May 8, 2019
 in 
Tech

Interconnected Services & Collaboration

A

t Interlink, we primarily work on Slack, a work collaboration platform often confused at first glance with a simple chat application.

It is structured like an old Internet Relay Chat (IRC) client, with channels arranged by topics and users that share messages, but it does a lot more than that.

Slack interactions are a lot more than just messages. We use it on Desktop & Mobile variants.

With Slack, we enjoy text and video-based communication, as well as contextual file-sharing in a safe environment, with a powerful Application Programming Interface (API). We cannot sufficiently state the importance of this.

An API is basically a set of processes and tools that software uses to communicate with other software. Since we are living in an age of interconnectedness, an API allows us to have connected services pulling up work processes for us.

A very simple example: whenever a user completes a contact form on our website, we send that data to a private Google sheets document. Then a bot detects this and posts it in a relevant channel where people who must act on this information receive a notification and a link for access.

What makes all this possible is the Google Docs API and Slack's API. They "talk" to each other with our own pre-defined rules. We pay a fee to use both services, and we have a terms of service and privacy policy protecting our rights when it comes to our data.

This is a professional solution, and a strong juxtaposition to other "free" services like WhatsApp, which unfortunately many companies use for work communication. Read about why we banned WhatsApp for our management team members here.

With Slack, when a partner works with us on a project, we invite them to a dedicated channel as guests. They can upload files, comments and have videoconferences with us. On top of this, we use Monday.com, a project-management solution that also connects to Slack.

In this team board, we can take a quick look to see what the other person is working on, and at what stage they are in.

We use boards that track anything from sales deals to Agile development sprints. When a status changes, we get notified in the relevant Slack channel for that topic. We know what to expect, and this helps us anticipate issues. We make the information available and we provide the tools for people to act on it.

For any further reference related to our code or research, we use GitLab issues. We already use GitLab for building our software, so it made sense to document any issues there.

Providing just anecdotal information through informal methods would be guesswork. We do not want to work that way, even if it is free, it would be too expensive for us.

Instead, we believe in helping people achieve task autonomy and mastery by having all the relevant information at their disposal. We love it because it favors action, and it works best with deadlines and planning.

Sometimes people confuse this with constantly reporting things to us. But that is not what we mean by tracking the status of a project, or sharing progress on a task. What we are trying to achieve is shorter time cycles that incorporate enough input in order to enrich the outcome.

An issue in GitLab, with specific requirements and a link to a working prototype that defines success. Closing this issue triggers a notification in a corresponding Slack channel.

This increases the chance of success. It is not like in past decades, where using multiple software solutions would cripple your organization. Here we are talking about discussing a need in Slack, documenting things in GitLab such as "What is the issue?" and "What dictates success?", then estimating the effort and organizing the tasks in Monday.

But everything comes back to Slack. Information does not live in a single place, it is manipulated in the proper touchpoint, but it flows freely across relevant spaces. And it notifies the right people.

This enables us to be ready for the future of work, which is remote. It gets even better when we can set automatic actions, as it cuts down time from what would otherwise be manual, boring tasks.

We are very happy with our internal work. But banning WhatsApp for our management team has unfortunately isolated those users who are happy using it, and who now feel like they cannot communicate with us.

There are two ways we go about that:

  1. Come talk to us on our website! We have a chat widget for support, commercial enquiries and general questions.
  2. Get an account with our newly launched Mastodon instance, HyperTalk.
The main UI of our Mastodon instance, HyperTalk

Mastodon is an open source software that has similar features to Twitter, but it has no advertisements, and it is supported by a global community of people instead of a corporation.

It can also be run by anyone in the world, as anyone is free to host an instance. The main feature of the software is that these instances are federated. In other words, there is an interconnection between communities.

You can host your own instance, let's say, for art discussions, and set your own rules for how your users will interact. But you can also search for members on different instances, add them and communicate freely.

If hosting a Mastodon instance is not for you, you can create a free account with HyperTalk, the Interlink instance dedicated to sharing useful information about the way we work, the things that we care about, and the projects we are working on.

It is still experimental to us, we want to see if we can start an exodus of our Twitter community into HyperTalk, and if people can find it useful.

Get started now!