001, 2002.

We were those kind of social Internet when social Internet wasn’t scary.

When it was okay to look in comment boxes and actually have conversations in them, and I think because that’s where we grew up on the web, I think that’s why we still think of people are okay to talk to, and it’s okay to kind of have those conversations and be part of those conversations, because you don’t always have to be fronting and presenting yourself with filters.

You can just kind of talk to people.

– But in many ways, Slack is a tool that allows for more human conversation.

And I think this ties into what Carolyn was talking about yesterday, but, you know, it’s our responsibility to design systems that’ll enable better, more human conversations, but it’s a very good observation about, and obviously, the folks who are early days bloggers, in the early 2000s, obviously kind of Flickr came out of that in the early sharing social media. I think if you took someone from 2004 and dropped them here today and the stories around, you know, that Carolyn was recounting around GamerGate, I think we would just, I mean, I think we’d be aghast, in particular, Kathy Sierra’s episode in 2006, if people are familiar with, which was one of these very early examples of cyber bulling at a global scale, I think we were all aghast at the time. I think we would just be, I dunno how we would respond if we talked to the folks, those very kind of civic minded, optimistic folks of the early 2000s and kind of dropped us all here today. What have we done? – I think it’s that sense of assume best intentions is something that I say a lot, and we say a lot, it’s ’cause that’s what we assume about people is, you know? They may be sounding mad – Maybe that’s not the best assumption that we can make, I dunno. That’s a really challenging question in the last couple of days, right? – It is really hard, It’s really hard, but how else do you kind of carry on? – Yeah. That’s right.

Right? – If you don’t have hope about humanity, how else do you carry on? – I know, that’s the question that’s been on a lot of our lips over the last couple of days, really. I don’t wanna finish on that.

Someone ask something that’s positive.

(audience laughs) C’mon, a really positive one.

I’ll make the observation while the mic goes around. I feel Slack will be an example that will enable and permit so many people to do what you are doing, and bring this kind of character and voice, and unfortunately, I think in the same way, when we got web fonts, and everyone was concerned about everyone using too many fonts, you know, I suspect there’ll be a lot of the injecting character stuff that is incredibly annoying.

– Yes, it is.

– However, maybe that’s what’s gonna have to go through to kind of… – Yeah.

I mean, there already is.

There’s a huge amount of it in the UK, particularly. Banks and smoothies and everyone is just kind of throwing personality at you.

– There’s so much authenticity out there.

(laughs) – But it’s just kind of, yes, I don’t want my bank to do it. I don’t want my bank to be my friend.

I don’t want things to be representative in that way. I’m sorry if anyone works at Facebook, oh yeah, but Facebook really annoys me.

I put this on Twitter all the time, so, you know, I kind of screen grab things, because the phrase at Facebook, “We care about you and your memories.” And I’m like, you care about them to the extent that you can monetize them.

You care about them to the extent that, you know, I don’t like people saying we care about you. – Right.

– Don’t ingratiate me into your life.

Don’t pull me into your life.

– Right.

– Just let me have mine.

– And show don’t tell.

– Yeah.

– And I go, people telling you they care is kinda like, you know? You talked about it, I mean, that’s what I think one of the subtexts is like, if the words don’t come after the actions, if you’re not embodying the things you say you are, that’s doubly bad, right? – Yeah.

And also I just want kind of to remove, I don’t want to tell people to have, I don’t want to tell people to have a feeling about me. Like, I don’t want to say, we’re looking at a survey that we’re sending out to some people, and the researcher was saying, “How about I use, this question here would be, And if you respond, it’ll make our day.” And I’m like, “I don’t care about making your day. You’ve just sent me an e-mail.

I don’t wanna make your day – Right. And on top of that, you won’t.

(laughs) – Exactly, it won’t.

If you’re gonna send me this e-mail say, “And if you respond, we will make the product better for you, we will stop it being so annoying in the ways that you find it annoying.” So put it back on them, and don’t help them with their story, don’t kind of pull them into yours. – Yeah.

– It’s, yeah.

– All right, I promised one more question.

David, have we got someone? – [Audience Member] Yeah, hi.


– Some disembodied voice out there, oh thank you. – [Audience Member] Right up the back.

– Right.

– [Audience Member] First of all, – Hello.

– [Audience Member] I’d just like to say that the inclusion of reference to the universal declaration of human rights in your licence agreement was a stroke of genius.

– Thanks.

(audience laughs) That was before my time.

– [Audience Member] That, and the voice and the approach to humanity that you take. Is that part of an ongoing battle with the monsters? Or does it help keep the monsters at bay to begin with? – There’s no video here, we’re not red.

– Yeah, it kind of is, I mean, there’s a reason that, you know, Stuart is a philosophy major, and Eric, who wrote that error message, is a literature major, and I’m a dramatic, and the people who are coming in and doing this are people who are at some level, a bunch of hippies, but trying to kind of (sighs) keep the light in some way, and keep the monsters at bay is a really nice way of putting it, actually.

I never intended to work in an office.

I had been a freelance writer for 10 years before doing this.

I wrote games, and I really enjoyed it.

And I had never worked for a corporation.

I had never worked in tech, and I had never worked in an office, and I had no intention of doing so, and yet I did when I had that call, because I knew that if it was this team building it, they were building it because they wanted to improve people’s working lives, ’cause people’s working lives take up so much of their time, and are so often so miserable, and anything we can do to help improve that experience, and I knew that if we were doing it, we were doing it in this slightly idealistic and coming from a place of trying to write off the monsters. Does that answer your question? – I think that’s a perfect place to finish, so thank you for that, and thanks for sharing all this. (applause) Thank you so much.

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