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Ways scientists use Slack

Illustration by the project twins

When geneticist Daniel MacArthur checks into his lab, the first thing he does is fire up Slack, a workplace messaging app. In the system, he zips through the hundreds of messages and files left in different channels by the lab’s 23 scientists — some reporting on their projects, others requesting help. The lab’s members have posted more than 400,000 messages on Slack since April 2014 — a rate of nearly 500 per day. For MacArthur, who works at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the tool has rendered irrelevant many of the ways that his lab previously used to communicate about papers and projects — especially e-mail. E-mail, says MacArthur, is “genuinely awful” and “actually disastrous for group communication”. His inbox, a jumble of vendor announcements, administration notices and other random requests, contains some 17,500 unread items. Slack, by contrast, is focused: because


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