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How to Be Less Busy with Slack

The Beginning

In the early days of Stupid Cancer (Then called I'm Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation), we had two employees and a small team of "executive" volunteers. Everyone was spread out around the country, and keeping in touch was critical.

Back then, in 2010, Yammer was the gold standard of the emerging corporate social networks. The design took cues from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It was a great tool that ultimately became the backbone of the organization.

Yammer was eventually acquired by Microsoft, which is when the product kind of lost its way. Upgrades and tweaks became less and less, and the pricing structure also changed, for the worse. We made the decision to migrate platforms in early 2014, to Bitrix24

Bitrix24 was fine for a time. It had the threaded posts, just like Yammer. It also had tasks, which was new and interesting. The team was underwhelmed by their mobile app, which wasn't as good as Yammer's had been. The search resumed.

Enter Slack

Slack is a communications platform, with an emphasis on chat, search, and integrations. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what I like most about Slack. Perhaps it's a 3-way tie between the custom emoji's, Slackbot responses, and custom loading messages.

I originally intended on making this blog post purely about how I use Slack (IE: Integrations), but I felt it was relevant to discuss where the team was coming from.

The initial kickback was that Slack didn't have the threaded chat view like we were all accustomed to. There was an initial flood of conversations that were disjointed and hard to navigate if you'd been away from Slack for a few hours. Keeping track of ideas was like nailing jello to a wall.

Upon further inspection, it was our Slack naivety that contributed to the mess. We suffered from what I would call "FOCC" (Fear of Creating Channels). Slack channels are essentially chatrooms that live in the left navigation of your Slack app. You can star the important ones, and they get pinned to the top of the list. DM's and private groups live under them.  You can learn more here.

Our watershed moment came when channels went from being just chatrooms, which is how our Internet brain works, to actually being channels. I will list below some of my channels and their purpose. (Keep in mind we're a non-profit that serves young adults with cancer.) 

My Slack Channels

  • #discussion
    • We have broken conversation-based channels into buckets based on our programs and projects. There is also a channel to list items throughout the week that you'd like to discuss at the weekly staff meeting.
  • #development
    • This channel integrates with a Trello board. Any time a change is made on that board, it's reflected in this Slack channel. It's a great way of keeping everyone in the loop on a critical part of our operation.
  • #rss
    • I have tried several RSS-feed-based channels. They can be helpful in keeping you up-to-date on your favorite blogs and news sources. I have a channel that syndicates everything we post to our Tumblr, which is a syndication of our Facebook page via IFTTT. (Inception, anyone?)
  • #incoming-money
    • This channel is my favorite, for obvious reasons. We have a web store that uses PayPal Pro, and two incoming donation sources that send emails when donations are received. I send information from all three sources to #incoming-money via Zapier.
  • #outgoing-money
    • This channel lets the team know when bills have been paid. Using Zapier's email channel, we can capture bill pay notification emails from bill.com or Capitol One and have them post to this channel. It keeps information flowing and helps the finance and ops team in the loop.
  • #random
    • This channel syndicates all the inquiries into our Zendesk. It also shows Mailchimp subscribes, unsubscribes, and campaign activity. It should probably be called #customerservice.
  • #feed-instagram
    • Another great Zapier fueled channel is our Instagram channel. In this channel, we track images posted on IG with #stupidcancer. It's a great way to source content for our Facebook wall, and see what conversations are happening related to our brand.
  • #feed-twitter
    • Just like above, except this channel syndicates all mentions of @StupidCancer.
  • #feed-reddit
    • Reddit has an active /r/cancer community. With this RSS integration, we can see what kind of conversations are happening and source content for our FB wall.
giphy.gif
  • #giphy
    • Slack has a great direct integration with Giphy that I've taken advantage of since we upgraded our Slack plan from free to paid. Once enabled, you can write things like "/giphy blogging" and get an image like this one on the right.

In Closing

This story has a happy ending. Slack has quickly become the pulse of the organization. It's our Death-Star-for-good, making us incredibly efficient. I'm told threaded conversations are in the pipeline, which will make my team members happy.

Drinking from the Data Firehose

Case Study: How Stupid Cancer manages all the moving parts with Klipfolio Dashboard