Top 10 Things You Can Do With Slack

 
 
November 13th, 2014

Top 10 Things You Can Do With Slack

We have used Skype as our main online office communication for a long time. On May 10, 2011 we knew the days of Skype being on the cutting edge of the online communication world was going to end. For over a year, Stauffer has been talking about switching how we do our online communication. Being a dev shop we thought IRC would be our answer, but we have clients and IRC would just be too frustrating for them to want to deal with. This brings me to what you came here to read, Slack.

Only 30 minutes into evaluating Slack, I knew this was going to change the way our company would be communicating. I am talking love at first use (I know some say this is not possible and you have to first get to know your systems before you can say love, but I know what love is!).

So far, it has been able to do practically anything we have needed and wanted it to do. The more I use Slack, the cooler things I find/think it can do. Here are My Top 10 Things that we have done/you can do with Slack...so far.

 

My Slack Top 10

10. Embedded gifs/images/files/Google Docs integration

For many chat programs you drop a file and it sends the other user a notification to download. The latest Skype upgrade actually showed the image once it was downloaded (revolutionary?). However, Slack keeps the files saved to the cloud where you have 5GB on the free version. This way you simply upload the file, log out and move on. Anyone coming into the chat later will be able to download it from the chat. Or, if you are centralized on Google Docs like we are, there is an integration that shows links to Google Docs. You can simply check out the agenda and drop the link to the Google Doc and Slack will show a nice link to the Google Doc for everyone to click. Or, you can just add reaction gifs to comments and not have to worry about people having to download it to get the joke.

9. Custom Emojis

Seriously, I know it is a tiny, stupid thing and really does not add anything to the use of the system, but it is FUN! What is a system if there is not that thing that just makes it fun! The default emojis are, umm... not very good, so being able to add your own is just a little thing that has made Slack fun to use. This has made adopting the system company-wide a little easier. I am working on adding my own Jacob Emoji.

8. ACL (Access Control List)

The free version does not include much ACL and if you do not realize that at first you may think Slack is limited. But a little digging (clicking on the tab in the admin section) showed that you can pay for the standard account that allows you to sandbox people to channels. This keeps our lovely clients from seeing the chaos of other clients’ channels (that was a joke haha laugh).

7. Git Repo integrations

We use Bitbucket, an on Demand git repository from Atlassian. We have a nice release process set up using git branches and branch permissions, but that is another blog. Keeping track of who is committing and merging code can be a task when we are working on multiple projects. Bitbucket is one of the many available integrations in Slack. Currently, we have it setup so each channel is alerting us of every commit and merge. It has made our git comments become a lot clearer and our tech leads are able to stay on top of what is being added to the repo.

6. Ticket system integration

We use another Atlassian product called JIRA as our issue ticketing system. This leads me to #6 on my list, seeing the tickets’ updates in a channel. The integration with JIRA is available out-of-the-box. Of note, JIRA is just one of many out-of-the-box ticketing system integrations Slack offers. Having the creation of new tickets show up in a channel allows no excuse for missing tickets and keeps everyone on the same page. This is very handy, especially for those that are passively watching a project. The only drawback so far is the amount of notifications we get when QA is going through a system.

5. Slackbot as an HR department

Slackbot is a handy little bot running on Slack that can be used to auto respond to comments. I set up our autoresponder to return basic HR information. When someone asks if we will have a certain day off, Slackbot responds with a list of scheduled days off. Slackbot is a very handy little bot and I can tell I have only scratched the surface of all the great things it is capable of doing.

4. The ability to setup custom incoming and outgoing webhooks and API

Although there are many integrations that come ready to go with Slack, we had an additional system that we wanted to integrate. We use PipelineDeals to handle our sales queue. PipelineDeals have their own API allowing us to put a keyword “Add New Deal: {Deal information}” into our chat and this will get sent to a Stauffer server, which will connect with the PipelineDeals API and create a new deal. Additionally, when someone updates something in Pipeline, the Slack sales channel will be alerted so everyone knows what has been updated. I have just started scratching the surface of incoming/outgoing webhooks, but I can tell there will be many integrations.

3. Code snippets in chat

Because we are a development agency, a room of developers, we develop that is what we do. Slack has an amazing tool in its chat box that allows us to post code back and forth to each other with a nice colored syntax. We do not have to worry about our code messing up or having Emojis be added to it. I like this feature! It has increased our developers’ ability to collaborate and help each other with a coding problem.

2. The ease of use and ease of getting started

I know you are like, “that is not a thing you do.” But that looked better than “add new people to Slack,” which is a duh, anyone can do that. But seriously, we can invite people/clients/contractors to Slack and they just get it. I guess this is more of a “we do not have to do,” in that we do not have to train a client or a new person on how Slack works. It is intuitive and logical, and even though it is so flexible, it maintains its ease of use.

1. There is a module for Drupal and other CMS's
(Ok this #1 is definitely biased, but hey it is my blog after all)

Here at Stauffer, we love the words “there is a module for that.” This usually means there is a starting point. Because there is a Drupal Module for Slack, this means our contact form now posts to the sales chat room. We can also connect a client’s site with a channel, which will help get other companies and startups to start using Slack. I look forward to using it as a content publishing queue.

     

    "We’ve established that people would pay for us. Slack is being valued based on its ability to make money rather than something more speculative.”

    - Stewart Butterfield, Chief Executive Officer at Slack 

    Quick list of the little things Slack does that take it to a Billion: Business Insider

    • The notifications settings are amazing. The chase feature which allows users to tell the system to delay before it sends the message to your mobile device or email is so much less annoying than most other chats.
    • The limited room naming conventions. I, as a developer, like lowercase letters, no spaces nor funny symbols. Just the basics, that is what Slack limits its channels to. It makes it easy to read what channel you are in, and/or what channels are available.
    • The separation of channels, direct chats and private chats provides you with all you need for online collaboration.
    • The whole admin section is just so clean and a pleasure to use. I enjoy it.

    About the writer.

     
    Image of Jacob Pitassi
    Jacob Pitassi
    VP of Technology
     

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