As company that builds apps to improve productivity, we're always on the look out for tools to improve our own workflow.
We try out our competitors products, we try out new gadgets and we love experimenting at tweaking our processes. Sometimes those products stick, and sometimes they don't. HipChat was one tool we used that managed to sneak it's way under the radar into our communication process.
For us, the best part of HipChat was actually not the chat, but the stream of useful data from other sources. When integrated with Github, Zapier, Twitter and a few of our other tools, it easily brought all of our communication into one place. We even had our CI test results imported into their own channel (complete with animated GIFS of our automated browser tests!).
HipChat wasn't without its issues though. In our opinion, it's not the nicest looking tool, and some core features like search were clunky to use. We're big fans of good design and UX so the moment we saw Slack we knew it was a worthy competitor to HipChat. As most of the BugHerd team are also gamers, the backstory of Tiny Speck (the developers of Slack and Glitch) was intriguing to us. We had to know more!
So, a few of us tried it out one morning, and within an hour we had the entire team switched over, our HipChat history imported and all our feeds up and running. How's that for successful onboarding! One less technically minded team member summed it up nicely with a "Hey, this does everything the other one does, but it looks sexier!"
Bottom line is, the team at Slack have done what all innovators need to do. They looked at the space, understood what was working and what wasn't and saw an opportunity to create value in ways the incumbents hadn't, a philosophy after our own hearts.
Out of the box, the way Slack handles search, files, documents and discussions is so far ahead of HipChat, it's quite amazing. It's team chat, with a side of Basecamp ... and it works!
Most of the team were happy to jump across straight away. We did have one hold-out who wanted to remain with HipChat, but we deleted his account and that pretty much solved that.
Of course, it's not all sunshine and lollipops. Our favourite (tableflip) emoticon isn't there, and the emotes that are there are more Apple than they are Reddit. You also need a magnifying glass to see them clearly without zooming in. It sounds like a minor quibble, but if you were to ever meet our team you'd understand (mindblown), (firstworldproblems) and (itsatrap) are core conversational elements. Slack is perhaps just a little too candy flavoured in some regards.
HipChat also does a good job of condensing the on-screen messages so that more of the conversation can be followed across one screen. Slack's minimal mode does address this issue though it means you miss out on some of the visual appeal.
After a few weeks of settling into using Slack when the team was asked to share thoughts on the change from Hipchat a universal response was that Slack is more reliable, has more features they actually use and the emoticons need work. All things considered, we're likely to stick with a product that keeps continuing to improve our workflow and we're happy to stay Slackers right now.
If you're wondering, this isn't a paid promotion for Slack. We simply like to share with our BugHerding family when we come across a great product!
BugHerd note : The Slack help centre has some handy info to setup the programmable bot which solves our missing emoticons.