Slack is a key tool for facilitating work at Variance. To ensure that it works for us, this is a set of guidelines we follow.
First some very basic rules:
- Use real names so it’s easy for people to know who they are talking to. First name and last name is best.
- User real photos so it’s easier to find people in conversations.
There are some general principles we follow on Slack:
- Public > Private: We are a remote-first company, even if you happen to be sitting next to someone, try to use Slack so everyone can see/participate. This includes direct messages, which should be reserved for conversations that either a) need to be private or b) are wildly off-topic.
- Synchronous + Asynchronous: Slack is not just for real-time communication (though it can be great for that). It’s also a place to visibly ask others questions with they can reply to in their own time. Thinking of it in both ways is critical for success.
- More specific channels > fewer general channels: This is still up for debate, but it’s my opinion that it’s better to have a few more specific channels that people know exactly what to talk about in than more general ones where people may feel anxious about saying something off-topic. With that said, it’s better to start general and go specific when a topic starts to overwhelm a channel.
- Archive > Keep: If a channel is dead, get rid of it. You can always bring it back if you need it. Part of this is also using apps like Dash, which set up temporary channels that expire.
- Move to calls when chat won’t do: Sometimes you just can’t communicate the thing you’re trying to communicate with messages. That’s fine. Just kick off a Slack call (or a Zoom call or a phone call). Again, here, if you can just offer it up publicly and others can join in if they want.
- Keep Everything Organized: Use prefixes religiously to keep it easy for people to understand what a channel is. Keep bots out of comms channels and label them appropriately.
Moving to Slack means relying on it as your primary communication method. With that comes an expectation that people will respond when you communicate with them. Setting expectations around @ messages and DMs is critical.
Every channel should have a prefix. This makes it much easier to find things. Ultimately this should reflect your own. Here’s what we have:
- bot— For bots and automated messages
- co— For all company-related channels
- data— For all Variance lead and customer data channels
- gtm— For all go-to-market (sales, marketing, services) related channels
- misc— For all topic-based and random channels
- prod— For all product-related channels
- proj— For collaboration on and discussion about a project
More on naming guidelines: Create guidelines for channel names from Slack. We also use Dash for Slack to manage expiring projects. Finally, this blog post has a bit more context on how to think about Slack more generally in community building.