Slack Proves that the Impact of COVID on Technology Professionals Is Permanent

It was major news when Slack experienced a global outage on January 4, 2021, the first work day of the new year. The Associated Press article Slack kicks off 2021 with a global outage reported: “It’s the latest tech glitch to show how disruptive technical difficulties can be when millions of people are depending on just a few services to work and go to school from home during the pandemic.”

The phrase “during the pandemic” implies there will be a time “after the pandemic” when the world returns to its pre-pandemic state. However, the reality is that in many ways the impact of events that occurred in 2020 for technology professionals is permanent. For a very long time, the internet has provided the opportunity for technology professionals to work from remote locations, less expensive to live in, while contributing just as much without living in an expensive region and driving into a high-cost location every day. COVID revealed the possibility that these highly productive people are as valuable to a company if they are working remotely as they are if they are driving into a Silicon Valley campus each day.

An important thing to notice about these technology professionals is that they’re all actually entrepreneurs, who will arrange their careers sensibly with respect to income and cost of living. People are fleeing Silicon Valley because companies have said to their most talented workers “Just work from home!” The homes they are selecting are in areas where it’s much less expensive to live than in Silicon Valley. Similarly, companies are abandoning the Silicon Valley for Texas, recognizing that they can operate much more profitably in a state that has low corporate taxes and low individual income taxes. And they are recognizing that the difference between sending an email from one cubicle to another in the same building in Silicon Valley isn’t much different from sending an email from a home office in Colorado to a corporate office located in Austin, Texas (see recent news from Elon Musk and Oracle if you’ve not yet heard about this).

Salesforce and Slack

This brings me to the recent news that Salesforce is purchasing the widely-used online business collaboration firm Slack for an enormous price. Why would they do this? The only reason I can see is because Salesforce does not believe that we’ll ever return to the model of big offices with everyone meeting together in person at meetings. Instead, they believe we’ve completely entered a permanently virtual world for technology development. Sure, some people will re-welcome being able to come into the office, but 9 months into COVID a whole lot of very talented people are going to say “I like living in Colorado for 1/3 the cost of what I had to spend to live in Silicon Valley. Don’t want me to continue working for your company? I’ll go elsewhere!”

From the Wall Street Journal:

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield has been one of the loudest voices arguing that companies had to revamp how they use technology. He co-founded Slack, which grew out of a gaming company called Tiny Speck, and pitched its product as an alternative to office email. It quickly took off among developers in technology companies when it became publicly available in 2014…

Salesforce’s Slack aquisition is another sign that companies are betting some of the changes in the workplace made in over recent months may outlast the pandemic. “We really see the world as having fundamentally shifted,” Salesforce Chief Operating Officer Bret Taylor told analysts. “Slack is really the system of engagement for every employee, every partner and for every customer interaction.”

APIs

So, what, you might ask, has this to do with APIs? It appears that corporate intranets will begin to disappear and be replaced by APIs that are accessible by employees working remotely. Everyone’s not going to be in the same building anymore, logging into the corporate intranet. Instead, valued employees are going to be more spread out geographically, meaning that the best and safest way to access corporate product resources is going to be the same method customers must use, i.e., APIs.

Which means that API monitoring will become increasingly important in this new world. The API Science platform is superb for verifying that APIs are working correctly, have the necessary 9s of service availability, and the API Science platform provides the tools for accurately measuring tail latency (bad tail latency will quickly lose customers for a start-up).

API Science and Slack

The API Science platform provides the capability to send alerts when user-defined events occur in a monitor (for example, a sudden outage of a API that is being monitored). As described in the API Science QuickStart Guide:

Alerts allow you to be notified when a validation or other global event fails. Alerts are configured from the monitor overview page. To create an alert, first select which validation you want to be notified. In addition to each validation configured on the monitor, two global events will also be available: to be alerted if any validation fails and to be alerted if the monitor returns a 5xx or 0 status code.

After selecting an event, select the recipient you wish to be alerted. Current options for alerts include: email, PagerDuty, Slack and webhook URL endpoints.

The blog post Slack Integration for API Monitoring provides illustrated step-by-step instructions about how to automatically send an API Science alert to a Slack channel. Your team members who are tasked with observing and reacting to issues when a critical API experiences problems will see the new notification on the Slack channel using any device that supports Slack (computers, tablets, phones). They can assess the severity of the notification and decide whether it’s a situation where immediate action is required with respect to your own product, or whether the API issue is simply something to watch.

The Slack API

Slack itself has an API. An API Science monitor that tests the Slack API could easily be created to notify companies highly dependent on Slack that the site may be down or intermittent whenever that happens. For example, on January 4, technology workers on the West Coast of the U.S. attempted to log into Slack and found it down. An API Science Slack API monitor could have been created that would have sent them an email notifying them in advance of the outage.

The API Science platform also provides the ability to send alerts when an API comes back up. So, when Slack came back up later in the day on January 4, emails saying “Slack is now available” could have been automatically sent out to those same team members, eliminating the need for them to keep attempting over and over to log into Slack while it was still down.

–Kevin Farnham