Growing up, “slack” was synonymous with a complete lack of productivity or being a downright loser. These days, it’s the exact opposite.
Before I go into the Where and the Why, let’s briefly look at What.
What is this Slack you speak of?
When I first heard about Slack, I thought, “Oh great, one more app.”
I’m already using email, Skype, Gmail chat and occasional Hangouts, text messaging, Basecamp, Trello, Facebook, Twitter, oh, and something called a telephone (I’m always surprised when it rings).
I couldn’t see the point in yet another way to connect with people. Didn’t I have all my bases covered? Was yet another app going to help me communicate more efficiently? Or would it just disperse me even more?
They call it, “A messaging app for teams.” Basically, it’s a big chat room with file sharing and a bunch of other cool features.
Their hilarious commercial explains it best.
The Where and the Whyfor
I’ve been using Slack for almost a year now. I’m on six different Slack teams, which I participate in at varying degrees depending on what I’ve got going on at a given time.
Slack teams are private, requiring an invitation of some kind to participate. And although the official lingo calls them “teams”, in many cases they are virtual communities.
In my last article I talked about my subscription to the Post Status Club, a member site and thrice weekly newsletter for WordPress professionals. With that paid membership I gain access to the Post Status Slack, where upwards of 500 other members hang out daily, exchanging everything from silly animated GIFs to serious technical advice or business tips.
“There are a bunch of specific Slack channels that have their own feel and group of regulars, and the conversations are pretty great,” said owner Brian Krogsgard in his Year in Review sent to members over the weekend. He named #ecommerce, #wpbusiness, #heavydev, and #learntogether as among the most popular channels.
He believes some members even joined the Club because of the Slack community. This doesn’t surprise me at all. The appeal is clear: it’s the Club House for the Post Status Club. Having access to in-depth, exclusive industry content is highly desirable. But having exclusive access to a place where industry people meet regularly and exchange freely is the cherry on the cake.
In addition to his weekly newsletter, Paul Jarvis puts out a lot of great products and services. One that I enjoy is Creative Class, a twelve-part online course for freelancers including video tutorials, worksheets and sample documents on a range of subjects from positioning to pricing to on-boarding.
Buying into the class gives you lifetime access to the courses, which are updated periodically. This is a fantastic resource for anyone running a freelance business. As a bonus, you gain access to the Creative Class Community, with a yearly renewal fee. Here, designers, writers, developers and a slew of other creative freelancers can meet, share, learn and find inspiration.
Paul does a great job of engaging the members of his Slack Community, giving them insider status. Every once in a while he’ll ping a channel with a question of the day, to get a conversation going around a particular topic. He also posts announcements for monthly Q&As that he runs, and members are often the first to know about new products he’s working on.
WordPress-fr is the non official Slack for WordPress professionals and amateurs in France. It’s largely taken over for the forums on the outdated wordpress-fr.net site (finally undergoing an overhaul from what inside sources say), as the place for French speakers to go to find answers to their WordPress questions.
With over 400 members, popular channels include #aide-et-support, #developpements, #extensions, #securite, #themes and #emploi_business. It’s also become a convenient meeting place to hold private group talks, mostly around event organization and similar topics.
Anyone is free to sign up by requesting an invite.
This is the official Slack for the Make WordPress project, the open source software and community at WordPress.org. There are currently 60 separate channels governing all aspects of the project, including translation, events and, of course, core development.
Anyone can access the Make WordPress Slack after creating a free account on the WordPress.org website. It’s a great way to get involved in the project, or simply to get a better idea of how things work.
WordPress used a classic IRC platform for a long time, but chose to switch to the much more accessible and user-friendly Slack near the end of 2014. Unlike WordPress-fr, the Make Slack does not offer support, deferring users to the support forums for help using the software.
The final two Slack teams I’m on are for the organization of WordCamp Paris and WordCamp Europe.
Nothing beats a good voice conversation from time to time, but Slack has become our go-to tool for staying in touch, running meetings, discussing ideas, sharing documents, posting outside links and more. It’s not enough by itself, but Slack as a messaging system + Trello for planning + email for external communications + Skype for periodic group voice calls + (in some cases) a private blog (p2) for archiving long reports and discussions = a powerful toolbox for collaborating in large groups over multiple time zones.
Whether as a product bonus, a collaborative tool or a forum, Slack provides the tools and engaging features to create niche platforms for fun and efficient communication.
If you’re already using Slack, you have quick access to any of the teams you belong to by simply toggling within the app. For me, this is another a great incentive to participate—right where I already am—rather than navigating to a separate website or application.
Unlike Twitter or Facebook, Slack can be an engaging social platform without the added baggage of likes and follows and pimped-out profile pages. Each Slack team has a specific purpose, so that all members are there and interacting around that purpose. It turns out that it’s not “just another app,” but a very complimentary addition to my extensive communication toolbox.