I DevOps

and this is what I think about it

Having Efficient Slack Conversations

Slack is an amazing productivity tool for teams, however, new users sometimes Slack wrong.  Hopefully I can point out a few tips to make the transition to a Slack or other realtime IM tool a bit smoother

Get to the point

Someone (whom I’ve never met before) DM’d me in one of the large community Slack channels I’m in.  First and foremost, if you are going to cold message someone you don’t know, it is a good idea to be pretty descriptive in your first message.

This user just said “hey”.  While this is somewhat friendly, I feel almost as though I am about to enter a very dim and dismal tinder conversation that will lead to nothing but wasted time.  I respond with “Hi… can I help you with something?”, because I have no idea who this person is or what they want. It took about 5 exchanges to finally get to what they wanted… something that I immediately knew I could not help them with.

Get to the point! Talking over slack can be highly latent because users are multi tasking and might see your message and choose to finish whatever they were doing before responding.  This is awesome but it means that a traditional back-and-forth conversation is painfully slow unless all parties involved are focused on your conversation only.

This user should have opened this cold message with “Hey, I heard from X that you might be able to help me with Y.  Here’s a bit more detail about Y”.  This way I wouldn’t have to spend 40 minutes of back and forth to get the final “I need help with Y” from this user and I could get them my answer of “Nope, can’t help with that, but you can go to Z and do ABC”. Pack as much useful info into each slack message as possible. You can also break up your info into a few slack messages fired one after another so that the recipients aren’t waiting for you to type your all encompassing monologue

Be Focused

If your team is having an important conversation or meeting in a slack channel, you should probably give that meeting at least a little bit of real estate on your screen.  As soon as you push the slack window to the background, you have basically disconnected from the conversation.  In the physical world I would compare this to turning your back on the conversation.  I’m not saying that you have to have your eyes glued to the slack window whenever an important discussion is going on in your team, but you should at least be able to read each full message the instant it comes in.  (Notifications don’t do that, they just show you an excerpt)


Be Patient

Now this one is a bit contradictory to the previous.  If you are messaging a teammate who is in the zone, he or she may want to ignore your message for a short while before checking their slack window and seeing your message. Understand and respect the zone.  Ripping engineers from the zone is one of the easiest ways to make workplace enemies.  If it is a true emergency, like the product is on fire, then double or triple ping them to try to get their attention. But be patient if it is a small request and “I need a new server to do testing” is something that can normally wait a little while.


These are just a few of my Slack tips… I am not an expert in Slack so please feel free to correct me here. Lastly, the effectiveness of these tips may vary based on your teams environment and workflows