At Piirus we’re trying out a collaborative working tool, namely the free version of Slack. We’re using it for one of our many projects, as a communication tool. It is a way for us to keep people in Berlin (Germany), Warwick, Newcastle (England) and deepest Scotland in touch with the each other, as we progress on our project. Here are some of my thoughts at this early stage of trying it out.
Image copyright: By Jordan Schwartz [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr.
– The best benefit is the fact that you don’t need to be copied in on every email for a project, but the history is stored in Slack for when you need to look at it. So we should hear less often from each other about the project, thus helping us to be more efficient with our time. No filing of e-mails that we were just copied into, “fyi” (for your information).
– This could be a great advantage for a team with high staff turnover: no need to forward on past e-mails to the next person who joins the team.
– All the correspondence about the project is in one place, and so far we’ve stuck to discussing that project and only that project: we don’t have some correspondence about the project in the middle of an email trail about something else, nor correspondence about something else in the middle of our project work! Slack seems to be helping us to be more disciplined in the way we communicate with each other.
– I like that when you post a link to a website, a little preview of the site appears in your message stream, but I note that that doesn’t happen for all the links I’ve added. This could also save more time, since the preview could contain what was actually important.
– Linking to a Google Doc works well in Slack: we’re already used to using Google Docs as a team, and it’s interesting that between us we’ve now found 3 different ways to comment on a Google Doc:
comments inserted into the Google Doc as usual
comments in Slack’s general message stream
comments that Slack attaches to the Google Doc
– I don’t like that I now have to login & look in Slack as well as all the other programmes and sites that I already check daily. However, this would be a minor issue if we used Slack more: I’m sure that we’re not using it in the way it was designed to be used, because it is not a full time environment for any of us. Our team all have other projects, perhaps with other teams, so we have only used Slack part time, for one project.
– We were all used to using e-mail to communicate, and so our use of Slack really mirrors that type of interaction. We haven’t changed our practices (yet) to maximise Slack’s potential. And we sometimes still send e-mails that say “see what I said in Slack” which is less efficient and defeating the purpose!
– My calendar reminder to check Slack on Mondays helps to keep me engaged with the project in there, plus the e-mails that Slack sends out whenever there is activity, so I’m not missing anything. But again, this is hardly a more efficient way to work.
Investigating this collaborative working tool further:
Slack definitely has potential. We’ve stuck to one channel for our messages really, and we could see what it is like to work with multiple channels of conversation, perhaps for more than one project. We’re still working on our project, so no doubt we will share more of our experiences on this blog in future.
Collaborative tools like this that help your team to communicate with each other more efficiently really complement what Piirus is all about. You can make connections on Piirus that initiate collaborative research projects, for which you might use tools like this. Have you used Slack, or any other collaborative working tool? Do you have experiences to share? You can leave a comment below or get in touch directly.