Slack is adding a new feature to its mobile app, meant to help you triage all your unread stuff a little faster. It’s called Catch Up, and the only way I can describe it is Tinder for Enterprise Messaging. When you tap on Catch Up at the top of the app’s homescreen, it’ll show you one channel or DM at a time; swipe left to mark it read, right to leave it unread.
Catch Up is a response to two things Akshay Bakshi, a product management director at Slack, says the company sees a lot. First, there’s just a lot going on in Slack, and opening every channel one by one just to check in on it and mark it read in the sidebar is a pin. Second, a lot of people use their phone as a Slack-triage device. “Before they get to their desk in the morning, or when they’re away from their desk, or maybe at lunch — a 30-second session, super fast, just trying to catch up. Then the stuff they want to get back to at their desktop, they leave it for later.” The swipe-y approach, he says, is an effort to make the process feel fun and easy, not like checking your email or scrolling through yet another feed.
Slack is forever trying to figure out how to be more powerful, more feature-rich, and the center of everything you and your company does, without making the app so bloated and complicated it becomes a chore to do. In recent months, Slack has made a number of changes — including a near-complete redesign of the app — in an effort to give you ways to organize and triage all your stuff.
Catch Up actually ignores most of that organization. It’s almost a nod back to the way Slack used to be: a sidebar full of stuff, all of it either read or unread. When you swipe through Catch Up, Slack doesn’t put your right-swipes in the Later section it wants you to use as a to-do list; it just leaves things unread. (You can long-press a card and save it for later, but that’s deliberately hidden.) It’s not the company-blessed Best Way to Use Slack, maybe, but Slack’s design SVP Ethan Eismann says that’s fine. “The nice thing about read / unread is it’s kind of an escape hatch,” he says. “If I’m not ready to make a decision… unread. It’s easy.”
Bakshi says there’s lots left to do with Catch Up, including using AI to help summarize and organize the cards to help you make swiping decisions even faster. Right now, it looks to your own organization of channels and chats to figure out what you care about most, but he says there might be more sophisticated ways to approach the system over time.
Catch Up is launching today for non-paying Slack users on iOS and Android, and Slack says it’ll roll out to paid users soon. It’s coming to the iPad, too, but in a slightly different form. Eismann says he doesn’t imagine a card-swiping tool coming to the Slack desktop app anytime soon, but he thinks there’s plenty of opportunity for more triage and organization on your computer. “That idea of giving you more of a focused mode on desktop is one we’ve played with,” he says. “If I were a betting man, I would say we’ll start to better achieve a more focused experience in Slack over the next year.”