Almost a year ago, I began using Slack by myself, having created a private team with a bunch of purpose-based channels. If you want to know more about how that experiment started, check out that post.
People ask me from time to time if I’m still using it, and the answer is a resounding “yes”. In fact, Slack continues to improve and offer great integrations with lots of other services, and it’s even easier than before to send information into a Slack channel from almost anywhere. It’s blossomed into an indispensable organizational tool that I spend a great deal of my day in, browsing, working, and pushing information into and out of the team.
The addition of Safari View Controller to the app has made a lot of these things I’m pulling in faster to access, and provided a more centered experience. I’ve refined my channels a little bit since I started, and added some new ones, centered around other topics of interest.
Here’s my current roster.
#alerts – high priority notifications, Google alerts I’ve set up for various things,1 and I watch a specific Dropbox folder for collaboration alerts, since they usually show up a few days late or not at all.
#blogposts – each time I post something, the link to that post is dropped into this channel. Mostly just a quick reference if someone asks for one.
#clipboard – multi-device snippets and pasteboard sync. Still love it and use it constantly.
#daily – this is a new thing I’m trying. I’ll explain in a minute.
#deliveries – I mostly just buy things on Amazon, so I don’t use this all that much, but I will occasionally throw a tracking number/link in here if I need to refer to it, eliminating the need for a dedicated app.
#ebay – if I’m searching for something, it pops up in here as it appears on eBay.
#edc – RSS entries on cool gadgets from everydaycarry.com. I have a problem with small tools, and this is how I indulge myself.
#home – I have some shared lists in Wunderlist with my wife, and I get the update notifications sent here.
#photo – I have a few different RSS feeds pointed here, with the simple goal of seeing nice things on a semi-regular basis. Currently, NASA’s photo of the day (via IFTTT), and Unsplash (love this site.)2
#pricedrops – alerts on app sales from MacStoriesDeals and AppShopper.3
#reading – this is my “read later” channel. I toss random links I plan to read here and come back to them whenever.
#rss – I keep a small collection of low-volume feeds that I want to ensure I read each day, so they don’t get lost in the din of other news and the RSS combing I do for work. Blogs by friends, and a few other sites I enjoy.
#snippets – a channel that just holds blocks of text, links, images, etc. I may use frequently or not so frequently. I don’t use this channel all that much, but I like that it’s here.
#starwars – a channel devoted to Star Wars news, articles, and general nerdery.
#town – alerts from the local police department about events, hazards, etc. Supremely–and surprisingly–useful.
#twitter – since effectively abandoning the network on which I used to set fire to piles of my personal time, I created a channel for a handful of accounts that I’d still like to see updates from, without subjecting myself to the misery funnel that Twitter’s become in many ways.4 I also get notified here if someone mentions me, or if certain search terms hit a match.
#video – think “read later” but for stuff you’d watch. YouTube links, etc.
#weather – forecasts and severe weather alerts.
#workflow – a channel devoted to iOS automation, piping in new items from r/workflow and the Drafts Action Directory as they appear. I think I might have a few other things pointed here as well too.
#yankees – news and info on the baseball team I grew up with.
So that’s the current run, and I’m still thinking of new ones.
Which brings me to the idea behind #daily. I have a pretty standard routine (I’d imagine many of us do at this point) of waking up, grabbing for my iPhone, and beginning the Early Morning Badge Clear Game. What often ends up happening however, is that I get into my work inbox, or start reading something I don’t have time to finish in the news, or whatever. You get the idea. The #daily channel was supposed to be an experiment to collect things that I would definitely want to see first thing in the morning, all in one place, give me a jump on my day, and get me mentally prepared for what I need to do–quickly.
The first thing I did was move the morning weather forecast from #weather into this channel, since I always want to see the forecast for the day first thing in the morning. Then since I’m old and can’t always stay up late anymore because
kids are soul vampires being a parent of small children can often leave one very tired, I sent the RSS feed for Meh in there, so I can see what stupid thing they decided to sell overnight. This doesn’t work so great for when they have those freakout sales on Fukubukuro boxes of nonsense, but since they’re tweaking the way they do things, may prove more useful to me as time goes on.
But what’s really useful is seeing what I need to focus on that day. My tasks, calendar, etc. all shoved into a nice little summary. A daily brief. That’s where my mad scientist friend Tim comes in.
We’ve been going back and forth on this idea, and we’re in the middle of creating a Workflow5 that will take a whole bunch of personal information (calendar, tasks), add a field for impromptu notes, and throw the weather forecast in for the day, format it in a decent way, and send it directly to Slack. I do this before bed, and the next day, I just scroll up and read through the brief I sent, and then anything else that wound up in the channel overnight. I’m thinking about maybe using Workflow to insert some news headlines6 and other things that can get my brain going while I’m laying in bed, wishing I was still asleep.
Tim has done a lot of work tweaking this idea and building functionality into it, so check out his post. He’s got a bunch of explanation and links to multiple variations on the Workflows.
I’m really into this daily briefing idea. It’s new, and I think it has some legs. I plan on exploring it a lot more.
There’s a theme throughout my use of Slack, and my ideas for what I can do with it, and it’s similar to how I think about Workflow. I’m most interested in using these tools to either a) pull information to me in some useful way so I don’t have to look for it, or b) replace a single-use app of some kind with a similar and (hopefully) comparable set of functionality. Those two use cases continue to drive my experimentation with both apps, but primarily with Slack. Using dedicated channels in an app I already have installed, I can replicate the primary functionality of a handful of small apps that I would have otherwise installed. Will it do everything those apps do? No, not by a long shot. But for the major use case(s), it’s almost always good enough, and that continues to drive me to think of other ways to extend it. The more I use it, the more I want to use it, and find new ways to do so.
The other thing I’ve come to enjoy is the separation of topics of my interest (or functionality) by channel. Instead of an RSS app with a bunch of feeds in folders, I can send different feeds to different channels, and mix that content with other notifications and integrations to create a new experience. This level of flexibility is what gets me really excited about continuing to explore the tool and talk to other people who are thinking along similar lines.
Slack has become an integral part of my day, and continues to deliver a ton of value for me on a personal level well outside of its intended business-based use cases. Having a team all to myself is really fun, and gives me a great outlet to fiddle with iOS automation and web services without too much fussing. I’ve seen other people exploring this kind of thing too, and they’re doing some great things as well.
If you’re doing something cool with Slack outside of work, I’d love to hear about it.