SDSLabs moved to Slack for communication


I don’t know of any other campus group that uses team chat tool. Most of them don’t need it. But SDSLabs is a software development team. We have around 50 members across 5 years who work on various projects with around 1 or 2 on each project. While we live in the same city inside the same campus of same college, it is still tough to stay connected with what’s going on. When this group started off around 4 years ago, the then members used google groups as mailing list and a Facebook group for staying connected. But this was never enough. Discussions used to happen through private messages on GTalk/FB Chat, when if the same discussion took place in public medium, others could also gain a lot of insight. We knew about Campfire/HipChat etc but their free tier limited the number of people you could have in a team. As a student group it was just not feasible for us to pay the hefty monthly fees, not everyone could afford it. We ended up using Partychat that was built on top of GTalk. With Hubot integration it was very good for us. At all times a few people were always online. It worked fine for us until Google Hangout came out which did not use an open protocol which was needed by Partychat. Even after that there was still a workaround through but then they announced that they are shutting down support for 3rd party chats. That was the final nail in the coffin for partychat and we needed to move out fast.

Right when this happened Slack came out of private beta and the best part was that they had a free tier which did not limit the number of people in a team. So we gave it a shot and Slack turned out to have everything we could have dreamed of. The biggest drawback of using Partychat was the lack of rooms/channel. All the conversation, meaningless time pass and technical discussions, happened in the same chat window. So people who were busy working preferred to close the window. With Slack, we have multiple channels: #general, #incubator, #design, some project specific channels and some private channels. Slack even supports different levels of notification triggers on a per channel basis. This has proved to be the best feature, at least for me.

Slack has way too many integrations available. Being on the free tier, we are restricted to 5. We have Hubot enabled because we can’t live without it. We are also exploiting the “incoming webhooks” integration for a variety of purposes.

Slack Stats

One really interesting feature is that even if you leave the Slack web client open and leave your laptop unattended, it still detects that inactivity and sends you a mail in case of mentions. Slack is full of such small but really thoughtful features that make using it an absolutely wonderful experience. Since moving to Slack I have found that we are able to have more conversation and the friction to starting a discussion has reduced a lot since there’s an appropriate channel for everything. We are not a company or a startup with a remote team but we are totally in love with Slack. It remains pinned in Google Chrome for me. After college, if I ever go on to start up Slack will be the first thing I’ll be investing in.

If you liked this post and are interested in trying out Slack, use this referral link in order for both of us to get 100$ free credit

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Interested in products and UX. Knows a bit of PHP, JS, Node. Prefers JS. HN addict. Watches football, plays squash. ManUtd & Spain \m/. Tinkers with arduino sometimes.

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