Using Slack & Replacing The Old Ways

I want to walk you through my setup process for Slack and how easy it has made aspects of my job a lot easier since I started using it. Some of what I put here will be based on the recent recommendation of fellow dev and blogger Tim Conkling, who already had some similar thoughts about tools for game development.

Slack is a tool that I was only aware of on my periphery -- seeing it in tech blog tweets and hearing it discussed in dev circles. I'm not a person easily swayed to change tools, so much so that I'll block out these conversations so I'm not tempted to make some big switch that'll cost me lots of setup time.

Not that Slack doesn't take time to get right, but it's really worth it once you do.

The best shorthand I can use to describe Slack is that it's a productivity app designed to connect everything you're probably already using and designed to replace things you probably don't need to use.

Got it?

I think I've read that it's an "efficiency app," but those are everywhere and don't really describe what it does but rather what it hopes to do. Here was my previous setup.

  • Pivotal Tracker for project management
  • Google Drive for shared design documents
  • Skype for visual communication with team members
  • MailChimp for mass mailings to our update list
  • TweetDeck for managing Twitter communication
  • Gmail business client for general communication between members
  • Dropbox for business to share project files on the fly
  • Unity for game development

This setup represents a bunch of (generally) disconnected tools that most team members use but use to different ends. There are connections between each that can be established, but this connection stops at notification when what I really want is integration.

Slack is great! You probably know that already, if you're a developer. If you're on a sales team, marketing team, or if you're a project manager, Slack is something you will open and probably never close once you're at work.

Once I got Slack and got my team members on board, that's when the integrations began. Here's my current setup:

  • Slack for almost everything
  • Unity for game development

See how easy that is? It's two things instead of eight things. This isn't to say that I never open the other applications, but my TweetDeck being constantly open has more to do with managing my @FloppyAdult account more than it does workflow.

I don't have to check everything else to know what's going on. It's all right inside Slack, because I set up those connections to existing services.

For the record, I stopped using Pivotal Tracker in lieu of Trello recently, which has less to do with Pivotal Tracker's integration possibilities with Slack than with the fact that Trello is simpler to use. That's another post, though. Trello is great.

Another upgrade Slack more or less forced me to make was the switch from Skype to do conference calls and meetings to Google Hangouts. Using Skype, I feel, is a matter of habit for most of us. Skype was the first major player on the block, so why not keep using it? Well, I'll tell you why. Video and sound are both stabler on Google Hangouts, settings are far easier to change, and your contacts list is right there. Slack integrates with Google Hangouts beautifully, so when you and a team member are just missing each other's point and tone (as often happens) in chat, just hop on a Hangout so you can gesticulate wildly and get your point across.

When you are in charge of basically everything like me, Slack is an amazing tool because you never need to switch modes from Developer to Marketing to Management -- the integrations to tools you're already using are there. So if I want updates on the latest MailChimp update campaign we ran or see realtime responses to @MinicoreStudios Twitter updates on the marketing side, that's in the same place my archived developer conversations are.

I'm just waiting for Unity integration of some kind and then you can just hard wire Slack into my brain.