Slack: Good for Talking to Martians, and Other Things Too!

The importance of good communication has been communicated to death. We get it. I’ll spare you the lecture on why communication is important and just take the next few minutes to talk up a really awesome communication tool: Slack.

It’s a bit of software that began as an internal chat service in a videogame, and evolved into a multibillion dollar brand used by, among others, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to communicate while landing Curiosity on Mars.

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 9.55.34 AMWP Ninjas use it at work, and it’s a really effective communication tool for the workplace. It’s not just for the office, though. We use it to keep in touch and talk business when we’re off being Ninjas remotely, coordinating WordPress Chattanooga, and traveling on business. We share silly and interesting things outside of work, and use it to just chat after hours, too. It’s become such an integral part of our day to day experience that it takes the place of text/sms outside work. Check it out!

What is Slack, Anyway?

Slack is a messaging/chat app. It works on Mac, Windows, Android, whatever flavor OS you prefer, and syncs across each perfectly. It integrates with dozens of different services: Desk, Dropbox, Giphy, Github, Google Drive, MailChimp, Trello, Twitter, and many more.

slackimageIt’s the brainchild of Stewart Butterfield, inspired by his work on a game, Glitch.[1] While Glitch still isn’t a thing yet, a few spin-offs from development have become their own products over time, most notably Flickr (sold to Yahoo in 2004 for $25 million USD), and Slack. Slack began as the internal messaging system within Glitch. It’s currently its own $2.8 billion dollar brand.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 10.10.07 AMSlack has in its soul the chat rooms of yore, but is an upgraded and modern incarnation. In the Slack commons you create custom channels, public or private. We have a #content channel, #development, #support, #team, #non-work, and others. Every user is also displayed for striking up conversation via direct message any time.

What is Slack? Slack is the killer of office email, the next generation of team communication. I haven’t sent an email to a WP Ninja employee since I came on with the company. It is not just email evolved to a new generation, but a sleek, effective, convenient, and often entertaining way to keep everyone in touch with each other in real time.

Why Ninjas Slack

Effective communication. That’s really it summed up into two words. We could use email, but the delay between responses is quite a bit longer, it’s very impersonal and, well, it’s email. Blah. Slack feels much more like real time conversation, and that’s really where it shines.

Warning code that the bathroom is about to be occupied.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 10.29.16 AM

Slack has become a part of our office culture that replaces the formal and plodding pace of email with a lively, personal energy. It’s conversation as opposed to messaging. When a user is typing in a channel a little message pops up “Kenny is typing”, Kenny and Devin are typing”, “several people are typing”. It feels like we’re right there talking to each other even if we’re spread out across the country. It encourages much more of a bonding experience between coworkers than email could ever replicate.

Bonding is fine, but there’s work to be done too. James is at the coffee shop to start the morning and I have a question. No problem. I fire off a message in his personal channel and Slack pings him via desktop notification from his Macbook and his phone. Support needs to ask a quick question of the dev team? A quick @channel command pings everyone in our #development channel. Whoever is free at the moment can respond on the spot.

Action Kenny!

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 10.29.38 AM

Slack also keeps us in the conversation with our business friends through a shared #friends channel. Andy WiIkerson of Parallelus and Pippin Williamson of Pippin’s Plugins are two peers that we exchange banter and ideas with on a regular basis.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Slack is a conversation starter, a platform for discussion, jokes, brainstorming, and sharing ideas.” quote=”Slack is a conversation starter, a platform for discussion, jokes, brainstorming, and sharing ideas.”]

We use Slack as a central hub for general business communications as well. We have an Activity Feed channel that pings us anytime we’re mentioned on Twitter so that we can respond quickly to customer tweets. Github pings us there anytime one of our devs makes a new commit. Trello lets us know when cards are moved in our workflow. I know right away when a reader comments on an article.  Team meeting in 15 minutes? Friday reports due? Someone report in as off sick for the day? Reminders ping the #team channel.

And finally, Giphy integration. Slack can really torpedo productivity sometimes, but sometimes productivity just needs a good torpedoing for the cause. Not a day goes by that some key word or phrase from another channel gets dropped into the #giphy channel. You just have to see it!

NinjaForms 3.0 Dev Blitz #kennyinthewild

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 10.42.22 AM

So all in all, Slack is a team builder, a conversation starter, a platform for discussion, for jokes, for brainstorming and sharing ideas. It keeps us in touch no matter where in the world we are, but it does it in a way that’s personal and conversational. It’s the off the cuff remark that wouldn’t have been made if you had to fool with sending an email, but that gets turned into money down the road. It puts people in touch and puts robots on Mars. Check it out!