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Is Anyone Interested in a Any a Real-Time AIX Forum Using Slack?

August 21, 2017

I recently started using Slack. It's a group messaging tool that seems to be making inroads at IBM. There's also a channel for IBM Champions, which is the one I joined. Despite my limited experience with Slack, I can see some interesting possibilities with it, which I'll get to at the end of this post.

So what is Slack? I'll let IBM's Chuck Calio explain it. Chuck created a presentation, and with his permission I'll share some details from the slides with you.

He starts by explaining some of the limitations of our current communication methods. While some of this is IBM-specific, I'm sure you can find it relatable:

•    Email: good for formal communications, overload from way too many, easy for discussions to fragment, key people often left out, responses often too slow.
•    Conference calls: good for education/intros, 1:1 sensitive calls, very limited active participation by the entire group
•    Connections/communities: share useful resources with extended team, forums for discussions, blogs, wikis [but] lack modern application integration.

Here's how Chuck defines Slack:

Slack is a next generation real time “collab app” aimed at businesses rather than individuals. It’s optimized for teams that will interact with each other around specialized topics (channels). Slack’s strength is around creating an open transparent collaborative “web” of many diverse people to accelerate global team collaboration and innovation around specialized topics.

The Benefits of Slack

Why is Slack different from what we have today? Here are six reasons:

1. Enables information transparency across large distributed global and diverse teams; drives, enhances collaboration and accelerates innovation (vs. private, individual chats and 1:1 learning).
2. Encourages people to collaborate around specific topics (channels), across big groups (teams), across business units (IBM, non-IBM).
3. Slack is optimized to work across multiple devices (PC, laptop, tablet, mobile).
4. Slack chats build up into a corpus of searchable deep knowledge and makes it easier for new team members to quickly come up to speed.
5. Support ecosystem of hundreds of modern applications, many deeply integrated.
6. Capability for bots integrated into Slack, built in analytics.

He further helps define a few concepts in Slack, starting with a team:

Groups of people (from two to tens of thousands) that share a common purpose or interest (teams) interact around specialized topics (channels). Typical activities include sharing content, asking questions, getting/giving help, generating or testing new ideas, etc.

Slack [allows users to create] an open, transparent, collaborative “web” of many diverse people to accelerate global team collaboration and innovation around specialized topics.

Individuals can/should be part of and contribute to multiple Slack teams and channels.

Slack works best if a large percentage of the team is actively engaged and contributing in channels.

Channels, according to Chuck, are "focused group discussions, messages, notifications and collaborations." They're organized by:

•    Topic (#openpower)
•    Purpose (eg, #sales-tv-ads)
•    Department
•    Announcements
•    Practices
•    Anything else you want

Here's his comment on threads:

With threads, you can branch off and have discussions around a particular message without having to skip to a different channel or a DM. Threads move conversations to your sidebar—where you can ask and answer questions, give feedback, or go off on an inspired tangent.

To use, click the "start a thread" button on any message.

Here's what he said about conducting "stand-up" meetings:

The beauty of doing stand-ups in Slack is that each person can post their status at any time, and it can be read asynchronously by everyone else. Our team’s rule is that you just need to post your status in the stand-up channel on Slack at some point in your day. It needs to be a meaningful update, not just “I’m doing work today.” Once a team member reads the other statuses, they can take action on it at that time. Pointing out blockers is especially helpful, so that other people can see what might affect their progress and think about how their work affects others.

And finally, some some hints and tips:

Communicate in public channels whenever possible. By keeping most of your conversations open to all team members. Benefits include:

•    Leverage the wisdom of the crowd.
•    Get answers and responses from SMEs faster.
•    Build a database of organizational knowledge with near zero effort.
•    Draws more of your team into Slack. (No one wants to miss out on critical conversations!)
•    Gain visibility into the latest happenings in your areas of interest.

If you remember irc (which is still a thing, by the way), I'd say Slack is a modernized version of that. It's new and shiny and seems easy enough to use.

A Public AIX Slack Channel?

Do you think setting up a public AIX Slack channel would be a good idea? I'm serious about this. Take a look at this tool and imagine a forum that provided real-time help and communication and collaboration for AIX users across your desktop and mobile device. Would you be interested in joining that group? Maybe something like this would quickly become too big to manage, but I find the idea very intriguing. So please, let me know what you think.

Posted August 21, 2017 | Permalink

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