Slack…in name only

Finding an effective way to communicate when you’re working on a team project is challenging. Especially when your team is spread over numerous geographic locations. This has been my dilemma over the past 8 months or so. I’ve been deeply involved in the rollout of the main features of a Learning Management System across three main campuses and two residential campuses. Team members are located in the three main campuses and we’ve really needed to band together to ensure we are all focused on our end goals – training of staff in features new to them, the formation of a training site and associated documentation to support staff, the coordination of the movement of reporting into the system, introduction of the system to students, and parent training sessions (16 of them!).

To get this work done effectively, we’ve really needed to bond well as a team. Valuing each team member’s input, making sure that people are acknowledged for their effort, finding humour amongst the stress – all of this has been critical in helping the team develop shared purpose. We come together when we can, but much of our communication has been via phone calls and email. Traditional stuff. It works, but there are times when we need more instantaneous communication.

Enter Slack.

Slack

I created a Slack account in April, added one team member and then looked at it trying to figure out how it might be meaningful for us. I’ve read about Slack at length over the past few months, heard podcasts extolling its usefulness for team collaboration and I sat there staring at hoping the lightbulb moment would come when it would fulfill its promise.

It sat there. Not used.

Enter Newington College and Myles Carrick.

I visited Newington College to see the way Myles has led IT and Digital Teaching and Learning initiatives across the campuses there. It was a great visit, I learnt a lot and was impressed with the leadership Myles demonstrates for his team and the wider school community. Myles opened Slack and showed how he was using it for his team. Bingo! Lightbulb moment. Plane ride back to Melbourne and Sunday night spent inviting team members in the space and creating channels for communication.

Over the last two and bit weeks Slack has become a critical part of of our communication strategy. What helped was a pressure point around the creation of end of semester reports and associated documentation/videos we needed to create to support staff. We had a good reason to be there and so began our Slack conversion.

At Newington I’d seen how Myle’s team use GIFs to lighten the intensity of conversations that happen there. I found an app called Giphy that integrates with Slack. You type /giphy and then a word representing the idea you have and you see what GIF is pulled into the conversation stream. I honestly think the GIFs have made the adoption of this as a communication tool appealing for everyone. Lacing humour into conversation threads lightens our stress levels, and it’s even better when Giphy pulls in a GIF that might not hit the mark – laughter abounds and we can feel the human connection.

We used the todo app to create, of all things, a to do list! Using /todo assign as a command we were able to assign group members tasks that are forming our workloads this week. Slack sends you a weekly email letting you know the activity registered through the channels you have set up. Our intense first week with the pressure point reporting conversations saw the following activity:

Your team sent a total of 407 messages last week (that’s 407 more than the week before). Of those, 93% were in public channels and 7% were direct messages. Your team also uploaded 7 files (that’s 7 more than the week before).

One of the messages I sent was a link to this video from Slack. We were working like this team!

Things have leveled off in the space this week, but I think Slack is going to be a mainstay for communication across our team. It’s definitely a case of Slack in name only, because there’s nothing slack about the way it’s being used to improve communication. Thanks Myles for the lightbulb moment!

 

School’s out Friday

There’s nothing like the the passing of an iconic popstar who inhabited your formative teenage years to make you sit back and take stock. Prince’s music formed part of the playlist of my youth. I can remember dancing to 1999 at nearly every party I attended in my 17th and 18th year. I always thought he was so clever to have written a song in 1982 that was guaranteed to be played at near on every New Year’s Eve party in the modern world at the turn of the century. And yes, there I was in 1999, dancing to just that song as we nudged closer to the rise of the new century.

It’s been a bit of a year for it. David Bowie, Glenn Fry, Alan Rickman. I suppose every year is much the same really. People who occupy our screens and playlists meet their demise and we ponder our own uncertain fate. I quite like this quote about death from Terry Pratchett

“It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it’s called Life.”
Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent
Make it count. Enjoy the weekend ahead, and the rest of it for that matter.

School’s out Friday

Now, I’m not sure how the leadership of Brigham Young University are feeling about this video given that the two young men (who attend the university) are not current missionaries, but I’m thinking that it’s done a power of good for the young elders who are out there knocking on doors hoping that someone invites them in to discuss ‘The Book of Mormon’.

Posted three days ago, 729,793 views to date – a bit of marketing genius right there. Great piece of storytelling. The narrative arc  flows.

NarrativeArc

Nice analysis activity of new media storytelling for your next English class.🙂

Have a great weekend. If they knock, maybe it’s time to open the door…

 

 

School’s out Friday

Yes, it is April the 1st. Yes, this is one of Google’s April Fool’s day pranks.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t look as ridiculous to me as does the image below taken of an audience wearing the Oculus Rift headset.

Oculus rift

It’s probably best summed up by this comment from Matthew Humphries;

Almost like intensive farming, only with humans hooked into a virtual world.

Unfortunately, reality, not an April Fool’s Day joke.

I don’t know about you, but I just can’t see this catching on to the extent that some of the pundits are suggesting. I certainly don’t want to be restrained in a headset device like this to experience virtual reality. Call me old fashioned, but give me unrestrained real world experiences any day of the week.

Enjoy the weekend. Head outdoors, appreciate the world we live in, headset free.😉

School’s out Friday

I think I’ve mentioned before how I read a lot of Stephen King’s novels when I was a teenager. I worked at a bookshop from the age of 15 through to 22, and one of the perks was being able to take a book off the shelf and read it, provided you tried really hard not to bend the spine so that someone felt like they were buying a pre-read book when they eventually purchased it!

One of the Stephen King books I read at that time was called ‘The Dead Zone‘, a story about Johnny Smith, a school teacher who was involved in a car accident that resulted in him acquiring a brain injury that gave him the power of premonition. In it, he shakes the hand of an upcoming Senate nominee, Greg Stillson, and he sees him in the role of President ordering nuclear missiles to be fired. This lands him in the ethical dilemma of wondering if he can change the course of history if he stops him in his course to election.

I’m not sure if you’re making any parallels to events transpiring right now, but for weeks I’ve been wondering if Stephen King is thinking he may have written a prophetic novel with the rise of Donald Trump as he comes closer and closer to Republican party nomination for President.

Trump tweet

It seems I’m not alone. Doing a Twitter search for ‘The Dead Zone’ this afternoon saw countless tweets from people thinking the same thing. Then I saw this.

Stephen King tweet

Seeing this from The Economist’s Intelligence Unit only further increases my sense of foreboding about the state of US politics.

Donald Trump threat - Economist

Who knows how this political saga will conclude. If it’s anything like ‘The Dead Zone’, then the actions of Trump will usurp his grand plans.

Let’s wait and see how things unfold…and cross our fingers for the sake of humanity.

Boston Dynamics latest iteration: Atlas

Since Google (now Alphabet) acquired Boston Dynamics in 2013, there have been some quite remarkable developments in their robotic creations. Spot was impressive, Wild Cat even moreso, but Atlas trumps them all.

The robots in the DARPA challenge last year struggled opening doors. Atlas looks like it’s ready to board a bus and visit you at home.

If you haven’t seen Spot yet, take a look.

Wild Cat’s here too.

Yes my friends, the robots are coming.

School’s out Friday

I can so relate to what Shonda Rhimes is saying in this TED talk that was delivered at the TED Conference being held this week in Vancouver, Canada. In it, she talks about the hum of work, of being caught up in your career, of loving the work that you do. The dilemma occurs when the hum stops, when you realise the cost of the work, the relationships you sacrifice when the work takes over and you’ve lost sight of what truly matters.

I love work, always have. But this week my eyes are suffering, my husband has been calling me at 11.00pm telling me to tear myself from my computer to get some sleep and I can feel my amygdala moving into flight or fight response.

l know what my problem is. I want things to work. I hold myself responsible for a project’s success even though I know it is dependent on the will of all for it to succeed. I am giving my all to lead effectively and I know you can’t make everyone comfortable or happy about change. I know all of that, and the rational part of me can speak those words in my head, but the emotional and irrational part of my psyche ignores the logic.

Sleep. Rest. Family. Friends. Tonic for the soul. Give me a good dose this weekend.🙂