Twist As Your Workplace Communication Tool?

Tan Jun Rong avatar

Tan Jun Rong

I used Slack for a few years
I used Slack for a few years

I have been using Slack for a few years as the team communication tool at work. I loved it so much when I was introduced to it, but after using it for a longer time, I noticed some shortcomings. In my previous job, I worked in a company of a few hundred people, so we have many channels in Slack and many people in each channel. What made it worse was that our team was distributed. I joined a number of channels, but I was only active in a few. I couldn't leave some of the channels because they are somewhat relevant to me, only occasionally.

Everyone in the team used Slack differently, some people sent a message everytime they finished a sentence. Some people would come up with a few paragraph before sending. Some people only used it for casual chat, where some people used it for very serious discussion where important decisions are made.

Some problems with Slack
Some problems with Slack

This was where the problem lies. Important decisions would sometimes be made but I have to scroll through long casual chat before I can read them. Notifications happened all the time due to the high number of members in the team.

After the introduction of the thread feature in Slack, some people were happy about it, but some hated it. I initially liked it, but started to see why people hated it. While it is good to better organize the chat when a few simulataneous discussion is going on, Slack Threads are quite hidden from everyone in the channel who weren't involve in the thread. Again, important discussions can be hidden.

Given that, it's still a very nice and well polished tool, but we needed to set a few rules in each channels.

The Twist App by Doist

I found out about Twist App!
I found out about Twist App!

Until recently, I never knew about Twist, which is another team communication tool with a few major differences compared to Slack.

Here's a quick comparison about Twist vs. Slack written by their own team: Twist vs. Slack

I'll be discussing some of their differences in this post.

Thread based channels

In Twist, we can make a channel like Slack. However, we cannot create any message directly under a channel. In Twist, we have to open a thread under a channel before writing a message.

Here's how you can visualize it:

Channel > messages
Channel > Thread > messages

I'm an Android Engineer, so I was in the #android-dev channel in my old team, so any discussions related to Android development will fall under this channel.

It was a rather big size team, where we have around 10+ engineers, plus product owners, community managers, etc, and we ended up having 50+ members in the channel.

Imagine a use case where we need to discuss the following simultaneously at a given day:

  1. release process improvement
  2. new feature
  3. casual chatting
  4. bug fixing

All this happens under the same channel. 👇

4 simultaneous discussions falling under the same channel
4 simultaneous discussions falling under the same channel

Imagine waking up on the other side of the globe and having to read through the messages... But in Twist, each of them has to go under a thread. It looks like this:

Thread based channel in Twist
Thread based channel in Twist

Different topics will not be covered up by other messages from other topics, and we don't have to attend to all incoming messages real-time, since they will sit nicely under each threads.

Targeted notifications

In Twist, before sending a message, there's an option to target who you want to send the notifications to. Say we have 50+ members in the channel, but we only need to speak to 3 relevant members at a time. The notification settings allow us to only notify 3 person instead of the entire channel. So 3 of the members will see that they have unread messages, but the rest of the members will not. They can however still be able to read the message when they visit the channel.

Notification settings per message
Notification settings per message
Not showing who's online

In Slack, there are indications of who's online and who's not. As a sender, we get anxious or impatient when an online teammate doesn't give a quick reply. As a receiver, we get distracted and feel obligated to give an instant reply when we are online. Either way, it disrupts the calmness of our workday.

Showing who's on vacation

It's quite easy to accidentally message someone while they are on vacation, but Twist has a setting for that. If a teammate has setup the vacation time, we can see it under the Team Tab 👇

Who's on Vacation Feature in Twist
Who's on Vacation Feature in Twist

When you are choosing who to notify, you can also see that the icon changes automatically:

Icon will be changed to vacation mode automatically
Icon will be changed to vacation mode automatically

On the receiving end, if you set it to vacation mode, you won't receive any unread notifications.

This will ensure a nice uninterrupted vacation! 🍹 🏖


The integration capability with other work tools is another important aspect when it comes to workplace communication tool. In this aspect Twist is still lacking behind compared to Slack.

Twist Integration Page shows a pretty limited number of integrations, while Slack Integration Page shows a huge list of apps to choose from. The list of Slack apps is so big that it is broken down into categories.

Some Features Request From Me

Since Twist is about making a calmer and more meaningful communication tool, the editor is very important. As a programmer, I typed a lot of markdown input using Github, and I also write blogs in Bloggie which also has a good markdown support. So here are some of the markdown editor features that I found out to be missing from Twist:

  • hotkey support
    • for example: cmd+k to make link
  • drag and drop image inline image
    • while drag and drop upload is available, I still couldn't include an inline image easily
  • saving draft
    • since Twist is about making deeper communications, the ability to save draft when it comes to writing longer posts can be helpful
  • preview of markdown
    • since markdown isn't a WYSIWYG editor, I need to preview what I just typed to make sure things are properly aligned before posting it

Aside from some missing features from in the markdown editor, I would love to have support for custom emoji for the Messaging section in Twist to make casual chatting more rich and fun. Custom emojis are very expressive when they are used as a reaction.

Companies behind Slack & Twist

Slack was launched in 2013, and Slack Technologies has 1000+ employees according to wikipedia. On the other hand, Twist was launched Twist in 2017 by Doist team. The company has around 50+ employee according to Everybody Wiki. This is also the same team behind the successful Todoist App, so they already have experience building and maintaining quality software.

Most importantly, the Doist team is using Twist themselves internally, which is incredibly crucial to the direction of the product. Dogfooding not only serves as a good way to test out your own product, it also increases the passion and commitment towards building the product.

Summing up
Core idea behind Slack & Twist

Slack focuses on real time communication and Twist focuses on async communication. Thus, while both of them are communication tools, they don't necessarily overlap entirely. If your team is a remote & distributed team like Doist team, chances are that Twist will be a great fit for you!

Besides, they have recently repositioned Twist as a communication tool for remote team. So going down the road, there will be more features if your team is remote.

Some real world use cases of Twist

In this article, I'm only comparing Slack and Twist based upon simulated use cases. However, I never use Twist myself beyond doing monologue to my alternative self on an alternative account 😀 🔊 😀 .

So the best way to know if you should switch from Slack to Twist is to try it out yourself. Furthermore, the analysis are made based on my use cases. You might have a different need. For example, email forwarding which I don't need. Besides, you might need to check the difference in pricing, Twist is approximately 30% cheaper from my rough calculation.

Finally, here are a few articles from real use cases about how their team succesfully switch from Slack to Twist:

Final words...

Will I be changing to Twist? Probably not right away, but I believe in the big idea and I'm definitely ready to try it out in a real working environment if I got the chance.

Would you give it a try?

See you next time! 👋

Tan Jun Rong avatar
Written By

Tan Jun Rong

Android Programmer who likes writing blogs, reading, coffee, snowboarding.
Published in Web Dev
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