Twist is Slack without the annoying distractions

When Slack implemented threaded conversations, it seemed like the holy grail for internal communications. Slack finally lets you talk about multiple things in separate conversations. But Slack remains a real-time messaging service at heart, so threads don’t feel native. It works well for many teams, but some companies would prefer something a bit more asynchronous and focused. At the same time, it should be more interactive than emails. That’s why Twist is starting over from scratch and taking a different approach by focusing on threads and borrowing some of Slack’s best ideas.

Doist, the company behind popular todo service Todoist has been building Twist for a couple of years and using it for more than a year. Doist is a remote-first company distributed across many time zones with around 50 employees. The company tried Slack, but it didn’t work out.

In particular, when you wake up in the morning and you need to catch up with the most important things that happened while you were sleeping, it’s going to take you a while to scroll through the noise. It’s easy to get distracted by Slack. Twist tries to bridge the gap between real-time communication, such as Slack and HipChat, and asynchronous communication, such as emails, Yammer, Convo, Workplace by Facebook, etc.

Doist CEO Amir Salihefendic let me play around with the mobile app back in March. It was already a well-designed service with plenty of little touches that make it stand out from the many different services out there.

The most stark difference is that everything is a thread. When you want to post a new message about a new project, you enter a channel (#design, #ios, #support…) and you create a new thread.

The compose screen looks like you’re writing a new email. It’s nothing like sending a message in Slack. You have to name your thread, you can easily write multiple paragraphs, you can attach files and you can notify some or all members of the current channel.

After your thread is live, people can comment and react to comments using emojis. This is pretty much like commenting on a thread in Slack. But having threads front and center changes the entire philosophy. You can’t talk outside of a thread, which makes it harder to bury important information in the middle of mindless GIFs. You don’t get constantly distracted by the Slack notification sound either.

But threads don’t work if you want to have a real-time conversation about an important issue that just came up. Or maybe you want to keep a conversation private. That’s why you can also send direct messages to one or multiple coworkers in the Messages tab. This works like most messaging apps out there.

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Finally, there are a few nifty details that make me think that the Doist team has been working on this for a while. There will be integrations with third-party services, such as GitHub, Zapier and Todoist. There’s no online presence indicator because it doesn’t make any sense when people can now accomplish a ton of work from their phone without having the app open all the time.

Similarly, the vacation feature is the best one I’ve seen so far. You can configure some time off by selecting a start date and an end date. Your avatar will indicate that you’re on vacation, you won’t receive notifications and your profile will say when you’re coming back. Some of my coworkers uninstall Slack from their phone when they’re on vacation. It shouldn’t be this hard.

Twist is free if you don’t want to save your entire history. It is already available on the web, iOS, Android, macOS and Windows. You can pay $5 per user per month to save all your messages and files forever. Twist is launching today.

You can see that it’s still a young service as there should be more integrations and options. For instance, there should be a way to skim through a list of unread comments without having to tap on all of them. But Twist is a promising service made by a bootstrapped company with ambitious goals.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Twist is going to replace Slack or any other service. Slack works perfectly fine for some teams, Twist is also going to work well for some teams. There should be multiple services for internal communications, so it’s good to see that Doist provides an alternative with Twist.

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