Use cases: Is it a good fit for us?

This document is a direct, no-marketing description of what Aether Pro does. We can also help you over chat or video call. If you’d like that, please reach out here.

What’s Aether Pro?

Aether Pro is a team communication app, similar in purpose to Slack. The major difference is that our app is post-based, instead of chat-based. You can think of it as a much better listserv (email group) with productivity features designed for team collaboration.

Being post-based avoids Slack’s dreaded obligation to be online all the time. Have you ever noticed that a chat room is like an all-day conference call with no agenda? Aether Pro is built to avoid that.

If you used Reddit before, you can think of Aether Pro as using subreddits as your channels in Slack. Upvotes and downvotes are available.

If you haven’t, you can think of it as Google Groups, but with much more modern features. On top of Google Groups, Aether Pro adds:

  • @mentions,
  • better inline discussions,
  • image embeds,
  • source code highlighting,
  • automated reporting,
  • bots,
  • external email binding,
  • integrations

Useful for engineers, designers and product managers

We are engineers and designers with past experience working in the technology industry. Our collective experience spans companies such as Google and Facebook. Aether Pro was created to solve the problems we’ve had in teams within these companies. We’ve later found out that the way of working embedded in Aether Pro works very well for smaller teams as well.

If you’re an engineer, a PM or a designer, this makes you more productive and happier at work than getting pinged on Slack all the time. The reason is that it will render you in control of your interruptions, and you can choose when to respond. No ‘green’ online indicators here, nor a need to respond within 30 seconds to look present. The threads created are more complex, responses longer, and they tend to become documentation over time. This is simply a kind of communication you cannot have over Slack.

In short, if you’re a knowledge worker, and your work needs focus, it will help you. A team whose primary method of collaboration is Aether Pro is more productive than a team with Slack. This is because the former team gets interrupted while in deep thought a lot fewer times in the same day than the latter.

It works well where Slack gets too noisy

While it works well at any size, Aether Pro shines when you have more than 5 people.

Case study
Your team lead starts an impromptu discussion over the architecture with the DevOps lead and pulls in the designer. Some folks from your 12-person engineering team join the conversation that’s been going on for 25 minutes. What do you do?
Option 1 (best)
Your best shot at making the best of this is to be there while this discussion is happening. This is a low chance since you are likely doing your actual job, focused on the task at hand, not on the chat app.
Option 2
The next best option is that you have this conversation muted, and then you have to figure out what happened from the chat log.
Option 3 (worst)
You get repeatedly pinged by this conversation while it is happening, while you’re trying to fix a bug, design a UI, or have a meeting. You try to keep an eye on the discussion, and another on what you should be doing, and neither ends up being productive.

The noise threshold is where you encounter issues like this on a regular basis. At what number you’ll encounter this depends on how judiciously your team uses your tool of choice. However, even the best team will start to have trouble beyond a certain size. Chat does not scale.

Below this threshold, in a group chat, most anything can be said without the risk of saturating the channel. Catching up with the feed of responses is usually confined to under ten minutes for every hour. It’s still distracting, but given enough effort, it’s manageable. You can mute the channel and check it occasionally, and you’d mostly be okay.

Above, things start to go awry. You get a lot of notifications, most of which are non-important, but some very important, and you don’t know which is which. Some people abuse @all and they have to be politely told it’s not a good idea. You start keeping your Slack on busy all the time, but it seems to have no effect. That’s because if you do it for long, after a while people will start to treat your busy as online. You then start to keep the app closed, or keep it at offline, but then you worry that people will think you’re not working.

Real world example for the "above" case.

Moreover, every time you’ve just gotten going, somebody pings you, and asks about whether you have the link to the latest ticket, the product proposal, or the latest mocks. These are not urgent requests, but it’s delivered through a channel that treats everything as urgent.

In the end, since the attention of your team is a fixed, finite commodity, it is a zero-sum game, and the more people you have, the more often this will start to happen.

Every ping makes you lose focus, which needs to be regained

Does it sometimes feel like a losing battle? Crosstalk makes it hard to have productive Slack channels beyond 5-15 simultaneous users

As a result, if stealing focus from people for your benefit is as easy as just typing @all: into a team chat, given a large enough team, somebody will be doing that. And this will happen often regardless of how judicious you are with enforcing your chat rules.


Aether Pro is much more resistant to this kind of “abuse” for three main reasons:

  • Conversations on Aether Pro are like Reddit threads. They are longer than single line chat messages, they can nest multiple levels. A thread can have multiple things being discussed within it while still making sense. More importantly, the threads continue to make sense far better than a chat log long after the conversation has transpired.
Something like this not only makes more sense now and in two weeks, it also scales to an arbitrary number of simultaneous users
  • There is no expectation of an immediate response since you don’t ping someone directly, but ask a question to the group.

  • Since it raises much fewer notifications and batches them, you don’t get notification spam.

Summary

Teamwork apps that are based on chat are optimized for teams who don’t lose much from interruption. Their tradeoffs are designed to emphasize more communication over deep communication.

This often creates the illusion of doing something while the actual output is negative: doing nothing, plus preventing others from doing their work.

Aether makes different tradeoffs that are more suitable for people who need more uninterrupted focus. We are our own target audience, and we use it ourselves to work on Aether Pro.

If you have more than ~5 people in any channel, Aether Pro is a less noisy, more collaborative, and more respectful way to work together compared to Slack.

Common ways of migrating into it

If you already use a team chat app

Aether and Slack are useful for different kind of conversations. If there is a discussion of a complex topic that participants need to think and consider, Aether Pro is the best place for it.

On the contrary, if two teammates are working on a bug synchronously, the chat box is a better tool, because it offers an approximation of being present in person.

For that reason, Aether Pro does not fully replace Slack. The most common way to move is to continue using Slack, but drop their subscription to the free plan, and use it for 1:1 working sessions.

Another benefit of using Slack’s free plan is that it has a very limited history. This diverts the more meaningful work discussions into Aether on its own. This also makes it so that your work discussions are now much better documented and searchable.

This creates a natural separation between the real documented work channels on Aether Pro used for deeper conversation, and the non-recorded chat on Slack.

If you’re not using a team chat app, only email

In this case, you can treat Aether Pro as your replacement for your Google Group mailing list. It will act similarly but with much more modern features.

One of Aether’s strengths is that it can act like a fully-featured mail server if needed. You do not need to have the app open at all to use it. You can configure the app to send an email for every post received, and respond via your email. This is especially useful for collaborating with people outside your team. It also helps if your company leadership is used to working with email, and prefer that.

Another group of users that like Aether Pro a lot are companies where email is the main way of collaborating. Aether Pro is a direct replacement for a listserv (group mail server) like Google Groups.

If your company works with email a lot, wants to modernize, but doesn’t consider chat / Slack as a suitable replacement, Aether Pro can help. It gives you the best parts of the next-generation collaboration tools within the familiar environment of email.

Vote for our features

Aether is very useful to us in taming the chaos today across our remote team. That said, we know that there are always more features that will make Aether Pro as productive, respectful and comfortable as possible. You can contribute to our decision making on which features to implement in our Trello below, and vote on the features.

Aether Pro Roadmap