Slack (Application)

From SI410
Jump to: navigation, search
Back • ↑Topics • ↑Categories
Slack Mac desktop interface [2]
Type Collaborative Software
Launch Date August, 2013 [1]
Status Active
Product Line Slack
Platform Mac OS X 10.9 and later, Windows, Linux (beta), iOS, Android, Windows Phone (beta)[2]

Slack is a team collaboration and messaging application founded in 2013 by Steven Butterfield, Eric Costello, Cal Henderson, and Serguei Mourachov[3]. At its core functionality, Slack is an Internet Relay Chat (IRC), meaning it allows for online chatting. The application began as an internal communication tool for employees at Tiny Speck, a Vancouver-based venture that produced the now discontinued game, Glitch[4]. As of January 2017, Slack has four million active users and 60,000 teams[5]. The name, Slack, is an acronym for "Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge"[6].

Slack is available on any device, so accessing one's team and work can be done anywhere[7]. Slack allows for a variety of communication methods ranging from large group chats to one-on-one discussions. The application's channels and direct messaging functionalities support this[8]. Slack users may integrate third-party services into their application as well as install bots, which are meant to assist teams in various tasks. Some of these bots also serve as additional security measures for Slack customers.


Slack streamlines communication by integrating with numerous third-party services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Trello, Twitter, Wunderlist, Skype and Google+ Hangouts, and Chatlio. These integrations allow for the use of these tools in a single place[9]. Users can also add emojis to their messages, which other users can click on to view the reaction.

Status Updates

In early April 2017, Slack introduced a new feature that allows its users to create a “status” (as on AIM or MSN Messenger) by selecting an emoji or typing in some text. The feature allows users to choose from five default status options (which are designed to address common scenarios), or to create their own more customized statuses instead. Each status is allowed to be a maximum of 100 characters and may be illustrated with an emoji of the user’s choice. [10]As a result of the tool’s introduction, emoji have reportedly been popping up alongside coworkers' names within the app’s interface. [11] According to Slack, the new feature is supposed to empower users who are busy to “share what (they’re) up to, when (they’ll) be back, whom to contact in (their) place, or anything else that helps (their) team.” [12]


Screenshot of Slack's desktop interface featuring #random channel: Source

Slack channels are a way of organizing team conversations. They can be for a project, topic, team, or anything else where all members have a transparent view of what is going on. Users can be involved in multiple channels at once[13]. Channels are distinguished by the hashtag in front of the channel name. The idea behind incorporating hashtags into Slack channels was to spark conversation, anywhere from general to specific[14].

Channels on Slack can be made public or private. Any team member can access a public channel, while only select members can access private channels. For sensitive information, Slack allows users to create private channels and invite exclusive members to participate[15].

Slack introduced Threads in January 2017. With Threads, users can branch off and take their discussions outside of the main channel without opening a brand new channel or Direct Message. Threaded conversations connect related messages and are meant to help manage the various topics being talked about in Slack[16].

Direct Messages

Direct messages allow for one-on-one or small group communication away from main channels. They are meant for more focused conversations. The content of direct messages, as well as the files shared, are searchable through Slack's Search function[17]. One of the principle purposes of Slack's 'Status Update' tool is to allow users to communicate their busyness when they're unprepared to receive a direct message. [18]


Slack's video calling feature (gif): Source

Using Slack’s Windows or Mac desktop application, users can make voice calls with anyone on their Slack team. Anyone can make one-on-one calls, while only paid Slack users and teams can make group calls[19].

Released in December 2016, Slack Video Calls allow users to talk to one another face-to-face from anywhere in the world. The calls can be made to be between two individuals or larger groups. Anyone on a user’s Slack team can call people directly[20].

Both Slack Voice and Video Calls do not need the installation of separate applications. When preferred, Voice and Video Calls can still be made using third-party services like Google Hangouts and Skype. Both types of calls have emoji response features, allowing participants to express emotion about the conversation without interrupting the speaker[21].


Slack allows all of its content to be searchable- people, channels, files, and messages. When typing into the search bar, Slack will automatically give the user suggestions to help narrow the results. Slack's search modifiers give the option to filter searches and browse by type[22].


Slack has a built-in robot called Slackbot. Slackbot is an automated, full-time assistant that can be accessed by every Slack user. Slackbot can keep notes as well as manage private files. Users can ask Slackbot questions to help them learn about the application[23]. Located in the Direct Messages part of Slack, Slackbot is meant to keep users organized and on top of their work.

Users can customize Slackbot to respond to them in certain ways by creating personalized commands. Defining a trigger word or phrase will automatically elicit a custom response from Slackbot. Configuring Slackbot responses can make Slackbot respond to messages from team members in public channels[24].

Slack users can install a variety of other bots to help them with a range of tasks from checklist management to team motivation[25]. Slack invests in these bot startups regularly and has a current total of 200 bots available for users to install[26][27]. Some examples of these bots include:

  • Statsbot: a personal analytics assistant powered by AI that gives users data insights. Statsbot can connect to a variety of platforms such as Salesforce, Google Analytics, and Mixpanel[28].
  • Guru: creates a searchable knowledge base for a team based on their conversations on Slack[29].
  • Howdy: automates repetitive tasks so teams can save time and focus on their real work[30].
  • Tatsu: allows teams to perform standup meetings from remote locations. Questions and responses are saved and reported back through the bot or Tatsu application[31].
  • Donut: a team-building bot that pairs team members up to get coffee on a regular basis[32].

Pricing Plans

Slack offers many pricing plans for its users which inclide Free, Standard, and Plus [33]


The most basic plan of Slack, you are able to create a "Workspace" for small teams for an unlimited time.


Priced at $6.67 per active user, per month, billed annually; this plan is for teams and businesses.


Priced at $12.50 per active user, per month, billed annually; this plan is for businesses that need SSO, Compliance Exports, and guaranteed uptime on a single Slack team.


Slack regularly releases updated versions of their security practices to users. The updates outline the measures taken by Slack’s security team to ensure that customer data is protected and work environments are secure.

The product security team at Slack uses both manual and automated analyses to ensure that every aspect of the software is free of security defects. Their efforts are supported by a public bug bounty program, which allows the team to engage the wider security research community with our product security efforts. The team also performs regular scans, penetration tests, and third-party audits, meant to show customers exactly what Slack does to keep their work environment safe.

Screenshot of Slack's Securitybot at work: Source

Slack’s security bot, SecurityBot, is a toolkit for distributing security alerts to users. When triggered, the bot notifies the user that caused it. SecurityBot provides context for the user, so they can proceed by acknowledging the flagged action. More serious concerns that could potentially indicate an insider threat are reported straight to Slack’s security team for review[34].

In March of 2015, Slack announced that they were hacked for a four-day period in February. The hackers got a hold of the application’s central user database and stole email addresses, usernames, passwords, and user profile information like phone numbers and Skype IDs. It was reported that no financial information was exposed. Slack responded to the hack by introducing two new security features: two-factor authentication and a team-wide password kill switch[35].

Ethical Implications

Though Slack’s new status option is intended to serve as a useful signal for when someone is busy or unable to be bothered, many scholars worry that it could also create new complications in the workplace. In particular, Kaveh Waddell fears that employees on the messenger platform will now feel a heightened need to “describe what they’re up to at all times, in order to explain to their colleagues why they might not immediately reply to a Slack message.”

Status Updates

Though Slack’s new status option is intended to serve as a useful signal for when someone is busy or unable to be bothered, many scholars worry that it could also create new complications in the workplace. In particular, Kaveh Waddell fears that employees on the messenger platform will now feel a heightened need to “describe what they’re up to at all times, in order to explain to their colleagues why they might not immediately reply to a Slack message.” [36]

Furthermore, Slack’s inclusion of emoji icons on the status update keyboard blurs common perceptions about the feature’s purpose and meaning. Some users might choose “wacky emojis” to describe their current state while others use seriously descriptive text. Also, some employees will surely neglect to regularly update their status at all. As a result, the actual meaning of the status is deconstructed and open for interpretation, leading to great confusion. [37]

Bot Ethics

Ownership: When utilizing Slack's bot feature, it is important for users to consider whether the bot is serving them, or the provider (Slack). The most important part of ownership is that the provider is transparent about all of the bot's suggestions and interactions.

Privacy: The question here is if the bot is allowed to share the information it provides to its user. In the case of Slack, a user's privacy is maintained.

Advertisements: One of the ways tech companies propose to make bot's yield monetary income is by integrating ads into their responses. The bot could use the user's requests to generate a set of ads that the user might be interested in. However, currently, people favor bots who only do what they ask them to do, rather than suggest things that they did not ask.

Abuse: Users must consider if humans abusing bots should be illegal, or if bots abusing humans should be, or both. This question is hard to answer currently because bots do not have the ability (yet) to develop feelings. But if and when they do, this will be a major topic of discussion in the realm of bot ethics.


It is unclear as to whether the messages in each thread created by the company's workers are able to be accessed by the person in charge of the company. "Companies on Slack's Plus plan have the option to enable the benign sounding compliance report. In other words, it's a way for a Team Owner to export all Slack data." [38]This rises a concern as to how private messages really are on the Slack application. if the "compliance exports" are enabled, then there is a chance that a boss will go through the DM's that were sent within the company threads because the boss will always have that access to the data. [38]


  1. Slack (software) Wikipedia
  2. Slack Help Center
  3. Slack’s Co-Founders Take Home The Crunchie For Founder Of The Year TechCrunch
  4. Thomas, Kowlton Techvibes
  5. 38 Amazing Slack Statistics, DMR
  6. Kim, Eugene Slack, the red hot $3.8 billion startup, has a hidden meaning behind its name Business Insider UK
  7. Slack application iTunes App Store page
  9. Slack Sets New Standard for Team Communication Online
  13. Pocket Lint What is Slack and how does it work?
  14. Slack Sets New Standard for Team Communication Online
  16. Threaded messaging comes to Slack Slack Medium blog
  19. Calls come to Slack Slack Medium blog
  20. Slack Calls: Now with 100% more video Slack Medium blog
  21. Slack Calls: Now with 100% more video Slack Medium blog
  22. Pocket Lint What is Slack and how does it work?
  23. Pocket Lint What is Slack and how does it work?
  24. Slack: Slackbot Help Center
  25. Slack Bots App Directory
  26. BI Intelligence, Slack invests in 11 new bot startups
  27. Slack Bots App Directory
  28. Slack Bots App Directory: Statsbot
  29. Slack Bots App directory: Guru
  30. Slack Bots App directory: Howdy
  31. Slack Bots App directory: Tatsu
  32. Slack Bots App directory: Donut
  33. [1]
  34. How we handle security at Slack Slack Medium blog
  35. Kumparak, Greg Slack Got Hacked TechCrunch
  38. 38.0 38.1 Morse, J. (2017). This Slack setting tells you if you're boss is spying on your DMs. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from