Time/date: 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 15.
The gist: Butterfield talked about his business messaging service, Slack, which is changing the way people collaborate and work to the tune of about 675,000 paid users and growth to 400 employees. Butterfield, who previously co-founded Flickr, said the success of Slack largely has to do with timing -- it would not have worked three or four years earlier before more widespread smartphone adoption, and with the increasing return of people seeing others using Slack. Butterfield said his company has worked hard to get people over the initial challenge of getting groups to buy into using Slack internally and with clients.
"It's a real big hump. We focused a lot on trying to get people over the hump. To give people an idea of what they were getting to get them past the friction."
Manjoo, who didn't bring notes or, it seemed, a lot of prepared questions, used humor to try to keep the panel moving, though it seemed at times as if he and Butterfield hadn't spoken beforehand about the shape the panel would take. At one point, while discussing funding, Manjoo asked, "Why do you care?" to which Butterfield responded with exasperation, "Because you asked me!"
This was after a long segment in which the panel got into the weeds about the history of communication and the evolution of the spoken word. It wasn't a disaster, by any means, but there were some uncomfortable moments that seemed to stem from lack of preparation or control.
Tell me stuff to ask @Stewart. Didn't prepare for this at all.— Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) March 15, 2016
Slack itself as a tool was more fascinating to hear about; Butterfield says people use it actively an average of 2 hours, 15 minutes a day and it's allowing people to bring more of themselves -- their personality, their whole self -- to work with them in chats and private conversation. Manjoo, for his part, said that The New York Times has taken to Slack and that the private chat function in particular has become very popular there.
The takeaway: Slack is growing quickly and is trying to allow other to build on top of the platform with bots (say an office manager bot that can poll employees) and to find niches such as hedge fund companies where lawyers might advise workers to keep their business dealings off private texting and into a more partitioned messaging service. Butterfield seems enamored with changing the way people communicate and with allowing people to be more productive in a way that frees them up to be more creative.
Updated at 5:57 p.m. Tuesday: to change number of paid users to 675,000, per email from Slack's PR team. Also fixed figure to "2 hours, 15 minutes."
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