Slack For Dummies book cover

Slack For Dummies

By: Phil Simon Published: 06-10-2020

You get so much more done when you Slack!  

Ever wondered what it would be like to be less overwhelmed, more efficient, and much more engaged at work? A way you can make all that happen is, of course, to Slack. Actually, it’s to use Slack, the business communications platform that’s revolutionized how groups work together. This comprehensive guide shows how—as well as why—there are now millions of users of this flexible, fun, and intuitive workspace tool. 

Presented in a clear, easy-to-follow style, Slack For Dummies takes you from the basics of getting started with the service all the way through how to get your teams Slacking together for all they’re worth. You’ll also find case studies showing how Slack increases productivity and how to replicate that in your organization, as well as tips on getting buy-in from the boss.  

  • Introduce Slack to your workflow 
  • Understand roles and features 
  • Analyze user data 
  • Keep your Slacking secure 

So, take a peek inside and discover how you can cut the slack using Slack—and clue your teams in on how there is actually a way to Slack off for improved results!  

Articles From Slack For Dummies

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Slack For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-25-2022

Slack allows you to easily communicate and collaborate with your colleagues as well as people outside of your organization. As a result, Slack drastically reduces your reliance upon email. But those capabilities are just the tip of Slack’s iceberg. Slack channels allow organizations to be far more transparent. Think of them as buckets of information around a central topic. Organizations using Slack create multiple channels around different topics. Slack also allows for easy video calling, screen sharing, document sharing, and collaboration. Thanks to more than 2,000 apps, you can create polls, surveys, and much more. You can also save a great deal of time by automating manual tasks via apps and Slack’s new Workflow Builder.

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The Different Types of Slack Channels

Article / Updated 07-01-2020

Slack is a great collaboration tool. You can segment audiences into channels to help support your employee’s collaboration efforts. Currently, Slack allows for four different types of channels depending on the Slack plan your organization has chosen: Public Private Multi-workspace channels (for Enterprise Grid customers only) Shared Conceptually, each type of channel serves the same general purpose. In its simplest form, a channel represents a customizable container for discussions with others in the Slack universe. The differences are subtle but important. For instance, the primary differences between public and private channels lie in privacy settings and the ability for others to discover and join it. Regardless of the type of channel, only workspace members can access the information inside of it. Put differently, even public Slack channels aren’t available to the general public. Slack’s public channels Let’s introduce the idea of a public channel by keeping it as simple as possible: They generally exist within a specific Slack workspace. Exceptions to this rule occur when you share a channel with another can create public channels. How can you use public channels? The applications are limitless. The following image shows some of channels for a fictitious company. The key point is this: Each of channel serves a different purpose. Here’s a real-world example of how one educator uses channels. One college professor teaches three sections of Introduction to Information Systems. In Slack, that professor uses more than two dozen public channels for each class each semester. Examples include channels for each the following: Each homework assignment: These are called #hw1, #hw2, and so on. General questions: Students usually use #ask_the_professor if their questions that don’t relate to specific homework assignments. Writing tips: Tips are posted in — wait for it — the #writing_tips. No, you won’t find any channels related to human resources or finance here. You get the point: Channels are very flexible. Slack’s private channels Like public channels, private channels also exist under a specific workspace. Public and private channels fundamentally serve the same purpose: to share context-specific information with a group of people. Any member in a Slack workspace can join — and contribute to — a public channel. The only exception to the latter is if the Workspace Owner or Admin has limited channel posting rights. For example, an organization may create public channels for #company_news or #system_issues. The rationale here is simple: all employees should be able to view this critical company information. For confidential discussions in #payroll_issues, #research, and #hr_staffing_plans, however, discussions probably aren’t fit for public consumption. Unlike public channels, private channels appear only in users’ channel directories if they are already a member of that private channel. Put differently, if you’re not a member, then in theory you wouldn’t know that a private channel even existed. Unlike public channels, private channels require invitations to join. That is, you cannot browse private channels and join them. You can leave a public channel at any time and rejoin at your leisure. However, if you leave a private channel, an existing member will need to invite you back. This begs the question: How do you know if a particular channel to which you belong is public or private? If you see a lock icon to the left of the channel name, then it is private. Returning to the image above, notice how the #announcements channel is private, but the #supplies and #tips_slack channels are public. Note how #secret_project appears above the fray. This happens because it was marked as a favorite by clicking on the star icon. It then turns blue. Click on the icon again, and the channel will appear with the others because it ceases to be a favorite. When you add users to private channels, they will be able to see the entire history of all previous communications. Slack’s multi-workspace channels What if your organization uses Slack but different departments set up separate workspaces? Employees want to be able to send messages, and share files, collaborate within the same channel. Slack makes such scenarios possible though multi-workspace channels (MWCs). You can skip the following information if you’re not using or considering Enterprise Grid. Of course, Octavarium could always try to fuse together multiple workspaces. Say that you work in your company’s finance department. You want to share a channel with your peers in accounting, even though the two groups use different workspaces. Follow these steps: Click on the channel name in the sidebar of the finance workspace. Click on the information (i) icon in the top right-hand corner. Slack displays a four-pane tab with the word Details above it. Click on the More icon on the far right. Slack displays a panel underneath the icon Click on Additional Options. Select Add to Other [Organization Name] Workspaces. Here you will locate the accounting workspace. Slack presents a search box with default text that reads Type a Team Name. Type a few letters of the workspace name with which you want to share this channel. When the workspace pops up, select it. Click on the green Review Changes button. Slack warns you if the same workspace name already exists in the “target” workspace. If that’s the case, then rename the channel. Many people add an underscore when this happens. For example, @announcements becomes @announcements_. Slack confirms that all members of both workspaces will be able to join this channel. What’s more, they will be able to see the channel’s history and files. Click on the green Save Changes button. Members of the finance workspace now may join the MWC, view its content, and contribute on their own. Expect Slack to take a few minutes to make the channel available in the other workspace. The process isn’t instantaneous. Once Slack completes this process, you will see an overlapping circles icon to the right of the channel. Everyone will know that the channel now effectively exists in both workspaces. Multi-workspace channels work really well for organizations that meet two conditions. Specifically, these large firms have purchased Slack’s Enterprise Grid and rely upon multiple workspaces. With Enterprise Grid, others can add you to a MWC without your consent at any point. If the MWC is public, then you can leave it if you like and rejoin it later. If the MWC is private, then you can leave it but you’ll need another invite to rejoin it. Slack’s shared channels We live in a collaborative world. At some point, you may well want to use Slack to work with people from other organizations and third-parties that also use Slack. Examples here include vendors, clients, and partners. What if you want to share a specific channel with them? Wouldn’t doing so would allow you to seamlessly collaborate with them? Customers of Slack’s premium plans can choose to share channels with external organizations. Slack now allows up to ten different organizations to share the same channel. Of course, all organizations need to belong to a premium Slack plan. To share a channel with an external organization, follow these steps: In the sidebar, click on the name of the channel that you want to share with another organization. Click on the information (i) icon in the top right-hand corner. Slack displays a four-pane tab with the word Details above it. Click on the More icon on the far right. From the drop-down menu, click Additional Options. Click on Share with Another Organization. Copy the link that Slack generates so that you can share it with the person in the external organization. Click on the green Done button. You can email that link to the contact at the other organization. Alternatively, you can share the channel with another workspace that you own. Paste that link into your web browser’s address bar and hit Enter. Select the workspace with which you want to share that channel. Slack asks you to review and accept the channel’s invitation. If the “receiving” workspace is on Slack Free plan, then Slack will prompt you to start a trial to a premium plan. You’ll have 14 days to kick the tires on this paid feature. Click on the green Accept Invitation box. Slack has now successfully shared your channel with an another organization’s workspace. Slack now places two overlapping diamonds to the right of the channel to indicate that it’s shared. Also, Slackbot notifies all invitees that they now belong to the channel. Note that if the invitee doesn’t belong to a premium plan, then Slackbot notify will post a message with upgrade instructions. If your organization is using Enterprise Grid, then one of the Org Owners or Admins may need to approve your request to share a channel with an external organization. Ready to get started? Here are ten Slack tips to help give you an edge.

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How to Create Public and Private Slack Channels

Article / Updated 07-01-2020

You create as many Slack channels as you like. Each Slack channel requires a unique name. That is, you can’t create two #development channels within the same Slack workspace. Also, you’ll want to give your channels descriptive names. For example, you don’t want to christen your company’s marketing channel #payroll. Put differently, there’s a big difference between can and should. When naming channels, common sense goes a long way. Next, understand that Slack bans certain words in channel names. The following table lists Slack’s current reserved words by language. Reserved Slack Words as of April 1, 2020 Language Forbidden Words Brazilian Portuguese aquí, canais, canal, eu, general, geral, grupo, mí, todos English archive, archived, archives, all, channel, channels, create, delete, deleted-channel, edit, everyone, general, group, groups, here, me, ms, slack, slackbot, today, you French chaîne/chaine, général/general, groupe, ici, moi, tous Spanish aquí, canal, general, grupo, mí, todos If you attempt to create a Slack channel using one or more of the terms in the table above, you see the following message: That name is already taken by a channel, username, or user group. You can create a channel Slack, carefully avoid the terms referenced in the table above, and still receive a similar message. Check out the most updated list of reserved terms. You can also view banned Japanese symbols. How to create your first public Slack channel Now you know more about the concept of a Slack channel and some restrictions on names. It’s time to create a simple one. The following steps walk you through creating a public channel in your Slack workspace. You learn how to create a basic channel below. In reality, though, you’ll want to put some thought into how you and others name and describe the channels in your workspace. Click on the plus icon next to Channels in the Slack sidebar. Slack displays the following window. Enter a name for your channel. Keep the following rules and suggestions in mind: The current character minimum is 1; the maximum is 80. Underscores are often used to separate words. For example, #marketing_team is a better channel name than #marketingteam. You can’t use blank spaces and capital letters. Slack will gently suggest adding an existing prefix to your channel to help organize it. Remember that Slack restricts certain words. Brass tacks: As long as you adhere to Slack’s naming conventions, you can proceed to the next step. (Optional) Add a description to your channel. Ideally, the description illustrates the conversations that should take place here. In addition, the clearer the channel’s purpose, the less likely people are to post inappropriate messages in it. Ignore the Make private toggle. After all, we’re creating a private channel in this example. If Slack restricts you from creating a public channel, then it’s because someone with higher privileges has restricted people in your role from doing so. Click on the Create button. (Optional) Slack will next display a screen that allows you to send channel invitations to current workspace members and user groups. Slack displays a pane like the one you see below. If you want to invite others, then do so. Then click on the green Done button when you’re finished. If not, then click on the white Skip for now button. You can always add new members later. After creating the new channel, Slack assigns a hashtag (#) to precede it. What’s more, Slack automatically adds you to the channel although you can easily leave it. It’s best to be consistent when naming your channels. For example, say that channels containing helpful information at your organization start with #tips_, such as in #tips_slack. To create a private channel, simply follow these with the exception of step number four: You’ll want to move the “Private toggle” to the right. It will then turn green. Beyond this, private channels operate in much the same way as their public brethren. Note, however, that Slack assigns private channels special icon. The following table shows the icons associated with different types of channels. Slack Channel Icons and Descriptions Type of Channel Icon Position Icon Description Public (regular) Left Hashtag or number sign Private (regular) Left Padlock Multi-workspace Right Overlapping rings or circles Shared Right Overlapping diamonds Note that, depending on your type of channel, you may see more than one icon. That is, if you create a public shared channel, then you would see two icons: a padlock icon on the left and overlapping rings on the right. If you’re comfortable with the programming language Python, then can you write scripts that automatically create as many channels as you like. That is, you need not create a bunch of channels individually. Say that you routinely need to create the same set of channels. This method can save you a great deal of time. Tips for building an intelligent Slack channel structure Slack won’t prevent you from misnaming channels or entering inaccurate descriptions of the purposes that you want them to serve. As a result, you’ll want to put some thought into how you structure channels in your workspace — and coach others to do the same. To this end, here’s some advice. Regardless of the type of Slack channel that you create, each one should serve a different purpose. That’s the whole point of channels. Trying to shoehorn every type of workplace message, question, poll, or announcement into a single channel or two just doesn’t make sense. And forget cost, if that’s what you’re thinking; Slack charges by the user, not by the channel. Defining each Slack channel’s purpose The way in which you structure your Slack channels hinges upon many factors. Perhaps most important is the types of communication that take place within your organization. Think about what each channel’s purpose will be. Large organizations typically create channels for #hr, #finance, #it, #development, and #marketing — and maybe multiple channels for each function. Others have created an #ask_the_ceo channel that apes Reddit’s famous ask-me-anything (AMA) feature. An Italian restaurant won’t use this structure. Unless you work in education, you’re not likely to create many #homework channels. Again, your channels will depend on your organization’s and employees’ specific communication and collaboration needs. A little forethought about how to structure the channels in your organization’s Slack workspace(s) will save you a good bit of time down the road. Beyond that, smart naming is less apt to confuse users — some of whom may not share your zeal for Slack. Constantly changing channel names and purposes is bound to wreak havoc throughout a firm. Be wary of Slack channel overload, especially for new users. They may become confused, post information in incorrect channels, and/or eventually stop using Slack altogether. Here are some additional tips for making more of Slack. Workspace Owners or Admins may want to create and promote a Slack channel dedicated to gathering all users’ request for new channels. Think of it as a meta-channel. Adding Slack channel prefixes If you’re thinking that adding dozens or even hundreds of channels can become hard to manage, you’re absolutely right. What’s more, if your colleagues create new channels willy-nilly, then your workspace’s channel structure will start to become confusing. It’s only a matter of time. Fortunately, Slack channel prefixes can help in this regard. At a high level, they serve as internal guidelines for naming channels and help organize workspaces — especially large ones. Slack provides a number of predefined prefixes, but you can create your own. By adding a set of standard prefixes such as help, team, news, tips, or class, workspace members can keep channel names descriptive and consistent throughout the organization. The number of available prefixes hinges on your Slack plan. Workspaces on the Free plan create a maximum of six. For organizations on premium plans, that number is 99. To add a new channel prefix, follow these steps: Click on the main menu. From the drop-down menu, select Settings & Administration and then Workspace Settings. Slack displays a sub-menu on the immediate right. Select Customize “workspace name.” Slack launches a new window or tab in your default web browser. Click on the tab on the far right labeled Channel Prefixes. You see Slack’s predefined prefixes along with descriptions of them. If you want to delete an existing prefix, just click on the X icon to its right. Click on the Add Prefix button at the bottom of the page. Slack launches a new window. Enter a prefix with a maximum of ten characters. Enter a description that informs workspace members of how to use it. Click on the green Save button. Slack now lists your new channel prefix with the rest of them. How to view basic Slack channel information To see an overview of a particular Slack channel, follow these steps: Click on the channel in the bottom half of the sidebar. Click on the circled-i icon. After doing this, Slack displays the channels’ Detail view, which are four icons in a new pane on the right-hand side: Add: Invite others to a channel. Find: Search for information in the channel. (You won’t find much material in a new channel, but that will change over time.) Call: Hold a call with channel members. More: Provides additional options to manage the channel. Underneath the set of icons are collapsible elements: About: Provides the channel’s current topic, description, creation date, and the name of the person who created it. Members: View existing members and easily invite more. Shortcuts: Create a channel-specific automation through Workflow Builder. Pinned Items: Pin a specific message to the top of the channel to maximize its visibility. Shared Files: Displays files that channel members have uploaded for others to view. You don’t need to scroll through dozens or hundreds of messages trying to find a file. Note that Slack displays a number to the right of each item. As a result, you can quickly begin the process of absorbing information about the channel. Put all of these items together and you get something similar to what you see below. New Slack channel members should review this information get a sense of what to expect from it. You don’t want to appear foolish in front of your new channel-mates.

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What is Slack?

Article / Updated 07-01-2020

Slack stands for Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge. This is what many in the business world call a backronym: a contrived acronym. To be sure, the business world has seen plenty of backronyms. In the case of Slack, though, the term happens to be entirely fitting. Slack is “where work happens.” This is the pithy answer — and the one that adorns the company’s website. The company’s lofty mission is “to make work life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.” Let’s cut the chase: Mission accomplished. At a high level, Slack is a relatively new and powerful application that allows people to work, communicate, and collaborate better — one that has become increasingly popular since its launch way back in August 2013. At its core, Slack brings people together to accomplish goals through what it now calls a workspace. (Slack used to call this a team.) The following image shows what one looks like. If you’re chomping at the bit and can’t wait any longer, take an online tour of Slack. Slack’s popularity has exploded since its early days. As such, you may think that the idea behind Slack required years of meticulous planning and deliberation. And you’d be wrong. If you’re curious about Slack’s origins, check out the nearby sidebar “A happy accident: Slack’s background and history.” You can also listen to a longer version of the Slack story from the mouth of CEO and co-founder Stewart Butterfield. In effect, Slack accidentally popularized — and some would argue even created — a new and colossal product category. This is no easy feat. International Data Corp labels this category the team collaborative applications market. The research firm estimates that worldwide spending on collaboration software is currently $16.5 billion and will eventually reach more than $26.6 billion by 2023. Slack is a nicely packaged set integrated collaboration tools. In the interest of full disclosure, what other software vendors previously released is somewhat comparable. What does Slack do? When used correctly, Slack helps individuals, groups, and even entire organizations solve these grave workplace problems. In other words, Slack offers a number of benefits to both employers and their employees. Employer benefits of Slack No doubt Slack’s customers realize significant benefits from using it. Fair enough, but what are those perks? There’s a world of difference between theory and practice. Sure, each of the benefits you find below is possible. That doesn’t mean, though, that any them is guaranteed to occur — never mind all of them. Build a permanent, comprehensive, and searchable organizational knowledge repository Consider the following questions: How much rich institutional knowledge lives in your inbox? How many messages detail key, job-related interactions and decisions? How much information about organizational processes is in your head and not formally documented anywhere else? Think about these questions for a moment. Now, consider what happens to those key insights if you left your company. At best, they’ll remain dormant. At worst, an IT administrator deletes them forever. And the knowledge that’s locked in your head? Gone forever. Slack solves this problem far better than any email inbox does — only if employees use it, of course. Slack effectively retains an indefinite record of these valuable files, decisions, and conversations. Employees simply search Slack. Enhance employee productivity with Slack Slack allows employees to spend less time sending mass emails and trying to locate key documents. Where is that damn TPS report? If you accept this premise, then it stands to reason that employees will waste less time and be more productive. Have you met a single manager, company president, or CEO who didn’t want her employees to be more efficient and more effective while on the clock? Slack helps employees do this in spades. Improve employee corporate communication and collaboration with Slack Consider organizations that rely predominantly or — heaven forbid — exclusively on in-person meetings and email back-and-forth. With rare exception, they tend to do poorly in these regards. Along with Google Docs, Dropbox, Zoom, and others, Slack is part of a new breed of tools that obviates the need for many meetings, email messages, and other old-school ways of communicating that often fail. Facilitate remote work with Slack Remote work is growing in popularity with no end in sight, In October 2019, the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank found that the share of Americans who primarily work from home has risen in recent decades. A few numbers stand out: In 1980, a mere 0.7 percent of full-time employees worked primarily from home. By 2017, that number had risen to 3 percent. Seven percent of full-time workers telecommuted four days or more per month. Check out the research for yourself. Of course, you need not be an economist to know that, over the last 20 years, the idea of working from home has gained significant traction. Few have ever heard the term digital nomad in the 1990s. Then again, smartphones, powerful broadband connections, and contemporary cloud computing didn’t exist. Increase employee job satisfaction with Slack Slack lets employees work effectively from home. As a result, everyone concerned can reap its rewards. Consider a 2013 study by the University of Melbourne and the New Zealand Work Research Institute. The two organizations discovered that employees who work at home one to three days a week are more productive than employees who need to slog into the office every day. In 2013, Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom published a paper detailing his own findings. He found that working from home boosted employee output by 13 percent. Beyond this study, there’s no shortage of other research that has correlated remote work with higher employee job satisfaction. For example, recently Owl Labs — a video-conferencing company — released its 2019 State of Remote Work report. It confirmed that remote workers are happier and stay in jobs longer. For years now, remote work has been growing in popularity. What’s more, it confers just about everyone benefits from it. Against this backdrop, you’d think that most organizations would be prepared it. And you’d be spectacularly wrong. (If you’re wondering why, see the nearby sidebar “Not remotely prepared for remote work.”) Maybe you’re furrowing your brow at this point. Allowing employees to work remotely does not necessitate using Slack. That’s true, but what about being able to effectively work outside of the office? Put differently, how can employees be productive if they lack the right tools? Slack is particularly effective in this regard. Its powerful functionality facilitates distributed workplaces. Think about multi-user videoconferencing and screensharing, instant messaging, the ability to post meaningful status updates and availability windows, and real-time file collaboration. By providing these rich features, Slack makes it easy to accomplish things while outside of the office. Allow employees to begin their jobs with less training Slack functions in a similar way to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other popular social networks. (For example, if you use any of those social media sites, you’ll immediately grasp what the @ and # symbols do.) As such, employees won’t require days or weeks of expensive, time-consuming training to get going. (The learning curve isn’t steep.) You don’t need to fear costly training outlays. Effectively using Slack does not require sending employees away for days at a time. Increase organizational transparency with Slack In recent years, many organizations have become more transparent with their workforces. The benefits in this vein can be significant. Consider 2019 research from JUST Capital. The nonprofit reviewed data from nearly 900 publicly traded U.S. companies. JUST assessed transparency and return on equity (ROE) on nine worker issues. On all but one of them, being more transparent with employees resulted in ROE boosts of anywhere between 1.2 to 3 percent. For legal, ethical, and business reasons, few employers have embraced radical transparency. Make no mistake, though: Just being a tad more forthright with employees often improves employee perceptions of their firms’ culture and their management. Sure, workers may not agree with a particular outcome or trend, but at least they’re more likely to understand it. Slack helps organizations communicate more transparently with their workforces. Compared to mass email blasts, the application does a far better job of allowing management to share information with rank-and-file employees, gather responses, and gauge them. For their part, workers can easily discuss topics and make decisions out in the open. Just as critically, Slack can publicly or privately capture why people make decisions. Organizations need not use Slack to be transparent with their workers. Using Slack just makes doing so really easy. Help companies attract and retain top talent with Slack Since its launch, Slack has developed a well-deserved reputation as a cool tool among many employees, especially those with hot skills. To this end, savvy recruiters sometimes play up the Slack angle when trying to lure candidates from white-hot fields, such as data science and software development. No, by itself, the fact that Company X uses Slack won’t get an applicant to take a 30-percent pay cut from a previous job or endure two-hour daily commutes. Still, positioned properly, Slack can serve as a signal to coveted candidates that Company X is a chic place to work. In turn, they may be more inclined to sign their offer letters. Lessen voluntary employee turnover Workers quit jobs for all sorts of personal and professional reasons. You probably know someone who was very content in her station. Maybe she even worked in her dream job. Still, her employer went bankrupt. As a result, she found herself filling out job applications online. Don’t get it wrong: Using Slack at work isn’t going to make you love the job from hell. For example, what if you despise your boss and coworkers and make a fraction of what you think you should? Using Slack won’t change your mind. You would be hard pressed to find an academic study that controls for every conceivable factor driving employee satisfaction and retention. All else being equal, though, the following statement applies: Organizations that effectively use powerful collaboration tools such as Slack overwhelm their employees less. It stands to reason, then, that these employers are better able to retain valuable employees. It’s not hard to envision lower recruiting costs, a more stable workforce, and a better culture resulting as well. Easily train employees and diagnose issues Slack’s one-to-many screensharing functionality is ideal for holding small internal webinars, conducting formal training sessions, and more. On an individual level, this feature helps IT personnel to diagnose technical issues. Employee benefits of Slack What if Slack only benefited employers? That is, imagine if Slack saved organizations money and allowed them to grind more productivity out of their employees. It would still be a valuable tool, but you might justifiably be suspicious. Maybe you think that it would do nothing for you as an employee. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Slack benefits employees just as much as — if not more than — employers in a number of key ways. To the extent that you still a skosh skeptical, though, the following information provides a sneak preview of how Slack can change how you work — for the better. Tame the email beast with Slack How many emails do you receive during a normal business day? It varies, of course. In 2015 study from Digital Marketing Ramblings, the average office employee received 121. That number is downright unmanageable. Market research company Harris Insights & Analytics found that workers can handle a maximum of 50 per day. Yeah, but each one of those emails really matters, right? How many company-wide missives, at best, only tangentially apply to you? Slack’s channel functionality allows you to receive only messages that you want when you want them. Think about that the next time that you’re playing whack-a-mole with your inbox. By using Slack channels, you’ll reduce your dependence on email — especially from your colleagues. You may even attain the vaunted Inbox Zero: This rigorous approach to email management endeavors to keep employee inboxes empty — or almost empty — at all times. Slack goes way beyond minimizing the sheer number of emails that employees receive, though. Provide a common view on a topic or within a department Slack channels allow groups, departments, teams, and even entire firms to get easily on the same page and stay in sync. In this way, Slack promotes real group and organizational alignment. Employee inboxes provide only individual views of what’s going on. Channels make it easier for groups to row in the same direction. Management consultants refer to this elusive state as alignment. Realize the benefits of contained discussions with Slack Slack channels allow employees to hold and contain discussions in clearly defined buckets. When you don’t need to spend a few seconds deciphering each message’s context, you reduce your cognitive load. That’s just a fancy way of saying that Slack quickly provides key information about each message. More easily reach consensus with Slack Polls allow employees to vote and more easily reach key decisions. It’s remarkably simple to take the temperature of a room, department, or division. Slack users can invoke polling functionality by installing any number of third-party apps. Quickly find what you need The knowledge repository that Slack allows organizations to build doesn’t just benefit your employer. Slack allows employees to quickly and easily find key messages, documents, and information. Let’s conservatively claim that you spend five minutes per day trying to find relevant messages and documents. That’s nearly 20 hours per year — minimum. Once you get the hang of searching in Slack, that number may well drop by 90 percent. Consolidate notifications with Slack In a typical workplace, you’ll find employees using a bunch of disparate applications on the job, such as Email A file storage and sharing tool, such as Box or Dropbox Text messages Social networks, such as Facebook and LinkedIn (often for work purposes) Homegrown company systems Reporting and data-visualization tools Popular enterprise systems Some type of instant-messaging tool, such Skype and Google Hangouts Productivity applications from Microsoft (Office) or Google (G Suite) Oh, and then there’s the telephone. After all, many companies still provide landlines for their employees. Yikes. Needless to say, there’s no shortage of applications that bug employees from all angles. No, Slack won’t obviate the need for proper spreadsheet, database, and word-processing programs. It won’t run payroll or send your CEO a P&L statement — at least not yet. At organizations that have embraced Slack, though, many if not most employee internal application alerts come from one single, easily controllable source: Slack. Reduce workplace-related stress Say that you receive fewer emails and more contextual messages. Even better, you spend less time trying to find things. Wouldn’t you experience less consternation at work? Get to know your colleagues with Slack One of the main paradoxes of the constantly connected workplace is that employees rarely get to know many of their colleagues. For this reason, companies such as Google, Facebook, and Zappos encourage their employees to interact with each other by offering free meals and holding after-hours social gatherings. By encouraging friendly interactions, Slack provides the same benefit. Perhaps you and a random coworker belong to the same slack channel. Based on your online discussions, you may decide to grab a cup of coffee or videochat for a few minutes. There’s even a third-party app for forging connections with colleagues and helping new hires get acclimated to their new environs. If this sounds appealing, check out the Slack Donut app. Smooth the acclimation process for new hires with Slack Think about the last time that you started a new job. Consider the following questions: Did the HR folks or your boss inundate you with lengthy emails from day one? Did that onslaught of information result in your missing a key deadline or incorrectly filling out a form? Did you soon feel overwhelmed? With Slack, companies don’t need to pepper their new hires with myriad emails and attachments. This approach can overwhelm them. Thanks to Slack, they can simply find relevant information in appropriate channels and digest it at their own pace. They can also easily set reminders within the app, minimizing the chance of forgetting to complete a key task. Speaking of adjusting to a new environment, since Slack is so popular, employees can frequently hit the ground running. That is, they may understand how Slack works even though many firms use it differently. The result: Many new hires will need to learn one fewer new application when they start. Slack has all the bells and whistles for both employers and employees.

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A Beginner’s Guide to the Slack Workspace

Article / Updated 06-16-2020

Let’s go old school for a moment and forget about contemporary technology to get a feel for how Slack helps enable your collaborative efforts. Imagine a world without computers, smartphones, apps, and even the Internet. Think about a massive brick-and-mortar town hall meeting. Everyone can gather around for a group announcement. Most of the real action, however, takes place in an informal, decentralized manner. Attendees break out into different groups based on their interests. They engage in wildly different, meaningful, and focused discussions on the issues that resonate with them most. Everyone shares ideas and opinions. They offer meaningful solutions to problems. They reach agreement on key town issues. They vote to break deadlocks. Even better, someone in each group takes copious notes and meticulously files them. As a result, anyone can look up who said what when and why. This context is critical. This town hall meeting is a decidedly low-tech version of Slack’s starting point: the workspace. Formerly called a team, it is a cohesive amalgam of different technologies and communication tools, including: Channels (think chat rooms) Individual and group instant messaging Powerful search capability Screensharing (for customers on premium plans) Video calling And many others What if you put all the ingredients above in a large pot and started cooking? You’d wind up with a scrumptious technological bouillabaisse called a workspace. Customers on Slack’s Enterprise Grid plan need to know about the organization. This entity sits above an individual workspace; it serves as a meta-container. Think of a workspace is one big container of channels. In this vein, an org comprises all of the other containers. Of course, if your employer does not pay for Enterprise Grid, then pretend that the idea of an org doesn’t exist because it doesn’t. How to create a new Slack workspace Start here to create a Slack workspace. You can create as many workspaces as you like but only one at a time. Depending on what you do and how your organization uses Slack, you may belong to a number of different workspaces. Follow these directions to create your Slack workspace: From Slack’s create page, enter your email address, and click on the Next button. Slack sends you a six-digit confirmation code. Don’t close this browser window or tab. You need that code in the next step. Retrieve that code from your email and enter it on the page from Step 1. Enter the name of your organization or team and press Enter or click on the Next button. Enter the name or purpose of your workspace’s project and press Enter or click on the Next button. Slack creates a workspace with this name as well as the #random and #general channels. (Optional) Enter the email addresses of people you want to invite to this workspace. You can also copy an invite link to email to anyone you like. Of course, you can skip this step and always add workspace members at a later date. Slack has now created your workspace. Click on the See Your Channel in Slack button. Slack launches the workspace in a new browser tab or window. By default, Slack places your cursor in the new channel within the workspace. Click on the Finish Signing Up button. Enter your full name and a strong password. Then click on the Next button. Name your workspace. The value in this field defaults from Step 3, but you can rename it here. You can also change the first part of your workspace’s URL as long as it’s available. Ultimately, your workspace URL will look like this: https://[workspacename].slack.com URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. Think of it as a web address. Press Enter or the click on Next button. (Optional) Add others’ email addresses or copy a link to share with them via text, email, or any other communication tool or app. You can also let anyone whose email address shares your domain sign up for the app. If you invite others here, you see a confirmation page. Click on the Start the Conversation button. You see your new Slack workspace. You can start communicating and collaborating with others in Slack. If your organization has purchased Slack’s Enterprise Grid plan, then it may follow a different process. That is, only Workspace Owners and Admins may be allowed to follow the preceding steps. If you create several workspaces and decide later that you want to consolidate them, you can. How to sign in to an existing Slack workspace Slack gives users two options when they want to log into an existing workspace: Requesting and receiving an email invitation DIY Requesting and receiving an email invitation to Slack Contact the person or department responsible and ask for an email invitation. After a Workspace Owner or Admin adds you to the workspace, you will receive an invitation. Sign up by clicking on the Join Now button in the email. Doing it yourself The Workspace Owner or Admin at your organization may have enabled an open signup process. If this is the case, then you don’t need a person to invite you to the workspace. For example, consider the following hypothetical example. Marillion permits anyone with a valid @marillion.com email to sign up. As a result, employees don’t need to receive formal workspace invitations. Rather, they can just visit https://marillion.slack.com and sign up. What if I am a Marillion employee, though, but I don’t know the URL of my company’s workspace? Slack’s got you covered. Go to Slack’s sign-in page and click on the Find your workspace link. You would choose the first option and Slack and enter, for example, [email protected] as the email address. Slack attempts to verify three things: The email address [email protected] does in fact exist. [email protected] can indeed access an existing workspace. https://marillion.slack.com is the URL of that workspace. (In fact, you can use same email address to join multiple workspaces, and Slack identifies them all.) Slack indicates as much in the browser. After Slack has verified all three of these facts, it then sends you an email that includes a unique link to the workspace. After clicking on it, you are able to do the following: Create a Slack account. Sign in to the existing Marillion workspace. Start communicating with Visit Slack's sign-in page to locate any existing workspaces already associated with your email address. How to Access your new Slack workspace After you create your new workspace, you can log in to it and use it. Brass tacks: Slack provides a slew of different ways to communicate and collaborate with your colleagues. After you set up a workspace, you can sign into it via the following methods: Any web browser Slack’s computer app A mobile app on your smartphone or tablet Apropos of nothing, in February 2018 Slack decommissioned its Apple Watch app. Signing in to Slack via a web browser You can’t do anything in Slack until you log into a workspace. In this sense, it’s a walled garden similar to Facebook. Here’s how you access your workspace via a web browser: Enter your workspace’s URL. For example, https://philsimon.slack.com/admin is an example of what a personal Slack workspace would look like. Yours will be different. Enter the email address. Enter your password. Click on the Sign in button As you’d expect, you can reset your password if you forgot it by clicking on the related link. Also, say that you forget the URL of your workspace. On the same page, simply type your email address. Slack sends a message containing all of the URLs for all the workspaces associated with that email address. Using the Slack desktop app If your desktop or laptop runs MacOS, Windows, or even Ubuntu/Linux, Slack’s got you covered. Download the Slack app and install it for your computer. In this way, Slack is just like any other contemporary computer program. Of course, the exact process will hinge on your computer’s specific operating system. Keep your workspace name, email address, and password handy, and you shouldn’t have any problems. Once you in to your workspace, you can start using Slack in earnest. Slack forces users to perform certain some functions and configure a few settings exclusively via a browser. Accessing Slack on mobile devices Slack wouldn’t be a very useful tool today if you could only use it on proper computers. After all, it’s not 1998. Fortunately, you can any install the Slack mobile app on just about any device running a contemporary version of iOS and Android. Just follow these steps: Go to the app store on your phone or tablet. Install Slack as you would Spotify, Facebook, or any other phone or tablet app. Log in with your credentials. Slack automatically synchronizes data across devices. For example, say that you post a message in the #announcements channel from your Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ phone while at the gym. You immediately see the same message in Slack on your laptop — provided, of course, that you’re connected to the Internet. Meeting Slackbot After you join a workspace, expect to meet Slackbot. Its purpose is to send you automatic tips about how to use the application. The image below displays one of these gentle reminders about how to get the most out of Slack. Introducing the Slack user interface Slack has created an intuitive and user-friendly application that you’ll love using. On a conceptual level, its user interface (UI) contains seven main design elements: Sidebar: Easily navigate Slack’s views for Threads, Mentions & Reactions, Drafts, Saved, Channels, People, Apps, and Files. Main workspace menu: Allows you to invoke valuable options and settings. Workspace switcher: Easily jump to different workspaces. Main navigation bar: Fixed bar for moving within a workspace, performing searches, and viewing history. Page header: Fixed header that always lets you know exactly where you are in Slack. Page: The main “work area” for the selected view. Detail view: Presents more information and options for each view. Regardless of how your employer’s plan and how it uses Slack, these elements exist in all workspaces. The folllowing image presents a conceptual overview of the Slack UI: This may look great in the abstract, but how does it translate to an actual Slack workspace? By way of overview, three useful Slack buttons always appear in its main navigation bar. As such, you can access them in all Slack views. Each of these buttons works like comparable features on your favorite web browser: Previous button (left arrow): Takes you to your previous screen. Next button (right arrow): If you clicked on Previous, then click here to go forward. History (clock): View your most recent locations. These buttons help you easily navigate Slack. Get used to them. The UI is contextual: Slack changes based upon the view that you have selected. That is, the view that Slack displays hinges upon what you selected in the sidebar. For example, if you click on People, then Slack shows you different features and elements than if you had selected Channels or Apps. Finally, if Slack has bolded one of these views, then you should eventually check it out because something new has taken place there. It’s essential to understand that Slack’s UI is contextual. Software companies can push updates and new features on a daily basis. No, users don’t expect Slack to completely revamp its UI every week. By the same token, though, it’s foolish to expect its current UI to remain unchanged for the next five years.

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Enhancing Slack with Third-Party Apps

Article / Updated 06-16-2020

At a high level, Slack apps perform different functions around communication, collaboration, automation, and more. If you have a chance, please take the time to explore them on your own. You can find all public apps in the Slack App Directory. Like many companies that have launched app stores, Slack vets each individual app before making it available to the public. The company wants to ensure that third-party apps adhere to its terms of service. More specifically, public apps should not Conflict with or break core Slack functionality Collect and distribute user data Send spam Violate a nation’s privacy laws Introduce malware To minimize frustration and reduce the time required to approve developers’ apps, Slack provides clear guidelines and extensive documentation. There’s no reason to go into detail here, but an important one concerns how frequently approved apps should send reminders and messages to workplace members. Overly talkative or salesy apps run the risk of irritating Slack customers and users — something that, for obvious reasons, Slack strives to avoid. Looking at the cost of Slack apps As for pricing, developers of most public apps let Slack members kick the tires for free — as long as their assigned roles allow them to install new apps. (Some apps are currently free for unlimited use.) Put differently, almost all developers offer at least a trial period or limited app functionality to encourage app usage and, ultimately, proper purchases. You may recognize this approach as the freemium business model because it has been prevalent for years. In fact, you’ve probably encountered it at some point in your life. To learn more about the freemium business model, check out Chris Anderson’s excellent book Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Hyperion). It’s unwise to buy every app under the sun, but don’t be afraid to pay for useful apps. It’s no secret that there are limitations in corporate budgets, but foolish is the firm that adopts a strict policy against paying for tools that help make employees more productive. The Slack App Directory Before you go about installing apps and using app, it helps to know a bit more about the ones that are currently available in the Slack App Directory. As you can see below, Slack offers no shortage of cool apps and useful ways to find them. Click on the green Get Essential Apps button to view the apps that Slack considers — wait for it — essential. If you’re anxious to get started, then knock yourself out. Poke around until your heart’s content. For those of you who want a more formal introduction to the Slack App Directory, fear not. Slack conducts a brief review of all apps before placing them in its App Directory. The company neither sanctions nor certifies individual apps, though. Caveat emptor. Third-party apps take the core Slack application in interesting directions, but Slack itself doesn’t directly support them. What’s more, Slack takes no legal responsibility for their actions if things break bad. Should you encounter a problem with an external app, your only recourse is to contact the developer or company directly. In this way, Slack works the same way as any mainstream app store. A Brief Tour of Some Popular Slack Apps Here, you find some of the most popular Slack apps. Some apps are über-useful by themselves. Others, however, serve as effective bridges to other applications and web services. These selections by no means represent a comprehensive list of all Slack apps. Some Slack polling apps Nuanced discussions in Slack are one thing, but what if you want to run quick polls within the application? Thanks to a few apps, there’s no need to send someone to a separate website. What’s more, you can view the results of the poll within specific channels. Simple Poll For quick one-question polls, Simple Poll is the way to go. This app also allows you to turn a message into a poll with one click. If you like, you can anonymize polls so that no one knows who voted for each option — including the member who created the poll. Note that the app limits your workspace responses to 100 per month under its free plan. Also note that Simple Poll is an example of an app that one person in a Slack workspace can install and everyone can then use. Slido It’s certainly useful to collect information via traditional single- or even multi-question polls. But what if you need a way to publicly filter on which questions to answer? For example, Heather Brunner is the CEO of WordPress hosting company WPEngine. Brunner holds a weekly one-hour all-hands meeting at the company’s headquarters in Austin, Texas. She wants to answer her employees’ most pressing questions. Fair enough, but how can she do so in the most transparent way possible? Slido is ideal for situations such as these. Unlike other polling apps, Slido allows for crowdsourced questions and upvoting à la Reddit. WPEngine employees vote for their choices directly in Slack and suggest new ones. The most popular queries automatically rise to the top. In this way, Slido operates much like Reddit’s upvoting feature. Survey Monkey For more involved requests requiring user input, you can use Survey Monkey. In other words, this app allows you to conduct far more in-depth, multi-question surveys. Polly Polly works similarly to Simple Poll, an app described earlier. File- and content-sharing apps for Slack Google Drive and Dropbox are two of the most popular third-party Slack apps. They make Slack users more productive. Google Drive Emailing attachments back and forth seems so 1999. As a result, many have opted to use Google Docs. The Google Drive app allows you to grant access to Google Sheets, Docs, and Slides directly in Slack. Once installed, you’ll receive notifications on new comments, files, and access requests on your Google Docs — and you never have to leave Slack. Emails about others’ comments go poof. Dropbox Slack’s Dropbox app allows members to preview files right within their Slack workspaces. They can also comment on files in Dropbox and view others’ comments in Slack. If you use Microsoft OneDrive and Box, you can install Slack apps for these file-sharing utilities by following their intuitive processes. Pocket What if someone posts an interesting article, video, and or podcast in Slack, and you would like to read it later? Pocket lets you save content to read or watch from your mobile device or computer, even if you’re offline (after you’ve synced it). Pocket for Slack helps you stay informed without creating a bunch of bookmarks in my browser. Scheduling apps for Slack Several apps make scheduling a breeze — and integrate tightly with Slack as well. Google Calendar Slack’s Google Calendar app is pretty useful. It allows users to do the following: Automatically sync their Slack statuses with their calendars Allow teammates to see their availability for meetings Receive and respond to event invites Receive notifications when an event is starting soon or when its details change Join Google Hangouts, Meet, or Zoom calls with a single click View a daily reminder of your upcoming events in your Google calendar within Slack. Doodle Bot Do you ever shake your head when you hear about people from different companies incessantly emailing each other to schedule a simple meeting? It’s downright ridiculous. You may not be able to access the calendars of your company’s partners, clients, vendors, or applications. If this is the case, then you’ll love Doodle. At a high level, it allows you to suggest meeting times for people — no matter where they are. The Doodle app allows you to effectively administer meeting requests within Slack. Message Scheduler By default, Slack sends messages as soon as you press Enter or Return in the message window. But what if you want to schedule your message for later? Message Scheduler allows you to send Slack messages in the future to any person or channel. Other apps provide nearly identical functionality. As you’ll quickly discover, app developers often independently land on the same opportunities and features. YouCanBook.me It’s no secret that many business users loathe inefficiency and maddening email chains in particular. For this reason, YouCanBook.me (YCBM) is a godsend. It lets others easily schedule meetings. That is, it obviates the need for a litany of “How about Wednesday at 11?” emails and responses. Simply set your available times and dates and direct people to your own YCBM page. People can book whatever slot they like, and everyone receives email confirmations. Even better, YCBM automatically creates appointments on the host’s calendar. No, YouCanBook.me doesn’t directly link to Slack at this time, but fret not: That’s where Zapier comes in. Currently, Zapier allows users to connect Slack with more than 1,500 apps — all without writing a single line of code. And yes, YouCanBook.me is one of those magic 1,500 apps. Once you’ve got your arms around Slack, consider revisiting Zapier. It is certainly useful software. To be fair, though, Zapier can be a little overwhelming at first — especially if you’re new to Slack. Baby steps. Productivity and project-management apps for Slack Used properly, those who only take advantage of Slack’s native functionality can be vastly more productive. Double that when you tie Slack to powerful productivity and project management tools such as Trello, Todoist, and Workast. Trello Google “Slack project management.” The search engine returns nearly 300,000 results. As much as business users love Slack, though, many don’t use it to directly manage meaty group projects. That’s not to say, though, that Slack can’t facilitate communication among members on those projects. It certainly does. For a few years now, Trello has been used to manage group projects.You can easily create task-specific cards. What’s more, you can assign those cards to students working on a different tasks of a database or a website-redesign project. The good news is that Trello plays nicely with Slack. Put simply, after installing the Trello Slack app, the two seamlessly send information back and forth and remain in sync. For example, if you want to attach Slack conversations to individual Trello cards, you can. As Trello writes it on its website, you can steer the ship from Slack with “no boating license required.” Boom! Todoist Trello works well for group projects, but what if you want to keep track of things that you — and you alone — need to do? Enter Todoist, the go-to productivity app for many. In Slack, after you install the app, you can add a simple item by invoking the /todoist command. The task will magically appear in the Todoist app on all of your devices. Workast Slack’s native reminders get the job done, but Workast can serve as a reminder app on steroids. With Kanban boards, custom tags, and templates, Workast is much more powerful than Slack’s native reminder functionality. You may decide that it’s worth paying for. IFTTT Slack applets If This Then That (IFTTT) is a free web-based service that allows users to create simple conditional statements (read: applets). (Up until 2016, IFTTT called them recipes.) Curently, you can connect more than 300 different apps and devices. Services include Amazon Alexa, Facebook, Twitter, and Fitbit. For example, what if you wanted to save every photo that you post on Instagram to your Dropbox account? Do you want to ask Alexa to find your lost smartphone? Would you like the day’s weather to magically appear in Google Calendar? Can you automate similar tasks with Slack? No, just wanted to tease you. Just kidding. The table below displays just a few of the creative ways that people have embraced automation and linked Slack to different services and applications. Cool IFTTT Slack Applets Description URL Add blog posts to the #general Slack channel ift.tt/sfd-1 Post whiteboard notes in Slack ift.tt/sfd-2 Gently remind employees that expenses are due at the end of the month ift.tt/sfd-3 Notify tech support employees of a new client issue; send incoming SMS help requests to your organization’s Slack #help channel ift.tt/sfd-4 IFTTT automates each of these tasks. Say adios to forgetting to post weekly channel reminders. Saving a few minutes here and there really adds up. How do you know if an applet ran? As the following image shows, IFTTT alerts you with notifications on your mobile device. Figure 10-3: IFTTT mobile-app notification. Discover more on how to build your own Slack applets with little technical knowhow. Video-calling apps for Slack Slack lets you share your screen with others and hold video calls. At some point you might think: Why would anyone need to go elsewhere? Two reasons: Numbers and existing software licenses for other tools. As of this writing, Slack limits the number of concurrent call and screen-sharing participants to 15 on premium plans. Slack eventually hopes to increase that number in the future. Until then, organizations that require larger numbers can purchase a Zoom license. Zoom is a popular video-calling and screen-sharing app that millions of people use — inside and outside of Slack. Depending on the Slack plan you choose, Zoom lets you simultaneously reach a maximum of 1,000 people. If Zoom doesn’t do it for you, then consider Cisco’s webEx, Fuze, Adobe Connect, or Skype for Business (Microsoft’s replacement for Lync). These tools enable webinars and screen-sharing. You can change Slack’s default calling app unless someone at your organization locks it down and prevents you from doing so. Email apps and integrations for Slack Email apps and integrations can be especially useful. They can quickly move conversations from email to where they probably should have been all along: Slack. Of course, no app forces people to use Slack. Customers on the premium plans can use this native Slack email integration at (bit.ly/email-sI) to do a number of cool things. For example, say that you want Slack to automatically send customer-lead queries to a workspace #sales_leads channel? Slack handles these types of notifications via a special email addresses. You can probably think of many more valuable applications of this particular app. Slack for Outlook allows Outlook users to easily move conversations and their context to a Slack DM or channel of your choosing. Not to be outdone, Slack for Gmail does exactly what you’d expect. Miscellaneous Slack apps A few other apps are particularly useful but don’t fall into a single neat category. Zendesk Many organizations rely upon Zendesk to manage their internal and customer support issues. By tying it to Slack, IT folks become of issues much quicker. Of course, you can’t resolving them issues without reporting them first. Giphy Giphy serves as an example of how Slack’s app installation process differs a bit from app to app. In this case, Giphy asks you to select the gif ratings. You can restrict this to G or PG (just like movie ratings). By doing so, you prohibit people from posting naughty gifs that are not safe for work — or NSFW, as the kids say. Guru With so many different messages flying around Slack, it can be difficult to locate accurate, current, and official information. Enter Guru. The app allows users to capture, aggregate, and categorize institutional knowledge by creating cards. Think of Guru as an easy way to manage and communicate the most important knowledge at your organization. Donut Whether you work remotely or in an office, you may not know many of your colleagues. Maybe you’re an introvert and value your solitude. If you want to meet your peers, though, Donut encourages employees to interact with each other in person or remotely. Want to learn more? Check out these ten great Slack tips.

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Getting Help with Slack: The Top 10 or So Slack Resources

Article / Updated 06-16-2020

Ideally, you’ll already be discovering a lot about Slack after you first begin to use the application. Hopefully, your head is spinning — in a good way. That is, you are thinking about innovative and interesting ways to use Slack at work and maybe even at home. Still, it’s difficult to learn every feature of a robust and dynamic collaboration and communication tool — especially one like Slack that consistently releases exciting new features. To that end, this article offers resources for you to expand your knowledge of Slack, stay abreast of new developments, and deal with issues as they arise. It’s folly to think that they never will. Slack online support From time to time, you’ll need to open a case with Slack support. Perhaps you’re experiencing a technical issue, or you’re not sure about how something works. There aren’t too many people who enjoy the back-and-forth with tech support folks, but at least Slack makes getting help easy. Contacting Slack This is where you start if you want to report a bug or chat with a Slack support rep. Browsing the Slack support site The Slack support site is clean, intelligently laid out, and remarkably robust. Opening cases or making suggestions within the Slack app Start a message to anyone or in any channel by typing the following in Slack /feedback This invokes special functionality designed to quickly contact Slack support within the app. You can submit feedback to Slack by sending a message in a channel or group message as well. Your message goes to Slack, not the others in your channel or user group. Just remember to start your message with /feedback. Only members of the Enterprise Grid plan qualify for real-time phone support. If you’d like to learn some more ways to save time and do cool things, head to Slack’s tip page. Here’s also ten great Slack tips to get you started. Submitting Slack feature requests You can certainly use /feedback to report bugs or ask questions in Slack. This feedback ultimately makes Slack better. Perhaps the defining characteristic of contemporary technology platforms is that the number of people using it improves its utility for everyone else. Slack is no exception here. If you thought of a way to make Slack better in some way, then the company wants to hear it. Simply start a message with /feedback and detail your suggestion. Other online Slack resources Unfortunately, if you’re looking for additional help with Slack, you’re confined to the limited resources that have already been covered. It turns out that there’s really nowhere else to go. Just kidding. Official Slack resources Each of the resources you find here falls under Slack’s corporate umbrella. That is, Slack sanctions them. Slack App Directory: To be sure, Slack’s native functionality by itself helps employees be more productive. Power users understand, though, that you can do a great deal more by taking advantage of others’ complementary creations. The Slack App Directory lists the most popular and newest ways to extend Slack. Slack webinars: Slack offers many live and on-demand webinars. Each delves deeper into topics such as security, shared channels, and administrative controls. Slack’s official blog: Several People Are Typing is the name of Slack’s blog. Here you can read articles, case studies, product announcements, and other goodies designed to help you get the most out of Slack. Slack’s official YouTube channel: Slack publishes a slew of informative videos, customer-success stories, and conference highlights here. Slack on Twitter: Follow this account for product announcements, blog posts, and general news. Slack Status on Twitter: Slack uses this account to appraise customers of network outages and other technical problems. Note that tweeting at @slackstatus does not open a support ticket. You’ll need to use an alternate method described in this article. Slack Champion Network: This Slack workspace allows you to connect and interact with other Slack “champions.” The focus here is on large organizations. Here you can discover best practices for launching and driving the adoption of Slack. Slack Platform Community: If you like to build things and are interested in the future of work, then this is the place for you. Chapters are popping up all over the world. Unofficial Slack resources The following independent resources lie outside Slack’s corporate umbrella. This doesn’t mean that they’re not helpful. Far from it. It just means that they operate independent of Slack. LinkedIn groups: From Slack fans to bot developers, there’s no shortage of specific LinkedIn groups devoted to using Slack and improving it. Feel free to poke around. More spring up all the time. Online training: You can find a variety of Slack-specific courses on sites such as Udemy, Lynda, Coursera, and YouTube. Reddit for Slack: If you’re looking for vibrant discussions, you could do much worse than going to r/Slack. Note that redditors can be a feisty bunch if you violate a Reddit norms. Make sure to read the rules for each subreddit. Existing Slack workspaces: Depending on your interests, you can find many existing private social networks and collaboration spaces. You may want to connect and interact with fellow marketers, HR folks, entrepreneurs, musicians, fathers, or even Star Wars Slack developer resources Here are a few technical resources if you’d like to learn more about building your own Slack apps: Head over to slack.com to find oodles of developer documentation looking to build your own apps. You’ll find information on all of Slack’s APIs. Slack runs a rich blog specifically for developers. Find technical announcements, tips, discussions, and more. Slack’s newly enhanced Block Kit allows developers to expedite the process of creating Slack powerful apps. It offers app templates, a message builder, and other neat features. In-person resources for Slack The world of work has significantly changed since the Mad Men days. People perform plenty of tasks electronically that used to require a physical presence. Although you can learn just about anything you like over the Internet these days, sometimes you benefit going old school. Yes, this actually means attending an event in a physical building. Thankfully, Slack and its community offer plenty of options here. Slack conferences Slack holds its own conferences and makes its presence felt at industry-wide galas. The following describes how to meet Slack folks in person. Frontiers Slack’s annual Frontiers conferences feature oodles of breakout sessions from everyday users and proper developers. You can learn how employees in different industries are using Slack. If you’re technically inclined, you can learn how to build your own Slack apps. Spec Spec brings together Slack’s global community of developers, partners, and customers. The conference features sessions tailored for people who Already create custom integrations for their organizations. Want to know more about extending what Slack can do. Build their entire businesses on Slack. It’s no understatement to say loads of smart cookies are developing cool apps for Slack. The energy at Spec is downright infectious. Miscellaneous tech conferences Like many software vendors, Slack often rents booths at popular tech events. These conferences typically take place in large cities, such as Tokyo and London. Check out a current list of the Slack's official events. Slack Meetups Over the years, millions of people have attended Meetups all across the globe. Meetups are informal get-togethers for just about every conceivable interest: politics, tennis, book clubs, hiking — you name it. If you want to meet fellow Slack users in Paris, New York, or wherever, then this is just the ticket for you. In-person Slack training If you want to hold your own Slack training event, have at it. This link provides information if you want to develop a private training class for your company. Creating your own custom course and training materials is easier said than done. You may lack the time or sufficient expertise with Slack. If you want an experienced trainer to help employees at your organization get the most out of Slack, reach out to Phil Simon directly, the author of Slack For Dummies.

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How to Create a Slack User Group

Article / Updated 06-15-2020

Although optional, user groups serve a number of valuable purposes in Slack. First, Workspace Owners and Admins can use them to add members to different public and private Slack channels en masse. Techies usually need to see different information than accountants do. In higher education, nontenured professors usually don’t need to view messages meant for their tenure-track brethren. Second, Slack’s user groups make it easy to alert a subset of members within a single channel or group DM. Slack reserves user groups for premium plans, and they exist within a workspace. You can’t share them across different ones. To create one, follow these steps: Click on the People view in the top half of the sidebar. Click on New User Group at the top of the screen. Slack displays a prompt window. Enter a name for the user group. The handle cannot match that of another user group. Spaces are fine here. Enter a handle for the user group. The handle cannot match that of a current workspace member, channel, or other user group. You need to use all lowercase letters without spaces. (Optional) Enter a purpose for the user group. (Optional) Enter the new channels to which Slack will add members of this user group. Type a few letters of the channel name and Slack auto-populates it. Click on the green Next button. Search by name and add workspace members to your user group. Type a few letters of the person’s name and Slack auto-populates it. Click on the green Create Group button. Note that adding channels to user groups is cumulative. As a simple example, at puppet maker Sanitarium, all employees join five public channels by default. Chief Information Officer (CIO) Lars creates a new user group @IT with three default channels: Two new public IT-related channels One private Slack channel Once Lars finishes completing Step 9, all @IT members belong to eight channels. At this time, Slack doesn’t allow you to send a DM to a user group. To circumvent this limitation, you can do one of the following: Create a group DM with each member of the user group. Create a private Slack channel and invite the user group to it, which will add all members at once. Irrespective of your role, Slack does not let you add guests to user groups. Mentioning a user group in a Slack channel still allows all members in that channel to view that message. If you need to restrict a message to the members of a user group, send a group DM or just create a separate private channel for those folks. Want to learn more? Try these ten great Slack tips.

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How to Manage Slack Notifications

Article / Updated 06-15-2020

At a high level, Slack notifications call attention to all the things in a workspace that interest you. To be fair, that’s a potentially a big bucket. More specifically, you can set you Slack notifications when any or all of the following events take place: Someone sends you a DM Someone mentions you in a channel by using @username Someone mentions @everyone in a channel Someone uses one of your keywords Slackbot reminds you to do something Of course, you can tweak each of these settings. That is, when each of these five things happen, Slack doesn’t have to notify you. Slack gives users unparalleled ability to control the application’s alerts. Managing Slack notifications When you first install Slack and join a workspace, out-of-the-box Slack notifies you only when someone send you a DM or mentions you in a channel by using your username. By default, any unread workspace activity will cause Slack to display an indicator or what Slack and other apps these days term a badge. The two types of Slack’s badges are Dot: Signifies general unread activity in one of your Slack workspaces. Number in a red circle: Someone has done one of the following: Sent you a direct message Mentioned you or notified a pubic channel to which you belong Used one of your keywords in a pubic channel to which you belong The following image displays a Slack workspace with badges and unread activity. If you belong to multiple workspaces, then you may be worried about missing messages in one while working in the other. Don’t be. Slack displays a numerical badge to the left of the sidebar indicating that new activity has taken place in the other workspace. Note that the previous image displays Slack’s previous UI. That’s not to say that Slack will bother you if want to be left alone. You can easily pause workspace notifications at any point via Do Not Disturb (DND) mode. Reviewing the different types of Slack notifications In Slack, notifications represent an umbrella term covering a number of different types of alerts. At a high level, you can view the settings for your workspace notifications by following these steps: Click on the main menu. From the drop-down menu, click on Preferences. At the top of the screen, you see the word Notifications. By accessing this panel via a proper computer, you determine where all of the magic happens. Before going too far down the rabbit hole, remember this maxim: There’s no one correct or best way to enable each of Slack’s different notifications. Play around with them until you find a system that works for you. You want to balance receiving important alerts in a timely manner with keeping your sanity. Slack’s channel-specific notifications Say that you belong to a public or private channel but only want to check in it periodically. That is, you don’t need to receive regular notifications from a particular channel, but don’t want to leave it altogether. Fortunately, Slack provides two ways to control your notifications from a particular channel. Muting a Slack channel If you’d like to remain in a channel but don’t want to receive any notifications at all, then this feature is just the ticket for you. Muting a channel is a particularly valuable feature. To mute a channel in Slack, follow these steps: Click on the name of the channel that you want to mute. Slack displays a new pane on the right-hand side of the screen. Click on the More icon and Slack displays a number of options. Click on the Mute #[channel name] button. Set regular reminders to check in on muted channels. After you mute a channel, Slack grays it out in the sidebar and places it below the non-muted ones. That is, it will no longer be the color of the unmuted channels. Below, the #finance and #human_resources channels have been muted. Muting a channel is not the same as muting a conversation with a person. A workspace member can still send a DM or correspond with that person in another channel. This action only applies to the channel and its members. Say that you have muted a channel and someone mentions you in it. In this case, Slack displays a red badge in the channel. It’s a subtle way of reminding you to check the channel. At the same time, though, Slack doesn’t interrupt you with a notification. Setting Slack channel notifications Slack lets you customize which channel alerts you receive and, even better, the devices on which you receive them. To tweak your Slack channel notifications with a greater level of granularity than muting, follow these steps: In the bottom half of the sidebar, click on the name of the channel whose notification settings you’d like to change. Click on the Details button at the top right-hand corner of the screen. Slack displays a new pane on the right-hand side of the screen. Click on Notifications. From here, you can ignore additional mentions and tweak the channel’s notifications on your desktop and mobile device. For example, say that you don’t want to receive desktop notifications from a particular channel but you want receive @mentions on your mobile phone. If that’s the case, check the boxes like you see below. If you fail to enable notifications from the Slack app in your phone’s settings, then you won’t receive them. In a nutshell, you can configure Slack to send you different types of notifications from different channels on different devices. This is yet another example of how Slack leaves email in the dust. Fine, but what if you want to view all your channels’ notification settings in a single place? You don’t have to hunt and peck. Again, Slack has you covered: Click on the main menu. From the drop-down menu, click on Preferences. Click on Notifications and scroll down to the very bottom of the page. Click on the x next to a channel setting. Slack then resets the channel’s notifications to its default state. Keyword-specific notifications in Slack Keeping track of channel messages is one thing, but what if you want to follow a term or phrase across all channels? Setting up a keyword alert for every channel would be cumbersome. Slack couldn’t agree more. To enable these notifications, follow these directions: Click on the main menu. From the drop-down menu, click on Preferences. Click on Notifications and scroll down to my Keywords. Enter the keywords for which you want to receive alerts. Click on X in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Slack then displays a red badge in your channel list when someone uses one of your keywords in that specific channel. When someone uses this phrase in a public channel, Slack notifies that person. Note, however, that person won’t receive notifications when others use that term in private DMs and private channels. This alert would be a clear violation of Slack’s user privacy. Slack DMs from individuals and groups When a Slack user or group of users send you a DM, Slack sends you a notification. You can view unread messages underneath the channels. Missed calls in Slack What if a colleague calls you but you aren’t able to answer? In this case, Slack places a badge next to that person’s name in the sidebar. If a colleague calls a channel and you miss it, Slack bolds the channel name in the sidebar. You see a notification that you missed a call. DM reminders You can easily set DM reminders. For example, at 3:51 p.m. on Friday, Steve sends you a DM but you’re busy. You quickly set a reminder to see that message at 8:30 a.m. on Monday. At that point, Slackbot reminds you about his DM. Slack’s member join and leave messages If you work in at a big company, then you probably want to disable Slack notifications when members join and leave company-wide public channels. If so, then follow these steps: Click on the main menu. From the drop-down menu, select Settings & administration and then Workspace settings. Slack launches a new window or tab in your default browser. Scroll down to Join & Leave Messages and click on the white Expand button. Uncheck the box next to the words Show a message when people join or leave channels. Click on the Save button. Depending on your individual and workspace settings, Slack may still display notifications in certain cases. Examples include Small public channels Private channels When somebody accepts an invitation from a member of an existing private channel Carefully think about the notifications that you need to receive. Ideally, each one really matters. Threads and notifications in Slack There is a primary problem with email at work— specifically that all messages are equally important to all employees all the time. As you well know, nothing could be further from the truth; different things matter to different employees at different times. One size never fits all. Slack users can create threads that stitch together individual comments and questions into a cohesive entity. What’s more, you can follow or unfollow them at your leisure. If you’re keeping tabs on a thread, then Slack places a red badge next to Threads at the top of your workspace: Concurrently notifying multiple users in Slack You probably receive mass emails just about every day at your job. Maybe a few of these messages really do apply to you. As for the rest, you rightfully dismiss them as irrelevant. Mass email blasts may only mildly annoy you. Still, you likely tolerate them because they represent the only way to alert everyone in a department or company of an announcement or event. After all, generally speaking, it’s better to let too many people know than too few, right? Slack makes it easy to alert both workspace and channel members en masse. The following table provides some quick tips to get the attention of a bunch of people. By using these handles, you don’t need to look everyone up in the workspace and add them to a group DM — a major timesaver to be sure. What’s more, you don’t need to mercilessly pepper your colleagues with unrelated messages. Slack @-Symbol Notification Tricks Callout Purpose @here Notifies only active channel members @usergroup Notifies only the members of a particular user group @channel Notifies all members of a channel, active or not @everyone Notifies every person in the #general channel; as its name suggests, using this notifies everyone in the workspace Say that you use post a message in a channel with six or more members. What’s more, your message includes @channel or @everyone. By default, Slack asks you to confirm your message before you send it unless a Workspace Owner has already disabled this warning. In addition, keep the following pointers in mind: @channel does not work in a thread. If you want a bunch of people to see your response to a question, then post a link to the message in the desired channel. If you use one of the callouts provided in that table above in a thread, then a red badge appears in the sidebars of relevant members with one caveat: Depending on how individual members have configured their device notifications, they may not receive alerts. Remember that you can always call out a specific user by user name. For instance, if you type @ianmosley, then Slack shoots Ian a notification. Learn more information about Slack’s desktop notifications. Slack allows you to customize their sounds, appearance, and more. Want to learn more? Try out these ten great Slack tips.

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A Look at Slack Pricing: A Brief Tour of Slack's Plans

Article / Updated 06-12-2020

Slack offers a number of different plans to its customers. Slack’s pricing varies by plan and To state the obvious: the Free version of Slack is the least expensive one. Slack’s Free plan This starter plan allows organizations and their employees to try Slack gratis. The Free version lets you take advantage of a decent amount of Slack’s functionality, but members under this plan can view only a workspace’s most recent 10,000 messages. Older messages are inaccessible, even in search results. What’s more, Slack restricts workspaces to ten third-party apps. If you attempt to add an eleventh, you’ll receive this message: Workspaces on free subscriptions can only install 10 apps and your workspace has reached the limit. You can add [app name] if you upgrade your workspace or remove one of your existing apps. Slack’s Free version doesn’t entitle you to use all third-party apps for free in perpetuity; no version does. Apps don’t fall under Slack’s pricing model. They operate under different plans altogether. Slack does not impose a time limit on Free plans; they do not expire. When it comes to upgrade options, as of this writing these three exist: Standard plan Plus plan Enterprise Grid Slack’s Standard plan Slack markets its least expensive paid option, the Standard plan, to small and midsized businesses. To be fair, though, nothing prevents groups or departments at larger firms from going this route. Features under this premium plan include guest accounts, single sign-on, multi-workspace channels, and unlimited search. (If there are 257,123 messages in your workspace, then you can search them all.) Slack also throws in group calls, screen-sharing, and unlimited apps. For this plan, Slack charges $6.67 per person when billed yearly and slightly more per user on a monthly basis. Slack’s Plus plan Ideal for larger firms or those with advanced administration tools, Slack’s Plus plan includes all features of the Standard plan. It also sports a guarantee of at least 99.99 percent uptime, enhanced security, data-export functionality, customized message retention, higher user storage limits, and 24/7 email support. For this plan, Slack charges $12.50 per person when billed yearly and slightly more on a monthly basis. Yes, premium Slack plans lift the ten-app restriction. Don’t expect, however, to be able to use all third-party apps for free. Slack’s Enterprise Grid Enterprise Grid represents Slack’s newest, most robust, and priciest offering. The industrial-strength, all-you-can-eat plan is ideal for massive organizations that have gone all-in on Slack. Prominent customers include IBM, Target, and The New York Times. Enterprise Grid appeals to firms that require more granular security features, unlimited licenses, phone support, an insane 1 terabyte of storage per member, and other powerful features. Slack doesn’t list the price of Enterprise Grid plan on its website. Still, it’s fair to assume two things. First, the annual fee is considerable. Second, that cost varies based on the number of users in the firm. In reality, a 20,000-employee firm may ultimately save money by purchasing Enterprise Grid. Think about the total per-user monthly fees that it would incur by paying for the Slack Plus plan. People tend not to marry their spouses without having dated them first. Along the same lines, it’s typically wise to try one of Slack’s other premium plans before signing up for Enterprise Grid. Changing your Slack plan Slack allows its customers to easily upgrade and downgrade their plans. Upgrading your Slack plan To upgrade from one Slack plan to a more robust one, follow these steps: Click on the main menu. From the drop-down menu, select Settings & Administration and then Workspace Settings. Slack launches a window or tab in your default browser. Click on the rocket icon on the top right-hand corner of the page. Slack presents a pop-up menu with all options as well as a link to compare plans. Select your desired plan and follow the additional instructions. Slack walks you the upgrade process. Once you’re successful, you receive an email from Slack and a Slackbot message confirming your upgrade. Upgrading your organization’s Slack plan is a binary. That is, you can’t upgrade yourself to a premium plan while keeping the other members on the free plan. This arrangement makes sense because Slack is a team tool, not an individual one. Downgrading your Slack plan Your firm can downgrade its Slack plan. Depending on your new plan, it will Lose access to its certain Slack features. Use remaining Slack features to a more limited extent. Need to change channel access for existing guests. To downgrade, follow the same instructions provided above but select a “lesser” plan. There are more specific consequences of downgrading your Slack plan. Slack’s pricing structure What if Slack magically solved every conceivable workplace and employee issue, but cost $1 million per employee per year? (It doesn’t.) Even if Slack could wave its magic wand, few employers other would even consider it because its price would be prohibitive. Maybe professional sports teams could justify this cost. Luckily, Slack is remarkably affordable — something that appeals to cost-conscious organizations. Because of Slack’s robust functionality, the juice is more than worth the squeeze. Starting quickly with Slack Slack is one of many software vendors to embrace the freemium business model. As such, prospects can begin using Slack and many of its features within minutes and at no cost. Employees unlock additional goodies when their employers upgrade. Many participants in the business world have seen how executives actively resist new technologies. The reasons vary, but near the top of the list is a sometimes reasonable fear of being locked into long-term contracts and expensive consulting engagements. As your read these words, multiyear IT projects are alive and well. Again, Slack operates under a different model. Firms can get going almost instantly. Even better, Slack does not require long-term commitments; management can opt to renew the tool every month. What if, for whatever reason, Slack doesn’t take at your organization? After all, no software vendor bats 1.000. The financial harm is minimal, especially compared to traditional software purchases and implementations. Paying only for the Slack you use Slack has wisely adopted the SaaS model. Because of this decision, its clients can more efficiently allocate their capital. The rise of cloud computing means that organizations can run Slack without owning and maintaining any hardware themselves. This dynamic represents a sea change from 25 years ago. As a result, if only 50 employees at Speaker City need Slack’s premium features, then Slack bills the company for only 50 seats. Speaker City’s CIO wouldn’t need to purchase pricey servers and software, much less hire IT-support folks to keep the lights on. Popular alternatives to Slack exist — a few of which are open-source. It’s not entirely accurate to think of open-source tools as free, though. As the popular saying goes, think free speech, not free beer. Reviewing accounting considerations Those with accounting backgrounds should be able to differentiate between the following: Purchasing and deploying a SaaS tool, such as Slack Purchasing and deploying software in the mode prevalent 25 years ago Organizations generally treat Slack and its ilk as an operating expense (OPEX). that is, the business needs to spend this money to function now and on a daily basis. At the other end of the spectrum is a capital expense (CAPEX), one that businesses incur to realize a potential benefit in the future. Bean counters, company presidents, and chief financial officers (CFOs) generally prefer the flexibility and lower costs of OPEX to CAPEX.

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