Dev Blog #8: Communication Revisited

Team Organization, Part 2: Communication Revised

I want to apologize for the silence. There’s been some re-organization of the team over the last couple weeks. We’re good now: expect our previous weekly Blog updates. Anyways, on with a Blog post that probably interests developers more than fans (yay)!

If you read the previous part in this series, you will likely see where I talked about how great Skype, Forums, Google Groups, Google Calendar and Email is to an online team such as ours. I still contest that Google Groups, Google Calendar and Email are very important to Team Communication. Skype and Forums, although they’ve worked in the past for us, have quickly become … primitive and unnecessary.

Presenting Slack, an online instant messaging app. Its main intent is to connect people working on projects. Slack has quickly replaced Skype for our team over the last week or so for several reasons:

  1. Skype has primarily been meant for 1-on-1 text messaging and video. While Slack cannot replace video sharing, it certainly does do 1-on-1 text messaging, but most importantly is that it does group communication far better! All your groups chats (called Channels (public) and Private Groups (private)) can all be called for on the side, whilst Skype group chats will only appear in Recent chats (along with 1-on-1, which generally pipe up most of your recent Skype chats).
    1. The easy organization of Channels and Private Groups also allows us to have more of them, allowing us to better categorize chats.
  2. Slack also saves messages … far longer than Skype ever does.
  3. Slack can integrate with Google Drive, Calendar, and many other programs we use for assigning development tasks (more on that in Part 3 of this series). This means that if there’s an event added to our Team’s Google Calendar, its posted on one of our channels.
  4. Messages can be saved, handy when recalling important points in conversations.
  5. Slack can notify you of activity, and you can customize what you wish to be notified about.
  6. Slack works equally great on both PC and mobile devices (like Android and iOS). The same can’t be said for Skype.
  7. SlackBots: An AI bot that responds to specific queries. Machines shall replace us all!

I could go on honestly, but I think you can see the benefits.

Another program we’re now using is called Zapier. Zapier is an integration application that can perform automated tasks (called Zaps). These “Zaps” essentially save a lot of time previously performing manual laborious tasks of sending out weekly reminder emails, posts our Blog updates to Twitter, SVN update messages to Slack, and more.

How does Zapier work? You pick one application/task, and choose another application/task for the first to work with. In this case, we have Zaps that look like this:

  • Scheduled Zapier Message -> Slack
  • Scheduled Zapier Message -> Email
  • SVN -> Slack
  • Website Update -> Slack
  • Twitter -> Slack

(You get the idea)

Zapier is a powerful tool … but is limited with a free account. Still, extremely useful for automatizing the most menial of tasks that you do on a regular basis.

That’s it for Part 2, where I essentially have reconsidering half of what was talked about last time. Part 3, I reckon, will likely talk about Assigning Development Tasks, a very important subject to a development team with several different departments.

Stay tuned to the Epoch Games Blog: next week should be something that should excite the Althas fans.