These days, Slack and other professional communication software is as ubiquitous as email. This means that when something changes, it’s a Big Deal. For me, at least
Something Slack rolled out in the last several months is called Huddles, a live audio feature that’s effectively a Clubhouse clone. The idea is rather than having a full blown meeting, you have a Huddle instead, which is an audio-only discussion with everyone in that specific channel or chat.
At the time of its release, the only mystery to me was who the hell would use this feature? Well, it turns out… me.
Not long after this realization, a bigger mystery reared its head: when I was the final person on a Huddle, smooth jazz started playing.
The sultry saxophone licks begin, as they always do, with this notification:
Then, with little warning, this sensual sound bursts into shirtless life:
I had to investigate. I couldn’t let the mystery of Slack’s mall jazz expulsion lie. So, friends, that’s exactly what I did.
An examination of the appearance of smooth jazz on Slack Huddles
Thankfully, I didn’t have to go very far to get some answers. In fact, I just rang up Anna Niess, Slack’s Senior Staff Product Designer. Bet all those hardboiled detectives wish they could solve their quandaries as simply.
The first question I put to Niess was a simple one… why?
She told me that the music on Huddles was to “kindly let people know” they were the last person in the chat. Many people multitask while using Huddles and auditory signals are an important way of grabbing someone’s attention.
When the music plays, the mic is also muted, something Niess said was to create “safety, comfort, and choice.” Niess didn’t mention immaculate vibes, but I’m certain we were both thinking it.
The design rationale is clear, but I was still confused (but not complaining) about the music choice. Why smooth jazz?
“It felt like a moment to introduce something fun and light-hearted,” Niess said, and the office elevator-stylings of this music was not only amusing, but also a bit, well, soothing.
The track itself also has an interesting history. The team that created Slack originally worked on a video game called Glitch — and the song is lifted directly from that title.
Funny detail: that was composed/performed by @DannyboySimmons for the failed MMO Glitch, the original project of the team that made Slack.
It was for a “waiting quest” (where you just sat around waiting) as part of the Bureaucratic Arts skill. (Did I mention the game failed?)
— Stewart Butterfield (@stewart) September 17, 2021
All this is well and good, but what happens when I tire of smooth jazz? What if I want some blastbeats or death metal to signal that I’m alone in a Slack Huddle?
Sadly, Niess simply told me the team will take this “into consideration.”