Finding which tools work for you and your team can be a tedious task no matter the location. Between encouraging colleagues to become users, create habits, and appreciate the tools, you want to know you’re picking the right app from the get-go, if possible.
And what if you are location-less? Then the challenge becomes that little bit more-so, faced with virtual communication and encouragement.
Flowdock for remote work in Carousel Apps
Within our account, our main chat creatively entitled “everybody” is just that: a meeting point for all to gather and check in. The general rule is, if you’re working, be logged in. That way, we can simply glance at the highlighted faces at the top of our flow and know who is around; a bit like walking in the front door of the office and showing face.
Chat ranges from straightforward questions, tagging @someone if we want to call their attention from any page their viewing, to enquiring about the weekend. At times it can be tempting to delve into deep discussions and we do, but the key is involving our other apps to ensure tickets are created for tracking as well as requests added to project management tools like Asana for efficient follow up. As mentioned in the Flowdock website, “After adopting Flowdock, a surprising thing happens: wikis, email lists, intranets and other means of communication are typically used less, but more effectively. They are no longer used for quick discussions in the comments section, but instead as persistent reference documentation.” We couldn’t agree more. General conversation is contained within Flowdock in an organised manner through search and tagging, whereas external documentation is purely fact, the record of answers to the issue discussed in length via Flowdock. In other words, we come to a decision via chat, then log the decision and the next action externally.
Tracking via external apps
So where exactly do we log these facts and answers? In a brief summary, we send individual or team tasks over to Asana if they’re general and have to do with the company itself, marketing, and so on. Any bugs raised are logged in Jira, and customer service queries are redirected back to our Freshdesk account. More on these another day!
Our other flow consists of “devs”, for all the chat that is irrelevant for non-coders such as myself, and the obligatory “water cooler” flow. At first, we flirted with the idea of creating another account in, say, Yammer, but the effort of logging in and maintaining a separate account didn’t appeal. So instead, a separate thread was created and we drop in there for social chat and photo sharing. The only rule? No tagging anyone in this chat, just as you wouldn’t call someone over from their desk to the water cooler in the office environment.
For more private chats, we also have 1-to-1’s set up. Not frequently used, but there for when you don’t want to distract the others, 1-to-1’s are only between you and the other person – a bit like a soundproof meeting room you might occasionally pop into.
RSS Feed in Flowdock
Down the right hand side of the page, we also have an RSS feed linked to social media and Jira, providing a realtime display of what’s going on. Flowdock also provides shortcuts to direct opens, replies, retweets, linking to threads, tags and more, meaning less hopping around from one app to another.
Ensuring your current -or future- apps integrate with Flowdock is crucial for a smooth workflow and top notch teamwork. Flowdock provides an impressive array of integrations, in fact they have a whole page on their website dedicated to them, listed in the following categories:
- Project Management
- Version Control
- Customer Support
- Continuous Integration
- Single Sign in
- Others like Google apps, CRM, sales overviews, etc
Still don’t see what you need listed there? There’s also the option to build your own integration using their API with a provided guide, or the team welcomes you to get in touch with your specific request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flowdock Tips and Tricks
These helpful shortcuts are no secret, but are a handy list for a Flowdock beginner getting to know the ropes:
- Markdown: Flowdock uses markdown based on Commonmark, though it’s not fully supported. We tend to use the simple marks like **bold** and *italics*
- Emojis: type a colon followed by what you want to enter like :high five: or just click on the grey face to the right to select from a large range of images. And if they’re not sufficient, you and your team can upload even more…
- @everyone: a shortcut to ping everyone in the group flow, no matter what they’re doing on their computer. This also works with the synonyms like @all, @everybody, @anyone, and @anybody
- @team: the more refined version of the above. Flowdock is encouraging people to ping @team rather than @everyone, so that only those people for whom the information is relevant will be distracted from what they’re doing. The goal here is necessary communication, not constant distraction. @team targets those people who have selected to be notified, rather than including flow spectators as well.
- Video chat: start a video chat of up to 4 people with /room – for free, and without downloading additional software, or begin a hangout with. But in the meantime, you can start a Google Hangout with everyone in a flow with the /hangout command.
- Tags: keep your conversation organised by using tags. You can click the tag button on any chat or within the RSS feed, or just use # to tag the message like #bug
- Leave an in-flow notification: if you need to write a statement about yourself that doesn’t necessarily require a response, use /me – this will highlight your comment in blue and your teammates will know what you’re up to
The list goes on, but these are the beginner basics, prepping you to hit the ground running. If you’re after more detail, just head over to the Flowdock site which helpfully provides concise but in-depth information.
Displaying Flowdock realtime
With all of our core apps that require realtime information to be monitored, we love using our very own Screensaver Ninja which displays realtime webpages in a screensaver. For example, I’m a notebook and pen type of writer. Creativity only seems to come when I have a pen in hand, which means my computer sits idly next to me. But that doesn’t mean it’s valueless. By using the Ninja, I can be scribbling in my notebook whilst keeping up with team chat, hopping back online if some conversation catches my eye.
Flowdock is our office space
Flowdock is the equivalent of our office. The place we virtually enter in each day, greet our colleagues, and have a chat. It may not bring us face-to-face, but we don’t need it to. Our weekly Skype sessions serve that purpose and in the meantime, we “show our face” quite literally whilst concentrating each on their own tasks. Our team is a small one, which makes for pretty straightforward communication for the most part, but part of our job now to prepare to scale up. With Flowdock as a core tool, we’ve set the base of our structure with a tool that the whole team is comfortable and happy using, so that one day, instead of 5 in a flow, we could easily be 50. Or to dream even bigger, maybe 500…