Using Slack, more than three years on

Hard to believe, but it’s over three and a half years since I first wrote about how useful I found Slack, the organisational messaging application. I’m as enthusiastic about it as ever, and so was the wider market in June, when the company behind it went public at a valuation of over twenty billion dollars. This was daft, of course, but over 12 million people a day use the product worldwide, so I’m sure it’s here for the long haul.

Since I first wrote about Slack, Microsoft has launched a rival, Teams, which it claims has already passed Slack in user numbers. Whatever the case, collaboration software like this is now an important office application, and in the case of one organisation where I use it, I can’t see how the project would have worked otherwise. Slack has even made our local residents association more efficient!

What I think makes both Slack and Teams work is the ease with which you can start or pick up conversations on any device: desktop or mobile, Windows or Mac, Android or iOS. It really doesn’t matter. What’s more, in several of the Slack implementations I participate in, some of the members are the sort of people who’d never normally use a chat-type application – a formal email with a two-day wait for a reply was about the only way you could get a response from them. For some reason, Slack seems to appeal to everybody. Maybe it’s the way it brings together so many communication media into a single interface: email-style reference messages, document exchange, instant messaging, private individual or group messaging, video chat, voice chat, screen sharing and more. It’s allows the user to select the appropriate medium, something that’s been needed ever since all of these different ways of communicating were first introduced.

The smallest Slack groups in which I participate probably consist of 5-6 people, but I’ve heard of it being used for the messaging in a 2-person organisation. Instead of emailing each other, the participants switched to Slack, allowing more ‘real time’ messaging than email, as well as automatically putting chats into ‘channels’, which some people like for archiving.

If you’re still not using Slack or Teams at work, and indeed not using it anywhere, I’d recommend giving it a try – perhaps you’re part of a club or voluntary organisation that could take advantage of the improved communication possibilities on offer. A few people are ambivalent towards the concept, but many others find they don’t know how they lived without it.