Instant Messaging

Remote Teams and Instant Messaging Slack

Teams that work remotely love using a real-time collaboration tool like Slack. 💛 Slack is so useful that it can be used to help a remote team manage many aspects of their process and work in real time:
  • Managing Environments Incidents & Events (production and non-production)
  • Publishing calendar events such as on-call rota’s and holidays
  • Publishing Environment Build activity
  • Exchanging important context and information about a project, user stories and lines of code.
  • Sharing meeting notes, actions and decisions.

The Water Cooler

The modern day watercooler
Perhaps one of Slack’s most useful functions is its ability to be an online version of the watercooler — where random work discussions happen mixed in with a bit of banter and a healthy dose of /giphy to express how you really feel.
The best part of Slack as a watercooler is that everyone, regardless of location, can join in or catch up with conversations that have happened as if the conversation were at the actual watercooler so others don’t miss the critical context. Slack has an excellent search tool that makes it easy to find relevant information posted in the past.
Slack is so ubiquitous that it is tempting to use it for everything! We have found that using Slack to record information which has a long shelf-life (capturing decisions, managing updates to important design artefacts, onboarding information for new team members) does have its drawbacks. Remember that the free version of Slack has a messaging limit and that the essential doc you shared last month may disappear in your channel message history. Some teams use plug-ins or virtual team assistants like to help them manage Slack and integration with other tools.
Like any written content avoid ambiguity at all costs. What someone else reads and what you mean can all too often be misaligned. Take extra steps to make your communications crystal clear, working hard to avoid ambiguity. If it feels like you are writing an explanation that a young child would understand, then you are on the right track.

Slack Principles

The following principles were used when writing Equal Experts slack usage guide:
  • Give everyone the bigger picture by making information and conversations public
    • Ensure people can widen their context
    • Make channels public by default - it provides the greatest opportunity for others to learn from any discussion, and documents tribal knowledge.
  • Increase the signal to noise ratio of the information and conversations
    • Narrow people’s focus
    • Ensure people are reading information that is relevant and useful to them
    • Use people’s time efficiently
  • Respect the amount of information anyone can tolerate reading
    • Do not overwhelm people with a high volume of messages that they are expected to read
    • Avoid communication burnout
  • Optimise for the whole of the organisation rather than local optimisations for parts of the organisation
    • Avoid creating a disjointed experience for people by focusing on overall simplicity rather than local simplicity

Slack Etiquette

  • Be friendly and patient.
  • Be welcoming - Create a community that welcomes and supports people
  • Respect other people’s opinions, especially if you don’t agree with them - Not all of us will agree all the time, but disagreement is no excuse for poor behaviour and poor manners.
  • Know when to step away from the keyboard and have direct and honest conversations instead. If that’s not feasible, remember that Slack is not the best way to resolve an argument.
  • Mention by @name - If you mention someone by their slack handle (e.g. percy or @percy), it highlights them in slack, notifies them. Naming is generally acceptable convention to avoid misspellings and add additional potentially interested people to the conversation.
  • Use of Private Messages - before using a private message, consider why it couldn't be public to the network as that has the benefits of allowing others to pick up (help, improve) on what is happening or learn from the conversation.
  • Conversations Transitioning off Slack - Sometimes a conversation will start on slack, but move off-channel to a face-to-face conversation. It is polite to either post "This conversation has gone face-to-face" so that others aren't confused by a slack conversation that just ends mid-way through, or post a summary of the conversation back into slack for posterity.
  • Profiles - provide enough information in your profile so that others can more easily find you outside of Slack
  • Search - Before asking a question in a channel, check to see if the question has already been answered. Type a word or phrase in the search box to start looking. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try search modifiers to narrow your search even further.
  • Gif’s and Emoji’s - these can be fun and a great way to lighten the mood, however, given images can sometimes be inappropriate or distracting, especially on a client site, learn the ways to minimise them.
  • @channel @here - people are less likely to mute or leave the channel due to being spammed with notifications. Use these wisely and sparingly!