Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield has stepped into the workplace to give team communication some Slack and cut down on email clutter.
And it’s a good thing, too, writes Gary Oxenham.
As I write this review, I have just finished deleting anything in my full-to-the-brim inbox that has an attachment over 1mb, praying that I haven’t binned something that might be important in a week or even a year from now.
So, what is Slack and how is it going to help me (and you)?
On the surface, Slack is all about chat, and it does this well with twitter-style feeds, numerous channel options for both business and non-business related topics, private chat and notifications.
Delve deeper and you’ll see that what Slack does really well is integrating other comms channels and files, including Google Docs and Twitter, so that messaging, file uploads, and notifications are combined into a single tool.
Slack is also cross-platform, so you can use it on your iOS/Android phone while out of the office, Mac desktop app or on the web-based version at your desk or if you are working from home, and it will all sync together.
It also archives everything your teams add to it and offers a search function that digs deep. With it you can search files, team member’s names and even individual words within posts.
Slack has ease of use down to a tee, offering drag and drop file sharing, embedded links to video/other web pages and a handy filtering tool that separates content from individual files and channels to all files shared across all groups.
It’s easy to navigate, with a channels pane to the left, search and filtering to the right, and the main centre space left for conversations and files. It took maybe 30 seconds to set up my account and I was sharing files and documents and talking with my team members in minutes.
I had one query surrounding how you could remove people’s access if they leave the business, which was easily solved by Slackbot – the app’s automated help tool.
There is just one niggle I have that might seem small to some, but is quite big for me. I use a PC and currently there’s no Windows desktop app which means I can only use Slack from a browser.
It is a small gripe but I would like to see a fully interactive Windows desktop app so I don’t need the browser open all the time to get notifications and interact with colleagues, especially as there is a Mac desktop app available.
It is by no means a stand out flaw but, for me, getting full company buy in to any new communications platform surrounds its accessibility and, as many businesses use Windows PCs, Slack just needs to give them the same offering as Mac users.
So why exclude Windows users from the convenience of a desktop app? This is the question I put to James Sherrett at Slack’s helpdesk.
He said: “It was a conscious decision [not to develop a Windows app], but it was simply the fastest way we could build Slack for our customers – to make everything available, high quality and high performance on every platform.”
“We have plans to launch a Windows desktop app as soon as we can get it completed and performing up to our standards.”
So there we go, my one issue seems on the way to being resolved.
For chat and file sharing functionality, Slack is a great addition to the office and could certainly help to keep more conversational topics, team project discussion and files from cluttering up email inboxes, saving them for client interaction and those few that simply can’t bear to leave email.
I can only wonder what else it will be added to Slack as it continues to be developed.
Slack: Team communication for the 21st century.
Platform: iOS (mobile and Mac desktop). Android. Browser-based.
Final thought: Slack is a simple but effective chat application for businesses to cut email noise.
On the surface it seems like just another chat function but full integration of popular services like Google Docs and Twitter means added productivity for teams who can share and access files from within just one app rather than having to go between numerous channels.
It’s good. In fact for conversation and file sharing, it’s a great companion for a busy, collaborative workplace. Throw me a Windows desktop app and you might just see me leading the Slack revolution at Headlines….