Slack, a team-talk tool that Just Works

A clever colleague of mine, Jen, joined us last year as Comms Director and suggested that we use a team talk tool, for light comms and general infosharing, preferably something that can handle the trivial (my train's late) but also the serious (get the latest build).

We're a toys-and-games startup, working desperately hard, and fast, and the suggestion was welcome, so we set up Yammer. Despite a heroic effort on the part of most of the team, it didn't fly. It didn't feel useful, somehow, like a chore, and we drifted away from it. Later we tried a browser-based IRC too, but – same. Too many missing functions, or maybe it was just the interface. Hard to pinpoint.

We've been working on our internal comms – hard – and even though we're a small team of 15, it still been tough at times. Jen was right, we somehow needed something on top of/instead of email, Basecamp, drive, Skype. Then Slack launched. We'd known it was coming – disclaimer! Stewart Butterfield, Slack's creator, is an old pal – and who didn't love original Flickr? But I wasn't necessarily expecting to use it, given our previous tries.

SO WRONG! Slack happened, and happened fast. One team member jumped in and started using it: and it worked. Spread like wildfire in the company, with glee. And suddenly, everyone seemed to know 100% everything about everything. Team comms jackpot!

There is an easy way to set up a channel, for trivia and for all the important things too. You can choose to subscribe to a channel, or not. You can see work-in-progress in the activity panel, used in our case heavily by the art team. Channels log discussion, but are also fun – it's basically IRC – with emotes and emoji. Direct messaging is useful enough, good for little things that you don't want to add to people's inbox-overload with. It's got notifications, so it won't run silently in the background letting you miss things.

Our varied team comprises artists, engineers, a fashion designer, operations, manufacturing – some are based overseas in Finland, too. I asked our lead Game programmer what he could crit, and he thought for a while, then mentioned the notifications, and that there's maybe not enough granularity/obvious ways of tidying those yet…?

But that's it. Since using Slack, our team seem beautifully across all the daily, weekly and inter-teams crossover developments. In fact, the only person who isn't quite so up to date on the day-to-day is probably me, the roving CEO, and that's because I'm not on it enough. (My function suggestion would be a "Mark as Important" tag for daily logs of key activity.)

Slack, by Tiny Speck. Slack has emerged from the team behind Glitch, and previous to that, some of the team who created Flickr from Game Neverending. I love how Stewart and his teams repeatedly deliver fantastic pieces of software from game incarnations, and super-useful Slack has that essential, playful magic so desperately missing from its competition. Heartily recommended.