Commsor's winding path from Notion to Coda to Slite

'We'd created this sprawling mess of documents that were not connected.'

For Mac Reddin, building a remote community is not just an ideal, but a day-to-day practice.

His interest in the topic came naturally. As a teen, he'd frequent the forums of RuneScape, moderating conversations with gamers from around the world. And his first company, founded just a few years later, was a community built on top of Minecraft.

A capture of the Runescape forums from 2006 (courtesy Wayback Machine).

Now as CEO of Commsor, a platform for community leaders, he's sharing his expertise with businesses who want to do the same. "The B2B and B2C world over the last decade is catching up to something that has been very native to the gaming space for three decades,"  he said.  "Of course, you can play games with people that are all over the world. That's, like, the whole point of the Internet."

Commsor took off right away...

Mac had no trouble drumming up demand for a tool he calls "the operating system for communities."

"What Hubspot is to marketing and SalesForces is to sales, Commsor is to communities. We take all of the places where companies’ communities, broadly speaking, interact with them - social media, forums, Slack channels, events, newsletters, etc - and put them all into one tool," Mac says. "In the past, companies sort of shouted at their community through TV ads and billboards, with no way for the community to answer, other than buying or not buying. A newer approach to community allows for dialogue."

Since its founding in late 2019, Commsor has scaled rapidly. By the time of publication, the company had 56 employees and a $450 million valuation.

Commsor aims to be companies' CRM for community management.

Mac works hard to keep pace with the needs of his customers, as well as his own growing team. Not only does Commsor have a Head of Community, but also a Head of Community-Led. The latter's job is to help individual employees at Commsor find communities that fit their professional niche.

But rapid scale can be messy. Especially when it comes to keeping track of internal communication.

...and fast growth led to "orphan documents"

When Commsor first launched, Mac was using Notion for personal documents. A team workspace was created there, team members got added as they joined, and by default, Notion became the home for team knowledge.

"When you're five, eight people, communication just kind of happens," Mac reflected on their early use of Notion. By the time the team expanded into various departments, they had a knowledge management problem. "We were realizing we'd created this sprawling mess of documents that were not connected. I kept calling them 'orphan documents.' If you lost the link, that document was gone forever."

The opportunity: finding a tool that fit their remote workflow

Commsor's remote philosophy did not come out of necessity, or from the turbulence of 2020. Remote has always been a part of their DNA. It all goes back to those early gaming days: collaborating on complex projects from various distances and timezones is a feature, not a bug. But the team needed a tool, and a process, that shared that philosophy. A second brain for their team that didn't make them think twice.

How they worked: distributed and asynchronously

"We're very much on that distributed end of remote versus 'remote and happen to be in the same city or same time zone.' As a result of that, we're definitely very much the async-first, written communication-first style of remote work," Mac said.

They already knew that they could replace meetings with docs, make decisions asynchronously, and get stuff done without regular check-ins. But they didn't have a tool that knew that, too.

What they needed: intentionality

Commsor needed an app that would suit their way of working and wouldn't disrupt their flow. But they didn't want to fall into the trap of using the first tool they set their eyes on. They were drawn to the features of a variety of apps, and figured the best way to find out was to try them all out. There were only a few bumps along the way.

The Goldilocks method of finding a knowledge management tool

At first, the search for a knowledge management tool was a bit like wandering through the woods. They had heard good things about Coda, and decided to migrate all their existing documents there. But the various functionalities, such as the ability to build micro-apps within a document, were a bit too complex.

"It was not a documentation tool anymore. It was this tool that required a lot more active work and management to set up," Mac said.

They went through several other options. They considered going back to Notion, or switching over to Almanac. They developed an internal process for testing and reviewing tools. "We actually went through and tried all the tools, looked at them, experimented with them. And obviously ended up picking Slite."

As their research went on, the tools themselves didn't change, but their needs became clearer. As Mac put it, "It was an unintentional, to intentional, to very intentional story."

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Why Slite was the "just right" fit

Commsor's decision to use Slite came back to the desire to match their asynchronous remote workflow with a tool that understood that intuitively.

"Knowledge management is less of a feature thing, and more of a philosophy thing. There [are] a lot of subtle things that aren't really features. Everyone has a slightly different philosophy on knowledge structure and document structure. And sometimes there's an element of one feels right, fits your team, makes sense and aligns with your own philosophy for documentation and knowledge bases."

On the big "aha" moment for choosing Slite

Mac said that the biggest green flag came from someone using Slite to write. "One of those professional writers on our Content team basically was like, 'I like writing in Slite. I would actually prefer to write here than Google Docs.' We were like, 'All right, that's good.' That's a pretty good sign."

How Commsor organises Docs and Discussions in Slite

Philosophy can only get you so far. So how does Commsor actually carry out its day to day work in Slite? They structure their workspace intentionally, of course.

The Handbook is just one way the Commsor team uses Slite in their day-to-day workflow.

Here's the breakdown: 

  • Company-wide handbook - a more-or-less static (but up-to-date) global wiki with communication guidelines, HR policies, and other need-to-know info for all employees.
  • Channels for every department - including Product, Marketing, and Sales
  • Templates - for recurring documents, events and projects within teams. The templates are organized at the department level, and are divided into team handbooks and 'working docs' for daily tasks

Slite Discussions has also become a key part of daily workflow for Commsor as well. Some ways they use Discussions:

  • Asynchronous 1:1s - works especially well when managers and managees are on opposite timezones
  • Decisions involving several stakeholders - all replies can be tracked and responded to
  • Important decisions - anything that requires quick 3-4 messages back and forth

They even held most of their recent company town hall via Slite Docs and Discussions. All presentations and topics were addressed in a document, so that the meeting time was only used for a live Q&A. Mac even wrote a blog post about why this remote method for town halls was such a success. In short, it helped everyone prepare better beforehand, and created an environment where conversation could flow between everyone who wanted to speak.

Intentional work, intentional tooling

While the path may have been winding, Mac is glad to have finally found the right fit when it comes to Commsor's documentation and knowledge management. The greatest lesson is to not go for the default or easiest option. He cited the old adage, "measure twice, cut once," when it comes to choosing the right way to work.

"It might take a little bit longer up front. But the more we move deeper into async work, the more we find that things are faster. 99% of decisions in a company are not fire alarms. Giving people more space to actually do their work means that things actually [move] even faster."

We couldn't agree more.

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