Slack’s rallying cry at Dreamforce: No more meetings

It’s not all cartoon bears and therapy pigs — work conferences are a good place to talk about the future of work.

Tamar Yehoshua, chief product officer of Slack, speaks during a keynote at the 2022 Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.

“We want people to be able to work in whatever way works for them with flexible schedules, in meetings and out of meetings,” Slack chief product officer Tamar Yehoshua told Protocol at Dreamforce 2022.

Photo: Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dreamforce is primarily Salesforce’s show. But Slack wasn’t to be left out, especially as the primary connector between Salesforce and the mainstream working world.

The average knowledge worker spends more time using a communication tool like Slack than a CRM like Salesforce, positioning it as the best Salesforce product to concern itself with the future of work. In between meeting a therapy pig and meditating by the Dreamforce waterfall, Protocol sat down with several Slack execs and conference-goers to chat about the shifting future.

Throughout the conference, one of Slack’s main rallying cries was that we should cut down on meetings. At both the Slack keynote and a live interview with Pivot’s Kara Swisher, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield declared his hope that people always feel empowered to turn down meetings in the future (and reaffirmed his disdain for the so-called work metaverse).

The “fewer meetings” mantra stems from Slack’s workplace research consortium Future Forum as well, according to its executive leader Brian Elliott. Finding time for deep focus is a priority for many workers, he said, and he’s glad to see this idea at the forefront of Slack’s product. Elliott has helped implement the idea into Slack at large with no-meeting Focus Fridays and Maker Weeks. Salesforce even picked up the practice post-acquisition. That said, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, nor is it one that can be implemented without significant buy-in.

“Those kinds of practices and policies, you can't just top-down mandate them,” Elliott said. “You actually need people to pilot them and experiment with them to figure out what works, and then you need to adapt them to different organizations.”

Crowd at Dreamforce 2022.One of Slack’s main rallying cries throughout Dreamforce 2022 was that we should cut down on meetings.Photo: Lizzy Lawrence/Protocol

Instead of just a dead calendar event, Butterfield’s vision is a comprehensive, easily digestible record of the meeting that makes sense, even if you didn’t attend. Essentially, it’s an elevated version of meeting minutes. This is part of the goal behind Slack canvas, a collaborative document embedded within channels and built from Salesforce-owned Quip.

“We had an instance of something similar to canvas that we called boards internally, two or three years ago,” Tamar Yehoshua, Slack VP of product, told Protocol. “We got it to dog-food, and there were just too many rough edges. Then the Salesforce acquisition came, and we knew with Salesforce, we would get Quip.”

White and colorful sneakersDespite Slack’s rallying cry against meetings, a lot of Dreamforce 2022 took place in person.Photo: Lizzy Lawrence/Protocol

Yehoshua described canvas as a “persistent, real-time layer” of work that she thinks will streamline relevant information. But whether it will reduce the need to attend synchronous meetings remains to be seen.

“We want people to be able to work in whatever way works for them with flexible schedules, in meetings and out of meetings, so it doesn’t have to be this ‘I’m on a 30-minute video call in order to get anything done,’” Yehoshua said.

Canvas and the general availability of video huddles were the main Slack announcements at Dreamforce, accompanied by hundreds of Slack-specific sessions over the conference’s three days. Tamara Jensen, a principal technical project manager at T-Mobile, spoke at a Slack-related session about how to cancel more meetings. She’s leading her company’s efforts to replace unnecessary meetings with Slack, though adoption has been uneven across various teams.

“It depends on which role you’re in,” Jensen said. “As a product person, you talk all day long. As an engineer, you’re in less meetings.”

No matter what Slack does, Jensen said some people are just going to have some meeting FOMO. It’s in our nature to worry about what essential information we might have missed.

“That does take a little bit of training,” Jensen said. “People have to get comfortable saying no, and trust that it’s going to be offline and available to them.”

Hybrid work and figuring out better ways to communicate was not just top of mind for Slack execs, but for Dreamforce attendees, too. Several Dreamforcers talked to Protocol about the pitfalls of making work equally inclusive for office-goers and those working from home, such as including remote workers in a video meeting where most people are Zooming from a conference room.

Dreamforce had a panel about how to lead in a flexible work world, with speakers like Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud and Calendly CEO Tope Awotona. The main takeaway from that panel was, as Sud put it, “Nothing is sacred.” Now is the time to experiment and test out different hybrid and remote policies. Sud said her executive team is dispersed across nine time zones, from Switzerland to Seattle. Instead of all leaders flying to headquarters once a month, every executive hosts a meetup in their hometown.

“It’s tough as executives because what your employees are looking for is certainty,” Sud said. “Part of our job is to know where we can have a philosophy and certainty, but also where we need to be agile and flexible. At Vimeo, we’re just experimenting.”

With all that experimentation, companies are split on whether to ditch or reunite with the full-time office model. But it’s clear that remote work will remain popular with employees even as the pandemic wanes.

“The bet essentially is which model is going to perform better over the next five years, and I would bet on the one that is more attractive to talent, because talent actually drives business results,” Elliott said.

Despite Slack’s rallying cry against meetings, a lot of Dreamforce was — you guessed it — meetings. Between people dutifully taking notes at keynote panels and groups huddling with Humphry Slocombe ice cream in Adirondack chairs outside Moscone Center, connecting synchronously was the ultimate goal of Dreamforce. After years of being unable to come together, Dreamforce attendees were happy to fill their time with live, serendipitous chatter.


Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep ReadingShow less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep ReadingShow less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories