Tech Life Will I respond? And how urgently?

Rands Response Hierarchy

The arrival of Slack1 changed my communication regimen. On top of Slack being the primary means of communicating at Slack, the Leadership Slack at 3000+ members represents a daily part of how I communicate.

There are a great many ways to get in touch with me. With the establishment of Slack as a primary means of communication, I realized that I had updated the prioritized hierarchy to how likely I will respond to a piece of communication. From least likely to most likely, this is the hierarchy:

Spam < LinkedIn < Facebook < Twitter < Email < Slack < Phone < SMS < Face to Face

Let’s talk about each one:

Spam: I never respond. Spam is a solved problem in that I don’t even see it anymore, but even when I did, I never responded. The most work I perform here is removing myself from spam-like mailing lists resulting from online purchases.

LinkedIn: I respond slowly… maybe. There is no doubt there is value in my LinkedIn network, but the design choices that LinkedIn has made over the years makes the site both difficult to use and distinctly pay to play. My “inbox” is full of strangers making even stranger offers. The signal to noise is so bad that when an actual friend or a credible inquiry arrives, I will miss the message because I’m busily ignoring the rest of LinkedIn.

Facebook: I’ll respond… eventually. I’m in the minority here, but I don’t use Facebook for messaging. There’s a very short list of humans who only have my Facebook account, so that’s where they’ll start to reach out, but it’s infrequent. The quality of my network on Facebook is higher than LinkedIn plus there is less pay to play opportunities so when someone does message me, it’s usually relevant.

Twitter: I’ll respond. Twitter is more a broadcast medium for me than a 1:1 communication tool. I’ve taken the time to curate the humans I follow so my network is more valuable than Facebook. Given I’m configured such that mutual following is a necessity to directly message, the flow of messages is low, but the signal is high. However, I’ll almost always redirect a direct message to a different medium.

Email: I’ll respond in a timely fashion. I have two inboxes: work and personal. Both of these are empty at the end of each working day. Work inbox zero used to be a challenge pre-Slack but is now an inbox I’ll forget to check for days on end because of the low volume of messages. My personal inbox is higher volume than work and each message from a human is a message I’ll respond to promptly.2

Slack: I’ll respond immediately. All of work communication happens within Slack. As I’ve written about before, I have a system using starring that effectively transforms my sidebar a dynamic inbox. Urgent conversations are handled in real time, less urgent usually in 24 hours. The same approach applies to the Leadership Slack. Within Slack, it’s guaranteed that you’re a human and we have shared interests which mean if you message me and I’m sitting there, the response is instantaneous.

Phone: I’ll answer immediately… if I know you. In the last year, the number of spam calls on my private number has skyrocketed. The result is that if you’re not in my contact list, I will never ever ever answer the phone. However, I will eagerly check my voicemail because there’s a decent chance it’s important news since someone bothered to call.

SMS: I’ll answer immediately… if I know you. Same familiarity protocol as the phone. For friends and family, this is the primary means of communication these days and has almost completely replaced the role of phone calls from just a few years ago. My parents were the last to get on this bandwagon in the last year.

Face to Face: Yeah, I’ll respond immediately. You’re sitting right there.

To summarize the last year: there are fewer phone calls thanks to the prevalence of texting, email is giving way to Slack, and it’s a bit of crap shoot on most social networks.

My introversion is fine with all of these developments.


  1. Bias alert. I work at Slack. 
  2. Remember hand written letters? I do. 

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4 Responses

  1. In Twitter’s settings, you can opt-in to “Receive Direct Messages from anyone” (including non-followers):
    https://twitter.com/settings/safety

    Note: I couldn’t fill out this comment form using Safari on macOS.

  2. JD Lewin 7 months ago

    This is the sort of SLA I wish I could enforce with everyone I know; set it as an auto response or add it to my email signature. It reminds me of the old days of AIM away messages.

    Speaking of which, y’all should have a look into away messages.

  3. Mike Schumacher 7 months ago

    In regards to the second footnote, where does handwritten correspondence fall in the hierarchy? Specifically for items in the post instead of Post-its left on a desk.