Slack

Facilitates communication and document sharing for teams.

Slack Screenshot

Slack Screenshot

Slack is a chat-based tool for team communication. The host sets up ‘rooms,’ or channels, that collect conversations around a certain theme. Team members can interact synchronously or asynchronously in the channels. They can also upload documents and other files that their teammates can access and comment on. Each team’s space is only accessible by people on that team, and it’s possible to create channels that are private to sub-groups of a team. Each team can have multiple channels, and a person can belong to multiple teams.

Scenario / Use Case
We run an online seminar at The Grove and use Slack as our communications tool in between class meetings. Each instance of the seminar gets its own Slack team, and participants use it to connect with their work partners, ask questions outside of meeting time, share links to resources they have found, and discuss issues related to the course content. They can drop in and visit Slack when it’s convenient for them. We also use it as a backchannel and emergency contact tool during class sessions in case anyone gets disconnected. All course documents are stored in Slack as well so they can be downloaded if needed.
Pros
  • Supports synchronous and asynchronous communication
  • Creates a shared ‘space’ for a distributed team
  • See at a glance who is in the space and who is not, like walking into a room and glancing around
  • Conversations are persistent and shared — you can revisit them later
  • Sign in from the desktop app, from your web browser, and/or from your mobile device
Cons
  • Discussions are not threaded within a channel, so it’s hard to reply to a specific comment
  • There is a threaded feature (snippets) but it seems to have been designed for sharing code (it has line numbers and a fixed-width font)
  • If notifications aren’t set correctly, people might miss activity if they quit the app and forget to check it
Groups It’s Good For
  • Distributed teams, especially those spread across time zones
  • Ongoing and established teams
  • Groups that come together for a short time for a project or purpose
Cost & Access Information
Slack is available at www.slack.com and is free for small teams; see website for pricing for additional features and larger teams.

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