Monday, July 18, 2016

Academic chemists and Slack

Also, in this week's C&EN, an article (and a podcast!) by Matt Davenport about Slack (the messaging service) in academic chemistry groups: 
(Anne) McNeil had been leading a group of chemists developing new gels and polymers at the University of Michigan for seven years, when, in 2014, she won a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professorship. She earned the honor thanks to her proposal to develop an education program to engage high schoolers and young undergrads from diverse backgrounds with real chemistry research. To do this, she had to add a new division to her team. 
“My group size doubled when I got the HHMI professor grant. Suddenly, I had this second research group working in a new area—education—on a different floor and office space,” McNeil says. “I was having a hard time staying on top of everything on both sides. Slack has changed all that.” 
Slack is messaging software available for tablets, smartphones, and computers designed for teams and work groups. Slack creates a self-contained online chat room that’s exclusive to team members. Those members can then message one another directly or via public discussion channels organized by task, project, or topic. Teams at a variety of companies and agencies are using Slack, including Samsung, LinkedIn, the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, and even C&EN.
There's a list of handy apps at the bottom of the article as well - check it out!  

6 comments:

  1. I couldn't tell you how many times I've seen some wonderful new software that was supposed to promote communication between teammates, departments, sites, etc. It's the same story every time, everywhere I've worked - we end up with a bunch of mostly-empty, forgotten discussion forums somewhere on the company intranet.

    I think the only reason it worked in this situation was because Prof. McNeil launched it right when her group underwent a major expansion, before any of the new folks had time to get set in their ways of communicating with teammates.

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  2. The most amazing thing is that a group of people became (presumably) very rich by repackaging old technology and selling it as some kind of revolution in the form of Slack. My group uses it, it is exactly what you would expect from a chat client - something I have been using since the day I got internet in the nineties.

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    1. worked for photoredox, why not for tech developers?

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  3. I'm surprised groups need a separate piece of software for this. My institution has our work email addresses through gmail, which has instant messaging/chat, videochat, calendar (which we use to schedule meetings as well as instrument reservations), google drive (for group editing and sharing of documents), etc.

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    1. Michigan also uses Gmail as the foundation of their email etc. system (predictable, as Larry Page is an alum...).

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  4. Yes, like grad students need more channels that their advisors can use to bug them!

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