In high-tech, we have a terrible predilection for finding a good tool and abusing it until we hate it. I’ve written several “Use the right tool for the job” articles and posts over the years, most notably an examination of trying to make one programming language (or another) into an all-purpose solution. We’re thankfully past that … for now. But we do the same thing across all of IT in general and DevOps in particular. Consider what we did to Jenkins when DevOps was coming of age. It went from a great innovative tool to a bloated monster we tried to use to automate just about everything short of making coffee in between integration runs. Fact is, Jenkins is still a good tool in the CI space; everyone started hating it because it was over-used. It’s a terrible tool when used for things other than what it’s good at. Imagine that. We can make the same statement about, well, everything. “A car is a terrible tool when used as a life preserver,” is a good example of some of the absurdity that makes us hate good tech.
The 2023 edition of this phenomenon came up on a for-fun video call with some friends this weekend, and talking about it made me realize how bad it has become. Thus, I give you the point of this post:
Slack is not your documentation tool. It is not anything but an efficient alerting tool and maybe a stand-in communications tool for short-term convos.
I see it all over the place. “Oh, we discussed that on Slack.” That’s great, where did you document it? Because honestly, some of the companies I deal with have busy enough Slack channels that if the conversation happened more than an hour ago, it will never be seen again.
Slack, and a few similar tools, are astounding alerting channels, offering an opportunity to notify when events occur, and we really should continue to reap the ease-of-use and massive alerting benefits that these tools offer. But don’t confuse that with long-term anything. Because it is not.
Alerting to Slack needs to be one piece of a larger puzzle. Making sure that whatever was alerted on was also logged somewhere (either by the alert mechanism or by whatever tool spawned the alert), and for a whole array of issues that are alerted on and many of the conversations that happen in Slack, long-term documentation needs to be created.
So this is a lot of words to remind you of what you already know: Slack can enable quick communications, alerting and innovative solutions by having broader discussions without cramming everyone into a conference room. But it is not a documentation tool in any way, and it needs to be part of an integrated solution that uses the right tool for the job. Security alerts, for example, better be ending up in the SIEM (they are in every organization I’m aware of; just using that as a glaring example).
And keep rocking it. Just make sure while you’re running at 500 miles per hour to keep up with Agile and DevOps speeds, you are capturing the stuff that will be important in six months or a year somewhere that people can actually find it. And use each tool to do what it’s best at. Convenience is almost never the best selection criterion for a tool to solve a given problem.