/ Developers

Effective use of Slack

People go through an interesting cycle when they first start using Slack (or any team chat tool). Slack is very powerful in that it finally brings the immediacy of SMS texting and connects it to the computer and all of your devices in a unified interface. However, if not used carefully, it can quickly become overwhelming.

The feeling of immediate responsiveness can drive people to feel enslaved and overwealmed, especially if you work on a global team! It is important to separate out the "immediate response required” type of communication (such as alerting) vs the “just FYI, let's connect on this when you have time” type of communication. If they are blended together, Slack becomes stressful.

Cross-Regional bonding

Slack can be a powerful tool in helping cross-regional (and even global) team bonding. To help with this:

  • Use current and real face-shot of yourself. I cannot emphasis how important this is! Seeing a person's face when chatting with them remotely helps build a bond! It also helps new people coming into a team to get to know people. Consider what message you want to send to those you communicate with?
  • Set your Display Name to be the most common name people call you.
  • Setup your Time Zone properly so your Do not Disturb works properly.

Useful capabilities

Some helpful tools and etiquette when using Slack:

  • Type /mute on channels you want to be in, but don't want to be notified about all the time.
  • Type /call when pairing up on the keyboard with people across region, it is powerful (multi-cursor).
  • Use the Star for channels and people you frequently talk with — it lists them above the others.
  • Avoid using @here or @channel, instead, try to be direct to individuals if possible — be considerat of everybody on the channels
  • Keep conversations relevant to the channel and topic.
  • Follow Remote Work Success conventions where they make sense for you.
    • Notably - having everybody turn on video helps, you can see each other's faces! This too cannot be understated in helping cross-regional connections.

Channel naming

This is more particular to your organization, but channels can easily get out of control, and I've found some simple conventions help with this (now we wander into opinion territory, YMMV):

  • dashes or underscores? -- For the sake of uniformity, stick with dashes (no underscores)
  • Follow the patterns:
    • #{team}-{thing}
    • #{product}-{thing}
    • #{cust}-{thing}
  • When you are not sure if you should do customer or team, lean towards team for most things, and the customer is only when you need to focus the conversation and/or even invite a customer into the conversation.
  • Automated integrations which send short, succinct, relevant and actionable messages to a channel t to where regular team conversation is happening are extremely helpful. If the notifications are too noisy and distracting, consider simplifying them.
  • -alerts -- having a channel which is just for alerting is actually not as useful as you might think ((these often just become noise):
    The problem is when a notification goes to a group, then it is hard to know who should respond. Tools to manage this sort of rotation, like victor ops or ops genie are more successful at this.
  • -notify or -deployments or -reports — See above. If, for some reason, you have an integration that will send a lot of notifications, consider the noise/value ratio fires)
  • -team — this is acceptable as a top-level channel. So #data-team is okay. Could also just be #data
  • special interests (things outside of your company) are also okay, but check to see if somebody hasn't already created a channel for it first (click on the channels side-bar).

Popular channels

#general - general random watercooler conversation
#currently-reading - share books, articles, podcasts you’re listening to
#nerdy - starwars, lord of the rings, iron man, whatever it is, here is where you can let your inner geek out
#outdoors - hiking, camping, and generally getting into the wilderness
#gaming - tabletop or video, this is your place

Brandon Gillespie

Brandon Gillespie

Brandon loves Tech and has a breadth of experience including hands-on Implementation and Leadership Roles across many companies including small startups, enterprises, and the USAF.

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