Your team needs Slack

You just don’t know it yet

At the Barcelona office we adopted Slack as our team communication tool for a couple of months now.

I understand changing the way your team communicate with each other is not easy. New interface, new options… in this case, the small burden comes with lots of features.

At the time of this writing all conversations for the Barcelona team happen in Slack except for calls, we still use Lync for audio, video or screen sharing.

Edit: Slack now has Calls! We’ve already tried and it works nicely. For the free accounts you can do 1 on 1 calls. For channel/group calls you need to have a paid account.

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So, why is it so good?

Here are my top reason why we love it so much:

It’s free and it works everywhere

You heard me, the cheapest plan is free and it gives you enough freedom to keep it that way. If you need more, you can always upgrade. Here the pricing plans.

You can use it in your browser (with push notifications), install a desktop app or have it on your mobile too. Cross platform is key.

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You don’t have to be online

As a user you can write in a channel even if you’re the only one online. Your team has gone home already but want to send them a message for them to see tomorrow morning? Leave a message, they’ll catch up the next day when they open up Slack.

Oh, it will also send email notifications mentions you haven’t yet seen.

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Persistent chat history

The great thing about slack is the persistency of the public and private chats. The messages from yesterday, or from last week are there for you to check. The free accounts have a limited message archiving (10,000 messages).

Yes, you have this feature too in Skype groups but can users of your team freely join that group? That takes us to the next feature…

General chat rooms

You can create open/public channels for everybody in your team to participate.

Imagine a new hire starts in your team, once you give him his account he’ll have access to the entire chat history. This person can now catch up to previous conversations and get up to speed without you having to send him old project emails or hard to find documentation about it.

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Project chat rooms

You can also create private chat rooms, invite only conversations that could spin around certain project, for example. The team members involved would have a place of discussions and information sharing.
New designs are available? Just drag and drop the PSD’s in there.
New ticket in JIRA? It will show up there.
No more sending emails with all the team members in CC, email chains are awful to read, email signatures take more space than the actual reply, the attachment might get lost… It’s truly horrible.

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Slack can be integrated with third parties

JIRA? Confluence? SVN? Git?

Imagine you would receive slack mentions when a new JIRA ticket has been raised. Or when someone has pushed code to the trunk.
Many integrations are possible, check out the Slack App Directory (it includes integrations made by third parties too).

Bots, where fun (and productivity) begins

Slack comes with a @slackbot that can help you out.

  • Reminders: you can create reminders that will be shown at certain time. Either for you, for a team member or for the whole channel.
    For instance, you could tell @slackbot to remember to the #General channel: “Meeting in 10 minutes!” at certain time.
  • Tasks: used in the same way as reminders you can set tasks for someone else. For instance @Guillem could tell @slackbot to create a task for @Ricard “Post this article in our Website”. Then once @Ricard marks that task as done @Guillem will get a notification.
  • RSS Publication: you can set RSS Feeds to be published in channels automatically.

@Slackbot is also your personal notepad. You’ll always have a private chat with the bot, there you can write notes to yourself, upload files… It can be searched, shared and reminded to you in the future.

You can even program your own bots (or @slackbot). We have created Bender a robot that generates memes and makes fun of you. Adding little fun to boring Mondays can create a better work environments!

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Other great features

  • Edit sent messages: written too fast and sent a typo? Edit your previous message (we actually set up a time limit for message editing, otherwise someone could edit past conversations and alter the meaning of it)
  • Send code snippets: this is great. How many times you tried to send a piece of code via Lync and failed? Slack comes with a snippets feature (you can choose the code language)

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  • Create posts: need to write something longer? Write a blog post inside Slack!
    You can even create a public URL to share it outside of Slack.
    This post can obviously be shared with anyone inside your Team.
    Need collaboration? You could allow the members of your team to edit the post.

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  • Share any media: When you share a URL either for a website, an image or a video, Slack will inline a preview.

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Slack API

Since at TBSCG we’re developers we should integrate all our tools into Slack. With the Slack API we can hook up our existing services and publish update to selected channels.

More on the Slack API here.

Conclusion

It’s free. Try it, don’t wait and have fun working.

What could your company do?

Say you have different branches, each one could have their own private rooms. Aside from general company-wide open rooms.
You could also let the users create their own private channels. For projects, for certain technologies, teams (Frontend, Backend, Systems, HR, Managers, Design…)

The possibilities are pretty much endless.

Did you know about Slack? Have you used it?

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Published by

Ricard Torres

Ricard is a Senior UI/UX Developer @ TBSCG. Based in Barcelona he also plays guitar, takes photographs and teaches Haidong Gumdo.