Slack channel or not – the results

While I’m writing these lines, I’m sitting in the lovely Seifen Horst in Düsseldorf. In front of me a cappuccino and a cheese cake, while I’m smiling about the results to the survey I did a while ago. But first of all I have to say thanks for so many answers to the question if you think beyond tellerrand needs a Slack channel or not. Not too many people who took part also gave a reason for choosing their answers, but those of you who did, are sometimes quite emotional about it.

Screenshot of the result to the question “Slack channel or not” – 52% yes, 48% no
I thought it would be a tight race. Surprised though how tight.

By the time, I was asking you to tell me your opinion, I was pretty sure, that I don’t need another channel to administrate and that this Slack channel would only add to the noise of all the emails, networks and what people use day by day. Some of the answers, though, have made me think. I had a chat about it with several friends, such as John, Basti, Vitaly and others and asked them for their opinion. And sometimes even they turned a “no” into a “yes” after discussing it or giving a few examples of what you stated. But let’s look a bit into the reasons for your answers.

The “No”

One of the first comments which dropped in during the time the survey was running was

I think it is just another channel that adds noise to the ever growing communication pool.

That was something I had in mind, when I said I was against a Slack channel in several discussions with attendees. Here are a few more comments of this direction:

It's a closed community and can become very noisy. I don't see a huge benefit in it.

Yet another Slack channel abandoned after 2 days …

I think the twitter coverage / communicaton possibilites are enough and adding another communication channel would lead to clutter

I'm in enough slack channels already and I would feel like missing out if the was one and I wouldn't be in it.

Didn't work in Oxford at SmashingConf either, for us it only works in small teams collaborating in a project.

… and I could go on with comments like this. But I think you get what the majority of the no-sayers mean, right?

I think the last one is mixing up the work in a team with communication for the sake of communication. I would not really want to coordinate anything for my event in Slack. It is just channel to communicate. When asking Vitaly Friedman about how he interprets the SmashingConf Slack channel related to this comment above as well, he said

It’s a nice place to have everything related to the conference/event in one place, and also a great focused attendees support channel imho

Tom Arnold, while writing his statement, was like me while I thought about it and you can see how, while thinking about it, you maybe change your view on it:

I think this may create yet another bubble inside the bubble. On the other hand it could help relieve the communication hub pressure that is currently on your plate alone? Dunno.

Not only has he arguments against and towards a Slack channel, but he also mentions, that it maybe takes work off me as people helps each other on Slack and answer questions about things, so I don’t ave to do it. Interesting, I think.

A big and very important aspect on the negative side of things is what Marco Zehe mentioned though. He has written

It's not accessible to everybody, unlike social media, which, according to my experience, most every BT attendee I've met in the past has in one form or another. Slack would only add noise, distraction and be another channel to watch out for. I don't see any benefits.

Accessibility is missing in Slack. That is very sad and something I also mentioned in the past already. This is reason why in never would use Slack instead of something else, but also only in addition for those who use it.

In general the comments of people who have chosen “no” were way more negative and not as constructive as those of people who have chosen “yes”. Sure, the nature of the “no” is more negative by any means, but even then I’d have expected more constructive reasons for choosing no.

That said, I think it is important to make clear that Slack for beyond tellerrand is not obligatory to use to not miss anything. Only those who want can use it as their way of connecting, keeping themselves updated and chatting. You don’t have to use it.

Marco Hengstenberg puts it right in his comment maybe, to sum up, what I think about the way of using Slack for beyond tellerrand:

A Slack channel requires foreign visitors to be constantly connected in order to not miss any (more or less) crucial updates. While this won't be an issue during the event due to the marvellous wifi you provide, it may turn into one as soon as that connection fails. That being said, it might be a nice addition to have a Slack channel but crucial stuff shouldn't go on inside the chat.

But let’s look onto what people said who have chosen “yes” …

The “Yes”

Obvious reasons, without looking at the answers first, would be that people use Slack anyways, like Slack, and add this simply to their list of channels. But there was more in the answers, which I did not really had in mind in the first place, when I was thinking about it. From a speakers point of view Sara Soueidan said:

Slack is not limited to 140 chars, people can chat with each other, share links and discuss topics more freely. It is also great for speakers who want to share their slide links with conf attendees but not ready to share them with the “outside world” publicly yet.

An interesting point here is, that speakers are able to share something within a group of people without having to use the overall public channels. She also said later, that it is …

[…] a good way to also keep the rest of the followers from being “spammed” by conf discussions

Lukasz had a useful comment from a perspective of an attendee. He said

Getting to know each other before – to exchange topics of interest. Or to get help with accommodation and transport logistics – for sure many attendees are local and some might be helpful for those traveling. To sum up: networking and travel tips.

Networking was a point that I had in mind as well, of course. But other useful things like sharing tips for accommodation and food etc. just to the relevant group of people and not to your Twitter timeline, makes sense as well. Like Andreas said as also …

Communicating with Twitter hashtags is not very social or efficient! ;-) A closed chat/channel for an event is a much better way to get in contact.

Also Julian had arguments for this way of using Slack for an event:

Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are good ways to share but to actively communicate, ask questions, and interact in a conversational manner is easier with Slack. Of course it isn't and shouldn't be a requisite, but it does help a ton IMHO.

There were a few more of these arguments towards the usage of Slack for an event. For me as the organiser it means of course, that I have another channel to maintain and watch. Being a one-man-band, that adds to my overall workload, but if more than 50% of attendees find it useful, I am happy to give my best to get this done as well.

There was one more topic that people mentioned, which I find a bit complicated to really do on Slack, if you don’t do it properly. Some of you said, that having a Q&A after the talks on Slack would be nice. Someone who has not given a name said

A documented Q&A. Better archived than having all the conversation spread over twitter.

or Joel said for example

Dedicated channel for announcements. Additional channels for QA/interested people of a talk/topic.

I agree, that this is a good way to channel this, if you do Q&A at all, but as I am not doing any Q&A after the talks, I don’t think I gonna start this officially on Slack. It would mean that speakers have to be on Slack as well, even, if they maybe don’t use it. And I don’t want to make it obligatory to anyone – not attendees nor speakers or staff – to use Slack. I see it as a useful addition for those who use Slack. Someone who does not, is not missing anything like announcements, if she/he is not using Slack.

Someone who did not leave her/his name said something, which is exactly what I don’t want to use it for neither:

Using Slack as a livefeed would be great

As much as I also don’t like the idea of streaming the videos live, I don’t like the idea of a written live feed. I think it is nice to get some statements and important key messages of certain talks via any channel, but not a complete talk or event even. But that would open another topic with another discussion now, to go into detail here.

In addition to everything above quite some people mentioned “Community” in their comments in that survey. As this is an important part of beyond tellerrand, I totally agree, that this could – if Slack is used by them at all – encourage people to connect with other people, even if they don’t know them before, and it might make easier for people who come on their own to connect with others.

Vitaly Friedman, asked about his experience with Slack in relation to events, said

It always works fairly well in other conferences — people greet each other way before the conference starts, make connections, organise themselves, follow up slides and talks, and there is a bit of conversation going. That’s pretty cool.

Overall every response to the “Yes, I think beyond tellerrand should use Slack” was very positive and comprehensible in my opinion, which changed my view on this topic.

A Slack channel

Believe me, when I say, that I really thought a lot about if I want to use a Slack channel or not for beyond tellerrand. I changed from no to yes and back many times, but I think I’ll give it a try. So, yes, I will start a Slack channel. Why? Read on …

I usually try to use as many channels to get in touch with people as possible. Not because I like using all those channels, but more from a service point of view: you are using xyz to communicate? Well, then I use it to answer your questions.

On the other hand there are two, or maybe three channels, which I use from my end to communicate updates and news about beyond tellerrand: the newsletter, the website and Twitter. The rest, like Facebook, Google+ and others, is not as frequently used as the above and there is no guarantee, that you will get every little update, if you don’t follow the website, are on the newsletter or for shorter, more frequent updates, follow the Twitter account.

The decision to use a Slack channel or not wasn’t easy, but after a while I thought, that I just give it a try and see how people use it and if it maybe helps the one or other to connect with people before and event. I will give it a try for a few events and evaluate again if it does help me or is just more more without any real benefit for me and – more importantly – if is useful and makes sense for attendees. Again – and this is something I want to point out once more though I have done it above more than one time: I don’t see Slack as something I will use as one of the main channels for beyond tellerrand. No one who does not use Slack is going to miss anything from my end. All announcements, important updates and all event related communication will take place in the channels you already use and know. For attendees of a certain event, this is the Update Newsletter before events and for people interested in the events at all, the beyond tellerrand newsletter. However, I of course can’t guarantee that you miss an interesting conversation between attendees. What I will do, as part of my job though, is to broadcast anything btconf related that is born in Slack as conversation or activity between attendees to the outside of Slack on any of the other known channels. Promised.

Finally, for those who want to join the beyond tellerrand Slack: this way, please