May 11, 2017 Thierry Lacour   Slack Featured

Preventing information overload in Slack

Essential Slack settings to shield your sanity

Slack is great, but it gets really rowdy as your team grows. I’ve compiled a list of useful settings and features to keep you from drowning in Slacktivity.

As Praqma is steadily growing, some of my wonderful colleagues have had trouble keeping up with the increased activity on Slack. They struggled to find relevant information amidst the chaos, and grew frustrated by the constant stream of notifications. I made this little list to help them, and decided to share it with the rest of the world.

Sane Slack settings

There are many useful settings tucked away in Slack’s preferences. After just a quick dive through them, you’ll notice sizable improvements.

Disable irrelevant notifications

First things first, tick Only direct messages and highlight words under the Notifications menu. This will stop Slack from bombarding you with notifications whenever anyone says anything. I’ve no clue why this isn’t the default option.

General notification settings

Minimize on-screen clutter

Head over to the Messages & Media menu, it contains handy settings to keep your chat crisp and clean. I highly recommend using the Compact theme and unticking both Show text previews of linked websites and Display information about who is currently typing a message. You can also disable images if you’re a real fuddy-duddy.

Message settings

Disable animated images

Not a personal favourite, but some people simply don’t enjoy cat GIFs or the (in)famous left parrotparty parrot emojiright parrot. If you are one of them, head over to the Accessibility menu and untick Allow animated images and emoji. It’s also worth mentioning that animated images can cause high memory consumption on some platforms.

Message settings

Taming the sidebar

The sidebar gives a great overview of team activity, but it scales like crap with the default settings. The following points tame it to only display what you’re interested in.

Note: Use the Jump to conversation shortcut (ctrl + K/ ⌘ + K) to easily jump around (unlisted) channels.

Message settings

Listing what matters

I highly recommend changing the Channel List option to My unreads, along with everything I've starred. This cuts your listed channels down to a minimum, while keeping quick access to whatever you’ve starred.

Channel list setting

Starring the important

Go through your favourite channels and direct messages, star those you want quick access to. They will show up in their own separate category. You’ll find the star button near the channel name.

Starring a channel

Muting the unimportant

Mute low-priority channels. A muted channel is greyed out, listed at the very bottom and doesn’t send notifications. Click the mute button in the channel settings, or simply write /mute in the channel.

Muting a channel

Leaving the irrelevant

If you’re not interested in a specific channel, just leave it, you can always come back later. A channel you’ve left will never show up in the sidebar or send you notifications. Click the leave button in the channel settings, or simply write /leave in the channel.

Leaving a channel

Good habits

Snooze it or lose it

When you’re in the zone or about to crack down on a tough task, snooze notifications for a while. This prevents interruptions from all but the most annoying colleagues. You can find the snooze options by clicking the bell icon near your name in the top left.

Snoozing

Don’t bother @everyone

Slack is great for making announcements, but avoid using @here, @channel or @everyone. Only use it if the announcement is urgent and reactions have a time constraint. Think ten seconds to decide if an announcement is urgent enough, then think another ten before shattering everyone’s concentration.

Don't be a jerk

Minimize integrations

Slack integrates well with Trello, Jenkins, GitHub and many other platforms. While funneling information on builds and issues to Slack sounds like a great idea, they often swamp channels with noisy updates. Keep your integration count low and place noisy bots in separate channels.

Nuke integrations

Got a grip?

A customized side bar and total control over Slack’s bleeps and bloops, not bad! Now you can kick back and enjoy this great collaboration tool in all its glory.

I decided to leave out many tips to keep the post concise, but if I missed out on a big one, let me know in the comments!