Slack as RAM

Slack’s Logo I think it’s necessary for a company to have a shared understanding of how they use Slack (and similar tools). If such an understanding exists, it’s incredibly powerful, but without shared understanding then the rules can change from moment to moment based on HIPPO and momentary frustrations. In this environment, collaboration and brainstorming can end up being treated as bad things because they’re not compliant with someone important’s vision.

Now, if you’re going all in on slack, this is pretty easy. There’s not much question of what to take to email or the like – the tool you’ll use is slack, and you make it work. This is great, if you can pull it off, but for a lot of people that is a bridge too far. So how do you get everyone on the same page when every communication requires the decision (and friction of) “Is this the right context?”

This is a bad situation, so the best we can do is try to make this decision simple. If you could boil it down to a few rules (“Finance discussions must be in email”) that works, but it scales poorly. What it really calls for is a shared metaphor.

The one I’ve been using lately is this: Treat your Slack as your company’s RAM.

For non-nerds, RAM is the memory on your computer or device where things happen. When a program runs, all the information necessary is kept in RAM. When I say it’s memory, I mean it’s memory the same way your hard drive is, but the components used to make RAM are faster than the ones in your drive because it’s constantly changing it’s contents as needed.

So RAM is essential to your computer functioning, but there are things it’s not for. Specifically, it is not a reliable place to keep any information, since its current contents could be swept away at any moment. For this, your computer has storage (like your hard drive) to keep things without losing them

Slack can serve the same role in your organization. It should be the place where things happen. What kind of things? Well, what do you do? Whatever it is, I bet it requires people needing to talk, think, plan and be creative. Slack is a great place for that stuff to happen, and your organization should encourage it.

But, like RAM, it is not necessarily where you want to keep things. Yes, Slack has pretty robust search functionality, so you might be able to recover things, but for a Slack of any size or age, search leaves too many possibilities for things to be lost. So it’s necessary you also identify your company’s memory. It’s probably Confluence, or a Wiki, or Sharepoint or something else. It might be more than one thing, in which case you have a different problem. Whatever the case, you should have a place where important things end up.

Now, you could just copy and paste into memory (‘dumping the RAM’) but with a little bit of mindfulness it’s reasonably easy to capture the outputs of discussions rather than the discussions themselves. This requires a little bit of extra work, but it’s a fantastic habit for an organization to develop for two reasons. First, by making it everyone’s responsibility, it gives a bit more ownership to decisions. Second, if the discussions as important enough to save, it’s important enough to take the time to get everyone on the same page, and communicate that agreement in a useful way.

It may take a little bit of time to get people used to this, but once they see that their outputs are treated as important (and that no outputs means it didn’t happen) then they can see how it benefits them, at which point you’ll be surprised how invested people are in the final result.

And, heck, if this practice starts spilling over into your meetings? WHAT A SHAME.

New iPad Configuration

I am a true believer in the iPad. I bought in on the first generation and have steadily upgraded as it has improved. At the moment, I’m writing this on a 9.7″ pro, which is amazing enough that I didn’t need to jump immediately to the 10.5″ (which is also amazing) but odds are good I’ll upgrade again when the next generation comes out. I find them to be powerful, magical devices, and it breaks my heart that I can’t really get away with using one as my all-the-time computer (that’s a whole topic of its own).

Critically, I have also been using them with keyboards since day 1. That was a bit heretical at the time, but for me, the idea of a super light writing machine was too much to resist. Over the years I have probably tried about 20 different keyboard solutions to greater and lesser success. I had hoped the new proprietary connector would really improve my options with the pro line, but that didn’t happen. If you want a keyboard case that uses it then you either need an apple Smart Cover (which is a great case but compromised keyboard) or a Logitech case (which has *great* keys and a place to put the Pencil, but also roughly quadruples the heft of the Ipad) and neither is really an exceptional option.

Now, back in the very early days of things, my solution was to carry around an apple keyboard and a stand. I had a nice case for it it, and it was super comfortable (they had great keys, and ran on batteries, which was convenient) and that was great, but a little awkward because the shape of the keyboard’s battery well made it a little thick. These days, apple keyboards are much slimmer, and I was intrigued when I saw a really neat looking case from Studio Neat, the canopy. It wrapped tidily around the newly keyboard, and unfolded with a space to prop up your ipad. I loved the idea, but could not quite justify the then-$50 price tag.

Thankfully, isn’t he apple accessories market, it does not take a lot of time for the knockoffs to show up, and when Fintie (who’s stuff I have had a lot of decent experience with) offered something similar on on amazon for $16, I grabbed it. I’ve been very happy I did.

My setup now looks like this:

And it’s delightful to write on. If you dig the ipad as a writing machine (and you should) then being able to go full keyboard is a joy. But the most critical benefit is when I’m not using it.

See, I still keep it in the apple keyboard cover, because it’s a very good cover and when I need a keyboard to do something quick and simple, like respond on slack or post a tweet, it’s all the keyboard I need. The rest of the time it’s light enough that I can use the ipad as a reader or game device or whatever else Steve Jobs intended. But since the keyboard is slim and light enough to casually toss into my bag, it means that when I’m going to sit down and crank out more than a few words, it’s trivial to pull it out and set up for serious business.

This excites me because historically keyboards have demanded a tradeoff between the ipad as a writing device and everything else. Keyboard covers are heavy or awkward and interfere with a lot of the “it’s just magic” ipad use cases.

Edit: Oh, one other benefit which seems like a small thing but it actually kind of amazing?

Orientation is no longer a thing I am bound to:

I honestly don’t know how big a deal this is or isn’t yet, because I am so trained to work in landscape, that I’m not even sure what it’s going to feel like to work in portrait mode, but I admit the prospect of having it be a little more paper-like in profile is pretty intriguing, if only as an option.