We've recently started using Slack at Carter. What's Slack you may ask? Slack is many tools built in to one; you'd instantly recognise it as a messaging platform but it's much more than that, let me explain.
Let me try an explain why we prefer Slack to the competition.
Ok, email sucks, It just plain does. If you're like me you get email from all sorts of sources, some meaningful and important, some sent by robots (LinkedIn requests etc), some from my team, some less important or even worse - spam.
Google have tried 'fixing' this by separating email in to an "Important" folder, and the excellent Outlook app for iPhone has made an effort to do this via a "Focussed" area, however none of these address the real issue - receiving email in the first place.
What we were looking to do was to cut the number of emails received everyday, the easiest way was to stop emailing each other without missing any communication. Enter Slack.
The idea of messaging each other isn't new, we had been using HipChat for a year or so before this. HipChat worked well and we didn't know that it wasn't what we wanted until we switched.
At first glance Slack works in the same way as HipChat, you can send a direct messages to each other or to a group via a "room". This alone is not why you'd move to Slack:
Search is one of the major benefits of email over many other communication platforms. Take a look at Gmail, anything you've ever said to someone is searchable. This is now essential.
Sure HipChat has a search function; you type a keyword and it finds who said that along with the rest of the conversation. However, imagine this: you share a Google Doc with a colleague and 6 months later you know the gist of that document but not what it was called or who you sent it to. With Slack you can use the search feature to find a keyword within that document, now thats something!
Integrations are the power behind Slack. There are some built in features, such as /remind me which allows you to create a reminder for yourself, or when you share a link it will unfurl the content and display a summary right there in Slack.
Slack integrates with much more though, and this is where you start to remove some of the robot generated email we talked about earlier. At Carter we use JIRA to manage our tickets, Slack will send a notification in to our JIRA channel any time an ticket status changes. We use NodePing to monitor the status of our sites; I have a Gmail rule to add a label to these emails and mark them as read so they don't appear in my unread email. IFTTT then looks at my email, finds emails with that label and pushes a message through Slack. You get the idea...
There are lots of first party (Slack created) and third party (Community created) integrations to bring your communication in to one location. If the tool you want doesn't exist Slack has an excellent API with some powerful incoming / outgoing web hooks you could use.
Slack is a powerful flexible tool that can be used in a multitude of ways, this is how we use it.
Like any studio we are pretty fluid in our location. The majority of the time the team are in the studio but typically are in one of two situations, at their desk or elsewhere. Our steering team are quite often out of the studio as much as they're in it.
We needed a tool that doesn't tie us to a desk or browser window.
Slack has an excellent application for iPhone, we have one Android user and he seems to like the Android version, because of this we can be anywhere and still choose to dip in to a conversation. But when we are at our desks the desktop tool is fantastic!
One of the things I didn't like with HipChat was that you felt compelled to answer any direct message or room chat, Slack somehow manages to let you focus on what you think is important. For example the numbers next to channels or people are only where you have been specifically mentioned.
You can change notification messages to only bug you when you see fit. Email me when I'm away from my desk, or don't email me if I'm signed in on the mobile app etc.
You could star important channels to only focus on the conversations within, or you can be notified whenever someone in any room mentions a specific word or phrase.
I've heard different organisations use channels in lots of different ways, I'll explain what we do.
When you sign up to chat there are two default channels, General, and Random.
General is used for studio wide announcements, when someone is on holiday, or when we have a client coming in etc.
The other is Random, we use this to post animated gifs of Quokka's.
We create a channel for each project and each team, all communication can then be grouped and at any point a member of the team can dip back in and catch up. Files related to that project can then shared in a central location.
The most underrated part of Slack is one of the most useful. Slackbot is another 'robot' member of your team and is the user who informs you if you've been mentioned in another channel and reminds you of anything you've asked to be reminded about. But it's much more than that: you can store snippets of information, you can add a file you frequently use or use it as temporary scratchpad for your thoughts.
Slack is a new tool and will continue to evolve, we will continue to love it!
If you want to try Slack and give us a little love in the process follow the link below: