Slack is a messaging app that has become phenomenally popular over its relatively short two year life span. As of June 2015 there were over 1 million registered users.
Originally designed as team chat software for the employees of a video games company, the developers spotted the compelling nature of their messaging platform and decided to spin it off as a separate product. Some of that video game DNA is evident in the colourful user interface and playful nature of the Slackbot – the automated help system that gets people up and running when they first join. This isn’t your usual bland corporate software tool.
For many small businesses and startups it’s becoming the direct replacement for internal email. Why? It’s hard to explain until you actually start using Slack. The shallow learning curve and ability to run across multiple devices makes it easy to integrate into working life. Sharing via ‘channels’ with clearly defined topics means that it’s far better for disseminating information amongst the right people. And Slack plays nice with other services. It can integrate with Twitter, Trello, Google Docs and Dropbox (amongst many others). Essentially you can use Slack as the linchpin for all the other web services you use.
Slack isn’t just for small teams though. Slack’s pricing model means you can invite an unlimited number of people to a Slack team for ZERO cost. Because of this, some organisations have started creating Slack teams to support entire communities. Buffer for example have a community Slack team where Buffer staff and users can mingle and talk about the product, share tips on social media use or chat about anything else that people might have a shared interest on.
Slack is also being used as a tool for conferences (see article on The Verge). It can be daunting to attend a conference where you don’t know anyone, especially if you’re not the sort of person comfortable with small talk and networking. XOXO organisers used Slack to help establish relationships between delegates before they actually met in real life. And after the conference had taken place, Slack helped delegates stay in touch to keep the momentum of new ideas & projects going.
I know what you’re thinking. We’re swimming in ways to communicate with each other – why throw yet another channel of communication into the mix? I really love Twitter and in recent years it has become a hugely influential tool for learning and crowd sourcing information. BUT, many of the relationships formed on Twitter tend to be quite fluid. It’s great at creating lots of different connections, but it’s harder (although not impossible) to deepen those relationships within the confines of 140 characters. The very nature of Twitter is quite impermanent. Unless it’s occurred in the past few hours, it’s pretty much buried.
Slack on the other hand enables free form conversation amongst potentially hundreds of people. The simple but effective messaging format fosters properly fleshed out discussion and there’s a lengthy history of everything that has taken place for those joining the conversation mid-way. In terms of fully conveying ideas in real-time with a large number of people, it’s about as good as it gets outside of physically being in the same space.
Also, as Slack teams are not publicly viewable it perhaps discourages some of the counter productive grandstanding (or worse, trolling) that takes place on other public mediums. See the comments section of.. well, just about any website you can imagine for examples of this.
If this sounds interesting and you’d like to dabble with Slack, I’ve created a UKHousing Slack team for anyone working in or involved with housing. All are welcome! You can request an invite by filling out this form : https://ukhousing.typeform.com/to/JbTf9L