First-class blockers are one of Flat's superpowers, letting anyone record, assign, and discuss what's stopping progress, so there's never a question like "is this blocked?", "what's it blocked on?", "who's responsible for addressing it?", or "what's the latest update?".
If you're coming to Flat from another tool, you may be accustomed to thinking of "blocking" as a kind of relationship between topics. To quote a certain Jedi Master, "You must unlearn what you have learned." Read on to see how Flat's approach is both lighter weight and more flexible and practical.

Key concepts

In Flat, a blocker is a special type of discussion thread.
Like a regular discussion thread, you can assign a blocker to a teammate to make them clearly accountable for following up. It'll be shown prominently in their "My threads" view. And you can resolve the blocker when it's no longer an issue.
Unlike regular discussion threads, blockers support a variety of use cases by having additional capabilities:
  • A blocker has a brief description explaining what's stopping the topic from moving forward. Think of it like an email subject line.
  • When a topic has a blocker, its brief description is shown prominently in the workspace on the topic's card. That makes it abundantly clear to everyone on the team not only that a topic is blocked but also why.

Use cases

Blockers are designed to be lightweight and flexible and can model all sorts of day-to-day activities on your team. Below are a few examples.
These are just a few examples of how your team could use blockers. It's OK to experiment, find the practices that align with how your team likes to work, and evolve your practices over time.

Progress is stuck on a critical issue

Imagine a junior team member is working on a topic and discovers a major gap in the project plan. They can't continue work until the gap is addressed. They open a blocker on the topic with a brief description like "Need to fix gap in the project plan", add a comment with additional details, and assign it to a more senior member of the team. Once the plan is fixed, they can resolve the blocker.

Responses from a third party

Imagine a team member is working on a topic to address an issue that's affecting a particular customer. They need some clarification from the customer to properly address the issue, so they reach out to get that information. In the meantime, they add a blocker to the topic with a brief description like "Waiting on customer to provide clarification". Now it's clear to their manager (and the entire team!) why the topic isn't moving forward.

External constraints

Imagine a software developer is working on a technical investment to switch from one third-party library to a new one that's a better fit. However, they discover the new library is currently missing a critical capability, but the library authors have plans to add it in the future. The developer adds a blocker to the topic with a brief description like "Waiting on library ABC to support XYZ". Now the team won't forget why this technical investment stalled. If they revisit the topic in the future, they'll be able to quickly assess whether it can now move forward.


Creating and replying to a blocker

To add a blocker to a topic, visit the topic's page and click New blocker toward the upper right corner, then provide a brief description and submit. You can optionally assign the blocker to a team member by picking their name from the dropdown.
We recommend keeping the blocker description brief, around ten words or so, so that teammates can quickly understand the basic issue. If you want to provide more detail, remember, the blocker is also a discussion thread. Try adding that additional detail in a comment.

Other actions

Blockers are a special type of discussion thread, so viewing, assigning, and resolving blockers are exactly the same as any discussion thread.
Learn more about discussion threads: