I've been using a free Slack account for a couple of months now. I think it's great and I want to share it with you. Not only is it effective for working teams but for friends, too. Those who are willing to stick with it at least. The increase in productivity and transparency that they boast on their front page are true for me and my team. You can check out more of their survey results here.
So what is Slack and what is it trying to solve? You can watch the video below for a better explanation but in one sentence, Slack to me is a wonderful team messaging tool with a lot of neat features to improve productivity and collaboration. More details after the video link.
So here's why I think Slack works well for me.
Public discussions channels. Emails are too limited to recipients. On Slack, everybody in the group can see it if it is discussed in a public channel (public means public to the group, not to the world). Anyone can chime in or at least be made aware that certain discussions are going on. New hires can just scroll through the archive or anybody out of the loop can just refer to the history. With emails, you will have to forward threads on demand.
It has #channels! Back to the IRC use of the number sign denoting before it became a hashtag. Great for organizing topics and teams. You also have the option to subscribe/opt-out of any number of channels. By default, a new Slack group starts with two channels, #random and #general. This is great for segregating discussions. For friends, we have separate discussion for #food and #music. At work, we set different channels for #python and #ios. You can have as many channels as you want!
Integration with a lot of 3rd parties like JIRA, Trello, Google Drive, Jenkins, and more. An example of our usage with integration is Gitlab and Trello. When a commit is made to a Gitlab repo or an update is made to task cards in Trello, a message is posted on a Slack channel. Slack becomes our goto for recent updates.
Private groups and messages are also supported although I discourage this in our team for transparency but it is necessary sometimes.
Great apps for desktop and mobile! With multiple account support. You can stay updated with all your Slack groups using one app. The message read status also works well across all platforms. Unlike Skype. Cough, cough.
Awesome search capabilities. Finding specific keywords in a thread's history is super easy. It also searches file names and contents of file uploads!
File uploads are supported in channels, too.
Channels and private messages have a sidebar where you can find previously shared files and pinned messages which is great for when you want important updates to be easily found.
Mini-posts are like a blog post compressed into a message and your teammates can expand it to read more. Great for instructional write-ups or just plain annoying your team with long winding jibberish. Rich text format is supported and code clips with syntax highlighting is there, too. Super convenient for programmer groups!
Slack is not a solve-all product and it comes with limitations that users might find in other chat applications:
Search and browse up to 10,000 recent messages only and limited service integrations for the free account. The paid accounts have unlimited history and even more features such as Google authentication and user groups.
No audio or video calls.
You should definitely give Slack a try at work. If you're not sure yet, check out these public Slack group listing sites so you can take a look at how other people are using it to share common interests.
Have you used Slack before? What do you think about it? Let us know in the comments below!