Slack for Volunteers

Introduction

Slack is a workplace environment for team communication. It has many advantages compared to traditional email and instant messaging, but it should not be confused with them. People do not get instant notifications unless they are tagged and have slack downloaded on their phones. Most tech companies use it at work, which offers an opportunity for CYF trainers to be available (as they can switch among workplaces).

Slack should be kept tidy and organised to maximise its usefulness.

Fundamentals

  • Use threaded communication (replies to a topic should always be in a thread)

  • Edit your entries instead of adding extra information that you forgot in a message

  • Learn to tag people and groups (every class is in a user group)

  • Tag people only when you need their attention

  • Use plain text names instead of tags if you don’t require a response from people

  • Start a new thread if you are talking about a completely different topic

  • Know what channels to use to make posts and ask for questions

Trainee communication

  • Learn to use thumbs up to confirm announcement has been read

  • Communicate in advance if you want to work with another classmate and specify time and topic (you can tag the class)

  • Ensure you reply in threads to communication and tag relevant people to get their attention to arrange on working together

  • Use the trainee channel for organisation and non-class related discussion

  • Start calls in the channel so that other students can join you.

    Ensure that it is titled with clear description of what are you working on

  • Delete any failed group calls to keep the channel clear

  • Inform the class as soon as possible if you are not planning to come or able to come to class

Volunteer communication

  • Make sure to tag students and graduates for events and create user groups for core volunteers

  • Share social meetings and pictures in public channels

  • Summarise meetings in minutes using assigned shared document

Effective Organisation on Slack

Brief

In this guide, I want to give some high level tips about how to communicate and organise effectively on Slack.

Most of this document is what I’ve gleaned from digital organising with other code schools and activist organisations.

Problems

Using Slack as an organisational tool has several problems

  • People do not check Slack enough

    • Unless you work for a company that uses Slack extensively, it’s very easy to forget that Slack exists

    • The longer people don’t check the Slack, the harder it is to catch up

  • Messages are easily sent off screen so they get missed

    • Important messages are quickly sent off the first scroll of the page if there are lots of people talking

  • It’s hard to tell the difference between an important message and people chatting

  • Everyone’s messages have the same importance

    • There’s no way to tell who is in charge

However, I’ve noticed a few tricks that can help us cut through the noise.

Rules of Slack Organisation

  1. Every message is a project

When you’re writing a message you should always have in mind the information you’re trying to convey and the goals you’re trying to achieve with the message.

  1. The importance of the message is directly proportional to how much time you spend creating it

People respond better when they know that the person sending the message has spent time creating it. The respect goes two ways.

  1. Fewer, better crafted messages

It is very easy to swamp Slack channels with requests. You shouldn’t send multiple requests within a few hours, especially if they are low quality.

Building a Slack Request

Every message should, at a glance, be able to answer these questions

  1. Who is the message for?

  2. What needs to be done?

  3. How do I get involved?

Let’s imagine we have an urgent request to get volunteers to help with approving applicants.

Here is an example of a poorly made Slack Request:

Chat Message

Here is an example of a better Slack Request:

Chat Message

Here is an example of a better, very urgent Slack Request:

Chat Message

What does the second message do better than the first?

  • Formatting

    • Splitting the request out onto separate lines help to break up the post

    • Using bold to highlight the most important parts of the request to get people understand the request quickly.

  • Thread

    • By tagging relevant people in the thread (instead of into the post itself) it encourages people to respond in the thread.

  • Emojis

    • Whilst you shouldn’t use for every request. A line of emojis at the top of the request can help to break the message apart from others in the chat log.

  • Physical space

    • The amount of screen real estate that the message takes up should be in line with how important the message is

  • Short messaging

    • There’s no point in using long, run on sentences in a Slack message. Nobody will read it. Always be succinct.