Slack: We Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

We love Slack. We live and die by Slack. I’m probably technically addicted to Slack. But as our company has grown, there’s one area where Slack has failed us – and its getting worse.

Automated channels with import updates that come at high volume.

For example: Tracking sales on Merchbar.

When we started using Slack we didn’t even have this channel (because we weren’t even selling anything yet!). Then we launched and the channel came to life. Each notification in the channel triggered a champagne-decorking robot we built[1].

This is the robot. His name is Chris Rock.

Before we knew it, we were knee deep in bubbly and up to our ears in notifications.

Now that we are selling lots and lots more, the channel has basically become useless. We have so many notifications that it isn’t uncommon for us to have multiple sales triggered at the same moment – so sometimes each notification ends up containing several sales.

We sold these three items at the same time to three different people. Slack barfed 'em all out.

We sold these three items at the same time to three different people. Slack barfed ’em all out.

On one hand this is cool. On the other it ain’t. Why? We build the channel to answer one question: How much are we selling?

When volume was low, if it lit up once an hour we were excited. It only took a few seconds to quickly scroll through and see the days totals.

But now it seems like the only thing we get from the channel is “Is this thing on?”

Now the channels is nearly always lit. I can check it and scroll and scroll through pages of sales, but its nearly impossible to see what any of it means. Are on track? Are we growing fast enough?

To answer those questions I have to do the unthinkable: Use GA or Google Sheets.

I’m sure at this point you are saying to yourself “but Ed, just build a bot that posts daily or hourly sales volume” or “just write something that you can ask for totals”, to which I would say back to the voice in your head “yes, yes, I could do that”.

But then I would say, “but it would be a lot more useful to just have a gauge that I can set up the same way. Maybe I could even have a dashboard that I could configure with all kinds of gauges from all the different integrations we have in Slack.”

And I’d ramble on, “There’s an entire category of information we need that is perfect for keeping in Slack but it doesn’t fit. Status information. Because Slack is built around messages it shoehorns everything into this information. But damn, how great would it be to check a few gauges and see status!?”

And I have great news: Slack already knows how useful this would be!

How am I able to read the mind of a unicorn? Because Slack already uses gauges! Every week my inbox receives an update of my week on Slack – from there I can click into a dashboard of all kinds of important Slack data. Here’s one from a few months ago:

Insider info you can get from this graph: there are 10 of us. We try not to work on Sundays.

Insider info you can get from this graph: there are 10 of us. We try not to work on Sundays.

Its a continually updating status board filled with gauges of our use of Slack. Imagine how amazing it would be if we could create these for all the other integrations we have.

Weekly/Daily Sales. Github commits. System errors. Customer sign ups. Oh man! OMG I’m freaking out right now!

Gauges would allow you to visually identify trends easily. They’d allow you to aggregate single data points into a combined area. They’d are always up to date.

We love slack (maybe a little too much), but this is a way we could love them even more.


Ed & The Team at Merchbar.

[1] This is not true.