Stopping the conversation car crash

Stopping the conversation car crash

A guide to help big groups use Slack


3 min read

Managing a big group of engineers (or yourself), in the new worlds of remote and slack can be hard. Some days are just breezy, whilst others full of struggle - helping people talk to, rather than past each other.

car crash warning sign

After spending some years on mail-groups, forums, and chat software, I wrote up these rules with the help of a few fine colleagues to help guide big groups in the use of Slack.

These are also available as in Markdown in a githib Gist.

Using Slack is more like using Twitter than having a chat

  • Your audience is likely broader than you think. What you say is recorded and searchable forever.
  • Nuance is hard with words alone. It takes work to express complex ideas. Consider using a less public place to finesse them.
  • Your words will sometimes stand alone and lose their conversation context. Be aware of what you say, when you say it.
  • Chatting in a private room with your close buddies is very different than @all in #announcements

Post in haste, repent at leisure

  • If you feel very strongly on a topic, consider writing your thoughts down and holding off posting for few hours.
  • Consider getting some feedback from a different perspective or your mentor.
  • More people will be able to hear what you say if you work to include everyone.

Once something is said, it stays read.

  • When posting about a social topic, consider other people’s feelings and experience.
  • Take care if you are sharing an opinion on a topic that could have impact on others. Your words are powerful. Carefully consider the effect you could have.
  • Consider asking an open question) rather than having a rant.
  • Be aware of language and how it can exclude.
  • Starting a debate’ is often a car crash waiting to happen - approach with caution.

Match conversation to correct channel

  • Rooms have a topic and a purpose. Try to support that when you post.
  • Use threads to help others keep up - the larger the audience the better it is to use threads.
  • Some rooms belong to teams; you are welcome; but it’s their home.

When you get feedback on your words, listen

  • Feedback is someone is trying to help. Listen. Then ask questions - to gain understanding of their point of view.
  • If your post is fresh and is problematic; ask if you should temporarily remove it whilst you understand the issue.

Reading slack and giving feedback

  • People are often communicating whilst multi-tasking. Try to help them be their best with simple unassuming feedback.
  • If you feel something is going to cause someone to be upset, expect the writer to not have realized when they posted. Let them know privately.
  • Nuance is hard. Be curious and read with positive intent. English is not everyone's' first language. If you are unsure, give them a call; have a chat.

Further reading and watching

Not sure how to put across a point of view? Try Non-violent communication

NVC’s creator Marshall Rosenberg’s introduction

Perspectives on the power of your choice of language