All our courses, events and conference use the Slack platform for communication and delivery. We use this because:
(a) it’s free for most functions
(b) it’s fairly easy and intuitive to use
(c) it can be use in an asynchronous way, so easier to access for those who can’t be live or are in different time zones
(d) it’s more accessible for all writers (we have accessibility at the core of our ethos)
However, we know that many of you can to us with no previous experience of using the platform, and however intuitive we feel it is, like any new thing, it can seem confusing and intimidating.
To that end, I’ll include below a basic guide to get your started, with specific reference to how we use it, as many YouTube tutorials are often aimed at those using it for different purposes.
When you sign up to a WriteMentor course, event, conference, I will send you a link via email. You simply click on this link and it will take you to Slack and ask you to create a simple profile (name etc, and optional image).
You will then be brought to a screen that will look a little like this (on desktop – and we really recommend desktop version as mobile is trickier to use and best used only when confident with navigating Slack):
You will usually join the #general channel by default, however I usually also add you to any other relevant channels that you’ll need.
You can see that to interact and chat, you simply tap into the speech box at the bottom of the screen where it says ‘Send a message to #general’.
The chat will scroll down the screen, and you can always scroll back up to see previous comments and posts.
You can drag and drop documents and files onto the channel simply by dragging it to speech box.
You can directly notify someone with a post by using @StuartWhite, for example, and when I next log-in I will get a notification that you’ve messaged me, or so will anyone else.
You can use @channel for whole channel announcements, which means everyone gets a notification (this is really only for me or the tutor to use, but there may be occasions where it would be appropriate).
If you wish to directly and privately message someone, you can do so from the left screen menu where it says ‘Direct Messages’. Simply click on the person’s name if they are listed below, or else click the + icon next to it and it will give you the option of all members of that platform to message.
Important items, such as notes or resources, or announcements, often get ‘pinned’ to the channel. You can access these simply by pressing the i icon on the top right, which will bring down a menu which included the pinned items, and also tells you who else is in the channel etc.
If we are using Zoom instead of asynchronous text chat (rare, but it does happen) then there will be a Zoom link that appears in the channel, which will take you directly to the Zoom meeting room.
If you are ever struggling, you just need to @StuartWhite or your tutor, and we will help you as best we can, as soon as we can. More experienced peers are also super helpful in this regard, so don’t be afraid to ask!
Our top tips
We want to ensure that using a text-based platform works for everyone, so here are our top tips:
- Always use the ‘reply’ option when answering a question or simply saying ‘yes’ or ‘hello’ – this is the speech bubble icon (see red ring in picture below). The screen can move down quickly when 10 or 20 people simply say ‘yes’ or ‘hello’ and it can make the workshop harder to follow, so where possible, use the replies! TYIA!
Once you have typed your reply and pressed enter, your screen will look like the one below. You can then continue to chat via the thread on top right, while keeping the main chat at the bottom relatively clear.
- There will usually be a time for asking questions towards the end of workshops, so this is the best time to do it, instead of interrupting the flow of the workshop leader teaching. Our workshop leaders are always kind and generous with their time and help, so even if time is running out on the workshop, they’ll mostly be happy for questions at the end of the session or via DM.
- Do use the platforms ability for communication to make friends and interact with your peers. We think the most important thing when you take our courses and workshops is to learn, but also grow your community. Everything is easier with friends, so do utilise Slack in this way, too.
- For courses where you are given homework or weekly tasks, use the DM option to send this, so it’s a private communication between you and the workshop leader – they will reply with any feedback in this way, too.
To send a DM, simply click on the plus symbol next to Direct Messages on the left side of your desktop screen.
You can also see any mentions of you (@yourname) in the chat, or you can save items in the chat as you go, which you can access later via the saved items option on-screen.
Finally, you can follow all threads of replies via the top option listed.
I hope you find our courses/events/conferences etc are well suited to the platform, and as we say, because it’s all about accessibility, and video sessions are (a) not accessible to all (b) can make people feel anxious (c) often make you feel like you are participating less and in more a lecture scenario (d) don’t allow you to share work, or contribute as easily (e) can have connectivity, sound, wi-fi issues, all of which are less common via a text-based approach.
Of course, we would never prescribe solely to one way of doing things, and it’s important to variation both in delivery and content, and we will always look to do that, especially as we continue to develop and improve all that we do and deliver.
Writing can be lonely, but with WriteMentor on Slack, it doesn’t need to be!
As always, May the Force be with you!