We are continuously struggling with finding the best way to nurture a community both in-person and online. The rise of Meetups has helped a lot of fresh communities bring their in-person meetings to a common platform. Using the widely and freely available Meetup.com platform means that you can easily spark up a meeting, get participants engaged, gather RSVP information, and also continue with discussions on the event pages to keep the conversation going.
Where the Meetup platforms leaves off is where the rest of the online community platforms are searching for dominance in capturing the continuous online presence and interaction for these communities. Having been a long time Jive community user on the Green Circle Community platform, I too have been seeking the best way to bring engaging information and spur continuous conversations through the online community platform.
Slack Gets Into the Online Community Game
Slack is already one of the most quickly growing persistent group chat platforms that has hit the market. How did Slack win so big, so early? They used the classic formula. Make something free that targets a need. Developers love chat platforms. Developers can engage with the API. Developers can extend the platform with chat bots and more. Most importantly, make it an invite process that gets people loving the inclusiveness and ease of signup. Also, add animated GIFs, because we all love animated GIFs.
Slack lacks in many ways, although it is not necessarily their goal to tackle some of the issues that many of us have with the chat platform leader. Moving from the free to the paid version will get you some of the features that many would like, including archives and many more small but rather interesting features.
I have had my own personal challenges with getting consistency of my own enjoyment and productivity on Slack, mostly because I am a member of literally dozens of Slack teams which is unruly to manage with the way that the Slack UI renders it, in my opinion.
A recent article on Medium highlighted the large and growing number of companies and communities who have embraced Slack as the de facto platform for their online community engagement. There is no doubt that Slack may have an interesting opportunity to take the persistent chat to another level and add additional ways for online communities to leverage the ease-of-entry that is offered by the simple Slack onboarding process.
Will Open Source Affect Slack Adoption?
Some OpenStack community folks recently brought something to light in a twitter conversation regarding their continued use of IRC. Despite the old school feel of IRC, OpenStack and many other project and product support organizations continue to latch onto the classic chat platform. It turns out that the reasoning for the use of IRC by the OpenStack community is one that is as simple as you could have imagined: IRC is an open source product. The OpenStack community prides itself on using entirely open source products throughout its ecosystems, including development lifecycle, chat, web hosting, and every other layer within the open cloud platform itself.
Despite the stickiness of IRC, it does feel like Slack will have a chance to unseat the classic open chat platform in favor of features and ease-of-use. Having been involved in both IRC and Slack chats, I can tell you that each has its own distinct advantages and challenges. Whatever the technical power that any chat environment may bring to the table, it is all about behavior of its participants that drives the adoption and vitality of growth.
Will the growing list of Slack communities continue at the current pace? Only time will tell. Slack has had a strong start. It will be interesting to see if it stays the course and finds itself a foothold in the online community sector