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Wired Profiles Stewart Butterfield
August 11, 2014 7:52 PM   Subscribe


 
Before this article I had never heard of Slack, and how amazing and feature-rich it is. So that's interesting.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:11 PM on August 11


Aw man I miss Glitch.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:19 PM on August 11 [8 favorites]


This is not fascinating at all. It's totally a puff piece. Look at how great Slack is! Look how in-demand Stewart Butterfield is and how lucky we are to get to do an article about him and his startup! It sure is hard deciding how to furnish your new office space!

Not trying to be a hater, Glitch was great, Flickr was too, Mat usually writes great stuff, but this article sucks.
posted by zsazsa at 8:40 PM on August 11 [17 favorites]


This is not fascinating at all. It's totally a puff piece.

In other words, it comes from the tech press. This is just slightly less transparent (and more than slightly longer) than most such articles.
posted by kenko at 8:45 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


This is not fascinating at all. It's totally a puff piece.

In other words, it comes from the tech press. This is just slightly less transparent (and more than slightly longer) than most such articles.


If you scroll down, you'll see that the comments aggressively agree with these sentiments.

Also, while as a current user of Slack I do like it and its integration, the search feature is terrible and waaaaay overhyped by this article.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:50 PM on August 11


Glitch is a very slick modernization of irc. I know that doesn't really do it justice, if you've only used bare irc for group stuff, but the shops I've worked at usually had customized bots to do useful stuff (for programmers, like announce code pushes, or share diffs, or meme-ify images, the last more 'useful' than useful).

Slack is like the tool programmers at these orgs make for themselves, but around regular office stuff: sharing docs, making irc less scary.
posted by zippy at 8:51 PM on August 11


We like Steward Butterfield here in Victoria, BC. I'm not exactly sure how you could write a hard-hitting piece about Butterfield anyway.
posted by Nevin at 9:04 PM on August 11


Is this a parody?
posted by ryoshu at 9:18 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


He's a mefite.
posted by horsewithnoname at 9:23 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I ran into him in Glitch once and he seemed like a nice fellow. I hope he gives the game a third shot. I miss the hell out of that game.
posted by NoraReed at 9:28 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I found the article to be pretty interesting when I read it last week—and it got me to try Slack—but I don't understand what the title has to do with anything. I kept expecting it to tie back into the article itself and have some kind of thematic resonance but unless I missed it, that doesn't happen. I dunno.
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:28 PM on August 11


"...$22 million now seems like the kind of money you dig out of your wallet to give a stranger at the bus stop."
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:33 PM on August 11


We have been using this at work and I like it. That's kind of a "Hey Mikey - he likes it" thing because I normally hate all groupware or whatever it is software.
posted by thelonius at 9:49 PM on August 11


I occasionally feel guilty that no matter what else he does, I'm going to find myself thinking holy shit, I wish he could give GNE/Glitch another go. I mean, I hope that he continues to do other interesting and exciting things, and that those things make him shitloads of money, but I really, really miss that game.
posted by MeghanC at 10:12 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Dunno, I just find myself much less interested in anything that Andreessen is involved in these days.
posted by dhartung at 11:01 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Slack is actually pretty good though. History alone makes a win over IRC. Plus really nice integration of YouTube etc. We switched from IRC to Slack a while back and have really been enjoying it. It's just a well made product.
posted by jcruelty at 11:19 PM on August 11


Dunno, I just find myself much less interested in anything that Andreessen is involved in these days.

This is totally reasonable. But I find him (annoyingly) smart and interesting, when he's not douchenozzlin' everywhere.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:30 PM on August 11


I agree that the article is mostly fluff, but I liked it because Stewart. He is from the Old Internet and I think it would be pretty cool to work for him. He seems like a froody dude.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:33 PM on August 11


Until last year, my client list included the largest public IRC network in the world. I don't know what it is about IRC that attracts DDoS's, though I am curious how Twitter et all handle them.

As far as non-walled garden IM for the new millienium, Jabber makes a decent replacement for IRC, and has an extension for multiuser chat history. Probably its downfall was it's dedication to peering, which is rife for spam abuse, and large companies inability to negotiate a federation.

We still depend on IRC internally, but if we ever needed to stand up our own server, I'd argue for Jabber.
posted by pwnguin at 11:45 PM on August 11


I read the first page, scrolled down a ways, saw the words "...finishing his machiatto" dangling after a quote, and knew it was safe to close the window.
posted by bicyclefish at 11:49 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


The guy that started flickr is from Lund ... huh. That is something I did not know.

It's a nice place and all, it just doesn't really seem like a place people are from, more like where they go to die. Definition of end of the road.

Nearby Desolation Sound is lovely in the fall though!
posted by mannequito at 1:03 AM on August 12


I don't know what it is about IRC that attracts DDoS's

Completely culturally ingrained since... basically day one. Let's take a little trip down memory lane to the mid-90s, a less-than-golden era when network security was utterly non-existent and a much higher percentage of the Internet population was basement-dwelling teenage narcissistic sociopaths.

Prior to widespread nickname/channel services (and EFnet was/possibly is a huge holdout on adopting those), the way to gain ownership of an IRC channel was to flood one of the servers with garbage data until it dropped off the network. Join said channel on the disconnected server before it finishes reconnecting (automatically getting ops in the process), and once the rejoin happened you'd have ops on the freshly reintegrated channel.

Many, many varieties of automated channel-holder bots were written for networks with no authoritative services (EFnet had none, whereas DALnet was a fantastic early adopter). These user-run bots would essentially enforce a proactive lockdown policy by immediately kicking all non-bot ops on every server reconnect. It was typical to see 8 such bots - each connecting via a different server to reduce the odds of someone surfing in on a channel split - in any extremely active chat rooms such as, say, #everquest on EFNet in '96, where we had about ~300 headcount at all times prior to the beta going live. Typically we'd see a few dozen attempts on any given day.

Having a cable modem back then was basically a win-key for chan wars since you had more bandwidth than a lot of smaller colleges, and it's kind of sad in retrospect how badly that sort of success held back my emotional maturation...I probably owe everybody from MetaChat's initial IRC forays several apologies, at the very least. To make matters worse, while Microsoft was reasonably timely about fixing the port 139 buffer overflow vulnerability in its own TCP stack (basically: send one OOB packet to port 139 on any Windows user's IP, they'd immediately lose all internet connectivity until they rebooted), AOL took *years* to get around to it for their custom stack.

Which meant that a lot of people I knew wasted vast amounts of time in their teens going around to the biggest channels on the most populated IRC networks, running scripts that /whois'd everyone in the channel, filtered the list to just people with an *.aol.com hostmask, and automatically triggered a port 139 attack script on all of them in sequence. Sit back and laugh as fully 30% of the channel suddenly disconnects and can't use the Internet again until they reboot.

There was a lot of that kind of shit, and it was a fantastic introduction to the world of network security (I was the anonymous hacker in this tale). The protocol is wonderfully plaintext - one of my favorite gimmicks was to just telnet straight into an IRC server and issue all protocol commands by hand, just because I could.

At any rate, full scale DDoS's of the modern variety are just a natural outgrowth of IRC's original sin, and I stuck around long enough to witness that evolution before leaving the chatroom phenomenon altogether.
posted by Ryvar at 1:26 AM on August 12 [18 favorites]


At $7 per user per month, the paid version of Slack is expensive.

No, seriously, it's not. The current pricing models are a little bit broken for mobile and cloud/web apps. I love me some cheap software, don't get me wrong, but I's prefer it didn't come at the expense of the larger ecosystem.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:56 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


"Here's what I believe was done to my original story to bring into a state of supreme Wiredness. I think that anyone willing to read both the version here and the version that appeared in Wired will second these assertions.
All references to "the little people" were eliminated. The elite world that matters according to Wired is full of Big Actors. Whether professor, millionaire, artist, manager, engineer, hacker, or eccentric, they are all Important People. The grunts and -- God perish the thought! -- the "unwired" who actually keep things running are unnamed, invisible, and unworthy of attention.
Ambiguity was minimized. Everything in the Wired universe is known with certainty. This is good for you, that is bad. You're part of the Movement, or you're out in the cold. No dissenters from the reigning cyber-Babbitry are allowed, no grey areas permitted.
Facts were cloaked in "hipness." It's not enough to convey the information, but it must be delivered in such a way as to inculcate the feeling that both the writer and his readers are already intellectually above whatever scene is being described, more expert than the experts. This results in prose that reads as if written by a team of Austin Powers and Dustin Hoffman's Rainman character, and paradoxically gives the majority of Wired articles a curious sense of "been there, done that" even if the topic is brand new.
The past was dismissed as unimportant. History does not matter except as prelude to the future. Even the present is merely a waystation toward Technotopia.
Quotidian matters were de-emphasized. Boredom does not exist in the Wired cosmos. Only "peak" experiences count. The immense amounts of hard work involved in getting from conception to reality -- work which can even have its own simple meditative pleasures -- is just something to skip blithely over.
Drama was injected into basically undramatic situations. This is a corollary to the previous problem, and perhaps the one flaw in this list shared by magazines in general. "Why are we devoting space to this story? Because it's exciting!" Are we having fun yet? We'd better be, or our advertisers won't feel they're getting their money's worth!"

-Paul Di Filippo, "The Joy Of Corporate Journalism, By J. Ives Turnkey," 1998
posted by belarius at 4:57 AM on August 12 [9 favorites]


So, let me see if I'm understanding this: you're taking all of your company's internal communications & all of your stored data, and linking it all together through a single chunk of software that's hosted on... an Amazon cloud server?

What could possibly go wrong.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 5:41 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


History alone makes a win over IRC.

I grepped the IRC logs (which went back years) at my last job on probably a daily basis. I mean, I realize that is not a solution for everyone, but storing history is not a novel invention here.
posted by enn at 5:42 AM on August 12


Man, I used to use IRC at work before too. The barrier to entry is pretty high. We use something similar to Slack that we host internally (that my coworker wrote as a side project), but the net effect is probably the same: lots of people who had no idea what was up with IRC use our persistent chat app. We have more or less our whole company on our chat app, not just the technical people, and it's pretty cool. That's what makes things like Campfire, Slack, etc, interesting. The user experience is much more seamless. No doubt you—no one in particular—is very smart and can awk grep sed xmpp unix pipes and all that nonsense to make something way more compelling. If you aren't in the mood to do that though, these tools work well.
posted by chunking express at 5:53 AM on August 12


It’s already a press darling, embraced by all the trendy and brave young media properties—Vox Media, Buzzfeed, Medium and Gawker Media are all paying customers. But so too are Expedia, Intuit, Dow Jones, eBay, Paypal, Mint, Citrix, Heroku, Happy Cog, Wall Street Journal, Motley Fool, The Times of London, Crossfit, MyFitnessPal, DailyBurn, Fitocracy, Rdio, Pandora, Nordstroms, Polyvore, Vinted, Urban Outfitters, Blue Bottle Coffee, GoDaddy, Urban Airship, Sony, Dell, AOL, ITV, NBCUniversal, Lonely Planet, TV4, Galen Healthcare, Shutterstock, SmugMug, Stripe, Venmo, Braintree, Airbnb, Adobe, Typekit, Behance, Foursquare, Yelp, WordPress, Moz, SurveyMonkey, Tumblr, Trunk Club, Seagate, Tibco, Trello, and HBO. Phew!

HOLY SHIT SIGN ME UP
posted by disconnect at 7:41 AM on August 12


Usually I'm the guy to snark on stuff everyone else loves on Metafilter, so it's a nice reversal to come here and see people hate on this article. Maybe it's because I passingly know Metafilter's own Stewart and Mat but I thought this article was great. Both the content and the writing execution.

Slack is an interesting and fast-growing product, it's worth a feature in Wired. The story of how it comes out of Glitch is interesting, particularly since it rhymes so heavily with the GNE/Flickr story. And Stewart is an interesting guy; hooray for friendly liberal arts geeks working in tech!. And I thought Mat's narrative was well turned, both the pacing and the phrasing. I loved the asides about Bar Agricole, the ridiculousness of it.

But maybe I'm just a starfucker fascinated by my world of Internet demi-celebrity rapidly hurtling to middle-age. I'd hoped this article would appeal even if you aren't predisposed to like Stewart.
posted by Nelson at 8:21 AM on August 12


I honestly can't wait for Slack to take off and become a viable business... so Stewart can get back to making wonderful, weird, quirky MUD-like games that I love but are not very popular with the general public. I not-so-secretly hope that he doesn't sell Slack to Microsoft or Facebook or whoever and just uses the proceeds to fund Game Neverending Mark III in perpetuity.
posted by mhum at 8:28 AM on August 12


The article is pretty puffy, but for my money Stewart deserves a little hagiography.

Stewart is one of maybe a half dozen people (plus of course the teams they led) who put together everything we know about how the web works today. I don't think he's had the recognition he deserves to date.
posted by mikel at 8:30 AM on August 12


I wish him well with his Basecamp clone.
posted by sixohsix at 8:53 AM on August 12


What were the games like? It's not clear.
posted by bq at 8:53 AM on August 12


Every time you fire it up, it greets you with whimsically twee inspirational messages.

oh gee I can't wait
posted by echo target at 9:27 AM on August 12 [2 favorites]


hosted on... an Amazon cloud server?

I don't get this disdain for the cloud or Amazon. It's not like Amazon is somehow less reliable than other hosting providers. And it's not like, given the chance, companies would be running their servers in their own buildings. And it's also not like Amazon is snooping through companies' private VMs and looking at their data.

I mean, any company's Exchange server has just as many issues with single point of failure and proprietary lock-in, but nobody worries about that.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 10:24 AM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Hopefully they fired whomever was doing their social media customer support, but this was the kind of "helpful" response my pals were getting from Slack after complaining about some obvious user interface problems: https://cloudup.com/cMLQz88ti_u
posted by sideshow at 10:35 AM on August 12 [2 favorites]


This article should be considered native advertising.
posted by pwally at 10:38 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


I just remembered David Auerbach did a story in May about Slack / Glitch for Slate: Re-Animator: How Stewart Butterfield created Flickr and Slack out of the ashes of failed projects.
posted by Nelson at 11:05 AM on August 12


On the support response image sideshow posted above, it might be more interesting to read in context.
posted by Nelson at 11:10 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


I wish him well with his Basecamp clone.

As someone who has to use Basecamp and Campfire every day, I have to say, it would be hard to not improve on this incredibly creaky product, which hasn't changed visibly in years. I fought to get my previous employer off it back in 2010, and it seemed hopelessly outdated then.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:15 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


It's with not some delight that I learn that Slack, which I only know as "that platform my local gamer pals use so we can communicate about Ingress," is actually a product spun out of a videogame itself.
posted by deludingmyself at 4:27 PM on August 12


There was a lot of that kind of shit, and it was a fantastic introduction to the world of network security (I was the anonymous hacker in this tale). The protocol is wonderfully plaintext - one of my favorite gimmicks was to just telnet straight into an IRC server and issue all protocol commands by hand, just because I could.

I always found it interesting that PRIVMSG was the underlying private message and channel message command; it seemed like PRIVMSG should only be for private messages to individual users unless you realize that IRC servers are designed first by and for the admins who can message everybody at once, and that "private" just means "not to the entire network." If I recall correctly?

Once I made that little breakthrough after looking at some source I wrote an "IRC4FREE" "door" of sorts that ran on top of Lynx using a telnet:// URI via a library computer system (CARL). Dial into CARL, point Lynx to an IRC server, shell to DOS (Minix and Linux were just out of reach for me at the time), and voila, IRC4FREE! It didn't last long...

I remember DCC ECHO flooding, ICMP flooding, SYN flooding, Jolt, TearDrop, and Flash (for UNIX shell account users, a "talk" command attack that was easy enough to recover from). There were "weaponized" IRC clients...DDoS was just becoming a "thing" when I lost interest in IRC.

I liked this article and through the comments I read this one as well on the slow decay of Flickr which mentions "low MetaFilter user numbers" for Stewart and Caterina and prompted me to comment before seeing the MeFi user profile link further up...
posted by aydeejones at 8:58 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


If I recall correctly?

You do! Weird quirk of the whole Unix-y by-admins-for-admins ethos, but it "felt" more valid later on when I was running my own chat servers.

Love the IRC4FREE bit, btw. Cute trick given the environment limitations you were up against.

I remember DCC ECHO flooding, ICMP flooding, SYN flooding, Jolt, TearDrop, and Flash (for UNIX shell account users, a "talk" command attack that was easy enough to recover from). There were "weaponized" IRC clients...DDoS was just becoming a "thing" when I lost interest in IRC.

Yeah that reflects my experience as well. Got a few small network penetration gigs based on what I learned as an IRC script kiddie, leveraged those into a QA tester job and eventually a career as a game systems designer. Who knew all that crap would wind up becoming valuable one day?
posted by Ryvar at 9:58 AM on August 13


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