Gelform builds Web Applications

Say it in front of as many people as you can

Like most tech people, I’ve been in and out of a dozen Slack communities over the past year or two. Most of the communities I’m in range from a dozen to a few hundred people. In most that I jump into, I’m immediately struck by how many channels there are, and how few people and posts there are in each one. Somehow our first instinct is to create a silo for every topic we can think of.

At the day job, I was unofficially put in charge of creating a policy on how we use Slack. I liked the responsibility because it made me articulate that way I’ve been feeling about it for a while.

TLDR; I argue that everything should be said (and posted) as publicly as possible, to who ever can hear it. So I suggested everything should go in #general.

The physical analogy is when we’re in the office (which we often are). In the office, I might yell something across the room to Chris. David, Mike, and anyone else in the office, are going to hear it. It might or might not have anything to do with them, but they might chime in anyway. Sometimes I hope they’ll chime in. Once in a while, what they add is gold.

Yet on Slack, we were still defaulting to direct messages. We also struggled to put articles in #articles, but kitten photos in #random, and talk about our app in #app. Technically everyone had access to nearly everything, but we were spending time partitioning everything. And the shy programmers were intentionally unsubscribing from as many channels as possible.

After a discussion (IRL, btw), and some bullying by me, we’ve eliminated nearly all of the channels.

Today we were trying to come up with a domain name. After some debate, we moved the discussion from a 2-person email thread, to a 4-person private channel, to the #general channel. Within 10 minutes we’d come up with a winner, that was available, largely thanks to a suggestion from David, who wasn’t on either the email thread, or the private channel.

I’m sure it’s different if you’ve got thousands of people, but in smaller groups it’s been invaluable to post everything in #general. It’s like we’re all sitting around the same table. Everyone feels included. People are more prone to chime in. And everyone else can tune out if they want to.

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