Communication in distributed teams using Slack

Some time ago I wrote a post about tools I found useful when working in a distributed team. Working habits are changing and companies which grasp it will benefit from access to the broader talent pool and possible benefits when managed rightly. However, managing remote teams pose significant challenges. This post isn’t going to discuss how to structure teams or how to address araising challenges but rather focusing on things I found useful when working in a remote distributed team.

In the past years, Slack become defacto standard in this area even though I keep hearing from various teams that it didn’t meet quite their needs. If you have experience with the different tool I will be happy if you can share your experience in the comment section below the post.

Following section lists features I discovered really useful during working in a remote distributed development team.

  1. Snooze notifications –  to protect your focus time and boost your productivity. Break day to focus units where all distraction is disabled.
  2. Highlight words – can save your time to skim through unread messages available via Slack > Preferences > Notifications > My Keywordsslack highlight keywords feature
  3. Reminder tools – on each message you can set a reminderslack remind me about this feature
  4. To quickly start google hangout meeting – use command /hangout and the call will be initiated
  5. If you want to append ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ to channel – type /shrug command
  6. Use advanced slack search – start in search box with plus signslack advanced search
  7. Create Poll – use the command: /poll “Question?” “Option1” “Option2” “Option3” …slack simple poll
  8. Convert direct communication to a private channel. To direct communication must be included more than one party involved and the resulted channel is always private with no option to make it public. You can, later on, invite new participants with the option to see the channel history.slack direct message to private channel
  9. Channels for dedicated groups or around topics of interest are standard but what I found really useful is User groups feature which allows communicating with a group of people across the channels.
  10. Use stars to create an instant to-do list. You can mark any message or phrase with a star next to the time-stamp. It’s almost the same as bookmarking. Hint: if you mark messages with the task then you’ll get a personal to-do list which is really convenient to form during the conversation.

This concludes my top 10 slack features I found really useful while working in a remote distributed team. If you have other tips and tricks please let me know. Also if you found other useful tools please also share that experience in the comment section below.


BPMS Lesson Learned – Developer’s experience

In the design phase, we focused overall architecture of solution using BPMS, in this part, we will focus on developer’s interaction with BPMS system, design tools, etc. It describes subjective experiences with ActiveVOS designer version 6.1. At the time of writing this article, ActiveVOS v. 9  was announced. I believe that a lot of stuff described in this article were enhanced and the product has made a great step ahead. Here are some key points which were recognized as a limitation.
  • Mitigate your expectation regarding BPMS designer IDE. Designer is Eclipse-based IDE so for those who are familiar with Eclipse shouldn’t be a problem to start work with. Just expect that not all features are fully elaborated like code completion is completely missing. Xpath, XQuery error highlighting, code formatting (even tab ident is completely missing). Message transformation can be really painful from that point of view. It is good that these problems were at least partially addressed in future releases.
  • Team collaboration is a bit difficult. Not because of missing integration to a version control systems like SVN, CVS, etc. But just simply because of generated artefacts like deployment descriptors (pdd files), ant scripts they all contain absolute paths to files. What simply doesn’t work on different PC. Fortunately, this problem is easy to avoid by replacing this absolute path by relative ones.
  • Be prepared that some product feature is not reliable or doesn’t work. As nobody is perfect even ActiveVOS BPMS is not an exception. Just name those which we have to cope with:
    • eventing – On Weblogic application server running in the cluster this feature was not reliable.
    • instanceof – Xml processor used by ActiveVOS  ( Saxon library )  doesn’t support keyword instanceof used for element identification in the inheritance hierarchy.
    • time-out on asynchronous callback “receive” were no reliable – Once it time-out after 5 minutes (required 3 min), next time 1 hour, …