How to Avoid the Most Dangerous Word in Software Development

Unhealthy communication on Slack is represented by a mousetrap Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

J-U-S-T. Those four characters can be significantly detrimental to a software development process. In this blog post, I’ll describe how the “just keyword” can affect team’s communication and how to avoid misusing it on Slack.

Let’s “just” do it

You’ve probably been there. Your product manager shares his brand new plan on the Slack channel:

“Why don’t we just add this cool new feature to our application?”

or your colleague got the wrong idea about scaling after reading a HackerNews story:

“Let’s just migrate our infrastructure to Kubernetes…“

“Just” is toxic and dangerous. It implicitly suggests that the proposed task is straightforward. It undermines the discussion about the issues that might pop-up during the implementation.

There’s no “just” in software development. Most of the tasks turn out to be more complex than anticipated. “Just tickets” tend to drag, evolve into epics, miss deadlines and hurt the team’s motivation.

I’ve seen this topic discussed many times before. Make sure to check out these two blog posts for a more in-depth description of it.

How to use Slack to get rid of “Just tickets”

I want to propose a solution to the “Just” problem. Lexically there’s never a need to include the word “just” in a sentence. You can always omit it without altering the core meaning of your message.

You could discourage using the word “just” in communication. Slack offers a simple feature that will let you automate it. Introducing Slackbot triggers:

Slack keyword trigger in action

Slack trigger in action

You can configure Slack to automatically send a custom message whenever a trigger keyword is detected. In settings, go to Customize > Slackbot and enter your desired trigger and response.

Slack trigger settings

Slack trigger settings

It could be pretty spammy to start with, but your team should quickly adjust and stop using the forbidden keyword. If someone does use it, the alert message will be a fun reminder to stop and think twice if the “just” idea is really that simple.

So why won’t you just give this communication experiment a try?

[Update] As pointed out in the comments, there are some legitimate use cases for “just”. If you’re a team of Haskell hackers, you might want to consider starting with triggers like “let’s just”, “why don’t we just” and build up from there.

BTW if you’re looking for more creative ways to enhance your communication on Slack, you can check out Abot for anonymous messaging and polls. It’s highly configurable and supports various usage scenarios.

Anonymous poll conducted using Abot for Slack

Abot anonymous poll with private answers

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