Decatur Makers in Slack

Introduction to the messaging app

What Slack? Why Slack? How Slack?

Slack is a group instant messaging app. The Decatur Makers Slack account has different channels (eg woodshop, eshop, 3D printing, laser) that allow topic-based conversations and allow conversations between individuals or multiple people at a time.

Decatur Makers has an email list, a facebook group, Twitter and Instagram accounts, but Slack has really helped with our internal conversations - it allows us to "talk amongst ourselves" and it really helps with team communication. We have a physical space, but our membership draws from all over the Metro area, so planning and chatting about a project does not require all members of a team to face Atlanta traffic in order to make it across town to a meeting.

DM member, Nate Steiner, has given us a couple of presentations and there’s a link to the .pdf of his slide deck at the bottom. Nate uses Slack for work and points out that if you already use Slack for work or other purposes, it's easy to add the Decatur Makers workspace. Also, Decatur Makers experts for various tools and techniques are available in Slack and you can get a quick response to any questions. Slack is in the cloud, so can be accessed from your desktop computer, laptop, Android and iOs devices. Some find the app much better to use than the website.

HOW Slack:

Members get a Decatur Makers Slack invite through their email. You can request an invite by contacting [email protected] Once invited, you will be asked to establish an 'account' with Slack. You only need an email address and a password - no fees, no credit cards, no personal information.

NB: Slack messages are hosted 'in the cloud', on a server somewhere, so you will want to be careful about any personal or identifying information you put in your messages. It can be easy to be chatting with a safe Maker friend and share too much publicly. So, just a heads-up. Once you have an account and log in, https:/// looks like this:

In the upper right corner, there is a "your workspaces" box" and Decatur Makers will be listed in the drop down. You may have been invited to other workspaces - businesses use Slack for internal messaging and sometimes classes will use Slack for student messaging and discussion. So, you might have other workspaces, but ours is "Decatur Makers." Mine has our DM robot logo beside the name:

So, when you click on Decatur Makers' workspace, you will land in the DM #general channel. The #general channel is for messages and announcements for the whole membership. Also, if you include "@decaturmakers" in a tweet, your tweet will show up in our #general Slack channel. Channels are subcategories where specific discussions take place. If a couple members are chatting about plans to repair the CNC machine - the whole membership doesn't *have* to listen in, although we are welcome to. If you are not interested in #boardgames, you don't have to read the discussion about it. If you want to keep up to date on the #laser communications, you can join that channel.

Above is a screenshot of the current #general channel. Looks like John O. has the screen press up and working! You can scroll through the messages, in order of time/date, in the main box and at the bottom you can type a message in the small box. In the left column, the channels I’ve joined are listed. In the upper right corner, there is a search box.

On my Windows 7 PC, the left hand margin has a list of channels and at the top of the list is the word "Channels" - if I click on the word, it brings up a list of all of DM's channels and I can join the ones I'm interested in. If I click on the plus sign in a circle, I can CREATE a channel. I did this for our arduino_on_ramp class so Charles, Bruno, and I could chat about class plans without trying to coordinate a time when all of us could get together - busy, active Makers even struggle with coordinating a time to do an online chat sometimes!

The more you use Slack, the more you want to know shortcuts to do the things you want - you might want to know how to share a code snippet to ask for help, or how to instant message a single person, or how to get the Slack app on your phone or computer desktop. You might see someone typing in italics or bold, or using a cool can ask how it’s done, you can check the Slack 'help' section or simply googling what you want to do " Slack" . As an intro: to ‘speak’ to a specific person, you type “@theirSlackName” - Slack keeps a list of members by Slack name and actual name. If you don’t know someone’s name, you can often figure it out by the drop down list that Slack gives you.

For reference, here's a short article on uses of slack:

Nate Steiner’s Slack Presentation slide deck: